The Festival of Saint Agatha is the most important religious festival of Catania, Sicily. It commemorates the life of what is the city's patron saint, Agatha of Sicily. It takes place annually from 3 to 5 February and on 17 August. The earlier dates commemorate the martyrdom of the Catanaian saint, while the latter date celebrates the return to Catania of her remains, after these had been transferred to Constantinople by the Byzantine general George Maniaces as war booty, having then remained there for 86 years.
The first day of celebration people offer candles to the Saint, according to tradition the candle has to be as tall and heavy as the person who is asking for protection.
The second day, the 4th of February, it is the most emotional day because it takes place the first meeting between the statue of Saint Agatha and the city.
The most devout worshippers wear a traditional white habit, a black velvet hat, white gloves wawing a white tissue. It represents the clothes Catania citizens wore when, in 1126, the remains of Saint Agatha returned in Catania from Constantinople. Three different keys, each of them kept by a different person, are necessary to open the iron gate which protect her remains in the Cathedral.
The day after the red flowers (carnation) which symbolize the martyr are substituted by white flowers which represent purity and in the late morning, the mass is celebrated. The procession continues in the rest of the city until it arrives in via San Giuliano which represent the most dangerous moment of the whole rite. It is a courage test for devout worshipper but also a celestial sign of bad or good omen depending on how it goes.
At the dawn of 6th February celebrations end and the Saint Patron “says” goodbye to the city. We highly suggest to take part to this incredible festival made of tradition and magical atmosphere.