The first few days of February, Catania dresses up for its Patron: St. Agatha. On the streets, you can taste the smell of sweets, candies and candy floss. You will begin to see the streets in the centre of the Candle chariots (Candelore), carried on the shoulders by devotees dressed in a white “sack” with white gloves and a black skullcap.
Thos traditional dress is controversial due to its origins. According to popular legend it is linked to the story that the citizens of Catania. Woken in the night by the sound of the bells, were to return the relics in the city, they took to the streets in their nightgowns. However, the story has no basis of truth because the nightgown in 1126 did not exist!
The historical tradition indicates that the most successful votive habit is nothing more than a habit of Penitence. It also states that it is a tunic worn on 17th August when two soldiers brought the relics to Catania from Constantinople. It was a few years’ that women wore the robe of green tunic similar to that Santa would wear during the Martyrdom.
During the three days of worship, folklore and traditions, there are solemn moments, especially on the 4th & 5th February when St. Agatha in her silver fercolo “a vara” goes amongst her people. On the 3rd, celebrations begin with a procession at midday and the offer of wax. From the Local Council buildings exits the chariot of the Senate followed by Candle chariots, creations from the
guilds and local trades people. In the evening, at 8pm in the central square of the city Piazza Duomo, begins the traditional fireworks; a magnificent display followed by a concert of music from Vincenzo Bellini.
Already in the early morning of the 4th, all the faithful devotees go to the cathedral. A large crowd waits for the exit of St Agatha from her room where it is kept. Although the Cathedral is full, you hear no noise but only the songs celebrating the Holy time. At 5:30 begins the transfer began to the high altar and Mass. At the end of the celebration She comes out from the Cathedral to begin the tour of the city.
A very striking moment is the singing of the Benedictine nuns, at the sunrise on the 6th February, when the Saint stops in front of the Church of San Benedetto in Via Crociferi, home to the cloistered nuns. The nuns, behind the gate of the majestic church, greet the patron saint singing a sweet song. It is one of the few times that the nuns leave the church where they spend their lives in prayer. The singing of the Benedictine Sisters is one of those moments of celebration not to be missed. It seems that everything stops; no noise, no yells or whispering in spite of all the people in the street all you can hear is the sweet song of the sisters. Bellisimo! Watch the video of Sant’Agata: N.O.P.A.Q.U.I.E.