sant'agata catania festival
Last updated: 8 January 2024

Sant'Agata Catania: how to participate and what to see at one of Europe's biggest religious festivals

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Embark on a journey into the soul of Sicilian tradition during the Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania. A unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the celebrations, traditions and sounds of this fascinating festivity.

La Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania is one of those experiences to be had at least once in a lifetime. The city is home to one of the most important and majestic religious festivals dedicated precisely to the memory and veneration of his santa patron

La Feast of St Agatha event is rooted in ancient history, bringing with it a deep connection to the religious and cultural tradition of the region.

We always advise our guests staying at the centrally located Ferrini Home to experience this festivity to the full in order to savour all the Sicilian folklore. In this guide you will find not only the history of Sant'Agata, but also lots of tips on how the feast takes place and what events are not to be missed. 

If you are planning to coming to Catania for the feast of Saint Agatha 2024 and you don't know where to staychoose one of our flats Ferrini Home in the historic city centre. You can observing the party even from above the balconies of our facilities like real locals, for a magical experience✨➡️ BOOK NOW

Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania: dates and places 

La date of the feast of St Agatha is the 5 February which is the date of the saint's death, but already by 3 February the city comes alive and is filled with devotees worshipping the 'Santuzza'. To the sound of the motto "Semu tutti devoti! (We are all devoted!)"one of the world's most spectacular religious festivals begins. 

Let's see together all events date by date so you don't miss the most significant moments of the feast of Saint Agatha a Catania

3 February: the candelore procession in Catania!

The magic of the festival begins on 3 Februarywhen the streets of the centre come alive with the offering of the precious wax and the majestic Candlemas procession. The imposing Baroque candles, adorned with rich details, parade gracefully, representing the ancient city guilds. Their march follows a precise order, moving with an elegant gait called 'annacata'. In addition, the eighteenth-century carriage of the ancient Catanese Senate is paraded.

fires sant'agata catania
Photo by Unsplash

The climax of this first day of festivities is reached in the evening with a grandiose fireworks display in Piazza Duomo. As well as expressing the joy of the faithful, the fireworks take on a special significance, reminding us that the patron saint was martyred over the embers, constantly watches over the fire of Etna and on all fires.

🕯️Cosa is a Canderola in Catania? 

La feast of Saint Agatha is a celebration steeped in tradition, and the undisputed stars are the imposing 'candelore'. These gigantic candles are skilfully covered with handcrafted decorations, tell stories of devotion through gilded wooden cherubs, martyrdom scenes, saints, flowers and flags.

canderola catania what is
Photo by Wikimedia

In an era without electric lighting, the candelore were not just ornaments but had a vital function: lighting the way of the procession. Carried on the shoulders of brave men, their number varied from 4 to 12 depending on the weight of the candle, conveying the energy and majesty of the event. Each of the 11 Candelas parading today has its own identityanimated by the unique elements that characterise it: from the shape of the candle to the gait, from the swaying to the chosen musical background.

Le candelore represent the various categories of workerseach with its own distinctive style. From the Gothic-Venetian style gardeners and florists, to the fishmongers with the 'bersagliera' stride, to the white and elegant candlemas step of the fruit vendors, each candle is a unique masterpiece. In the past, candlesticks were even more numerous, with categories such as shoemakers, confectioners and bricklayers, numbering up to 28.

4 February: the impressive Dawn Mass at dawn

The 4 February marks the pinnacle of emotionas the city unites with its beloved patron saint, Saint Agatha. From the first light of dawn, the streets of Catania are filled with devoted 'citizens', dressed in the traditional 'sack - an ankle-length white cloth votive gown, cinched at the waist by a drawstring, accompanied by a black velvet cap, white gloves and a white, densely pleated handkerchief. This dress recalls the night attire worn by the Catanese back in 1126, when they ran to meet the relics brought back from Constantinople. The keys needed to open the gate that guards relics in the cathedral are three, each entrusted to a different figure, and when the last key opens the gate, the Bust of St Agatha unveiledradiating a serene smile, amidst the enthusiasm of the faithful.

church sant'agata catania
Photo by Pixabay

After the impressive Dawn Mass at dawn, the relics of St Agatha are carried on a sumptuous silver ferculum adorned with red carnations, the symbol of martyrdom. The procession winds its way through the Sacred places of Sant'Agata in Cataniaincluding the ancient cathedral of Sant'Agata la Vetere, the church of Sant'Agata al Carcere and the church of Sant'Agata alla Fornace.

With roars of festive gunfire, the ferculum is then loaded with the precious casket containing the relics and part in procession. The 'giro', the procession on 4 February, lasts for the whole day, passing through the places of the martyrdom and telling the story of the 'santuzza'. The crowd of 'citizens' leads the fercolo, making significant stops such as at the 'marina'. The 'tour' comes to an end late at night, when the 'fercolo' solemnly returns to the cathedral, bringing to a close this day of intense devotion and extraordinary involvement.

5 February: the majestic St Agatha Procession in Catania

La 5 February procession extends throughout the nightled by the ferculum of Saint Agathatowed by long white cords and adorned with white carnations, a symbol of purity. Along the way, the Santuzza stops at Piazza Borgo, where a fireworks display enchants the night sky. The procession stops again before tackling the Ascent of Via Sangiulianotraditionally covered with joyful running. At Via Crociferi, there is a touching stop in front of the Convent of St Benedictwhere cloistered nuns emerge only on this occasion, singing songs in the silence of the early morning hours. The exciting procession ends with the triumphant return to the cathedral.

Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania: how to participate and what to see

If you have decided to come to Catania right at the time of the Feast of St Agathayou absolutely must attend the various moments of the festival we have described. Among the most impressive is certainly the Dawn Mass and the fireworks in Catania's cathedral square, but not only. 

One of the essential steps is the Church of Sant'Agata in Catania. The Duomo di Sant'Agata, also known as the Basilica Cattedrale Metropolitana di Sant'Agata, is the main place of Catholic worship in Catania, serving as the mother church for the metropolitan archdiocese of the same name and the seat of the parish of the same name.

feast of sant'agata catania
Photo by Stock Adobe

La cathedral is dedicated to the virgin martyr Saint Agatha, patron saint of the city of Catania, and is located in the heart of the historical centre, on the south-east side of Piazza del Duomo.

😉 Having visited the Cathedral, continue the city tour with our guide ➡️Attractions in Catania: 9 things to see recommended by those who live there

Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania: where to sleep and how to get there?

To fully experience the spirit of this festivity and enjoy all the events related to the Sant'Agata celebration, we recommend sleeping in the historical centre of Catania. However, if you stay in very central areas, such as the Duomo area, Piazza Università or Via Etnea, you might find yourself in the middle of the chaos of the festivities and not enjoy your stay in peace. But don't worry, we have the solution!

accommodation sant agata catania

We recommend some of our flats located in maximum 5 minutes on foot from the main St. Agatha Festival sites that will allow you to experience this celebration in peace without giving up any events.

Le 5 signature structures Ferrini Home best to book for making the most of the Feast of Saint Agatha are: 

📍Residence Florence 70: the new Ferrini Home flats with unique spaces where design and comfort come together to give you an unforgettable experience. A new and refined experience in the heart of Catania (Via Firenze, 70, Catania) 📲Book Now

📍Residence Rice 80 : flats, located on the first floor of a 1940s building, characterised by soft colours, parquet floors and handcrafted furniture. A stone's throw from Piazza Trento and about 200 metres from Via Etnea, they are the ideal choice for fully experiencing the celebration of Sant'Agata. (Via Riso, 80, Catania) 📲Book Now

📍Residence Rindone 6: three flats, located on the 1st floor of a 1940s building, designed if you are looking for comfort and style at the top of your travel expectations (Via Rindone, 6, Catania): 📲Book Now

📍Residence Suites: On the 2nd floor of an elegant 1970s building, three residential units of sophisticated elegance dominate the central Piazza Trento. The ideal location to immerse yourself in the Baroque of Catania and easily reach Via Etnea to experience the Sant'Agata festival at its best (Piazza Trento 2, Catania) 📲Book Now

📍Residence 150: Entirely restored and elegantly furnished and equipped flats allow you to reach the historic centre, Piazza Duomo, the sea at Piazza Europa and the small fishing village of San Giovanni Li Cuti in just 10 minutes.
(Via Grotte Bianche 150, Catania): 📲Book Now

The most convenient way to reaching Catania is to opt for the flight to Fontanarossa Airportonly 5 kilometres away from the centre and our Ferrini Home residences. An efficient connection to the city is guaranteed by Alibusevery 20 minutes, and by train, available every 40-60 minutes. During the festival days, the city fills up with visitors and devotees and visiting the city by your own means may be more complicated. 

Saint Agatha in Catania: history and tradition

Saint Agathaone of the most revered martyrs of Christian antiquity, was murdered during the persecution of Christians by by Emperor Decius in Catania, between 249 and 251 AD.

His biography, one of the earliest examples of hagiographic literature, tells of interrogations, torture and his unwavering Christian faith. 

The martyrdom of St Agatha emphasises the existence of a Christian community in Catania as early as the 3rd century. Inscriptions found testify to the immediate spread of his cult, both in the city and outside the Etnean territory.

The birth of Agaterich and noble, is traditionally located in Catania, although some sources indicate Palermo or her surroundings. Her youth and active role in the Christian community, she consecrated her virginity to God. 

The martyrdom of St Agathaalthough without precise historical details, is confirmed by the spread of her cult and her recognition as patron saint of Catania. Her death in 251 is commemorated as an example of fortitude, devotion and resistance against persecution, marking a significant chapter in the history of the Church.

In 1040, the Byzantine general George Maniace stole the relics of St Agatha to take them to Constantinople. In 1126, two former Byzantine soldiers, Gisliberto and Goselmo, decided to steal the martyred remains and return them to the Bishop of Catania. The 17 August 1126relics returned to Catania Cathedral. Some of them are preserved in the precious silver bust, made in 1376 by Giovanni di Bartolo, while others are kept in reliquaries inside a large silver casket, made by Vincenzo Archifel. This extraordinary story bears witness to the devotion e ardour in preserving the memory of the Saint which is still celebrated not only in February but also in August. 

🥰 We are ready to welcome you and make your trip to Sicily unforgettable: Book now!

If you are planning your trip to Sicily and still don't know where to stay in Catania, you can book one of our flats or one of our suites in Catania city centre now. We will be happy to find the most suitable solution for you and your family so that you can enjoy an unforgettable, stress-free holiday in Sicily.

To see our facilities, visit our dedicated page or 
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sant'agata catania festival

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