Saint Agatha and Santa Lucia are almost contemporaneous. The former is the patron saint of Catania, the latter of Syracuse. They both were born in Sicily, but while it is certain that Santa Lucia was born in Syracuse, as for Saint Agatha, Palermo and Catania both assert to be Saint Agatha’s birth place. Anyway, she lived and died in Catania. Saint Agatha and Santa Lucia fell under the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian, the most ferocious in the history of the Roman Empire.

They are worshipped not only in Sicily, but also in the entire Catholic world. While Santa Lucia is usually portrayed holding a plate with her eyes on it, Saint Agatha’s pictures show her holding a plate with her breasts on it. In fact, it is said that the Roman governor, Quintianus, ordered that a breast be cut off St. Agatha’s body.

Until a few years ago, before Covid-19, there was a big procession in Catania on February 5. People crowded round the statue and lit big wax candles, which they then handed a man on the wagon. There were so many candles that the wagon could not hold them all. Every now and then, it was emptied of all the candles and they were tossed into a truck. The wagon was dragged along the places where Saint Agatha suffered martyrdom. The celebrations in honor of Saint Agatha ended with fireworks.

Will we be able to see such celebrations again? I hope next year the pandemic will be over and we will celebrate the feast in honor of Saint Agatha, our beloved patron saint of the city of Catania.  

Ettore Grillo, author of these books:

– November 2: The Day of the Dead in Sicily

– A Hidden Sicilian History

– The Vibrations of Words

– Travels of the Mind


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