Palermo – The Feast of Santa Rosalia

Porta Felice, Palermo, PA, Italia

The feast of Santa Rosalia is the most important religious festival in Palermo because it is the patron saint of the city. This is an event that attracts many tourists to the city and celebrates the liberation of the city from the plague in 1642, after the discovery of the relics of the “Santuzza” on Monte Pellegrino. The festival begins on the night between 14 and 15 July, the day in which the faithful Palermitans accompany the long procession of the Chariot of the saint, which starts from the Cathedral up to the Foro Italico, crossing Piazza Bologni, the Quattro Canti and Porta Felice, the entrance from the seaside to the Cassaro district. The triumphal chariot represents the party, it is the soul of the Festino, it is the heart of the celebrations and it is a real contemporary work of art. One of the most heartfelt moments of the feast is the parade of the triumphal cart throughout the ancient Cassaro which is dragged by oxen and has the shape of a vessel, with an architectural structure at the stern at the top of which is hoisted a statue of Santa Rosalia in full glory, but has undergone several changes over the years.

This wonderful festival is a mix of folklore and religion that finds its culmination in the traditional fireworks and culinary traditions. In fact, during the festival, typical Palermitan dishes are cooked such as Pasta with sardines (pasta chî sardi), babbaluci (boiled snails with garlic and parsley), sfincione (‘u sfinciuni), boiled octopus (‘u purpu), calia and simenza (‘u scacciu), boiled corn on the cob (pullanca) and watermelon (called ‘u muluni).

The celebration ends at midnight in the Cathedral between the shouts of the confreres who glorify the “Santuzza” and the rhyming songs of devotion:

One: Notti e ghiornu farìa sta via!
Everyone: Viva Santa Rusulia!
One: Ogni passu ed ogni via!
Everyone: Viva Santa Rusulia!
One: Ca nni scanza di morti ria!
Everyone: Viva Santa Rusulia!
One: Ca nn’assisti a l’agunia!
Everyone: Viva Santa Rusulia!
One: Virginedda gluriusa e pia
Everyone: Viva Santa Rusulia!
And the shout: “E chi semu muti? Viva viva Santa Rusulia”.

Santa Rosalia or Rosalia Sinibaldi (1130-1156), according to tradition, belonged to the noble Sinibaldi family, she lived at the court of King Roger before retiring as a hermit in a cave on Mount Pellegrino, where she died. In 1624 she saved the city from the plague and became its patroness, in fact, according to legend she appeared in a dream to a hunter indicating where she could find her remains, which brought in procession to the city to stop the epidemic. The cult of the saint has been documented since 1196 and was already widespread in the 13th century, this is the feast that, as Villabianca writes, “the people consider everything her prerogative: sacred time/space of her speaking with the Saint”.