Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Marcello and Sant' Agata

Last week in Catania, I took my daughter who was visiting to the Church of St. Francis to show her the mobile shrines called "candelore" that the locals carry in the Sant' Agata (St. Agatha) procession. They are housed here on Via Crociferi across from the Bellini museum and the Cardinal Dusmet monument. The church itself is a wonderful example of Italian Baroque interior, but it's really the candelore that are the attraction.

I believe there are six of them displayed in the church, and each tries to out-do the others in resplendent gold and lavish statuary depicting the life and martyrdom of St. Agatha. (Sant' Agata is the patron saint of Catania whose festival draws over a million people--the largest in Italy--in February, no less! She was an early Christian saint who was killed by having her breasts cut off; this is depicted on the shrines, tactfully, of course.) The shrines are about 10-12 feet tall and perhaps four feet wide and deep. They are on wheels but extremely heavy, up to 1200 kilos. It takes quite a number of men to push them through the streets of Catania for 24 hours straight!

I was admiring the first candelora when an ancient Sicilian man approached us and took it upon himself to explain all about the candelore and the procession to us (in Italian/Sicilian, of course). In my usual way, I picked out words and got the gist of it, repeated certain phrases, nodded my head, and said, "Si, si" many times. This encouraged him. He got the poles and a burlap sack from a back room and demonstrated to us how the sack was put on his head and shoulder and how he used this as a cushion to push the huge candelore through the streets. He told us he had been doing it for 69 years!

We must have seemed duly interested and impressed, because he then gave up a personal tour of the church, turning on lights; describing all the paintings, statues, and altars; and directing us where to take photos. As much as I could understand, it was quite interesting! In the end, he asked our names and told us he was Marcello. We shook hands all around and took his photo by "his" candelore. I guess this February I'll have to brave the weather and crowds to see the actual procession and, hopefully, Marcello, too.


At July 23, 2005 9:47 PM, Blogger Colleen in CA said...

Wonderful, wonderful story. Thanks for telling us about it!

We saw the candalore at St. Agata's cathedral when we visited in March. They're very dramatic and beautiful.

At February 03, 2006 10:47 AM, Anonymous Mike C. said...

I've been around the Bellini Theater area several times and I did not know about this. Thanks!

At June 08, 2007 5:53 AM, Blogger Tego said...

Here is a link to a movie about the candelore and the 100-kilo candles that the devotees carry.


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