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Religious Tourism

Around Italy for the festivities of patron saints

Mario Masciullo, eTN  Jul 11, 2010

ITALY (eTN) - For some Christian denominations, including Catholicism, the patron saint is a person who is venerated as a saint, to whom the church entrusts the protection of a certain group of believers, identified in those who live in a particular city or region, those who exercise a job, perform a certain activity, or have other characteristics in common.

Traditionally, the faithful in a given category are directed to their patron saint with prayers or offerings to obtain the intercession of the saint's own or another's behalf.

Famous are the prayers of Catholics to their patron saint San Gennaro Naples for obtaining healings and even numbers winning the lottery or what until the last century were made to Holy Helpers for healing from disease.

An example of believers at the international level is given by the sick people who direct themselves to the Virgin Lady of Lourdes to intercede for improvement on their illness.

Around the eleventh century, individuals, particularly in times of personal difficulties, advocated the protection of a saint or an angel. The patron was close to his protégé in his daily trials and would have preserved him or her from the dangerous and pitfalls of life and beyond. Likewise social groups or entire cities felt the need of a patron, and city committees fixed, by mutual agreement, the dates of its festivities that became a precept. To date, every city, region, and its municipalities has its patron saint who is celebrated with thanksgiving and processions in a fairy surrounding.

The use of patrons was even extended to corporations and art and crafts associations, both civil and military. Each art and craft has a saint protector, eg: the card players, the secretaries, typists, computer operators, smokers, writers, journalists, even thieves have their saint protector!

The choice of patrons for a particular job often coincided with something that had to do with martyrdom suffered by the saints or the job that they had engaged in life. It was believed, in fact, that this was the best mean to better understand their assisted and cooperate to better protect them.

Back in the days of fascism in Italy, Mr Mussolini praised Italy as a country of saints, artists, and navigators. The Italian Christian calendar counts, in fact, one saint a day although new ones have been nominated during the last years. Italy has twenty regions, and each region has 1 to 12 main municipalities divided into hundreds of commons. All cities, from the largest to the smallest, in the peninsula are linked to the traditional celebrations of their patron saints, dating back to ancient traditions, held annually with a ritual, emotionally rich with processions, choreography, and accompanied by typical music and songs. Seven of the most significant celebrations were chosen to highlight here, combined with some of the best charming hotels for a pleasant stay.


The Feast of St. Agatha is one of the first religious celebrations worldwide included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Anthropological Heritage. Its celebration dates five centuries, with great popular participation and emotional involvement, culminating On the days of February 4 and 5 when the "vara" with the relics of the saint is carried in a procession on a "fercolo," a car driven by two long and strong ropes with hundreds of young people dressed in the typical “bag,” preceded by so-called “candelore” imaginative vertical sculptures in wood, with carved compartments where the salient episodes in the life of St. Agate are depicted. On August 17, the anniversary of the return of the relics of the saint from Costantinopoli, Turkey, is celebrated.


Grand Hotel San Pietro
Via Pirandello, 50, 98039 Taormina (ME)
Tel: 0942.620711

Hotel Villa Diodoro
Via Bagnoli Croci 75, Taormina (ME)
Tel: 0942.23312

Caparena Hotel and Wellness Club
Via Nazionale 189, 98039, Taormina (ME)
Tel: 0942/652033

Hotel Isabella
Corso Umberto 58, 98039 Taormina (ME)
Tel: 0942/23153


The calendar of celebrations for the patron Hermes begins in Forte dei Marmi on August 26 with the Palio dei Bagni and the parade (with people in costume and flag bearers) from City Hall to the church of the saint for a floral tribute. The August 27 events include bingo in the square, exhibition of folk bands through the streets, and the traditional "focata" (bone fire). The day of August 28 sees the lakeside resort filled with stalls full of any object, curiosity, and unfailing food items. At the conclusion of the festivities, fireworks are launched from the jetty.

The city is divided, as in the past, in seven districts, which since August 31, celebrates their saint for two weeks, until September 13, 2010.

The festivities begin with the Blessing of Gonfalons in the Cathedral on the evening of August 31, the eve of the feast of Sant 'Egidio. Every day there's a party in a different district with traditional games, theatre performances in local dialect, and music of the past. The eighth day is dedicated to the Palio of the Archers, who are vying for their district. Their competition consists of grabbing a silver ring with a diameter of 10 cm through the launch of arrows in the medieval style. Men and women of the contrade (district) are to assist in fourteenth-century garments, forming a procession through the streets. Upon reaching the eighth district, every tavern of each of the 8 streets is open to the public. The tavern are of particular historical and architectural interest. The business is run directly by the owners with the help of volunteer housewives taking care of traditions.


Hotel Byron
Viale Morin 46, 55042 Forte dei Marmi (Lucca)
Tel: 0584/787052
Fax: 0584/787152
Email: s.madonna@


Transporting the “Machine of Santa Rosa” is a privilege for selected men of Viterbo, who dedicate their efforts to their saint patron who lived in the thirteenth century and whose memory is evoked by Viterbo through an event unique, exhilarating, and almost indescribable in its beauty and spectacular emotion. The machine of Santa Rosa is a tower lit by torches and electric lights, made of light metal and modern materials like fibreglass, which now replaces iron, (utilized many years ago), wood, and glued common paper, about a hundred feet high and five tons in weight. On the evening of September 3, it is lifted on the shoulders of a hundred strong men called "porters" who carry the “machine” for just over a mile divided into the very narrow streets of downtown, surrounded by two wings of crowds, delirious with emotion, joy, and a certain fear.


La Locanda
Loc Seripola - Orte (Viterbo)
Tel: 0761/402734
Mobile: 348/5108309


The Feast of the Holy Cross, called the Feast of the Holy Face of Lucca, celebrates a statue that miraculously arrived in Lucca (according to legend) on a cart pulled by oxen and is both a sacred and profane story. A series of events lasts throughout the month of September - markets and fairs, exhibitions and concerts, conferences, and the annual meeting of Lucca diaspora returning to their native land for the occasion. The Eve of Holy Cross, a solemn procession called "luminaria" (lightings), winds its way along the streets from the church of San Frediano to the Cathedral S. Martino. For the occasion, the central district of the city is lit with hundreds of wax candles that highlight the architecture of homes, churches, and monuments.


Albergo Villa Marta
Via del Ponte Guasperini 873 - Loc San Lorenzo Vaccoli – Lucca
Tel: 0583/370101


On September 19, Naples celebrates its patron saint, the Martyr San Gennaro, culminating with the miracle of the liquification of the blood of the Martyr - gathered after his beheading in 305 AD by a woman and kept in two vials. The blood is exposed to the public by the Cardinal, and its liquification, a sign of good auspicious, is greeted by applause and prayers of thanks. The announcement of the blood liquificaction is followed by 21 cannon shots fired from Castel dell’Ovo, the icon of the city. The failure of the miracle is considered an ill-omen and one of hysteria.

Surely one of the most intense moments of the celebration is the expectation of the dissolution of blood during which the devotees gather in the cathedral near the altar to call the "miracle" by chanting prayers and litany. A note of color is represented by the so-called “relatives of San Gennaro,” represented by the most tenacious to "invoke the miracle," a folk presence dating back to ancient Neapolitan tradition before the cult of the saint.


Decumani Hotel de Charme
Via S. Giovanni Maggiore Pignatelli 15-80134 Napoli
Tel/Fax: 081.551.8188


To commemorate the miracle operated by Saint Andrew in 1544 to spare Amalfi from attack by the pirate Barbarossa, on June 27 and November 30 of each year they celebrate St. Andrew's race, during which the statue of the saint, known as the Amalfi’s “ O’ Vecchio” (the old man) is carried in a procession through the streets by religious congregations. Once on the beach, the fishermen turn back the statue of the saint making their way running to the cathedral up its flight of steps. The festivities continue throughout the evening with games, songs, and dances, and it ends with fireworks that light up the sky of Amalfi. The "miracle of St. Andrew” is in many ways connected to the miracle of St. Gennaro. If the statue does not return safely to the cathedral, the Amalfi superstitiously think that the saint is angry, or something seriously adverse is going to happen. Andrew is the saint patron of all people involved in the fishing industries of the world.


Hotel Santa Caterina
S.S. Coast, 9 - Amalfi (SA)
Tel: 089/871012


Around Italy for the festivities of patron saints
Saint Andrea, Patron Saint of Amalfi

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