The Feast of St. Rosalia, also known as ‘U Festinu’ as Italians call it, is celebrated every year from July 10 to July 15 in Palermo, Italy. It’s a regional public holiday in which the city honors Saint Rosalia, also known as “La Santuzza” in Sicily, as its patron saint. It lasts for six days and includes a variety of unique events. The celebrations’ highlights include a parade with lots of food on July 14, and a mass on July 15 where a silver urn with Saint Rosalia’s relics is carried around and is finally blessed by the Archbishop of Palermo.
History of Feast of St. Rosalia
Rosalia Sinibaldi was born in Palermo in 1126 to aristocratic parents. Her father was Count Roger I. He tried several times to arrange a marriage for his daughter, but she rejected each time. Instead, she became a devout Christian and cloistered herself in a convent. However, much like it had been at court, she realized there was too much gossip and jealousy in the convent, so she became a hermit.
She lived in her father’s cave in Mount Pellegrino, where she died alone at 35-36 years old in 1166. On the walls, she wrote: “I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of [Monte] delle Rose, and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ.” She was admired throughout her lifetime for her devotion and had been linked to a few miracles, but wasn’t in line to become a saint yet.
Almost 500 years later, in 1624, as Italy was being ravaged by the Black Plague, she appeared in people’s dreams. A sick woman, a hunter, and a soap merchant from Palermo, to whom she showed where her bones were and told him to parade them around the city. The plague stopped after he did it three times. For the miracle of saving the city, they added Saint Rosalia’s name to the Roman Martyrology on July 15, 1625. She became the patron saint of Palermo, and a sanctuary was built in the cave where her remains were discovered.
Feast of St. Rosalia timeline
Rosalia Sinibaldi is Born in Palermo, her father is Count Roger I — she refuses his marriage arrangements and becomes a devout Christian hermit in a cave he owns on Mount Pellegrino.
She is 35 to 36 years old.
She appears to several people in their dreams, indicating where her remains are, and to carry them around to save the city from the Black Plague — and miraculously, it works.
For the miracle of saving the city, they add Saint Rosalia's name to the Roman Martyrology.
Feast of St. Rosalia FAQs
Why does St Rosalia hold a skull?
She is frequently depicted carrying a skull, which depicts her martyrdom and her slain remains.
How many saints are from Italy?
31 saints originated from Italy.
Who is the patron saint of Italy?
St. Catherine of Siena and St. Francis of Assisi are the patron saints of the country.
Feast of St. Rosalia Activities
Visit the sanctuary of Saint Rosalia
Nestled against a stone cliff wall on Mount Pellegrino, it's a pilgrimage spot for both religious people and tourists. In 1787, Goethe visited the site and described the place as "one that better befits the humility of the saint than the sumptuous festivities that are celebrated to commemorate her retirement from the world."
Attend the feast
On the night of July 14, a statue of Rosalia was paraded through Palermo on a massive and elaborate boat-shaped chariot that’s built differently each year. It’s pulled by oxen and accompanied by colorful dancers. They follow a path full of references to pain that culminates with a big show of fireworks. Many traditional Italian dishes are also served at this event.
Go to the mass
On July 15, the relics of the Saint are carried around the city in a silver urn, and masses are celebrated in her honor. In the end, the urn returns to the Cathedral and it’s blessed by the Archbishop of Palermo.
5 Surprising Facts About Palermo
It’s one of Italy’s most populous cities
It has an estimated population of over 650,000, and it’s the sixth most populated city in Italy.
It’s one of the warmest cities in Europe
Thanks to its southern location, local climate systems, and proximity to Africa, Palermo experiences over 2,500 hours of sunlight every year.
They have Italy’s biggest opera house
The Teatro Massimo was designed to seat 3,000 people in its auditorium, and it’s one of the biggest theaters in Europe.
Its many catacombs are a status symbol
When monks ran out of space in their cemetery and wished to preserve the lives of important and affluent people, they built the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, which now houses over 8,000 bodies.
They have one of the biggest ports
The Port of Palermo is over 2,700 years old and serves over two million passengers and around five million tonnes of cargo every year, making it one of the biggest ports in the Mediterranean.
Why We Love Feast of St. Rosalia
We can learn from Saint Rosalia’s faith
If you’re a religious person, she will probably inspire you. Her sanctuary is the best place to visit for people who have these beliefs.
It’s a time to celebrate life and good health
It’s said that thanks to Saint Rosalia’s miracle, Palermo was saved from the plague. We can think of the feast as a celebration of being able to live one more day.
It’s a good excuse to visit Palermo
Perhaps you’re a tourist that only wants to visit on these days because of the feast, but Palermo has a lot to offer! We’ve mentioned it has an opera house, but there’s also a beach and more — even a palace.
Feast of St. Rosalia dates