Father and son. One of the younger participants in the festival proudly holds his candle.
Above many wait for the arrival of the relic, to the top right is the line of 12 Cannalore which precede the saint. They each represent a different working occupation of the citizens of the city.
Many rush by with huge candles on their back. This stream of candle bearers lasts for hours. We watch from the safety of a friends balcony as the rain falls intermittently on the heads of the devoti. They are clad completely in white, many covered by yellow wax from the dripping candles.
They all chant: “Siamo tutti devoti, tutti / We are all devoted ( or prayerful)”
It’s getting closer. The relic left Piazza Duomo, the city’s main square around 5pm. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from here to there on an average day but it is now 10pm and we wonder how much longer it will take before the relic passes our window.
Finally Sant’Agata appears in the distance and slowly passes the post office building. The men in white who run like a vein through the centre of the picture are dragging the heavy carousel along by enormous thick ropes.
The relic is before us at last. As it arrives many bless themselves and say a quiet prayer, acknowledging their respect for the saint and their accord with the devoti. Some bring their newly purchased candles to the priests to have them lighted from the flame close to the remains of Sant’Agata.
The procession then stopped for a long time as many piled into the nearby Bar Savia and Spinella to feast on a deserved and endlessly satisfying arancini.
Later it continued onwards by via Coronda, arriving at Piazza Cavour, or Borgo, as the locals call it. Those who were devout or just curious all made their way up there and stood in the large piazza until 4am when a large fireworks display took place. It was one of many spectacular night time displays which had been taking place daily for about a week in the run up to the immense occasion.
Hours later the procession continued back on via Etnea until it reached via San Giuliano, where the devoti were to dash up a steep hill while dragging the huge carousel. The hill is quite dramatic for such a feat and it was eventually called off due to concerns over the weather and the slippery underfoot conditions.
Hence the festival of Sant’Agata ended at around 8am on Monday morning the 6th of Februry in anti-climax, as many tired residents and tourists made their way sleepily home. Once there they liberated themselves from their wax and sawdust covered shoes and damp clothing, placing them in a corner to be dealt with at a later date. It was now time for sleep; sleep and recovery.
Back to the Gaff
Scandalous Narratives of Contemporary Ireland
Back to the Gaff is a book by new author John P Brady, which describes the excessive and outrageous nature of Irish night life. Meet an array of eccentric individuals who populate the bars of Dublin, living lives of decadence and abandon. Their frolics inevitably lead to a trip ‘back to the gaff,’ which in Dublin-speak means gravitating towards someone’s place of residence where the depravity continues.
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