The traditional lunch of San Giuseppe in Cattolica Eraclea

The traditional lunch of San Giuseppe in Cattolica Eraclea

In Cattolica Eraclea every 19th March the patron saint San Giuseppe (St Joseph) is celebrated with religious ceremonies but also with a particular rite in the kitchen.

We are in Sicily, an island with such an ancient history that we can define Cattolica Eraclea as a town that is modern. Some architects would call us a 'foundation town', in fact we know exactly the precise moment in which they were born.

It was 1612 when King Philip of Spain, known as the Pious, gave permission to build this village a little inland from the original nucleus of Eraclea Minoa on the sea near the beautiful Agrigento.

Our name is a tribute to the city of Hercules on the sea and to the king of Spain.

For Sicily we are a young town but our history has rites and traditions of centuries, such as that of the feast of the patron saint San Giuseppe.

From the first light of dawn you can feel that ferment that heralds a special day, nineteen firecrackers wake up the inhabitants of Cattolica Eraclea.

The services in the church begin at eight, with the local band going to pick up the people who have to bring votive offerings for the Saint and who have to attend mass.

These people parade in procession with large candles called 'ntorci', adorned with red sulla flowers and banknotes, as an ex voto for the graces received. This ritual is repeated three times throughout the morning, as many as there will be masses celebrated in honour of the Saint.

Immediately after lunch, three figures who interpret the Madonna, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, with a donkey, go around the historic centre and go knocking at some houses. They ask for asylum, but regularly are refused and expelled as happens in the history of the Bible.

Finally the procession arrives in Piazza Roma where, on a large stage, the table is set up on which the traditional lunch, 'la mangiata di li Santi', of the Holy Family, will be consumed, in which St. Joseph, Mary, Jesus, and thirteen 'saints', are played by locals.

The dishes are varied and abundant in the great Sicilian hospitality tradition.

Among the courses you must not miss omelettes of all kinds with seasonal vegetables, broad beans, fennel, artichokes, wild asparagus ... one fennel per person, one purciddrato each (the typical St. Joseph's bread) and an orange.

But there is no shortage of baked pasta and a second course of meat, usually breaded, with lettuce salad as a side dish.

All these dishes are offered for devotion by those who have made a pledge to the Saint.

For the recurrence of the feast and for devotion it is a local tradition to prepare "li Purciddati" (buccellati), a special bread in the shape of a circular garland with an egg white glaze and garnished with sesame seeds.

In the afternoon the statue of the Saint is carried in procession through the streets of the town and the celebrations end in the evening with fireworks.

A succession of emotions and a tradition that is renewed every year.



Subscribe to Newsletter

Discover a territory through the emotions of the people that have lived it.