The main peculiarity of the most popular and cherished celebrations in Sicily is that they mix the sacred and the profane: the combination between Christian tradition and the Sicilian’s warm-hearted personality makes the local folklore both picturesque and solemn at the same time..
Modica is a good example of this: the town has two protector saints, Saint George and Saint Peter, which have two different groups of supporters, the “Sangiuggiari” and the “Samprittari”.
St. George Feast Day is celebrated during the weekend that follows April 23rd: a statue of the Saint is carried on shoulders through the town’s streets as a part of a big procession that people follow with enthusiasm and that ends with fireworks.
On that Sunday afternoon, the procession starts when leaflets get thrown in the air and the statue of Saint George is taken out of the namesake cathedral. The peculiarity of this event is that the statue is carried in a way that resembles the gait of a galloping horse.
The statue bearers take a rest during breaks called “fimmati”, during which they pray and take refreshment, so that they can keep going until late evening, when fireworks mark the end of the procession.
At that point, the statue of Saint George on horseback can be taken back to its church: there, the Sangiuggiari, still carrying the statue on shoulders, start walking around the church naves, and, when they get too tired, they drop the statue in the Cathedral, so that the worshippers can finally go back home.
Tradition says that this particular procession at a gallop originated in 1090, when Saint George appeared in a dream to Count Ruggero who, inspired by it, won the battle against Muslims, in Cerami. That’s when Modica developed a big feeling of devotion toward the saint on horseback to the extent that he became its protector saint.
In the 17th century the canons of the Saint Peter’s collegiate church supported the primacy of their saint. They believed that their church was more important, because its architecture was extended and enriched after the 1693 catastrophic earthquake, which destroyed eastern Sicily. Both saints got chosen as Modica’s protectors and their supporters started competing.
That’s why, nowadays, the Saint George procession is really cherished and is celebrated with such a great passion: to participate will let you experience the intensity of Sicilians’ religious devotion and will make your stay in this part of Sicily more special.