Feast of St. Antony – The Patron Saint of Sorrento
On February 14th, while the whole world celebrates Valentine’s Day, the people of Sorrento are consumed in a kind of religious fervor. They celebrate the feast of their patron saint, St. Antony Abbot. He died on February 14th 626 AD.
This is a two-day celebration that starts with people visiting the statue of the saint in the Basilica from the morning of the 13th and ends at the midnight of the 14th. People of Sorrento commemorate the death of their Patron with complete dedication and piety.
It is said that the Basilica which bears his name now was built by St. Antony himself, helped by Saint Catellus, on the instruction of Archangel Michael. At that time St. Antony was a monk. Now this basilica stands as one of the most venerated architectural wonders of the world. Hundreds of tourists visit the Basilica every year.
A host of legends that prove the miracles performed by the Patron Saint exists in Sorrento. People are ready to recite any number of them to you when you visit the place.
He is said to have saved a child from the jaws of a ferocious whale after it had been swallowed. To prove the story true you will be shown two whale bones adorning the walls of the Basilica even now. After his demise, he helped them to defeat the Saracens. He is also said to have saved the city from other invasions, bubonic plague, cholera etc. Besides, you will see myriads of offerings given to the saint by the sailors, who were saved miraculously from storms and other natural disasters by Him. In short, Sorrento without St. Antonio is unthinkable for its people.
The silver statue of the saint will be mounted on a high pedestal in the Basilica of St. Anotonino during the festival. People will be visiting it, in large numbers from the morning of the 13th. The mortal remains of the saint are interred in a crypt in another basilica within the walls of the city. The crypt is kept in an alter with a path surrounding it. The devotees circle the crypt praying for the blessing of the saint. Behind this there is an oil lamp, which is said to have miraculous healing qualities.
On 14th morning the silver statue is carried in a procession around the city. It is carried by sailors. The city authorities and the Archbishop accompany the statue. After going around the city, the statue is returned to the basilica and the Archbishop will conduct the mass.
All kinds of stalls will be opened outside the basilica during this festival. After the religious ceremonies are over, the people enjoy themselves shopping, eating and engaged in different games in these stalls. It is a kind of fun fair.
The celebration of the feast of St. Antony ends with a fabulous fireworks display. It is amusing to note that the amorous Valentine’s Day takes the second place to the pious St. Antony’s Day in Sorrento.
by Marina Chernyak
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