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February 5, 2021

The Plague Column of Saint Agatha in Catania

Saint Agatha is the patron saint of Catania. On several occasions Saint Agatha has laid her hand benignly on the city to protect it also from the Plague. When the Plague began to spread in 1576 not far from Catania, the Senate decided to call on the intercession of their Patron. The relics were carried in procession along the streets of the city and, once they had reached the hospitals where had been taken those people stricken with the Plague, the sick immediately recovered and no further person was afflicted. 
In 1743 the people of Catania received another sign of protection when a second wave of the Plague began to sweep from Messina towards Catania. A further miracle occurred on this occasion: the relics were brought out in procession and the spread of the Plague was halted. In memory of this extraordinary occurrence, in the port district of the city was erected a column surmounted by a statue of Saint Agatha shown crushing the head of a monster which symbolizes the Plague.
This statue of Saint Agatha was placed in the current Piazza Dei Martiri in Catania in 1744. The work was carried out by the Palermitan sculptor Michele Orlando. The citizens on the outskirts of Etna decided to erect the monument in recognition of their Patroness who helped her fellow citizens through prodigious actions, after the terrible plague epidemic of 1743 which broke out in the city of Messina and spread in the city of Catania. The statue was erected on the top of a column of uncertain origin; some believe that it was recovered from the ancient Amphitheater, others that it is one of the eight Roman columns which were inside the Norman Cathedral.