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Saturday, February 5, 2022

The Furnace in Which Saint Agatha Suffered Martyrdom by Fire

On the spot where Saint Agatha was burnt to death in a furnace, a pit filled with burning coals and shards, a small church had been built with a single nave. Still visible today through a port-hole, in the chapel on the right hand side, is the furnace which at the time of the persecutions was used for the tortures and was the place where Saint Agatha was burnt alive in her martyrdom. Having survived this torture, her breasts were cut off and she died in prison.
The Church of the Furnace (Sant’Agata alla Fornace), which the people of Catania also call “Carcara” and which is also dedicated to Saint Blaise (Chiesa San Biagio), was only a simple chapel in the fourth century. In 1098 it was enlarged slightly but they could not build beyond the current dimensions because of the bastions of the Roman amphitheater and prison which flank it. That this location is the actual site of the furnace is in fact supported by its close proximity to the amphitheater and prison. It was rebuilt in 1589 and remained miraculously intact during the eruption of 1669. The current church was built in the 18th century after the terrible earthquake of 1693. 
Inside, you can admire a beautiful painting by Giuseppe Barone, portraying the execution of Saint Agatha, and a wonderful marble altar containing a memorial of the “Furnace”, maybe built in the middle ages or in the 18th century. From this spot, rich with religious and historical importance, on the 3rd February of each year (the Feast of Saint Blaise) sets out the solemn procession to offer candles to the patron saint of the city.

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