Cheers San Filippu u Niuru
Philip, according to historical sources, was of Syrian origin. Born in 40 d.c. in Cesarèa Marittima, a port city dating back to 10a.c. now falling in the state of Israel, he was educated according to Christian canons. At the age of 24 he left Syria to Rome to follow Saint Peter, who he found in the capital of the empire. Here he was educated by Peter himself to understand dialects and languages and then entrusted him with the task of going to Agira, Sicily, to preach the gospel and free the island from the Demons (perhaps men of Arab faith). The same thing he did with Pancrazio by sending him to Taormina, Marciano to Syracuse and Berillo to Catania. On his journey to Agira, Filippo, touch different countries such as Faro a Messina, Valle Longa today San Filippo superiore and inferior to Messina, Limina, Roccafiorita, Bidium or Fenice today Calatabiano where he paused for some time. Continuing on it passed into the Contrada Castrorao, today Mount San Filippo in Calatabiano where the Church stands, then Castiglione di Sicilia, Randazzo, Adrano and then reach Agira after having crossed Mount Etna from north to south. On his pilgrimage there were several miracles and exorcisms performed by him. He died in Agira on 12 May of 103 d.c. The Saint is attributed infinite miracles in life and after death. Today it is celebrated and honored in various locations in Sicily and beyond. Among the miracles I would like to mention one. It has often happened that the fercolo with its Statue has escaped the porters to clash with the door of the seriously ill who immediately recovered or in the houses of possessed to free them from the devil. Other times that the fercolo (structure suitable to carry the statue, or simulacrum, of the saint) itself fell overwhelming the skeptical bearers to then heal them and convert them. I chose this as a miracle because it represents the common denominator of the way in which devotees celebrate today’s holidays.
Calatabiano does not do less. In fact, the operandum mode of the festival, named after the saint, is to take the path that the simulacrum porters have to face to take it from its original position, from the Church of the Holy Cross to the Castle on Mount San Filippo, to the Mother Church in the town. The route winds through curves and steep descents in beaten ground where the danger of stumbling or slipping is constant along the entire descent. The festival begins on the second Saturday of May to continue, with various side events such as the Nespolo festival, throughout the month. The real descent of the Saint takes place on the third Saturday of May and it all starts from the Church built where St. Philip stayed before reaching Agira. From there the porters, people with years and years of experience started since they were very young, prepare themselves according to traditional rites surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of faithful gathered along the way. At the sound of three cannon shots the fercolo, with the simulacrum of the saint, supported by the bearers leaves for the village, descending at high speed along the path crowded with people who admire his passage with passion and devotion. Everything runs out in 15min. Reached the country it is greeted with the cry of “Evviva San Fulippu” then taken to the mother church of the town where it will remain until the Sunday of the following week day when the climb will be addressed to bring it back to the church SS Crocifisso al Castello thus closing festivities in his honor .
The travel tip is to be there on Saturday around 3am so you can climb up to the Saracen Castle, above the Church of San Filippo, to admire its ruins, relax and enjoy the spectacular view from there you can see over the bay of Giardini-Naxos, Taormina and Castelmola. But not only that, the perspective you have on Mount Etna framed by the ruins of the Castle makes it a point of view for photographic shots of effect. Keeping in mind that the descent begins around 18:30 it is advisable to be near the church at least half an hour before so as to witness the preparatory ritual then position yourself further down the descent, where possible to be safe, to immerse yourself in the atmosphere that is formed before and during the descent. At the passage of the saint and of the crowd that follows him, start behind them to the village. If you have not had the luck to attend the descent, which is the most engaging event, you can watch his “acchianata” or ascent that in in any case, it gives strong emotions unleashed by the strong devotion that the faithful of Calatabiano have towards the Saint. This tradition is so deeply felt that there is also a descent for children who are prepared and loaded with a simulacrum so that they can prepare themselves for the future.