Italy - Castelvetrano

For years, the parish community of the Church of St. Mary of Health has cultivated worship and a very special devotion for the figure of Saint Rita and Augustinian spirituality, in line with the general sentiment that unites all Catholics in the world around the Saint of Impossible Cases. This is because the "Church of Health" has been a former convent of the Augustinian Hermits since 1628 (the year of the beatification of Rita), and conserves a large and beautiful statue of Saint Rita, purchased by the will of all devotees several years ago.

But the devotion to Rita in the town of Castelvetrano has much older roots, dating back to early 1900, the year of the canonisation of Saint Rita by Pope Leo XIII. Suffice it to recall the images of Saint that were venerated in the church of St. Mary of the Chain (now of Health), the sacred shrine of the early 1900s in the Castelvetrano countryside and the small statue of St. Anthony of the Course, and it is in this church that the pious practice of the "15th Thursday of Saint Rita" began to spread in the 20s..

The first feast in her honour is due to the will of the then rector of the church, Father Bono. . Since then and up to today, worship and devotion for the Saint has expanded considerably thanks to the devotional fervour of rectors who took turns in governing the church of the Course, especially Father Gaetano Parrino and Father Antonino Trapani.

In 1990, the church of St. Anthony was shut down for two reasons: the first because of the death of the last rector, Father Anthony Trapani; the second because of the presence of cracks that compromised the safety of the sacred building. It was in that year that the pastoral zeal of the late parish priest of St. Mary of Health, Don Ignazio Di Giovanna, permitted worship to be transferred to the former Augustinian church.

The new statue was commissioned by the parish priest from a Roman firm in 1991 and was made ​​of wood, with features and dimensions that respected the appearance of the Saint while she was alive, with the black and white cassock, her eyes fixed on a small crucifix that she holds in her hands in the act of offering her divine ideal. All citizens helped to pay for the work through alms collection by many devotees and Father Ignazio himself, who asked for an offering for the arrival of his sister.

When the new statue arrived, a popular crowd accompanied the replica, as well as the brothers who, heartened by their prior, pulled the "carriage". Devotees fell in behind to show their devotion, dressed in the traditional "dress of St. Rita", barefoot and with big candles, in sign of thanksgiving for graces received.

Il Corteo storico di Santa Rita a Castelvetrano was born of the momentum of devotion and the enthusiasm of all devotees who welcomed the arrival of the Saint in the ‘90s, expressing their devotion even in their clothing; the idea of carrying the devotion and the life of Saint Rita through the streets of the town arose from the first devotees in monastic clothing. The first nucleus that gave rise to the historical procession as we understand it today was formed in 1991with the parade of the painting of the signs of the Saint Rita and of that figuring the stigmatisation with the angel and her cousin with roses. Over the years, the historical procession of Saint Rita has become increasingly detached from the characteristics of religious expression and has developed the artistic needs of spectacle and historical accuracy exponentially: today, the parade is a purely theatrical event, of street theatre in the most vivid sense of the word.

Study of the life of this great Saint has suggested the characteristics to be imparted to the historical parade that represents the most significant moments through eight tableaux vivants that parade through the streets of the town of Castelvetrano with studied solemnity and the complicity of the grandiloquence of the costumes which are faithful reproductions of the clothing of the period (St. Rita as a child and her parents – Station Stairway; marriage of Saint Rita – Piazza Nino Bixio; the murder of her husband Paolo – Piazza Regina Margherita; St. Rita the widow and her two sons – Piazza Carlo d’Aragona; miraculous entry into the monastery and the three patron saints – Piazza Carlo d’Aragona; stigmatization of St. Rita – Piazza V. Alfieri; miracle of the garden – Piazza Diodoro Siculo; death of St. Rita - System of Squares).
Solemnity gives way to simplicity whenever these tableaux vivants reach the squares for their performance where, abandoning their fixedness, the tableaux come to life in a performance that gives way to the rules of theatre understood in the purest sense of their origins: a sacred performance surrounded by its spectators, a form of theatre which emerges and moves in a very short space of time, theatre that is made and unmade, theatre of everywhere and nowhere, theatre that takes its spectators by the hand and leads them through the streets of a town celebrating everyday life, the commitment and the courage to live with dignity all that is offered in our lives, in public and more intimate roles; and this traveling theatre takes on the characteristics of its argument, like the life of Rita: simple and solemn.

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