Saint Rosalia

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Saint Rosalia
Anthonis van Dyck 084.jpg
Santa Rosalia, depicted on the right, before St. Mary by Anthony van Dyck
Palermo, Kingdom of Sicily
Died1166 (aged 35–36)
Mount Pellegrino, Kingdom of Sicily
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
FeastJuly 14 (Festino), September 4 (Pilgrimage on Monte Pellegrino)
AttributesDepicted as a young woman, sometimes holding a cross, book, or skull, and also a spray of lilies.[1] Some images show her holding a chisel and hammer with which she carved her dedication (see main story). She is also seen wearing a crown of roses, attended by winged angels, and often with a view through a cave opening of Palermo Harbour.
PatronagePalermo; El Hatillo; Zuata Anzoátegui; Italian fishermen of Monterey, California

Saint Rosalia (1130–1166), also called La Santuzza or "The Little Saint", and in Sicilian as "Rusulia", is the patron saint of Palermo in Italy, and three towns in Venezuela: El Hatillo, Zuata, and Anzoátegui.


A statue of Saint Rosalia in Monterey, California

Rosalia was born of a Norman noble family that claimed descent from Charlemagne. Devoutly religious, she retired to live as a hermit in a cave on Mount Pellegrino, where she died alone in 1166. Tradition says that she was led to the cave by two angels. On the cave wall she wrote "I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses, and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ."[2]

1624 plague[edit]

In 1624, a plague beset Palermo. During this hardship Saint Rosalia appeared first to a sick woman, then to a hunter, to whom she indicated where her remains were to be found. She ordered him to bring her bones to Palermo and have them carried in procession through the city.[3]

The hunter climbed the mountain and found her bones in the cave as described. He did what she had asked in the apparition. After her remains were carried around the city three times, the plague ceased. After this Saint Rosalia was venerated as the patron saint of Palermo, and a sanctuary was built in the cave where her remains were discovered.[4]


A statue of St. Rosalia being carried through the streets of Bivona, Sicily

The feast of Saint Rosalia is on September 4.[2]

The celebration, called the festino, is still held each year on July 14, and continues into the next day.[5] It is still a major social and religious event in Palermo. In 1995, 1996, 1997[6] and 2001 the celebration was produced by Studio Festi.[citation needed]

Also on September 4 there is an event related to the festino and St. Rosalia; a tradition of walking barefoot from Palermo up to Mount Pellegrino.[7] In Italian American communities in the United States, the July feast is generally dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel[8] while the September feast, beginning in August, brings large numbers of visitors annually to the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in New York City.[9]

In biology[edit]

Saint Rosalia was proposed as the patron saint of evolutionary studies in a paper by G.E. Hutchinson.[10] This was due to a visit he paid to a pool of water downstream from the cave where St. Rosalia's remains were found, where he developed ideas based on observations of water boatman.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stracke, Richard (2015-10-20). "Rosalia of Palermo". Christian Iconography.
  2. ^ a b "St. Rosalia". Catholic Online. Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  3. ^ "Santa Rosalia". Italian Folk Magic. 4 September 2017. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  4. ^ For the great expansion of Rosalia's popular cult in Italy as a result of the 1624 plague, see Franco Mormando, "Response to the Plague in Early Modern Italy: What the Primary Sources, Printed and Painted, Reveal" in Hope and Healing: Painting in Italy in a Time of Plague, 1500–1800, ed. G. Bailey, P. Jones, F. Mormando, and T. Worcester, Worcester, Massachusetts: The Worcester Art Museum,2005, pp. 32–34.
  5. ^ Bommarito, Maria Lina (July 13, 2014). "The "Festino" of Santa Rosalia in Palermo". Times of Sicily. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  6. ^ Municipality of Palermo, 373°festino – Clips from the official video
  7. ^ Bommarito, Maria Lina (September 3, 2014). "The Mount Pellegrino Climb in Honor of Santa Rosalia". Times of Sicily. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  8. ^ Vaudoise, Mallorie (September 4, 2017). "Santa Rosalia". Italian Folk Magic. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  9. ^ Sperling, Jonathan (August 9, 2017). "Bensonhurst gears up for 42nd Annual Feast of Santa Rosalia". Brooklyn Reporter. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  10. ^ Hutchinson, G. E. (1959-05-01). "Homage to Santa Rosalia or Why Are There So Many Kinds of Animals?". The American Naturalist. 93 (870): 145–159. doi:10.1086/282070. ISSN 0003-0147. JSTOR 2458768.
  11. ^ Hutchinson, G.E. (May–June 1959). "Homage to Santa Rosalia or Why Are There So Many Kinds of Animals?". The American Naturalist. 93 (870): 145–149. doi:10.1086/282070. JSTOR 2458768.

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