Rosalia was a woman who had spent the last years of her life as a hermit on Monte Pellegrino in the 12th century. Her remains were found inside a cave on that mountain in 1624, when there was a great plague epidemic in Palermo that heavily affected the city. According to chronicles the relics smelled of flowers and when they were carried in procession through the city streets on 9th June 1625, there were episodes of healing from the plague. Today, Palermo remembers Saint Rosalie in several moments: the pilgrimage to Monte Pellegrino on 4th September; the procession of the triumphal chariot, the one with the Saint’s relics and other celebrations in July.

On 4th September, the city celebrates the Santuzza (as she is called by locals) with a pilgrimage to the Monte Pellegrino cave. On the night between 3rd and 4th September, devotees climb the mountain starting from the slopes as a devotional act, as if they would like to follow in the footsteps of Rosalia. The pilgrimage (called acchianata) is the main tribute to Saint Rosalie but also the recognition of the importance that Monte Pellegrino has held for centuries for the town. Another period of festivities in honour of Saint Rosalie culminates in what is known as the Fistinu: on the evening of 14th July, all the citizens and devotees flock to the streets of the centre near the Cathedral to celebrate the Saint. During the festival, the main events of the Saint’s life are recounted in performances, describing the miracle of the city’s deliverance from the plague. 

Rosalie lived between 1130 and 1170, and there is not much more certain information about her life. It is said that she belonged to a noble family close to the court of Ruggero d’Altavilla, daughter of the Duke of Quisquina delle Rose. We know that Rosalie’s life changed drastically when she refused marriage to Prince Baldwin, abandoning her family and moving away from the pomp of aristocratic life. She devoted herself to a religious life and lived for twelve years wandering the mountains of western Sicily and on the Quisquina mountain. After this period, Rosalie chose Monte Pellegrino as her place of hermitage where she lived for a further eight years, dying on 4th September, or at least this is the date traditionally handed down as her dies natalis.

Frenda, A., Riunire, proteggere, Rappresentare. La religione dei Santi in Sicilia, Fondazione Ignazio Buttitta, Palermo, 2019
Palermo, G., Introduzione in Palermo, G. (a cura di) Rosalia e le altre: identità, memorie e simboli del sacro femminile. Atti dei seminari. Palermo, 12 luglio 2018 e 16 maggio 2019, Fondazione Ignazio Buttitta, Palermo, 2020
Pastena C., Zacco E., Sanctae Rosaliae Dicata: : bibliografia cronologica su Santa Rosalia, Regione siciliana, Assessorato dei beni culturali e dell'identità siciliana, Dipartimento dei beni culturali e dell'identità siciliana, Palermo, 2017.
Petrarca V., Genesi di una tradizione urbana. Il culto di Santa Rosalia a Palermo in età spagnola, Fondazione Ignazio Buttitta, Palermo, 2008
Pitrè, G., Feste popolari siciliane, Brancato Editore, Catania, 2003
Breve storia - Santuario di Santa Rosalia (last visited 20/01/2023)
Il Museo Pitrè e le tradizioni siciliane - Rai Teche (from 09:06 to 11:50 - last visited 20/01/2023)
La storia di Santa Rosalia (Feste di Sicilia) (last visited 20/01/2023)
Santa Rosalia - la vita - Cattedrale Palermo (last visited 20/01/2023)