San Ciriaco Festival, Torre March 2008
San Ciriaco Diacono e Martire
Patron Saint of Comune of Torre le Nocelle, Italy
Other Names: Cyriacus, Cyriac
Feast Days: 8 August, 16 March
Patronage: Eye Diseases, Diabolical Possession, Epilepsy
San Ciriaco was one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Born in the third century to a noble Roman patrician family, he embraced the Christian religion and gave his wealth to the poor. He was ordained a deacon at Rome, under Pope Marcellinus (296 - 304).
The emperor at that time was Diocletian, assisted by Maximian, who happened to be his favorite. In honor of Diocletian, Maximian decided to build a gorgeous palace, complete with magnificent baths, constructed by the Christian. Among the slaves were elderly men, as well as high-ranking priests and clerics.
A Roman nobleman, wanting to relieve the sufferings of these poor laborers, sent four Christians with alms and encouragement: men who later became Saint Cyriacus, Saint Sisinius, Saint Largus and Saint Smaragdus. They pursued their charities at the risk of their lives, and they worked vigorously alongside those who were growing very weak. When Maximian heard of it, he had Saint Sisinius and an old gentleman whom he had helped, decapitated.
San Ciriaco was well known to Diocletian, who was fond of him. Suddenly Diocletian’s daughter, Artemia, became possessed by a furious demon, and she announced that only Ciriaco could deliver her. Diocletian sent for him, and he cured her. Both Artemia and her mother, who is today Saint Serena, were converted to Christianity.
A short time later the daughter of the king of Persia also became possessed, and cried out like Diocletian’s daughter that she could be delivered only by Ciriaco, who was in Rome. A message was sent to Diocletian, who asked his wife to persuade the deacon to go to Persia for this purpose. He did so with his two remaining Christian companions, and again cast out the demon, thus bringing about the conversion of the king, his family and four hundred persons, whom he baptized.
The three confessors returned to Rome, having refused all compensation for their services, saying that they had received the gifts of God gratuitously and wished to share them gratuitously, not deriving profit from them. The barbarous Maximian, hearing of their return in 303, had them seized, imprisoned and tortured, and finally decapitated with twenty other courageous Christians. Their bodies were first buried near the place of their execution on the Salarian Way, but were later removed to the city. An abbey in France, at Altorf in Alsace, possesses relics of Saint Cyriacus and bears his name.
Chiesa San Ciriaco, Torre le Nocelle, Italy
I have been fortunate to have experienced and photographed the St. Ciriaco Festival in Torre several times, most recently in 2009. Below are photos I took at St. Ciriaco Festivals in March 2008 and 2009. I am told the March festival is smaller and less crowded than the one that takes place in August.
The festivities begin in church with a Mass, after which the Statue of San Ciriaco is hoisted on the shoulders of several strong Torresi men ... and the procession begins. The path from the church to the main piazza is straight uphill, so I can't say that I envy those poor guys.
The bell in the main tower rings from the time San Ciriaco leaves the church until the time he is safely returned to the sanctuary. Prior to being returned he is held in the main piazza for several minutes, turned facing the mountain so that he may "see" the fireworks being set off in his honor.
In 2005, as an American following the procession for the first time, I found myself overwhelmed with emotion. One would think the noise of the bells, the band playing, and all the general commotion surrounding the festival would be enough to drown the senses, but this was not so. As I followed the locals through town I was overtaken by a sudden sense of peace ... a feeling of connection with our ancestors. Nonna Pasqualina, although deceased for over sixty years, was walking beside me.
After the procession I made my way down to what is left of Nonna's house ... a set of steps, seeming to lead nowhere. I sat down and cried with relief ... I was finally home.
Section devoted to San Ciriaco (in Italian) on Florindo's site.
Waiting for San Ciriaco to leave the church.
The ascent from the church to the main piazza.
Donations accepted :-)
Warming up for the procession.
Notice the "brocade" on San Ciriaco's vestments in the next two photos. Ex-votos (in this case, pieces of gold jewelry) donated in gratitude by those who have received special graces from San Ciriaco. The jewelry is sewn onto the cloth and vestments in intricate patterns by the women of Torre.
Returning to the church.
The main piazza - before the festival.
Booth selling Toblerone made in nearby Pietradefusi...mmm!
The crumbling stairs that once led to the home of Maria Pasqualina de Carro
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