The festival of Saint Rosalia, the ‘little Saint’ of Palermo

Paruta, Filippo (1552-1629).

Relatione delle feste fatte in Palermo nel 1625 per lo trionfo delle gloriose reliquie. Di S. Rosalia vergine palermitana. Scritta dal dottor don Onofrio Paruta, canonico della chiesa metropolitana di Palermo, figlio di Filippo. E poi perfettionata da don Simplicio Paruta monaco cassinese.... Palermo, Pietro Coppola, 1651.

Paruta, Filippo (1552-1629) Relatione delle feste fatte in Palermo nel 1625 per lo trionfo delle gloriose reliquie. Di S. Rosalia vergine palermitana. Scritta dal dottor don Onofrio Paruta, canonico della chiesa metropolitana di Palermo, figlio di Filippo. E poi perfettionata da don Simplicio Paruta monaco cassinese.... Pietro Coppola, 1651.

4° (200x145 mm). Collation: [π]2, †4, A-T4, V2, X4, Y2, Z4, [χ]2. [12], 176, [4] pages. Roman, and italic type. Fols. [π]1 and [π]2 with half-title and engraved frontispiece, respectively. Four folding plates engraved by Francesco Nigro and Francesco La Barbera, after Gerardo Astorino and Vincenzo La Barbera. Modern morocco, richly gilt tooled. Original edges speckled. A good copy, minor repairs to the outer margin of the first leaves and small worm-track to the gutter of a few leaves, in both cases without any loss. Tears repaired along the fold of one plate.

Extremely rare edition of this festival account attributed to Filippo Paruta, but edited by his son Simplicio – who is also responsible for signing the dedication to the Senate of Palermo – and published posthumously under the name of his other son, Onofrio.

In the note to the reader Onofrio provides a detailed list of the works (orations, occasional writings, inscriptions for ephemeral architecture, etc.) of his father, Filippo, who was secretary of the Palermo Senate and chiefly responsible for the iconographic program realized on the occasion of the 1625 festivities.

At the beginning of the 1620s the viceroy Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy rebuilt the Accademia dei Riaccesi, which gathered in the Royal Palace, and entrusted the scholar and mathematician Carlo Maria Ventimiglia with the direction of the academy. Around his figure gravitated many of the artists and scholars who designed the program and the solemn procession of the relics of St. Rosalia, held in June of 1625 as a sign of gratitude for deliverance from the plague. Among them were the painters and architects Gerardo Astorino and Vincenzo La Barbera; the engraver Francesco Negro; the scholar Martino La Farina, who conceived the allegorical arch of the Genoese nation; and, above all, Filippo Paruta, who was also linked to Ventimiglia through a common passion for numismatics and antiquities. Paruta was involved in all literary activities related to celebratory events since the end of the sixteenth century. In 1625 he inspired the triumphal arch that the Senate erected in Piazza Villena and was responsible for the account of the festivities, which in the end was only published after his death in 1651.

The constitution of such a large and complex team to be entrusted with the creation of the apparatuses testifies to the importance of this event which officially marked the beginning of the cult of St. Rosalia. The solemnity of 1625 had no immediate follow-up and it was only in 1649 that the feast of St. Rosalia was formalized with all those peculiarities that would characterize the following decades (see no. 222). In 1625, in addition to the impressive processions and solemn ceremonies in which all local communities, religious and civil, took part, two magnificent horse rides were organized; one, in particular, took place at the conclusion of the festivities, after the solemn mass in the cathedral. It was followed by fireworks, organized by the German nation, along with tournaments and jousts. At the very end the nobility walked in gala dress along the Via Colonna.

Michel VI, p. 80; Biblioteca centrale della Regione siciliana “Alberto Bombace”, Sanctae Rosaliae Dicata, Bibliografia cronologica su Santa Rosalia, September 2004, pp. 12-13 (accessed January 2018); V. Petrarca, Genesi di una tradizione urbana. Il culto di S. Rosalia a Palermo in età spagnola, Palermo, 1986, p. 82; M. Sofia di Fede, La festa barocca a Palermo: città, architetture, istituzioni, “Espacio, Tiempo y Forma”, series VII, 18-19 (2005-2006), pp. 49-75; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 204.

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