Sant'Antonio Abate
Every year, on the 16th, 17th and 18th of January, Novoli celebrates its Patron Saint Antonio Abate with a great festival. Nobody knows the origin of this cult for the Saint of Fire. It might trace back to the ancient Byzantines, like the celebrations for St Biagio, St Stefano, St Nicola and St Andrea to whom the citizens of Novoli dedicated other Churches. We know for sure that the Egyptian monk was venerated in Novoli for at least four centuries, since the Church in his name was built in 1640 on a pre-existent chapel. In 1664 the Authorities and the clergy asked Bishop Luigi Pappagoda to acknowledge the Saint as their Patron, a privilege that was finally granted by the Holy Congregation in 1737. In 1924, upon Novoli's request, Tricarico, a town of Lucania, donated a relic of the thaumaturgic Saint to the Church. In Novoli, the Festival of St Antonio begins on the 7th of January with the Novena and finishes on the the 16th of january, the feast's eve, when the most intense part of the celebration takes place, rich in religious and civil ceremonies: the blessing, the procession with the relic and the Saint's image, the enchanting lighting of the Focara (a giant bonfire), the launch of the air balloons, the wirework contest. St Antonio Abate is known as the protector of animals because the popular culture invested him with the power to protect all the animals of stables and farmyards. In common iconography the Saint is represented next to a pig, holding a long stick with a bell on top in one hand and a book with fire on the cover in the other. The protection of stables is certainly the most famous aspect of this popular cult that survives symbolically in the local folklore with the cult of the animals' blessing, a “Roman ritual” that takes place on the 16th before the long procession of the Saint's image through the streets of Novoli.

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