How many times have you passed from Vigliena Square, best known as the “Four Corners”? Have you ever noticed the four sculptures represented in the three architectural orders? In addition to the allegorical representation of the four seasons and the four Spanish Kings, on the third order we can observe the sculptures of four women, the four holy protectors of the four districts: Agata, Cristina, Ninfa and Oliva. But who were really these women, heroines of faith, whose devotion has gone fading over the centuries to completely disappear? Women first of all, in a period when the female figure was strongly relegated to the back of society. Heroes and martyrs of a dull, obtuse society that let them paid in life their personal choices of faith. Mythical legends and tales that surely have wrapped up and twisted their real stories. But let’s briefly know each other more closely one by one.
Sant’Agata – Patron Saint of Catania, lived from 230 to February 5th 251, when she died agonizing for the tortures suffered, the removal of her breasts with pincers and the final stake on charcoal. Cruelties to which she would be subjected by a Roman prefect who had been invaded and once refused he would denounce her as a Christian and arrested. But the stake that killed her did not burn her red veil. The following year, an Etna eruption threatened the city, and the citizens carried the miraculous veil in procession in order to stop the lava. The procession was repeated successfully every time eruptions endangered the city. She is celebrated on February 5th. The main symbols are the pincers and the plate with her cut breasts.
Santa Cristina – According to tradition she was martyred under the emperor Diocletian around the year 304. She was also persecuted because of her Christian faith and locked up in a tower where she suffered infinite supplications by her father. A legend tell us that when she was arrested, she was fluttered and placed on an inflamed wheel but healed miraculously. She was then tied to a neck rope with a stone wheel and thrown into the Lake of Bolsena, but the wheel began to float. After further tortures from which she miraculously healed, she died by two arrows. She is celebrated on July 24th. Her symbols are the palm of martyrdom and two arrows.
Santa Ninfa – According to tradition she would be born in Palermo at the time of Constantine. Daughter of a prefect who imprisoned and tortured her for converting to Christianity. The miraculous intervention of an angel liberated and brought her to Rome, where she died and was buried. The locals, during a period of drought, prayed to the saint to intercede for it to rain. The much-desired miracle occurred and the faithful began to worship her as a saint. She is celebrated on November 10th. Her symbols is a cup with flames.
Sant’Oliva – The stories of this saint are still wrapped up today in mystery. She would have been born in Palermo in 448 by a family who, contrary to her Christian faith, would have forced her to exile in Tunis, where she would be subjected to various torture and abandoned in the desert. Survived with wild animals, after various supplications she would be decapitated. She is celebrated on June 10th. Her symbol is an olive branch.