by Eduardo | August 25th, 2009
Each year on the 24th and 25th of August, Cassano celebrates the feast of its patron and protector, San Bartolomeo. The days leading up to the feast are celebrated with a novena, concerts, dancing in the piazza, and, of course, food.
On each of the two days, the statue of the patron and the reliquary containing bone fragments of the Apostle are carried through the upper and lower village in thanksgiving for the year and in hopes for a happy and healthy year to come.
The statue of San Bartolomeo emerges each year from the church of Santa Maria on August 24th and returns, by way of procession to the Mother Church of San Bartolomeo. Tradition says that if the long dry summer is broken with rain on the feast of the Saint, the prospects for a strong chestnut harvest is strong. Interestingly, the statue of the Saint is seen only for a period of two months, returning to safekeeping in Santa Maria on October 25th. That day is known as the Festa di San Bartolomeo, “piccolo,” or small. The two month period of the statue’s exhibition coincides precisely with the harvest of the chestnuts.
The feast closes with a concert and a fireworks display. It is known as the feast of homecoming. Many Cassanesi throughout Italy and the world return for the feast to celebrate together.
Bartolomeo was one of the twelve disciples, and is identified with Nathaniel of whom Saint John speaks. Born at Cana in Galilee, he was brought to Jesus by the Apostle Phillip. After the Ascension of the Lord, he preached the Gospel in India. The “Roman Martyrologue” writes of him: he preached the Gospel in India; traveling throughout Greater Armenia and converted many to the faith, and was flayed alive by barbarians, and by order of King Astiage, was martyred by decapitation.” He was martyred in the city of Albanopoli in Armenia. His sacred remains were taken first to the Island of Lipari, then on to Benevento (where a relic of his body was transferred to Cassano and is held in the arm reliquary), and finally came to rest on the Tiberina Island in Rome. He is the patron Saint of butchers and tanners, and the Protector of Cassano Irpino.
Fortunate Nathaniel – in seeing you, the Savior,
Chose you as defender – of the Gospel and the Faith.
With fortitude and armed zeal – and with the power of your voice
The Banner of the Cross – you made triumphant!
By your defeat and martyrdom – you showed us the way
By blinded faith – to beautiful eternity.
By the defense of the Gospel -with your skin and your life,
What a grateful victim – you were consecrated to your Lord!
Now in the bosom of the highest Good – resting gloriously,
Turn your compassion to us – do not abandon us.
Our Father and Protector – take up your followers;
Your children, your devotees – protected always by you!