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The Feast of San Donato from Auletta

In mid-August, the whole village celebrates its patron saint

3 minutes

If in many parts of Italy the 15th of August is strongly linked to the Marian cult, Auletta on that very day is engaged in another festivity, very important for the village's spirituality.


Seven days of celebration

The festivity, so deeply felt in the village, is the patronal feast dedicated to San Donato, or Donatello, as he is often called. While the day dedicated to San Donato is the 17th of August, the celebrations begin well in advance. They start with the so-called Settenario: seven days during which the approach of the feast is announced every morning by shooting off some fireworks. As a way of saying: get ready, almost there! Since the beginning of the Settenario, more people than usual can be seen on the streets of Auletta: many people living out of the region are back home to celebrate with their families. Perhaps this is also why the festivities are a particularly good time for the centa, i.e. the offerings, consisting of money, oil or wheat.

The procession

On the 17th of August, early in the morning, we enter the climax of the celebrations. It is at this time that the relic of San Donato, as well as a silver bust depicting him, are carried in procession. The bust, depicting the saint in ecstasy, is a statue dating back to 1723 and donated by the Marquise di Caggiano in gratitude for her nephew's recovery. Decorated for the occasion with flowers and palm leaves, it is carried in procession through the streets of the village, followed by a marching band and the believers, many of them barefoot. The bust, however, is not alone in its procession: on this day, the relic kept in the church of San Nicola in Auletta also parades through the streets. The reliquary is in the shape of a raised arm, since it is precisely this part of the body that is concerned. Finally, on the 18th of August, the celebrations close with another procession starting from the Church of San Nicola of Mira and ending at the Church of San Donato, accompanied by fireworks.


San Donato da Ripacandida

Donato Simone from Ripacandida was born in a humble family in 1179. He began to follow his vocation at the age of fourteen, moving to the Benedictine monastery of Sant'Onofrio of Massadiruta in Petina, near Salerno. Here he was told he was too young and encouraged to apply the following year to the abbey of Montevergine. In 1195, he returned to Petina, to the monastery of Sant'Onofrio. This very place, the same place where the saint passed away the 17th of August 1198, at the age of 19,is in ruins but can still be visited.

Donato was bound to water: he had chosen a particular form of penance for himself. At night, when the other monks were asleep, he would descend into the cave just below the monastery, and plunge into the cold water. One time, the abbot, unaware of anything, followed him down the cave. Seeing his clothes abandoned outside the cave, assumed some sort of impure acts and decided to punish him by stealing them. However, he had to change his mind when the same day he saw Donato returning from the cave fully dressed. The clothes had reappeared where Donato had left them!

His fame spread to the neighbouring villages and many people from Auletta asked him for advice. It even seems that it was the saint himself who removed his right forearm in response to the cries of the people of Auletta. This would be the origin of the relic, which has remained intact for centuries, preserved in the silver reliquary from 1618 and venerated in Auletta in the Mother Church. A curious fact: some people have had the opportunity to touch the relic of San Donato's arm directly. All of them recount a sensational experience: when the reliquary opens, an unfamiliar and intense perfume is released. It seems to come from another world and is so overwhelming that, even if there are other people around, you forget about them and feel the presence of the saint.


Credit to: Gianfranco Vitolo

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