The Feast of Saint Doctors Cosmas and Damian

The festival in honour of the Holy Doctors is celebrated for three days during the first weekend in June. Declaring the opening of the festivities and sanctioning one of the most choral moments of the programme is the morning appointment that starts at St. Dominic's church and bursts into the city's routine with a huge crowd of participants.

It begins with the display of the wooden statue of San Cataldo on a sumptuous 'little altar' at Largo Plebiscito. "A way" to remember this original saint, from Ireland, for whose cult the local confraternity of the same name had its genesis and which later came to be absorbed by the cult of the Sainted Doctors.
The faithful gather in front of St Dominic's church to await the exit of the saints, where the town band is also waiting for them, ready to 'cheer and greet' them; the procession follows.

In the procession, the two statues, wearing doctoral robes in pure Spanish style, are in front of the wooden statue of St. Cataldo, with its gaudy yellow cloak, also carried in procession. The three saints proceed together, carried on their shoulders throughout the procession. Around the middle of the last century, the simulacra of St Vincent de Paul and St Dominic also paraded in the church.

The images are taken to the cathedral, and from here they leave the evening of the next day for a long, concluding procession that passes through the heart of the old town, the ancient centre of cultural origin, and ends in the Church of St. Dominic. The faithful, in solemn procession, always carried a lighted candle in past years.
There is a clear dominance of black in the clothing of the sisters and in the cloaks of the saints (who carry the palm, symbol of martyrdom, in their hands and the box of surgical instruments at their feet).
The feast is also characterised by a riot of lights, sounds and colours: those of the stalls, the illuminations, the people strolling around, all poured into the surroundings of the village, the municipal villa of Monopoli and adjacent streets.

The procession ends on Sunday evening in the church of St Dominic, to greet and give a sign of gratitude to the saints, who never turn their backs on the faithful.
The feast, a sign of identification and sharing, from ancient origins (think Christianity) has its own customs: in this case, that of preparing or buying focaccia with potatoes.

Devotion to the Medical Saints Cosmas and Damian

What emerges is a particular devotion reserved by the people of Monopoli for the Santi Medici, Cosma and Damiano, who, although never officially patron saints, the community honours with celebrations almost equal to those reserved for their patron saint, the Madonna della Madia.

A typical and authentic 'religion of the people', as the community preferred to have saintly doctors at hand (and prayers); a conduit through which to reach God. The medical saints Cosmas and Damian were, by tradition, general healers of great renown, among others already patrons of doctors, surgeons, pharmacists and barbers. Called upon especially by people in difficult moments of infirmity, they are resorted to almost as a comfort, since illness is one of the most difficult 'contingencies' in a human being's life.
A religious sentiment that has been cultivated in various forms: in a personal way, ex-votos, visits to the sanctuary; as well as in a community form during the feast, held locally on the first weekend in June.
The forms of devotion were generally proportional to the difficulty of the case. There could even be extreme practices, such as the 'strascenine' tongue, which served to violently shake the saint and make him intervene.
On the occasion of the feast day of the Santi Medici in Alberobello (27 September), at present, groups of the most devout faithful walk to Alberobello (previously they went by scarrette, small horse-drawn carriages), starting from Monopoli, each with their own candle, precisely to attend the first morning mass.

The candle itself was also important, as its size, especially in the past, was proportional to grace and could even grow further over the years, especially if the saint was not diligent in intervening. Many are the candles lit in the church and in the procession, which have thus taken on a celebratory function with regard to the Holy Doctors, an indispensable point of reference for the faithful.
The faithful of the past also tried in every way to 'win' their earthly health and therefore donated, ex-voto, precious objects that denoted renunciation and sacrifice (rings, earrings, bracelets). All these objects were also hung from their robes or placed on the wrists of statues.
Another typical devotion (especially in the past) was the offering of oil to fuel the votive lamps; many people, a few days before the festivities, went to collect the precious 'green oil' at the contrada's oil mills.

CREDITS: Comune di Monopoli.

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