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Cammarata -San Giovanni Gemini

Your next destination in Sicily in the Sicani mountains

A mountain of excellence

"Considered one of the most beautiful celebrations in Sicily, discover the grand spectacle of the majestic triumphal chariot in motion."

It has very ancient origins as it was celebrated for the first time in 1677 and is among the most popular festivals in Sicily, followed from every part of the world. The protagonist of the celebrations is the Holy Crucifix of the Nazarene.

The most representative and folkloristic symbol of the festival is the "Triumphal Chariot" in honor of the Nazarene which is pulled for a distance of 400 metres, symbolically, by a pair of oxen, but really, by the devotees via an 80 meter long rope.

The Triumphal Chariot, composed of a boat-shaped base and a central tower that rises towards the sky, celebrates the glorious Christ; the "boat", in religious iconography, well represents the Church which, guided by Jesus with his people, faces the challenges of history, while the Tower represents the link between heaven and earth and can symbolize the aspiration of man towards infinity.

Great Feast

"Gesù Nazarè"

Second week of June 

Nazarene Jesus old

The origins

"The Triumphal Chariot, constructed for the feast of Gesù Nazareno celebrated on the second Sunday of June, has consistently captivated attention with its unique artisanal structure, as well as its majesty and grandeur. Therefore, among the myriad of popular festivals in Sicily, the feast of Jesus Nazarene is distinguished as truly unparalleled.

Regarding the Chariot of Gesù Nazareno, no documents exist to facilitate a detailed reconstruction of its origins. However, it is well-established that during the Spanish rule in the 16th and 17th centuries, the tradition of crafting sacred chariots flourished throughout Sicily. These were typically robust wooden structures of a pyramidal shape, adorned with sculptures and draped with cloths painted with religious motifs, and were drawn by oxen. This practice was carried out with great effort and popular enthusiasm during the most significant festivals or in honor of the patron saint."

costruzioe carro gesù nazareno 1
Primu chiuavu jesus nazarè
costruzione carro gesù nazareno 2
construction of the Nazarene Jesus chariot 3


The construction of the cart occurs at the beginning of Corso Francesco Crispi, the town's main street, and lasts for about forty days. Traditionally, the wood used to build the Cart, stored in warehouses, is brought out during the so-called "nisciuta di lignama".

The Triumphal Chariot is one of the few in Sicily that has preserved its wooden structure and is unique in reaching a height of about 22 meters. It features a pyramidal shape composed of stacked quadrangular sections, narrowing towards the top, where the crown and the cross, symbols of Gesù Nazareno, are positioned. The most critical section is the base, shaped like a rectangular parallelepiped, elongated at the stern and bow to resemble a boat. This is where the musical bands from San Giovanni Gemini and Cammarata are situated during the journey, highlighting the Chariot's triumph with their music during the "scinnuta" on Saturday and “l'acchianata” on Sunday.

A central beam rises from the middle of this base, serving as the tower's supporting axis. Due to static issues caused by the sloping road (average incline of 6.8%), the beam's apex is tilted backwards by 8-10%. This technical feature renders the construction exceptional.

The entire wagon structure is supported by a base with a sturdy frame, to which the fixed axles and spoked wheels are attached, each wheel measuring 1.32 meters in diameter and 10 centimeters in width.

At the center of the base, a large 7.50-meter-long beam protrudes horizontally from the front, acting as a rudder. Fixed like the axles, it is skillfully maneuvered by about twenty people and moved with strong lateral pushes, allowing the cart to navigate sideways during the journey on the not entirely straight path.

A large "zabara" (agave) rope, about 80 meters long, is expertly tied to the assembly, used by the team to pull or brake the cart.

The Cart's width, 4.15 meters, is determined by the narrow space of Corso F. Crispi between the cross streets of Papa Giovanni XXIII and Teatro.

The decoration

The Chariot is externally decorated with fabrics of various colors and adorned with velvet drapes that feature pictorial decorations. It is enhanced with architectural elements such as ribs, columns, capitals, and frames, and further enriched with multicolored flags. These decorations prominently feature images of Jesus Nazareno, the Virgin Mary, and all the saints held in high esteem by the Sangiovannese and Cammaratese popular devotion.

The previous lighting, made up of festoons of incandescent lamps arranged along the structure's profiles, has been recently upgraded to a modern system utilizing LED lights and strips, achieving a highly captivating effect.

In 2015, the committee took full charge of the construction and outfitting of this valuable tradition, investing in new wood, fabrics, and the innovative lighting system. This investment necessitated the wagon to undergo a new architectural and artistic-stylistic reconfiguration.

In light of this, numerous committee members have introduced innovative interventions and fresh design approaches that merge tradition with innovation.

The variety of colors from the drapes' polychromy and the lights' reflections creates a mesmerizing spectacle for the viewers.

velvet chariot of nazarene jesus
well the Nazarene Jesus at the discovery


Origins, tradition and Christian Faith

Anyone who wants to relive an experience of faith and witness moments of great folklore can take part in the feast of Jesus the Nazarene, which takes place every year in San Giovanni Gemini on the second Sunday of June, where the devotion of the San Giovannese and Cammaratese communities is expressed with gestures of particular religious significance (procession of votive candles) and symbols of great folkloric value (Triumphal Chariot).

The festival has very ancient origins having been celebrated for the first time in 1677, as some documents testify.

It was the archpriest Francesco Giambruno, the first archpriest of San Giovanni Gemini, who commissioned the statue of the SS. Passionate crucifix dedicated to Jesus of Nazareth, and he himself had permission from the Bishop of Agrigento to bless it.
This Crucifix aroused such great faith and such feeling in the San Giovannese that it was celebrated with solemnity and carried in procession through the town.

From the mid-nineteenth century onwards the festival was enriched with the Triumphal Chariot.

Popular tradition says that the statue was found by some farmers near the Puzzilo hill, today the Well of Jesus Nazareno, and from there the statue was brought to the town on a cart pulled by oxen which stopped in the square and then the statue was placed in the Mother Church, first in the transept and then, in 1758, in the main altar later embellished with a chapel adorned with precious marbles with the offerings of the emigrants to America.

The Nazarene

The Nazareno

This statue, carved from wood by an unidentified artist, is painted brown and features a face full of passion yet serene and gentle, with a loving smile of mercy and a subtle expression of love that captivates those who come to pray at its feet.

Surrounding the Crucifix are three statues made of colored stucco: to the right stands St. John the Evangelist, with Mary Magdalene kneeling, while on the left stands the Virgin of Sorrows.

The devotion to Jesus Nazarene is deeply embedded in the hearts and lives of every inhabitant of San Giovanni Gemini and Cammarata, extending to those from neighboring villages who often make pilgrimages. This devotion is manifested through prayers for assistance and requests for special favors, reaching its peak in the 'journey on bare feet' and the expression of gratitude for received blessings with the poignant procession of votive candles during the feast day.

Such a profound devotion is ingrained in the community's culture that even emigrants carry it with them, commemorating it in their new homes through special moments and celebrations. This is exemplified by the Sangiovannesi of Bayonne (USA), who observe the feast on the same date by processing with a replica of the statue and recreating the Triumphal Chariot.

The triumphal chariot

Historical photographic repertoire

tapped plus nazarene jesus
Positioning of triumphal chariot wheels
Nazarene Jesus chariot in mmurditura

A tapped

On Saturday morning, the festive atmosphere begins to envelop the air. At noon, the "maschiata" unfolds, a spectacular display of firecrackers arranged along Corso Francesco Crispi, seemingly heralding the Chariot's route.

The crackling sounds of the firecrackers serve as a symbolic crown of the Holy Rosary, intended for the purification and preparation of the sacred path for the Triumphal Chariot. This unique spectacle draws numerous faithful spectators.

at sight of them
Procession of Jesus of Nazareth
the walk of Jesus of Nazareth

Meanwhile, other faithful from the various districts of San Giovanni Gemini and Cammarata join the procession, aligning themselves along the two rows to form two very long human chains. Many residents, having made a "vow" or received the "grace" they sought during the year, participate barefoot as a sign of their devotion. This extensive procession eventually reaches the Mother Church; the two long lines of people enter, and after placing their offerings in the urn, they proceed to the high altar in a prayerful atmosphere to pay homage to the simulacrum of Gesù Nazareno. It's an orderly, silent, and poignant procession, accompanied by the recitation of the Holy Rosary and penitential hymns, with the faithful united in their faith and determination as they endure the lengthy walk and the scorching midday sun. When the golden crown is brought into the Church, the space becomes filled to every corner. For some years now, the coronation rite has been led by the acting Archpriest, who places the crown on the head of the simulacrum while the devoted faithful loudly cheer and acclaim with the famous "Viva Gesù Nazareno".

Immediately following is the thanksgiving Mass, brought to life by the choir's singing.

Corona Aurea Gesù Nzarè
Chiantata primu chiuavu

The various phases of the feast

Tradition dictates that the timber, stored in warehouses, is retrieved 40 days prior to the event. The firing of firecrackers and the ringing of the bells from the main church herald "a nisciuta di legnami du Carru" and mark the beginning of the fervent preparations for the feast of Gesù Nazareno by the committee members.
The following Sunday, at noon, "u primu chiuavu" (the first nail) is driven in, an act also accompanied by gunfire and bell ringing, symbolizing the commencement of the Chariot's construction.
Once the structure has reached its designated height, it is then adorned.
On Friday morning, the wheels are fitted onto the axles, and final inspections of the structure are conducted.

Positioning of the wheels "a 'mmurditura di l'assi e du timuni"

On Friday morning, the spoked wheels are mounted onto the spindles, each measuring 1.32 meters in diameter and 10 cm in width. The operation of the "'mmurditura" of the axles and rudders, performed in an almost ritualistic manner, is among the most crucial steps in preparing the Chariot. This process involves securing, with 10 strands of "cannamu" (hemp) rope, each 2 cm in diameter and 18 m in length, to the wagon's base's two lateral and central beams, corresponding to the axles and the rudder, respectively. The use of ropes is preferred over iron bands for this purpose because they provide both greater solidity and flexibility. At the assembly formed by the two central base beams and the rudder, the "coaming cord or cord" is affixed; this is the large "zabbàra" (agave) rope, about 80 meters long and 4 cm in diameter, utilized by the people to either brake or pull the chariot.

On Sunday morning, the "'mmurditura" secures the rudder to the opposite side of the base in preparation for the wagon's ascent. Two hours before the "scinnuta" and "acchianata," the ropes are dampened to enhance their durability.

In view of them

"A vistuta di li vua" pertains to the adornment of the oxen that lead the Cart, which, in ancient times, were used for towing it. These oxen are decorated with traditional vestments made of red, purple, and black velvet, intricately embroidered with gold thread, and adorned with garlands of paper flowers. Breeders offer such oxen out of a vow or devotion to Gesù Nazareno.

This decoration ritual, "A vistuta di li vua," takes place on Via Teatro on the afternoons of Saturday and Sunday by the Lombino family and is attentively maintained by the Russotto and Amormino families, who are entrusted with this duty by tradition. Before the decoration process begins, the animals' hooves are polished and then painted black.

The oxen are then yoked in pairs with a large wooden beam, known as "u iugu," laid across their necks. Once the decoration is complete, and while the musical band plays some marches, the Lombino family provides refreshments to entertain those gathered.

Before the Cart's departure, the decorated oxen, accompanied by the musical band, are led by their owners and committee members to the vicinity of the Cart. In the past, adhering to a common custom, men would remove their hats and make the sign of the cross as the oxen passed by.

The procession of votive candles and the thanksgiving mass

From the first light of dawn on Sunday, the Sangiovannese are awakened by the rhythmic roar of the "alborata," a characteristic firing of blank bombs that heralds the evening's more elaborate fireworks display. Following this early morning wake-up, the solemn Eucharistic Concelebration at 7:00 AM marks the beginning of the Penitential Procession of the Votive Candles. Around 8:30 AM, the moving procession featuring the golden crown commences. Devotees offering their "journey" to Gesù Nazareno line up in two rows, proceeding slowly with candles in hand through the town's main streets, with the golden crown following behind.

The golden crown

The golden crown, weighing approximately 1.5 kg, embodies the love and devotion of the Sangiovannese and Cammaratesi to Gesù Nazareno. The concept of creating a golden crown from votive gifts emerged in 1960 with the approval of the clergy, the committee, and devoted citizens. Since the initial offerings were insufficient to cover the costs, a campaign to gather more gold in both towns was initiated. What followed were truly touching scenes: individuals of all ages from San Giovanni Gemini and Cammarata spontaneously approached the committee, generously donating objects of various types and sizes.

On June 11, 1961, in the heart of Piazza Nazareno, the vision was realized: Monsignor Giovan Battista Peruzzo, then Archbishop of Agrigento, placed the golden crown on the head of Gesù Nazareno amidst a throng of faithful, sparking waves of joy and emotion.

While the golden crown might seem contradictory to the crown of thorns worn by the Crucified Jesus, it instead serves as a powerful testament to faith and a symbol of liberation. The juxtaposition of the golden crown to the crown of thorns is significant, as once placed on Jesus' head, it signifies honor, for He is the King.

The Holy Cross

The Holy Cross was acquired by the members of the committee for the feast of Gesù Nazareno. However, due to the lack of the necessary 1000 lire, Mr. Napoli, deeply devoted to the SS. Crucified, chose to provide the sum himself and then bequeath it to his family as a dowry.

The exact year of the Holy Cross's purchase remains unknown, as the documents detailing the transaction are missing. The date 1887, inscribed at the bottom of the cross's long arm, denotes the year it was made.

The Holy Cross, measuring 2.60 meters in height and 1.50 meters in width, is crafted from copper with silver plating and is reinforced internally by a precious wood structure of matching dimensions.

Designed as a Latin cross, it features artistically fashioned trefoil terminals, with the high-relief busts of the three evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, at the center. The long arm's midpoint is distinguished by the relief of John the Evangelist's head and two cherubs bearing a floral frieze.

The Cross is exquisitely adorned with low-reliefs that depict Roman military ornaments and friezes related to the crucifixion and death of Christ.

On the Friday of the feast, following its blessing in the church of Santa Lucia, the Holy Cross is solemnly processed through the town's main streets to the Mother Church, where it remains until Monday, the celebration's concluding day. It then makes the return journey in a solemn procession to the church of S. Lucia.

This significant annual celebration for the communities of San Giovanni Gemini and Cammarata concludes solemnly with the parish priest's blessing and thanks.

Jesus Nazarene chariot stinks cumuni
descent of the triumphal chariot and san giovanni gemini

And everyone shouted to me

"Long live Gesù Nazzarè"

A cunnuciuta du carru

The "scinnuta" of the Triumphal Chariot, a unique and folkloric event, unfolds along Corso Francesco Crispi for about 380 meters on Saturday. On Sunday, the procession follows the reverse route, known as "L'acchianata du Carru." This event is so distinctive and captivating that it draws many emigrants from San Giovanni Gemini and Cammarata back home and piques the interest of numerous foreigners.

The oxen are positioned in front of the cart, with the musical bands of San Giovanni Gemini and Cammarata stationed at the stern and bow of the "boat." The departure of the Chariot in procession is a moment eagerly anticipated by the crowds gathered between the Ecce Homo chapel and Piazza Largo Nazareno.

Before setting off, a priest calls upon the protection of Gesù Nazareno for the journey and blesses the Chariot and the people. The loud firing of firecrackers signals the imminent departure, and the bell attendant prompts the crowd to line up along the "cordon" to help halt the chariot. The crowd shouts "Viva Gesù Nazareno" repeatedly, waving flags, and with the removal of the wedges, the Chariot commences its journey.

The Chariot slowly descends, making brief stops, as the music from the two bands alternates in symphonies. In the past, when the road was more uneven, the Chariot's movement was perilous, and gorse branches in full bloom were laid on the road to ease its passage. Today, in remembrance of those times, broom flowers and colored paper flyers bearing "Viva Gesù Nazareno" are tossed from the top of the Chariot and adjacent balconies.

The festive procession concludes near Via Rossini, on the edge of the historic center, amid the crackling of firecrackers, the harmonious thanksgiving marches of the bands, and the crowd's chants of "Viva Gesù Nazareno." On Sunday, "l'acchianata du Carru" takes place. The large rope used to brake the Chariot during the "scinnuta" is now pulled by the faithful towards the finish line.

Moreover, the rudder, no longer needed in its original position, is tied to the opposite side of the base so that during the "catch," it projects from the front.

to cunnsciuta du carru
Jesus Nazarene
scinnuta du carru
jokes of fire san giovanni gemini


Many photos and videos of the live shows on the official page

Thanks:  official site of the party for texts, photos and other material, Gerlando Maggio, Davide Agnello, Gianpiero la Palerma photographer.

Translations:  Great Sicily DMC

Creating: Dennis Albanese 

U scherzu di fuacu

The captivating fireworks display occurs on Sunday evening, following the arrival of the Chariot. This exhibition of artistic fireworks mesmerizes everyone with its array of colors, polychrome showers of light, pinwheels, and explosive bursts. The fireworks spectacle marks the conclusion of the festivities in honor of Gesù Nazareno.

where to park Jesus Nazzareno celebration

How to get there and where to park

FROM THE SS189 AGRIGENTO/PALERMO HIGHWAY: At the crossroads, take the provincial road SP26 San Giovanni Gemini - Cammarata. Parking is available at various points along Via A. Better (SP26) near the Sports Hall/Cemetery for bus loading/unloading. Should you need assistance, please ask the authorized personnel or municipal police. For more detailed information, contact the Municipal Police Headquarters at 0922 903260.

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