Saint of the day:
St. Orontius of Lecce or Sant’Oronzo
Patron Saint of Lecce (city and province); Ostuni; Turi
The Story of St. Orontius of Lecce
St. Orontius of Lecce (1st c.) was the son of the Roman imperial treasurer in Lecce, Italy. Upon his father's death he inherited the position. Orontius was converted to the Christian faith along with his nephew, Fortunatus, by Justus, a disciple of St. Paul the Apostle. Orontius was later denounced to the authorities as a Christian and was ordered to sacrifice to the pagan gods. He refused and was arrested, removed from his office, tortured, and exiled to Corinth together with Fortunatus. In Corinth the pair met St. Paul the Apostle, who consecrated Orontius as the first bishop of Lecce. When Orontius and Fortunatus returned to Lecce they were persecuted and imprisoned again, but were released and ordered to stop preaching. They continued to preach in the surrounding cities, and were arrested a third time and executed.
Cavalcata di Sant'Oronzo
An historical and beautiful festival is the Cavalcata di Sant'Oronzo in Ostuni which pays homage to the city's patron saint. Dating back to 1657, the procession began as a way of showing gratitude and dedication to the saint who was believed to have saved Ostuni from the plague when it swept through Puglia. Since then, it has been an annual rite that is replete with ceremony and tradition. The cavalcade is a three-day festa with knights on horseback dressed in red cassocks and white slacks with plume-topped hats. The horses are draped in intricately embroidered red shawls. They accompany the ornate silver statue of St. Oronzo (Orontius) a Roman convert to Christianity who was martyred under Caesar Nero. The procession begins with a benediction of the horses and the knights, then snakes through the streets of Ostuni. There are elaborate arbors of lights, marching bands, music and of course food to be enjoyed as part of the celebrations. The Cavalcata di Sant'Oronzo is held August 25, 26 and 27 annually.
The Colonna di Sant'Oronzo, Lecce (Column of St. Orontius)
Saint Orontius was the first Bishop of Lecce and is revered by the Church as a Holy Martyr and patron of the city. The column has his image on the main square of the city, Piazza Sant'Oronzo. The sculptural composition was created by Giuseppe Zimbalo. It was established in 1686 in gratitude for the wonderful rescue of the city from the plague. The people of the town prayed to Saint Orontius for his help in the XVII century. Initially, the statue was made of wood, bound with copper, but in 1739 it was replaced by bronze. The 30-m stone column, on which the image of the Saint is set, was presented to Lecce by the city of Brindisi, where, according to legend, Saint Orontius also stopped the plague epidemic.