Saint Rosalia of Palermo (1130–1166) is the patron saint of Palermo in Italy. She is also called La Santuzza or “The Little Saint“, and in Sicilian as “Rusulia“. She is especially important internationally as a saint invoked in times of plague (pandemic). In 2020, she is being invoked by the citizens of Palermo to protect the city from COVID-19.
Rosalia was born in 1130 to a Norman noble family, claiming to be descendants of Charlemagne. She was very religious, with the desire to be away from all earthly things. To help her achieve this desire, it is said that two angels visited her one day and lead her to a cave on Mt. Pellegrino. She lived in prayerful solitude until she died alone there in 1166. On the cave walls she had written,”I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses, and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ.”
There she rested in peace until a plague hit Palermo in 1624. During this time, Rosalia appeared first to a sick woman. She then appeared to a hunter to tell him where her remains could be found. She order him to take her bones to Palermo and have them carried around the city in a procession.
The hunter climbed the mountain and found the cave and her bones as she told him. He brought her remains to the city and they carried them around the city three times. The plague ended. After that, she was proclaimed the Patroness of Palermo. A church was built in the cave where her remains were found.
St. Rosalia’s feast day is September 4. On the day in Palermo, the “Festino di Santa Rosalia”, it is the tradition to walk barefoot from Palermo up to Mt. Pellegrino in honor of “the Little Saint” who saved their city.