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Night of Lights Santa Domenica
Photo: www.ilgallo.it

Night of Lights

Every year in July, the otherwise sleepy town of Scorrano, Salento, comes alive on the grand occasion of the Night of Lights. The town, which is 35 km from Lecce, hosts a multi-day feast paying homage to its patron saint Santa Domenica. Whilst the day itself is celebrated throughout Italy, Scorrano’s festival is the biggest and most well-known.

Santa Domenica, born in 287 AD in the coastal town of Tropea, was the daughter of a wealthy provincial family. In a time when Romans were trying to expel Christianity from Italy, the family withstood every ounce of pressure to convert to Catholicism. Not only did they resist all attempts, but they continued to recruit more converts to the ostracised religion. As Santa Domenica (back then called Kyriaki) had a reputation for performing miracles, she became a particular target from the Romans.

Eventually, her parents cowed to pressure and accepted an enforced exile.

Now alone, Kyriaki travelled around southern Italy preaching Christianity. It was on one of these travels she visited Scorrano. After being caught by the Romans, she was cast into a fire but the flames extinguished! Eventually, she was re-captured and sentenced to death by being fed to lions. However, rather than eating her the lions seemed relaxed in her company! Undeterred, the Romans again captured her and this time she was beheaded. She was only twenty-one years old.
But her appearances and inspiration did not stop there. Most notably, Santa Domenica (who had been canonized post-death) appeared in an elderly woman's dream in 1600, announcing that she would become the patron saint of the town. As her assumed duty, she would also free the country from the plague epidemic which had engulfed it.

In order to inform the world of this miracle on Earth, the sick were told to light oil lamps on their windows. Shortly thereafter, the plague was extinguished from the town and those with lights in their windows were cured. Santa Domenica was then adopted as their patron saint.

Ever since the Scorranesi turn on lights every year as a sign of gratitude to Santa Domenica.

The light show is now the highlight of the Apulian summer. Every year, tens of thousands of visitors flood the streets of Scorrano for the Night of Lights and marvel over the light sculptures created for the festival. As the town has only 7,000 residents, it is by far the biggest event of the year.

Visitors of all ages can enjoy lots of street food and drink, parades, restaurants and cafes with an array of delicacies. All the while, they are entertained by musicians, jugglers, entertainers and, of course, lights!

Each year, the town hosts a different theme. In previous years, famous landmarks such as Tower Bridge, the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal have been depicted in multicoloured rainbows of light, made up of thousands of lightbulbs, in the town's skies.

The switching on of the lights is an occasion in itself. Once the lights are on, people dance to music and set off fireworks.
Thousands of light bulbs make up a path of lights and people really let themselves go to enjoy themselves. The colours, the fires, the noises and smells make this a unique religious festival like no other.