“Vara” and statue of San Sebastiano
This processional machine, among the richest in Sicily, dates back to 1611. The year before it was commissioned to the brothers Giuseppe and Giovan Battista Li Volsi by Filippo Mongiovì, chaplain of the church of S. Sebastiano, and by the eponymous confraternity. Its octagonal platform has, on the four main sides, as many tiles decorated with episodes of the life and martyrdom of the saint. From the base it rises a canopy made of a frame of sixteen columns, grouped into groups of four, each of which miniaturizes the classical theme of the triumphal arch.
The iconological arrangement, dictated by the chaplain theologian, provides for on the bottom four Doctors of the western Church combined with SS. Peter, Paul, Vincent and Stephen. In the register of fornices, on the corner arches, four holy Sicilian virgins overlook internally and the archangels externally. On the cornice, they are sat the four Evangelists. Twelve angels musicians dance on the perforated spherical vault, at whose top there is Our Lady of the Assumption (Apocalypse). Winged figures with prominent abdomen, chimeras, festoons, and wrapped decorations link up the different levels, recalling the Mannerist repertoire in vogue at the time of realization.
The “vara”, according to contract, had to be adapted to the size of the sixteenth-century statue of the saint (now in the Mother Church). The ancient apollonian statue, between the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, was replaced by a seductive and “Dionysian” image with which the sculptor Noè Marullo, in full Art Nouveau climate, was able to rouse a renewed empathy between the warrior martyr and his devotees that enthusiastically carry him in procession on January 20 and August 18, each year.