The Chapel of Saint Rosalia, in the southern apse, houses the remains of Saint Rosalia, the Patron Saint of Palermo. Through the brass gate and behind the silver altar, the very precious silver reliquary urn can be found. Made in 1631 by silversmiths Giuseppe Oliveri, Francesco Rivelo, Giancola Viviano and Matteo Lo Castro, in collaboration with Michele Farruggia and Francesco Roccuzzo, and designed by Mariano Smiriglio, it is one of the finest examples of Baroque goldsmithing. On the sides of the urn are two high reliefs by Valerio Villareale, depicting Saint Rosalia calling on Christ for deliverance from the plague and the Entrance of the glorious relics of Saint Rosalia into Palermo.
Born in Palermo in 1130 to a wealthy family, Rosalia lived in her father’s villa as a child, located in what is now the Olivella district. Educated at the Court, she also became the Queen’s lady-in-waiting, according to tradition. Unwilling to accept Count Baldwin’s hand in marriage, she left her comforts and embraced the faith at the age of 15. She lived in a cave in Santo Stefano Quisquina for twelve years as a recluse, devoting herself solely to prayer and the love of God. Upon her return to Palermo, she spent the rest of her days in another cave on Monte Pellegrino, where she died in 1170 at the age of forty. She is remembered on the 4th of September, the day of her death, and on the 15th of July, the day her relics were found. Her relics, found in 1624, saved Palermo from the plague, leading to Rosalia becoming the city’s Patron Saint.