Naples between sacred and profane: a walk in S. Gregorio Armeno

One of the most known things about Naples is how much superstitious is its people. This fear about bad luck coexists with an equally deep rooted sense of religiosity. You can have a clearer awareness of this coexistence having a short walk in some places of Naples and especially in its historical urban centre: you’ll meet a lot of stunning churches, often full of well known paintings and sculptures (an example for all, the amazing statue of “the Veiled Christ” by Giuseppe Sanmartino located in the “Cappella San Severo” but the list could be very long…).

Yet you can find, inside the most shops, a lot of typical signs of care and protection against the bad luck and certainly the most famous is the red horn: actually, the horn is a very ancient symbol of life and it keeps (or should keep…) bad influences and presences away from who has received the horn as a gift. The red color symbolizes the victory against an enemy as another old meaning.

Red horns in sale

This interesting mixture of sacred and profane lives especially in a tiny and short street, probably famous all over the world for another reason: its name is Via S. Gregorio Armeno (see the map below at the end of this article) and it’s the street where are located a lot of makers and sellers of the “Presepe“, another typical Neapolitan product. That’s an artistic representation of the Nativity, made by wood and cork and populated by a lot of handmade shepherds but…not only the classic shepherds you would expect but also some more familiar faces! Besides, it’s almost useless to add that this street is full of many images and statues of Pulcinella as well, the popular mask that would embody some typical features of Naples people: he’s lazy but smart, a little unlucky but always ready to laugh of his own misery and accidents. The next ones are some shots taken by me in this charming street.

Via di S. Gregorio Armeno

The statue hangs a sign saying that the horns sold there are “well proven”…a nice way to say that the horn really works fine! And it does…giving a smile to buyers and readers!

Sale of "well tested horns"
Modern Shepherds
In memory of Steve Jobs
Modern "shepherds"
Statue of Pulcinella selling horns
Pulcinella and the red horn

I like the following shot that’s about another person become a symbol of Naples: it’s Totò’s image, a player whose movies and jokes are a loving memory for everyone has been child in Naples.

Totò on the tambourine

Sometimes the profane becomes a kind of raunchy: among churches, some tourist shops you can hit on something like this:

Public lovers under the medieval arcades of Filippo d'Angio's Palace.

On the other hand, there are several sacred places in this street: one of the most interesting is the lovely church having the same name as the street (it would be more correct to say that the street has its name from the church…) but called St Patrizia’s by the people. This saint is considered author of another blood miracle (similar to the more famous San Gennaro’s one), consisting in the melting of the saint’s blood, kept in an ampulla. Every year, the believers wait for this kind of miracle as sign of the protection assured by the saint. This church has a wonderful cloister that is forbidden to take shots of. So this is not a photo of mine but taken from the web.

Statues in the S. Gregorio Armeno cloister

This is the very suggestive entrance to the cloister:

Entrance to the cloister

Of course, Christmas is the most evocative period to visit S. Gregorio Armeno even though there is a terrible crowd making the visit a little difficult to enjoy…but it would be easier to go in the early morning hours so to advance the crowd. Well, this street can be a discovery every time you go…I hope you can enjoy it as much as I did!

Please, feel free to leave a comment if you liked my photos! But anyway, thank you for your visit!

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