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Year 1 - n.3 - June 2000

   

 

                         THE HISTORY OF VIA SAN GREGORIO ARMENO
                                  AND OF THE NEAPOLITAN CHRISTMAS CRIB 


he characteristic street of the poetic, artisan Christmas Crib is Via San Gregorio Armeno. This street, famous all over the world, was known as "platea nostriana" because it was here that the fifteenth archbishop of Naples, St. Nostriano, had the spa baths built for the poor.The street though, situated in the augusta area, also became animportant religious symbol because Agnello,the archbishop, had the first basilica built there in the middle of the city that was dedicated to St.Gennaro. This church is still standing today but it has been thoroughly altered over the past centuries.
Among all the other monuments in the area, the monastery of San Gregorio Ameno certainly deserves to be mentioned.The history of this monastery, considering the numerous changes the first construction underwent and the many extentions to the buildings, or at least to a part them, would suggest the necessity of gathering more information about the subject, to the reader. Over the years the street has maintained the vitality which still distinguishes it in the present day. This is not only because of the important structures that have been built there throughout it's history, but also because it is able to connect the real centre of the antique city ( an area that is now, in parte, to be identified with the San Gaetano square ) to the principle roads (Via San Biagio dei Librai, Via Tribunali). A street which has been used by each and every Neapolitan citizen throughout the centuries. It is for this and other reasons too that there is a concentration of artistic and commercial activities to be found here. Here was the artistic, cultural centre, where, in the past, flourishing shops and laboratories were situated: artists, painters, sculptures, silversmiths, engravers, gold-platers, each one specializing in a particular form of art, have made the churches and buildings famous, and these can still be admired today. I said the cultural Naples because you only need to think that a little further on is Via San Biagio dei Librai. Here, in a building which is accessibile also from Via San Gregorio Ameno, a bookshop was 
the birthplace of Gian Battista Vico. Further down the street, near the San Domenico 
Maggiore square, is a plaque that points out the home of Francesco de Sanctis.
Also to be found in the vicinity is the Palazzo Filomarino, the home of Benedetto 
Croce. Speaking of the artistic activities of the past, what remains today in the still splendid Via Gregorio Ameno ? The truthful answer is : very little. Without modesty, I would like to point out that in the building of Michele Tenore founder of the Botanical Gardens, our almost 200 year old shop still continues it's activity with it's refined school of neapolitan scupture and restauration.

Top of the list in attracting turism is the flourishing production of terracotta crib figures. And so consequently here we find the names of Ferrigno, Giannotti, Maddaloni: all following their ancient family tradition. The increase in production was first due to the Neapolitan Association of Friends of the Christmas Crib, then to the Neapolitan Tourist Board which managed to encourage interest by offering prizes and promoting cultural activities. In the last few years or so we are pleased to note that the Naples Council hasgiven much more attention to the subject. In the month of December the whole city resembles a Christmas Crib. Crowds of visitors, school groups from all over the world flow incessantly into this street, a street which seems to belong to the world of dreams.

                                                                                                         Prof. Antonio Lebro