Dec 09

Via San Gregorio Armeno

When visiting Naples, you can’t miss Via San Gregorio Armeno, famous all over the world for its countless nativity-scene shops.

According to tradition, Via San Gregorio Armeno, was born on the remains of the temple of Ceres, goddess of fertility, to which the citizens brought statuettes with human features in terracotta as ex voto. Over the centuries, this custom has changed and the statuettes were brought to Santa Patrizia, co-patroness of Naples, and to San Gregorio: this has led to the birth of numerous workshops of craftsmen specialized in making statuettes. During the 10th century, the nuns of San Basilio’s order, who run away from Constantinople, decided to build a monastery, also known today as the Church of S. Patrizia, on the remains of the temple, where to store the remains of San Gregorio bishop of Armenia. The church, in Baroque style, develops around the cloister, built around the 11th century, where at the center there is a fountain adorned with two sculptures depicting Christ and the Samaritan woman built by the sculptor Matteo Bottiglieri. The nuns’ rooms, the kitchen, the pharmacy and the abbess’s living room overlook the cloister. The church is open from Monday to Friday from 9:30 to 12:00 and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 to 13:00, while the cloister can be visited every day from 9:30 to 12:00.

Walking through this street you can breathe the magical Christmas atmosphere all year long and watch the artisans creating and selling the characters of the nativity scene, rigorously handmade in terracotta, of different sizes, with embroidered and custom-made clothes. You can also find many decorations, such as cork houses or windmills and waterfalls activated by electric current. A steady character of the Nativity scene tradition is Benino, the sleeping shepherd, generally positioned in its the highest part: according to a legend, it is said that the Nativity scene is nothing more than his dream and is the symbol of a humanity ready to awaken with Jesus’birth.

Over the years, the custom of creating statuettes of political, entertainment and sport characters has spread, in a mix between the sacred and the profane, typical of the city of Naples.