RELIGIOUS ROUTES AND FOLKLORE IN VICO EQUENSE

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Vico Equense and its religious traditions

Vico Equense is a town with deep religious traditions and a solid maritime vocation. Apparently, these two aspects seem to be disconnected and unrelated, but this is not the case. In fact, it was to the Virgin Mary and the saints that the women relied on to ask for the safe return of their men from the sea. The presence of numerous places of worship and the various events celebrated throughout the Coast during Holy Week bear witness to this deep spiritual bond. During this period, when large crowds move through the streets in an impressive silence during the representation of the Via Crucis, organised by the ancient Archconfraternities present in the area. However, as we will see shortly, the Passion of Christ is not the only celebration on the busy calendar throughout the year. Christmas is also very much in evidence when suggestive living nativity scenes are set up, or the Pacchianelle, a historical and special procession held every year on 6th January. There is also the patronal festival in honour of Saints Cyrus and John, celebrated on 31st January. Before planning your trip, consult the programme of events so that you don't miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in a mystical and timeless dimension and discover centuries-old traditions.

 

Vico is a destination rich in places of interest to visit and admire, not only for purely religious aspect but also from a natural, historical, and artistic point of view. The itinerary we propose is a blend of culture, traditions, and faith in which the churches and the works of art they contain are intertwined with the sea and breath-taking landscapes.

 

The Church of the Annunziata (former Cathedral)

The Church of the Annunziata stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking Marina di Aequa, the beach and marina of the hamlet of Seiano. Initially, the first Cathedral in honour of Santa Maria was located in the lower area that corresponds to the area of the present-day Marina di Aequa. However, here it was subject to pirate raids, and that's why it was decided to move the urban core to the upper part. With a postcard-perfect backdrop of the Gulf of Naples and the coastline, Vesuvius forms the background to this building, the only example of Gothic architecture on the entire Sorrento Coast. In all probability, it was built between 1320 and 1330, commissioned by Bishop Giovanni Cimino, whose tomb, a marble sarcophagus, is embedded in the wall of the right aisle of the church. Over the centuries, it has undergone several restorations and rearrangements that have modified and transformed its original appearance. Of the original Gothic structure, only the windows on the sides of the high altar and the side windows survive. The façade, clearly 18th century in style, results from significant restoration work commissioned by the Bishop of Vico, Paolino Pace. Next to the central core of the church, the square bell tower stands out with its romantic antique pink colour, consisting of three orders surmounted by a crenellated loggia.  Inside, the church has three naves divided by columns.

 

Although the aisles have retained their Gothic character, many of the frescoes have been lost. Only a few scanty fragments remain, recovered during restoration work in the pentagonal apse. On the walls, we can admire portraits of bishops from the 13th century to 1799, the last of whom was Bishop Michele Natale, executed by the Bourbons for having joined the Neapolitan Republic. The Church of the Annunziata houses the mortal remains of the famous Neapolitan jurist, economist and philosopher Gaetano Filangieri, a leading exponent of the Enlightenment. He retired to Vico Equense and spent his last years in Giusso Castle, where he died. There are numerous paintings in the church, mainly from the 18th century.  The Church of the Annunziata is indeed one of the most beautiful and evocative in Italy. It is an authentic treasure for its enormous artistic value and the spectacular panorama that blends into a unicum with the sea.

 

Chiesa dei Santi Ciro e Giovanni (the Church of Saints Cyrus and John)

Dedicated to the cult of Vico's patron saints, the Church of Saints Cyrus and John is fantastic. Its eighteenth-century dome is made of multi-coloured majolica in an elegant and refined layout. The church stands where, until 1808, the citizens used to meet to debate and deliberate on political and administrative issues, the famous "tocco" or seat of the Universitas. Due to extensive earthquake damage in 1696, the church was demolished and later rebuilt. Internally, the structure is based on a Latin cross plan. A short staircase is a prelude to the façade, with decorations in tufa, a common material in Neapolitan buildings. The bell tower, which dates back to the 19th century, to be precise 1873, stands imposingly with a pinnacle of oriental inspiration. The veneration of the two saints is very strong in Vico Equense and is linked to the story of their martyrdom in Alexandria, at the time of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Guilty of having cured women of Christian faith, Cyrus, a doctor of the Alexandrian school, was executed together with his friend John, who had converted to Christianity. The celebration of the Patron Saints is held on 31 January, a very evocative occasion to remember the patron saint of doctors. The procession involves carrying the statues of the two saints starts from the Church of Saints Cyrus and John, and passes through the city's main streets. Barefoot, the penitents walk along Via Nicotera and arrive at the Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Toro. They then take the reverse route to Via Roma, Piazza Umberto and back to the church. St Cyrus' oil is distributed during the festivities to anoint the sick in memory of the thaumaturge saint and his exceptional work.

 

The Feast of the Relics of St Cyrus, celebrated on the fourth Sunday in August, also testifies to the importance of this saint, widely venerated in the region. Kept in the Church of St Cyrus, partly in a glass drawer under the statue of St Cyrus and partly in a silver reliquary shrine, they have been carried in a procession through the streets of the city centre for over four hundred years. On this occasion, inhabitants and crowds flock from neighbouring towns to seek protection for their families and heal from physical and spiritual ills in a very emotional and suggestive atmosphere.

 

Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Toro
The monumental sanctuary of Santa Maria del Toro was built in the hilly area of Vico Equense. Many hypotheses would like to explain the origins of this rather singular name.
According to some people, the words “del Toro”(literlly “of the bull”) derive from a rather prodigious event. It seems that a grazing bull went away to kneel in front of an image of Saint Mary. According to a more realistic hypothesis, the church's place was initially used as an olive grove, called toro from taurus oros, meaning the upper part. In a cave in the middle of this field, Natale Villauto, the owner, ordered an effigy to be painted. It was realised in honour of the Virgin, the Virgin and the Child. It was the year 1458, and thanks to this man's devotion, the cult of the Virgin Mary received a significant boost in the following century. Around 1530, it seems that a girl, totally deformed by birth, was spotted in the cave where the Virgin appeared and told her to go and pray. Due to these and other miraculous healings, the cave is called the Cave of the Prodigies. The inhabitants of the area decided to build the church to commemorate these extraordinary and unusual miracles.
Returning to more practical and technical aspects, the church dates back to the 16th century and is the work of the Theatine Fathers. Inside, behind the eighteenth-century altar, is the miraculous fresco depicting the Madonna and Child. Very detailed and embellished over the centuries, we admire numerous works of art of considerable value. The Baroque altar, the dome with frescoes depicting the Triumph of the Cross and the Glorification of St Gaetano, founder of the Theatine Fathers, and the elegant 17th-century wooden coffered ceiling is of great value. To the right of the façade, the square bell tower culminates in a delightful crenellated loggia. And it is on one side of the bell tower, a stepped path begins, leading to Via dei Mulini (literally the path of mills). Created by King Alfonso of Aragon to link Vico and Castellammare, the route offers a spectacular setting among olive groves and chestnut trees. 

 

Museum of the Convent of San Vito

Travelling about one kilometre from the town centre, from the panoramic Via Raffaele Bosco, we climb towards the hillside hamlets to reach the church and adjoining Convent of San Vito. The structure of ancient origins was entrusted to the Order of Minims at the end of the 19th century. It currently houses the Museum of Sacred Art, where countless works of art from the convents and churches of the order of the Minim, now disused and unused, are kept. It is a precious and enchanting collection embracing the production of sacred art in southern Italy between 1500 and 1700. The large spaces of the monastery lent themselves well to the choice of the museum's location in 1995 by Father Francesco Savarese, former General Rector of the Order of Minims.  Among the many masterpieces on display, the 17th-century antependium from Sicily (Trapani) is certainly worthy of mention. It is of exceptional workmanship with its meticulous decorations, the work of a skilled but, alas, unknown artist. Among the corals, garnets and embroidery in silk thread and metal that embellish the work, the figure of St. Francis of Paola, founder of the order, dominates. In memory of the famous miracle, the saint is depicted crossing the Strait of Messina on his cloak. The small but refined and valuable museum synthesises art, history and faith from different periods and cultural areas. The mystical atmosphere of this place, together with the masterpieces present, will undoubtedly leave visitors breathless.

 

Religious events and folklore

Among the religious events not to be missed in Vico Equense are the Pacchianelle and the Good Friday Procession.

The centuries-old Pacchianelle procession takes place every year on 6th January, on the occasion of the Epiphany. It is not a procession but a travelling nativity scene in which 300 participants parade through the streets of the old town. In traditional costumes inspired by the eighteenth-century nativity scene, women and girls dressed as peasants (the "pacchianelle") carry baskets full of typical products such as cheese, citrus fruits, fish and animals to the baby Jesus. The procession, consisting of the Three Wise Men on horseback, the Holy Family and fishermen walking barefoot, is accompanied by the music of traditional zampognari (bagpipe-playing shepherds).


The evocative Holy Friday procession is organised by the Archconfraternity dell'Assunta. It attracts the faithful and tourists and winds its way through the streets of the village of Seiano. In a mystical silence, the penitents parade in absolute silence, interrupted only by the Miserere's singing and the brothers' cadenced pace. The hundreds of candles placed along the pavements, balconies, and walls make the atmosphere even more special. Holding a symbol of the Passion, a torch, a lamp, they carry the Dead Christ in procession with the Sorrowful Mother.
The procession of the Dead Christ is another significant celebration in which more than 350 participants, including the red hooded ones because of the hood they wear. Together with them, other figures in period costume represent Judas, Pontius Pilate and the other protagonists of the Passion of Christ. It is organised every three years.

 

You will experience the spirituality and folklore at the heart of the culture and traditions of Vico Equense.

 

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Comune di Vico Equense - Ufficio Turismo e Cultura

sede legale Corso Filangieri, 98
Tel.: +39 081/8019100
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Part. IVA: 01548611217
80069 Vico Equense (NA) 

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