The first picture here was taken from the top of the Fortress of St. Elmo looking down on the city. Notice the crevice running across the city. This is a single street that runs through the ancient part of Napoli, through piazzas, past shops that have been there in some form for over 500 years and maybe longer. This street, and I don’t unfortunately have the name of it, is called the Spine of Napoli for 0bvious reasons when viewed from above.

The Spine of Napoli from above

Charlie took us down into the city toward the end of the trip to see the real heart of the city. I was able to snap this second picture from the street looking back up through the crack between the roofs of the buildings. Notice St. Elmo, seated way up there, the exact spot from which I took the first picture looking down.

This spot was just on the edge of the Piazza di Nuevo Gesu (spelling much in question) or the New Jesus Piazza. This piazza is so called because there is an old cathedral here from the original piazza and a new church next to it that came to be known as the New Jesus Church. A wealthy nobleman built his house on the edge of the piazza near the original church. In those days the piazza had a straight unobstructed view down to the bay of Napoli and the Mediterranean Sea. As the years went by though, more and more construction was added, until today when you can see how this street is literally hemmed in on all sides by three to six story apartment buildings.

The Spine of Napoli from below

 

The wealthy family eventually sold their house to the Jesuits, and a new church was built in the renovated house. We walked through this New Jesus Church, and it is incredibly opulent with imported marble everywhere and gilded statues on all sides (yes, that’s real gold!). So the piazza came to be known as the New Jesus Piazza, referring to the new church built next to the old one.

Interestingly, the piazza itself is dedicated with a huge ornate obelisk that has a statue of the Madonna at the top, to the – now pay attention hereImmaculate Conception of Mary. To be clear here, this is the belief that if Jesus lived a sinless life, Mary must have lived one too, and therefore she must have had an immaculate conception also.

The festival is called The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it is celebrated every year on the eighth of December. The celebration refers to the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception asserts that, ” from the first moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was, by the singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of Mankind, kept free from all stain of original sin.” (http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/meditations/MaurImmac.html)

Though this festival originated in the East, it was introduced to Western Europe through Napoli around 800 A.D. As in so much of what we observed in Napoli, and Charlie indicated this is prevalent throughout Italy, Mary is normally placed above Jesus in their pantheon of saints or in their version of the godhead, and certainly in their practical order of prayer.

Apparently, at the annual festival in this piazza, the bishop of Napoli places a fresh wreath on Mary’s head. However, this statue is very high up on top of the obelisk. So what happens is that the local fire engine with its extension ladder is enlisted, and the bishop in all his finery rides up the extension ladder into the sky to the top of the statue and places the wreath on Mary’s head, then rides the ladder back down. It’s apparently a real sight to see.