di Ugo Leone
Two of the most famous streets of the historic center of Naples, or rather of its oldest part which identifies itself as the "ancient center", are Via San Biagio dei booksellers and Via San Gregorio Armeno. Dedicated to two saints who in their lives do not seem to have had anything to do with Naples, but who owe a lot (and Naples with them) to the "Armenian nuns who escaped the persecution of the Iconoclasts", in the mid-eighth century, when "many monks and nuns of the Basilian order escaped, taking refuge in Italy, especially in Rome and Naples ”. In particular, some nuns "holders of the relics of St. Gregory, known as theIlluminator, first patriarch of Armenia (257-331) escaped to Naples ”bringing with him also“ the skull of S. Biagio with other relics ”. I owe all the quotes to Gino Doria, The streets of Naples - Historical toponymy essay (Riccardo Ricciardi Publisher, Naples 1971). And it helps me explain why these two important streets are dedicated to those two saints. Why important? San Biagio ("which became very popular among the Neapolitans, who considered him protector from the evils of the throat") is the lower decumanus also known as "Spaccanapoli" and is the street, among other things, where Benedetto Croce lived for a long which a section has been dedicated to. San Gregorio Armeno which, starting from San Biagio climbs up to the upper decumanus, is the street of shepherds: shops and shops selling nativity figurines, strictly in terracotta or in other materials other than plastic. It is a very famous street for this and generally crowded with onlookers, buyers, tourists and not only during the Christmas period.
Very crowded and not only, but until just over a year ago. When the repeated confinement in the house with the strict prohibition of gatherings has made a void even here, as in the contiguous Via San Biagio. But above all here. Because it is above all here that the shops have had to close their doors. And it is here that their protagonists "took to the streets" to protest behind a painfully programmatic sign: "CEDESI San Gregorio Armeno".
It is the crisis. Another product of this cursed pandemic. But the crisis in the shops of San Gregorio Armeno can lead to conclusions that must be absolutely avoided, And the flanking movement must be as broad as possible because San Gregorio Armeno is a World Heritage Site.
And there is no need to bother UNESCO to find out. We all know well that we have traveled that road year after year before, after and during the Christmas holidays.
Because it is here that true masters of art have given their best to embellish, thicken and enrich the cribs of many of our homes.
Certainly there was some contamination of history when the "figurelle" of footballers, artists, politicians were added to the subjects of the Nativity. But that's also part of the story.
Many have recently shown disappointment at the lack of recognition of coffee as a World Heritage Site.
To me this "lack" did not have much effect because I enjoy coffee anyway and marks precise moments of my day.
But if that patrimony of San Gregorio Armeno were to fail, that disappearance would mark an absolutely unbridgeable void.
The last time I was there on February 3rd. The street was empty. But there was some shop-shop open and like every year I took the opportunity to add a piece to my collection. I went to Fulvio Forte (I didn't know him) and I took this: