Festival of Sant’ Andrea in Amalfi

Festival of St. Andrew in Amalfi

For years I have been wanting to share about the Festival of Sant’ Andrea, Amalfi’s largest religious celebration, here on Ciao Amalfi. This grand event happens twice per year in Amalfi, the summer religious festival taking place on June 27th and the winter celebration on Saint Andrew’s feast day November 30th. While the same main events take place for both, the June festival is often graced with better weather and summertime crowds. This year, however, an unseasonably nice November ended with a picture perfect sunny day and bright blue skies. As the late morning mass comes to an end, the Piazza Duomo fills with locals and visitors waiting to see the procession leave the church. The bronze doors open and soon the Archbishop Orazio Soricelli makes his way down the steps dressed in vibrant pink and white robes.

As the statue of Sant’ Andrea appears at the top of the staircase, I feels as though one collective breath is drawn in from all the people in the piazza. Slowly the men carrying Sant’ Andrea begin to make their way down the steps. My eyes are always drawn to the men in the very front who have to stretch their arms straight up to support the statue during the slow descent. As the statue nears the bottom of the staircase, applause breaks out and the marching band following the procession reaches a crescendo. Phew … safely at the bottom.

There is undoubtedly an air of magnificence about the procession of Sant’ Andrea, and it moves me to think of it happening here in this very spot surrounded by the people of Amalfi for so many centuries now. The sunlight catches on the 18th-century silver and gold statue, and you can feel the significance of this event for the people of Amalfi.  Otherwise, there is no way a statue of that value would be allowed to be carried down 57 steps of the church! The men of Amalfi dressed in the red jackets have an important job to carry the statue of their patron saint during the procession and return it safely home again.

Statue of Sant' Andrea in Amalfi Procession

While I was jostled about a bit in the crowd, I did manage to get a few photos and a good view of the procession as it passed by heading up Amalfi’s main street. A richly colored gold and burgundy ombrellino is carried in each procession for the Festival of Sant’ Andrea. It is beautiful to see opened, and I look to try to catch the detailed embroidery  around the base of the umbrella.

As the beautiful silver and gold bust statue of Sant’ Andrea approached, the procession came to a momentary halt due to the crowded, narrow street ahead. I was able to get a good video of the statue and the men dressed in red jackets who carry the statue during the procession. There are about 15-20 men at any time, but as you can see in the video they switch out when necessary. You’ll spot some men in the front being replaced after that intense trip down the grand staircase of the Duomo.

After following Amalfi’s main street to nearly the top of town, the procession returns again to the Piazza Duomo and follows the main road through Amalfi along the Marina Grande beach. We stopped to chat and catch up with family and friends since I had just recently returned from America, but everywhere you looked you could spot people watching for the procession to pass by.

Watching the Festival of Sant' Andrea in Amalfi

In one of its most impressive moments, the procession takes a small staircase down to the beach and walks along the water’s edge to a spot designated by the Archbishop. A blessing takes place there, which dates back to Amalfi’s fishing and seafaring tradition as St. Andrew was a simple fisherman with his brother Peter in Galilee. During the summer festival the harbor is full of boats of all kinds, from brightly colored fishing boats, privately owned boats and even some of the ferries that run up and down the Amalfi Coast during the tourist season. This November there were only a few, but they still added their bit to the celebratory atmosphere by blowing their horns again and again.

During the first part of the video above you can hear the traditional song sung for Sant’ Andrea during the procession. After the song ends, listen closely to the sound of all the footsteps falling on the beach pebbles.

Beach procession in Amalfi

Next the procession returns to the Piazza Duomo for the most exciting part of the festival’s events – the running of the statue of Sant’ Andrea up the steps of the Duomo. This is sight you must see with your own eyes! We try to see it from a different spot each time, and this year we stopped to greet some of my fiancé’s friends who own the Hotel Centrale that is located exactly opposite the Duomo of Amalfi. We rushed to the top floor, where the hotel serves breakfast with unbelievable views, and found a little spot to watch the grand finale.

Watching the procession of Sant Andrea in Amalfi

A final blessing is given by the Archbishop as the statue of Sant’ Andrea is turned to face the people of Amalfi waiting in the piazza. Then there are several minutes of tension as the men turn the statue around and prepare for the run up the staircase. I distract myself by looking across at the facade of the church to catch the mosaic designs sparkling in the sunlight. The view from the Hotel Centrale is perhaps the best I’ve ever seen the facade of the Duomo, and it made my heart happy. I shot several photos of the facade and bell tower in detail while listening to the sounds of the crowd below and the eager voices on the terrace of the hotel.

Cathedral of St. Andrew in Amalfi

We weren’t the only ones waiting for this special moment in Amalfi. Every balcony and window was crowded with people looking down on the Piazza Duomo below and waiting for the final signal.

Religious festival on the Amalfi Coast

I could feel the time was near, and I switched by camera over from photo to video and got ready to capture the running of the statue. The applause begins as the group of men start the run, and bursts into cheers and whistles as they reach the top and turn the statue of Sant’ Andrea around again to face the crowd.

I never realize that I’ve been holding my breath until the statue reaches the top and I let it out with grateful relief. Another safe journey of the statue Sant’ Andrea through Amalfi, and now it will be safely returned to the church until next June 27th.

Bust statue of St. Andrew in Amalfi

It’s traditional for the people of Amalfi to touch the statue of Sant’ Andrea before, during or after the religious procession. I stopped by the church after with my fiancé to carry on the tradition, just as the Amalfitans have done for centuries. Experiencing this religious festival is one of the highlights of each year for me in Amalfi. If your travels bring you to the Amalfi Coast in June or November, d0 come and join the Amalfitans in celebrating their patron saint and protector Sant’ Andrea!

Festival of Sant’Antonio, Amalfi

 

Amalfi Sant Antonio 2010 statue1 

Last Sunday was the festival day for Sant’Antonio di Padova (St. Anthony of Padua), which is one of the most unique religious celebrations in Amalfi. The church of Sant’Antonio in Amalfi is located between Amalfi and Atrani, and because of this location the religious procession takes place between the two cities. But what is even more unusual, the procession takes place both on land and on the sea. The boat procession is really a sight to see! Earlier this week I linked to my posts from last summer about the elaborate procession from the church in Amalfi and the videos and photos I took while riding on the first boat with the statue of Sant’Antonio for the water procession from Atrani to Amalfi.

This year I watched the procession from another vantage point high above near the Hotel Luna in Amalfi. Here is a video of the boat procession leaving Atrani and heading to Amalfi. You can see the main boat with the statue of Sant’Antonio in the front. Just behind is the boat with the band, which is absolutely my favorite part of the procession. It makes me smile even thinking about it! On the right you can see the Amalfi regatta team rowing the boat used for the annual Regatta.

 

 

Here is the boat procession as it approached the Amalfi watchtower that is now part of the Hotel Luna.

 

 

Here’s the procession as it passes by and approaches Amalfi. I love hearing the music coming from the band boat!

 

 

Once around the corner, the procession heads to Amalfi for a quick pass by before continuing on to Conca dei Marini to sat hi to the church there dedicated to Sant’Antonio.

 

Amalfi Sant Antonio 2010 boat procession

 

After the pass by at Conca dei Marini, the whole procession turns around and returns to Amalfi where the statue is removed from the boat and carried on a procession through the streets before returning safely back home to the church of Sant’Antonio.

 

Amalfi Sant Antonio 2010 procession

Amalfi, 18 February 1875

 

Amalfi

 

One hundred and thirty-five years ago today, the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807- 1882) wrote a poem reminiscing about the beauty of Amalfi. I’ve shared bits and pieces of the poem here on Ciao Amalfi, but today is the perfect day to share the entire poem.

 

Amalfi

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Sweet the memory is to me
Of a land beyond the sea,
Where the waves and mountains meet,
Where amid her mulberry-trees
Sits Amalfi in the heat,
Bathing ever her white feet
In the tideless summer seas.

In the middle of the town,
From its fountains in the hills,
Tumbling through the narrow gorge,
The Canneto rushes down,
Turns the great wheels of the mills,
Lifts the hammers of the forge. 
‘Tis a stairway, not a street,
That ascends the deep ravine,
Where the torrent leaps between
Rocky walls that almost meet.

Toiling up from stair to stair
Peasant girls their burdens bear;
Sunburnt daughters of the soil,
Stately figures tall and straight,
What inexorable fate
Dooms them to this life of toil? 

Lord of vineyards and of lands,
Far above the convent stands.
On its terraced walk aloof
Leans a monk with folded hands,
Placid, satisfied, serene,
Looking down upon the scene
Over wall and red-tiled roof;

 

Wondering unto what good end
All this toil and traffic tend,
And why all men cannot be
Free from care and free from pain,
And the sordid love of gain,
And as indolent as he. 

Where are now the freighted barks
From the marts of east and west?
Where the knights in iron sarks
Journeying to the Holy Land,
Glove of steel upon the hand,
Cross of crimson on the breast?

 

Where the pomp of camp and court?
Where the pilgrims with their prayers?
Where the merchants with their wares,
And their gallant brigantines
Sailing safely into port
Chased by corsair Algerines? 

Vanished like a fleet of cloud,
Like a passing trumpet-blast,
Are those splendors of the past,
And the commerce and the crowd!
Fathoms deep beneath the seas
Lie the ancient wharves and quays,

 

Swallowed by the engulfing waves;
Silent streets and vacant halls,
Ruined roofs and towers and walls;
Hidden from all mortal eyes
Deep the sunken city lies:
Even cities have their graves! 

This is an enchanted land!
Round the headlands far away
Sweeps the blue Salernian bay
With its sickle of white sand:
Further still and furthermost
On the dim discovered coast
Paestum with its ruins lies.

And its roses all in bloom
Seem to tinge the fatal skies
Of that lonely land of doom. 

On his terrace, high in air,
Nothing doth the good monk care
For such worldly themes as these,
From the garden just below
Little puffs of perfume blow,
And a sound is in his ears
Of the murmur of the bees
In the shining chestnut trees;

 

Nothing else he heeds or hears.
All the landscape seems to swoon
In the happy afternoon;
Slowly o’er his senses creep
The encroaching waves of sleep,
And he sinks as sank the town,
Unresisting, fathoms down,
Into caverns cool and deep! 

Walled about with drifts of snow,
Hearing the fierce north-wind blow,
Seeing all the landscape white,
And the river cased in ice,
Comes this memory of delight,
Comes this vision unto me
Of a long-lost Paradise
In the land beyond the sea.

 

 

With suitcases packed, I will very soon be reminiscing about Amalfi just like Longfellow as he ended this poem. I do hope not to be “walled about with drifts of snow,” but it is still winter time in Nebraska. I’ll be posting stories, photos and videos from the Amalfi Coast while I am enjoying time with my family in America. After all, like many of you who read Ciao Amalfi, my heart will always remains in this Paradise, in this beautiful “land beyond the sea.”

Sea Green

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Sea Green 1

 

Last week we left the rain and clouds of the Amalfi Coast for a little vacation in Paris. (Pictures and stories coming soon!) While we were disappointed to return to still more rain Sunday evening, Monday morning greeted us with glorious sunshine. In Amalfi, the water shimmers in beautiful shades of sea green and bright turquoise during these cold and clear days of January and February.

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Sea Green 2

 

This is certainly one of the treats of being on the Amalfi Coast during the winter months!

 

Ciao Amalfi Coast Blog Sea Green 3

 

Today we’re enjoying another day of sun (I’m getting caught up on vacation laundry!), and I’m ignoring the news that more rain is in store for us this week. Today it’s all sun!