The street of cribs, Naples
Via San Gregorio Armeno, in Naples historical center is for everyone the “street of cribs”. It is also known as Via San Liguoro, because of its Greek origins, like the entire cross-section surrounding it. This vibrant and busy street is one of the favorite destinations in Naples for thousands of tourists every year, who are captured by the timeless charm of the numerous shops of master craftsmen of crib art.
During the 15th century its name was Strada Nostriana after the name of the bishop of Naples, Nostriano, who set here the first hospital for the sick and poor. The building was only later identified by the name of the Bishop of Armenia, to whom, since 1205, a small church was dedicated. According to legend, this building, now known as San Gregorio Armeno, was built in 930, on the site of a church erected on the ruins of a pagan temple. But it is much more likely that they were the nuns of San Basilio, who founded the monastery. This authentic jewel of Neapolitan Baroque architecture includes the church and the convent. Its extraordinary cloister is dotted with fragrant citrus trees and adorned by a spectacular marble fountain from the 18th century is considered among the most beautiful in Naples,
The presence of craftsmen in Via San Gregorio Armeno dates back to the Roman empire. In fact, citizens used to offer to the ancient temple devoted to the goddess Cerere, small terracotta statues, that were made in the workshops nearby, as an ex-voto.
Myth and tradition may have fused, in the passage from the old to the new religion and that the ancient artists have simply gone from making statues to the Nativity’s characters. Along this long narrow street that goes from Via San Biagio of the Libraans to Via dei Tribunali, all months of the year, even when it’s hot and Christmas is far away, the masters are at work to build the typical cork cribs and terracotta shepherds.
The atmosphere of San Gregorio Armeno begins to warm up in November, but December is the month when the street is packed with people at any time of day and you will find dozens of shops with cheerful and welcoming artisans who create real works of art, following a tradition which has been handed down for generations.
You can find all the characters from the classic Christmas tradition but also the caricature representation of famous people from the present and the past, a perfect example of the Neapolitans creativity.
Breathing this mix of sacred and profane surrounded by the kindness and sympathy of the sellers, and the passion of the masters is something unique to experience at least once in your life.
If you are planning your holiday to Naples, visiting San Gregorio Armeno Street is one of the things to do.