The Patron Saint of
Naples, as you may know, is San Gennaro. (If you don't,
click on that link.) It is not unheard of to treat the
subject of saints and miracles with humor, and no one
takes offense at it. A good example is the late Massimo Troise, the Neapolitan
comic whose classic skit of himself pleading with a
statue of the saint for a winning lottery number made
everyone laugh, presumably even San Gennaro, himself.
Commercial exploitation, however, is another matter.
Local Catholic organizations are upset at a recent
poster that appeared in the Vomero section of town
just before the feast day of the saint (September 19).
San Gennaro was depicted holding up a CD. The music
was a miracle! Buy this CD! The posters were posted
where you shouldn't post, so the city had a good
excuse to take them down, which it did.
After all the Discovery
Channel-like programs about Mt. Vesuvius
recently, with their splendid special effects showing
killer pyroclastic flows and incinerated Romans
(typical voiceover: "Forget trying to outrun it.
You're dead. Live with it."), it comes as a relief to
read a recent report in the prestigious science
to the effect that the feared
subterranean magma chamber that will make the whole
thing go ka-blooey one day is smaller than they
thought and not as close to the surface as they
thought. (Also see "Recent
Eruptions of Mt. Vesuvius".)
Your body is a temple,
so maybe this is not so weird. There is a long history
of churches and monasteries
in Naples being converted to secular use; the city
hall used to be a monastery, as did the Department of
Architecture of the university and even a number of
police stations and barracks. Small churches, as well,
have wound up doing other things. This photo is of the
inside of what used to be the church of Santa Maria a Cappella
Vecchia, once part of a much larger complex,
all of which has now been converted to both secular
and muscular use. It is near Piazza dei Martiri
and is, I think, the only old church in Naples that
has been turned into a gym.
You tend to walk by
these two statues (See expanded entry: "The Russian Horses".)
even though they are not, strictly speaking, out of
the way or difficult to notice. They flank the
never-open entrance to the gardens of the Royal Palace at the east end,
right across from the Maschio
Angioino castle. If at all, you might note that
"they don't look very Italian." Indeed, they are not.
These are the Horse
Tamers by Russian sculptor Peter Clodt von
Jürgensburg (1805-67) and are replicas of two
statues on the Anichkov bridge over the Fontanka river
in St. Petersburg. They were a gift from czar Nicolas
I to Ferdinand II in 1846 on
the occasion of a state visit by the czar to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Neapolitans refer to the statues, simply, as "the