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FABULA VERGILIANA in San Lorenzo Maggiore

The tale of Virgil the Wizard
A tale among lights and sounds beneath San Lorenzo Maggiore

Beyond the space and time limit a journey in the underground of Naples is a tremendously exciting experience that reveals the secrets of the city. Strolling about the old streets of piperno worn by time, wandering through the Roman tabernae ruins, the voyager discovers the enchanted and poetic world of Virgil the Wizard.

The origins of this legend are tied to Virgil's tomb which is located, as stated by the High Medieval sources, "at halfway between Naples and Pozzuoli". But you have to go back to the first centuries of Christianity to find the origins of this legend. The ancient theologians in order to establish a link between the highest values of the Latin culture and the New Faith of Jewish roots, considered Virgil a herald of Christianity for his Eclogue 4 verses in Bucoliche concerning the birth of a mysterious Puer (boy), which were re-read to prophesy Jesus' nativity.

An Angevin codex, known as 'Partenope Chronicle', attributes Virgil miraculous powers against diseases and adversities. This manuscript, full of superstitions and popular beliefs, has been seen with scepticism by the official historiography and considered a simple collection of "tales of old women". On the contrary, making an accurate analysis of these legends we discover an astonishing overlap of monuments, sentiments and religiousness.

"Virgilio fe' ponere et appendere diversi pezzi di diverse carne per arte magica in un arco della bucceria de la plazza di Mercato Vecchio, dove in quel tempo se vendeva la carne (et anche mo' se vende), per la efficacia e virtú de li quali pezzi di carne ogni carne che restava se poteva vendere alla bucceria per più giorni e forsi per semane senza corruzione...."

That is how the 'Partenope Chronicle' describes a miracle attributed to Virgil. According to legend, thanks to his powers the meat shown out Neapolitan butchers' did not go bad. The place of this "miracle" is "la plazza di Mercato Vecchio". Where was this place? When the chronicle was written a new market was open at the wishes of the Angevin Kings; "S. Egidio Market"called today Piazza Mercato was a wide place for selling goods. But in the XIV century the 'Ancient Market' continued to work: maybe the arch where he hung the magical meat was a fornix of the ancient macellum, a big imperial building whose a considerable part can still be admired today beneath the church itself.

The basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore is located at the precise geographic centre of the historical centre of the ancient Greco-Roman city, above the agora-forum. Excavations have made clear that the church stands on layers of antiquities (wide blocks of tufa used for the foundations). As they go backwards in time the archaeological layers give us a picture of the alternating settlements and artefacts dating from the Greek and Roman periods up to the period of late antiquity when the foundations of the early Christian basilica were built. Remains of a wide building has been excavated corresponding to the present-day via dei Tribunali. It is the Macellum or food market, a rectangular area paved with floor mosaics and series of shops down the sides. It is interesting a street of 60 metres long from the imperial age which is now vico Giganti. A series of smallish shops opened onto it and maybe another building identified as the Aerarium; the place where the public treasure of the city was kept. Over the centuries the area underwent several transformations. The macellum was abandoned and became filled with earth. An early Christian church was built on the level above it whose the mosaic floor is clearly visible today.

Except a bronze horse whose only the monumental head is kept, we do not know the aspect of the other Virgil's magical signs because when the Chnonicle was written they had already been forgotten by the collective memory. Given that they have been well described we can get an idea about them...
...among golden flies, statues which could stop winds, effigies, mysterious caves, copper balm-crickets and symbols of magic snakes with thaumaturgic powers, a narrator will take the visitor by lanternlight in the striking archaeological area under San Lorenzo Maggiore looking for these signs. A sort of descent into Hades, from Virgil's tomb through the darkest sides of Naples to the Phlegrean Fields. It is in this place of profound and ancient fascination that our FABULA VERGILIANA begins...

The narrated visit about the
takes place on FRIDAY EVENINGS
booking essential
Complesso Monumentale di San Lorenzo Maggiore
Info & booking
+39 - +39 340.423.09.80

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