Chiesa de Santa Maria Assunta
This landmark can be seen in many of the beautiful photos of Positano. We got to go in during an afternoon service.
Located in the small Flavio Gioia square, the parish church of Santa Maria Assunta stands with its splendid majolica-mosaic dome. The building contains important works of art, most notable is the Circumcision - a magnificent work by Fabrizio Santafede, and a thirteenth-century, Byzantine-style panel depicting the Virgin and Child.
According to popular tradition, the origin of the town's name is linked to the panel of the Virgin and Child. The panel was looted by the Saracens, then brought back to land following a storm. While is was out to sea you could hear from the shore the prodigious cry of "posa, posa" (put it here). A church was built in honour of the Virgin on that spot where the panel was returned from the sea and the town grew around it, that took the name of Positano.
The bell tower is also very interesting with a medieval bas-relief portraying a sea monster, some fish and a fox. It is said to represent the dual nature of the coastal inhabitants' souls, half countrymen and half seamen.
Stand out church
When you're at the business end of Positano (read down the bottom) there is one building that stands out due mainly to the colourful Moorish style dome.
The church of Santa Maria Assunta is located right in the center of Positano, in the small Flavio Gioia square. With its decorative, colourful, dome of Vietri maiolica (tiles), the church is a typical example of the architecture found in this beautiful area.
The church is divided into three "navate" which are decorated with stucco, and gold ornamentation. Inside the church there is a collection of important works of art, like the "Circoncisione" by Fabrizio Santafede (from the end of 600), and the famous Byzantine wooden panel, depicting the Virgin Mary and Her Child. The town's name Positano (which means "put it there" in latin), derives from the story of this panel.
The ancient legend tells that the icon was stolen by the Saraceni (pirates of the time), but when the pirates tried to leave Positano's shores with the panel, a terrible sea storm suddenly arose, and prevented their passage. During the storm, the pirates heard a cry from heaven saying: "posa, posa" (put it back). The fearful pirates set the decorated panel back on Positano's shores, and miraculously, the storm ceased giving them the opportunity to flee the Coast.
Beauty Abounds in a Tight Spot
"Go Boldly Forth"
Seeing Positano is like walking down a spiral staircase. There is one way in and one way out. This is after driving on some of the most scenic highway in the world, but one that challenges your driving skill.
Lemons, lemons, and more lemons abound. There is the traditional lemoncillo on sale, ceramic pieces are lemon covered, and lemons larger than i have ever seen are on display.
The narrow beach is crowded with sun worshipppers and tourists. Some are basking in the sun, others strolling, and still more boarding boats to the isle of Capri.
One can choose to sit at an outdoor cafe and enjoy the atmosphere. Enjoying the great sea views is something one cannot escape.
"Get to Higher Ground"
As one walks up away from the beach, there are inviting shops to be explored. Along with this are great views of the churches of Positano, which have Byzantine influences. One can understand the attraction that foreign powers must have had to this area.
The church of Santa Maria Assunta has a 13th Byzantine century icon of a black Madonna. Legend says that the icon had been stolen from Byzantium and was being transported by pirates across the Mediterranean. A storm arose in the waters and the frightened sailors heard a voice on board saying "Posa, posa" meaning put it down. Theicon was unloaded and carried to the fishing village and the storm dissipated.
I have always been intrigued by the beauty of the Amalfi Coast. It has been depicted in countless movies. However, it was not until visiting did I come to truly appreciate how wonderful it is. Whether visiting the winding streets of Positano with the pastel houses and fushia flowers, taking in the white buildings against the mountains in Amalfi and Praino, or marveling at the spectacular villas in Ravello. It is all bellisimo!!!!
John Steinbeck once wrote of Positano: - ".When you discover a beautiful place like Positano the first impulse you have is not to tell to anybody else your discovery. You think: if I tell about this place to other people it will fill with tourists that will spoil it." Steinbeck came to Positano in 1957 to write an article for Harper's Bazaar. At that time, Positano was only known to the very rich.
The origins of Positano, like those of many other towns, are lost in the mists of time, so that it is difficult to distinguish between history and legend. As it often happen in the past, myths supplied for the lack of data: one of these myths tells us that Positano was founded by Poseidon - the Latin Neptune, the god of the sea - for the sake of the nymph Pasitea, whom he loved.
It is certain that Phoenicians and Greeks, travelling westwards, landed in Positano, which at that time, was inhabited by Oschi and Piceni. The Romans built near the 'great' beach a rich patrician villa, which has now been buried by gardens and by the church devoted to Our Lady of the Assumption.
With the fall of the Roman Empire Positano became a part of the Republic of Amalfi, the first maritime republic, and went through flourishing period, owing to the commerce with the other countries of the Mediterranean area. Unfortunately this period was followed by gloomy ones, particularly during the Angevin and Aragonese domination, when our village was more than once exposed to the offence of the Saracen pirates, first, and, then of the Turkmen.
A legend referring to that period says that the Saracen pirates, during an incursion, sacked the main Church and brought away, among other things, the Byzantine picture of Black Virgin, which was kept in the church and is now to be found in the apse over the high altar; they had just left the shore, when a voice was heard, that said: "Posa, posa". The pirates became aware of having committed a sacrilege, repented came back ashore and restored all the ill-gotten goods. To defend themselves from the very frequent raids of the pirates the inhabitants of Positano built three guard-towers, which can still be seen today in the quarters called "Fornillo", "La Trasita", "La Sponda" and some others in the inner part of the village.
The Unification of Italy forced many inhabitants of Positano, as it happened for so many other people of South Italy, to migrate to America, where fortune smiled on some of them. After the First World War - during which Positano also paid its great tribute of blood - this village, which was already the refuge of some Italian artists, like Vincenzo Caprile, harboured many Russian, German artists and men of letters, who chose it for its peace and quiet. Among others we can remember: Semenov, Zagoruiko, Essad Bey, Clavel, Escher, Massine, Kovaliska, Ghillausen, etc., who with their works maid this flat of land known all over the world. The tourism booming took place after the Second World War; but despite of an intense expansion our village preserve its characteristic vertical structure and its bright architecture with suggestive, panoramique corners.
Thanks to the innate sense of hospitality of its inhabitants Positano became one of the most famous tourist places all over the world. The village is also internationally known for its clothing production: many little, but elegant boutiques, which are almost everywhere on both sides of streets and lanes, can satisfy all the requests of a cosmopolitan clientele. Its favourable position put it in the center of a land rich of history and natural beauties.
During the summer a series of patronal feasts - among which we can remember that on the 2nd of July in Montepertuso and that on the 15th of August in Positano - and cultural events - like the International Award for the Art of Dancing to the memory of the great dancer-choreographer Leonide Massine - gladden the evenings, making the stay in this charming place, also called the "Gem of the divine coast", more pleasant and suggestive.