The Feast of San Luca Evangelista in Praiano
Praiano is a treasure chest of traditions that have been handed down intact for centuries. And among these one of the most important is the festival dedicated to San Luca Evangelista, the patron saint of the town. Born in Antioch to a pagan family and a doctor by profession, he converted to Christianity after meeting Saint Paul. Protector of artists (and also of surgeons, doctors and notaries), he is indicated as the author of the Gospel according to Luke and of the Acts of the Apostles, the third and fifth books of the New Testament.
The solemn celebrations in honor of the saint are held twice a year, on the first Sunday of July and on 18 October, in the Church of San Luca Evangelista. The building, located in the upper part of Praiano, was built in the second half of the 16th century but owes its current appearance to the renovation in 1722. With an elegant Baroque layout, it is characterized by the majolica dome grafted directly onto the apse. Inside, in addition to the splendid multicolored majolica floor, you can admire various valuable works, among which are: a silver bust of the saint from 1694, a canvas reproducing the Virgin and Child with the Saints. Luca and Francesco di Paola, another the Madonna del Carmine and a third with the Circumcision, the work of Giovanni Bernardo Lama.
Three days before both celebrations, all the balconies are illuminated with colored lights, the festive ringing of bells and the firing of mortars can be heard. In ancient times, to begin the celebrations, we waited for the return of the fishermen, about whom a little story that smacks of mystery is also told. When the fishermen carried the statue of the saint in procession through the streets of the town, unusual things often happened. Halfway along the road that led from the “Moresca” to the chapel of San Tommaso (where it still stops today) there were stairs to climb where the procession stopped suddenly because the statue became so heavy that it was unable to overcome that difference in height. . The people huddled together in prayer and whispered “Oh! My Saint Luke!” until an old boat captain emerged among the faithful who pronounced the magical phrase “cummanno Sant’Lù” (San Luca commands). At that precise moment the statue of the saint became light and the procession could thus continue amidst the applause and tears of all those present.
Today that popular faith has disappeared and yet the Feast of San Luca Evangelista remains one of the most heartfelt and attended celebrations not only by local people but also by numerous tourists curious to experience the characteristic event first hand.
Photo © Parrocchia San Luca Evangelista Praiano