The Luminaria of San Domenico

Praiano, like the entire Amalfi Coast, is a treasure chest of traditions, which have been handed down intact for centuries. And among these, one of the most famous and fascinating is the Luminaria of San Domenico, the ancient festival dedicated to the saint venerated in the Church of Santa Maria a Castro, with the adjoining Convent of San Domenico, which is located on the slopes of Monte S. Angelo at Tre Pizzi. It is a tradition deeply rooted in the population, spanning generations, which fills the streets, squares and alleys throughout the country.

It is celebrated every year between the end of July and 4 August and is aimed at recreating the dream had by the mother of San Domenico who, shortly before giving birth, dreamed of a dog with a torch in its mouth that set the world on fire, a metaphor for universal diffusion of the word of God. The Luminaria involves all citizens, who participate by adorning terraces, windows, gardens, streets, courtyards and domes of homes with singular wax lights.

But the culmination of the event is reached in the beautiful Piazza San Gennaro, where over 2000 candles cover the majolica decoration of the floor creating spectacular plays of light. Acrobats, circus performers and fire artists also perform in the square. The program of celebrations is particularly rich in events, including the dawn concert held on August 4th in the courtyard in front of the convent, where a string quartet plays pieces of classical music.

This tradition has been handed down since the 17th century, when the Dominican friars of the Sanità of Naples arrived. In the past there was an ancient custom, partly still alive among the faithful, which was to conserve the dry twigs of vine shoots, trees and shrubs throughout the year to make “fagos” which were then burned to the occasion. Tin cans, glass cans, rags, oil and rancid lard to make torches were also preserved. The Luminaria, after a period in which it had lost part of its charm due to the advent of electricity, has returned to its former glory in recent years. In 2006 the event was even awarded a medal of recognition by the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano.

Photo © Luminaria di San Domenico