This year’s winter celebrations for the Festival of Sant’ Andrea, Amalfi’s patron saint and protector, took place under stormy skies. Many of the usual events, including the procession of the beautiful 17th-century silver statue of the saint through the town, had to be cancelled due to heavy rain. The large statue of Sant’ Andrea is far too valuable to risk damage from the rain. However, the events inside the church took place as normal. This year the solemn Vespers and mass in honor of Sant’ Andrea were presided over by a very special guest, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the Archbishop of Milan. The vigilia, or eve, of the celebration of Sant’ Andrea falls on November 29th, which is the day before the saint’s traditional feast day on the 30th. The statue of Sant’ Andrea is on display behind the altar of the Duomo and solemn Vespers are held.
The cathedral is gorgeous lit up at night and filled with sounds of the music and the faithful of Amalfi. Here is a short video I made during the Vespers, and if you look closely on the left behind the altar you can spot the statue of Sant’ Andrea.
After the mass and Vespers, the Cardinal Tettamanzi and the Archbishop of Amalfi Orazio Soricelli led a procession down to the crypt where a special ceremony was held over the relics of Sant’ Andrea. What happened next was quite an event. As many people as possible filled the crypt in order to witness the Manna of Sant’ Andrea, which appears miraculously on important feast days and events. This Manna, or liquid, has appeared in association with the relics of Sant’Andrea since his martyrdom in Greece around the year 60 AD. This even has taken place in every place the relics have been moved, and have been an important event in Amalfi for centuries. It is considered a sign of good fortune for the city if the manna appears. Here is a video I took just moments before the Manna appeared.
And here is the jubilant response in the packed crypt when the announcement was made, “Abbiamo la Manna!” (“We have the Manna!”) Look carefully for the man in white robes who is holding high a glass vial, which is where the Manna is collected.
This next video shows the happy scene after the conclusion of the celebrations in the crypt. The last person in the procession is the Cardinal Tettamanzi with the Archbishop of Amalfi just before. You’ll also see people going up to the altar in the crypt to touch the reliquary holding the skull of Sant’ Andrea. This is also an Amalfi tradition with the large silver bust statue of Sant’ Andrea. The song you’ll hear in the video is the traditional song for Sant’ Andrea sung during the saint’s religious festivals in Amalfi.
Being in the Duomo and the crypt for these events is a moving experience. The crypt has been described as “the heart of Amalfi,” and you can feel that during the festival of Sant’ Andrea. I found this wonderful spot for taking photos looking down over the altar. It’s hard to capture the emotion in the crypt in photos and videos, but it was certainly an amazing event.
Unfortunately, the big procession on November 30th was cancelled due to rain. The statue of Sant’Andrea was only taken out to the top of the grand staircase of the Duomo, under the protected atrium, and then returned safely inside the church. I’ll just have to wait until the summer Festival of Sant’ Andrea in June to share photos and videos of the procession through Amalfi.
[Photos and videos by Laura Thayer]