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MOIANO - SANTA MARIA DEL CASTELLO

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Further up from Massaquano, after the small hamlet of Patierno with its churches and chapels hidden in the nature, are the houses of Moiano all squeezed around the church and bell tower of San Renato, bishop of Sorrento in the 5th century. The origin of the name is probably to be found in the noble family name “Modius” to which was added the suffix “anus”. Another theory, less likely but to take into consideration nonetheless, is the more popular reference to “Mons Jani”. The “Rivo Anaro”, the high part of the river Rivo d’Arco which flows into the Marina di Aequa, could owe its name not Janus or Januario, but rather to its banks. People, however, firmly believe that that was the “Rivo delle Janare”, where women gathered at night to apply a particular ointment on their armpits, which gave them the magical power to fly in the dark of night. The church has been renovated and restored so many times that little remains of the ancient structure; the many districts of the Casale do, however, still preserve beautiful and elegant ancient places of worship. Piazza della Scanna, marked by a very ancient worship column, was perhaps a place of meat slaughter or maybe even for knife duels. It is most likely just a place of general slaughter, and it is from here that one can travel to Ticciano. At one point the road splits and, in a steep trail hidden by the chestnut trees, goes up to Santa Maria del Castello. This small hamlet shows up suddenly and surprisingly; it is like a mountain necropolis with a chapel up high and a few houses around it, on a cliff overlooking the sea of Positano. The highest point should have featured a fortress in the 9th century, erected to outline the borders and defend these lands from the duchy of Amalfi. The small church climbing up the long stairway still preserves an early 1600s marble statue of the Virgin with Child, and two statues of the apostles. It is said that in the past the people living in the plains often took refuge here to avoid the plague, and there are stories about penitential climbs countered by descending processions for “danger averted”. To this day on the Tuesday after Easter people come up to see the veneration of the Virgin Mary at the Chapel, and a traditional outdoor lunch is organized. But something is happening also on the mountain seemingly still: inside the chapel three precious canvases return to their bright colours after recent restoration, on fine display on the walls of the church. One larger canvas is “Saint Frances Meditating” by an unknown but refined, Caravaggio-esque Neapolitan artist; the other canvas is “Saint Rose”, rendered in splendid soft brushstrokes, which pairs up in size and frame with the painting of “Saint Hyacinthus”.

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