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San Gregorio Armeno, Naples, Campania

Via San Gregorio Armeno is a street in the historic center of Naples, known worldwide as an exhibition area for the cribs shops located here, during the Christmas holiday season, usually from early November to January 6.
Via San Gregorio Armeno is dominated by the magnificent belltower of the church of San Gregorio Armeno (Saint Gregory the Illuminator or Saint Gregory the Enlightener). The tower serves as a bridge connection between the two buildings (church and monastery) dedicated to St. Gregory the Armenian - in the church the head of the saint is kept as a relic.

The street appears typical of Greek urban architecture, being a "stenopos", serving as connectin between the two "plateiai" (in Latin "decumani") or main streets: the "plateia major" (presently Via dei Tribunali) and the "plateia minor" (Spaccanapoli).

The two main streets of the ancient Neapolis were therefore connected with a 90° angle by the street of San Gregorio Armeno, at the junction of the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore, where in antiquity was the "agorà". Subsequently, the street was called "plaetia nostriana" as the fifteenth bishop of Naples, Saint Nostriano, ordered baths to be built there for the poor.

About halfway along the street there is the church of San Gregorio Armeno, founded around 930 AD on the foundations of a temple to goddess Ceres. Only in 1205 the church was named after St. Gregory. The tradition of St. Gregory Armenian cribs has a remote, pagan source: in classical times the citizens used to offer small terracotta figurines, manufactured in the shops nearby, to Ceres, whose temple was on the site.

However, the origin of the Neapolitan crib is much later, dating to the 18th century. Today the shops on the street offer the whole year long figures for cribs, both canonical and original; every year the most eccentric craftsmen introduce new figurines of characters highly topical of the year.

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A visit to via San Gregorio Armeno