The hamlet of Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi
Due to its special hillside location, the village of Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi – in the municipality of Massa Lubrense – owes its name precisely to the panorama it can enjoy: precisely from the monastery of the Benedictine Nuns ( Deserto locality), in fact, it is possible to observe both the Gulf of Naples and the Gulf of Salerno.
Not only that, the toponym “Sant”Agata” appears in official documents dated 1347. It is certain to derive from the presence of a chapel that no longer exists today, dedicated to the Catanian saint.
This “privileged” location, therefore, has made St. Agatha a popular destination since the late eighteenth century, particularly during the period of the Grand Tour.
The salubrious air and beauty of the area, in fact, have been a source of inspiration and refuge of the heart of many literary men and artists who have made the Sorrento Peninsula their home.
Even today, Massalubrense, with its hamlets, represents the archetypal seascape par excellence: how can one not be enchanted when faced with the view of the Isle of Capri?
From Sant’Agata, then, it is possible to venture along ancient roads that lead to Sorrento and Massalubrense, as well as footpaths that lead to enchanting places: from here starts the path that leads to the
Fiord of Crapolla
The Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Walking down Corso Sant’Agata, we come to the parish church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Although very few sources have come down to us about the founding of the church, an earliest record dates back to 1475, and until the 16th century it was known as “Santa Maria di Casafestina,” probably by the founders, the Festinese.
Certain information is that following a wave of the epidemic in 1665, all paper documents in the possession of the then parish priest (infected and deceased) outside were set on fire for fear of contagion.
Legend has it, however, that the church was built as a vow to Our Lady by a certain Marcantonio Festinese, an inhabitant of the village: he would raise the temple in exchange for saving his daughter from the clutches of a wolf.
Following elevation as a parish seat (in 1566, under the pontificate of Pius V) and thanks to renovations conducted by Bishop Bishop Centino and completed in 1625, the church acquired the appearance we see today.
Aligned with typical late Renaissance architecture, the building has a Latin cross plan with a single nave with vaulted ceiling, six side chapels (three on each side) and with the dome on the cross vault.
The interior of the church is very simple but elegant: it features leaf festoons and other stucco decorations; the flooring consists of riggiole dating from the last quarter of the 17th century.
The high altar, made in the last decade of the seventeenth century by Florentine architect and sculptor Dionisio Lazzari, is a true masterpiece both for the polychromatic refinement of the carvings and for the richness of the details.
Looking at the façade of the church, to the right of the entrance portal, stands the three-tiered bell tower; in the second one is affixed theclock made of majolica tiles dating from the later 18th century.
Also in majolica, dated 1873, is the image of Our Lady of Grace mounted on the entrance portal.
The cult and traditions associated with St. Agatha
Prominent among the various patron chapels is that of the Pastena family (third, right); originally named for St. Lamb, it was later dedicated to St. Agatha.
A silver bust of the saint, made with the contribution of the people of Santagata in the late 1880s, is placed on the small altar to replace the one previously stolen.
From the book “History of Massa Lubrense“ by Riccardo Filangieri di Candida, we know that the ancient chapel dedicated to St. Agatha was located at the corner of the present Corso Sant’Agata and “[…]della via che mena a Sorrento” that is, the present Via Termini.
Decommissioned and abandoned in the later 18th century, the cult to the saint from here was transferred to the parish of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Here, then, is explained the strong bond that unites local community with St. Agatha.
The community reserves a special devotion to the saint and every year numerous liturgies are celebrated on the days before and after the feast day, Feb. 5.
As per tradition, on St. Agatha’s Day families gather to eat lunch together. You must never miss the lasagna, the “maritata” soup and the cream pizza (word of Nonna Maria, a Santagatese doc!).
On the first Sunday after Feb. 5, the parish community carries the silver bust of the saint in procession, singing the ancient “Hymn to St. Agatha.”