San Salvatore de Birecto or Bireto
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San Salvatore de Birecto in Atrani
To fully experience the past glory of Atrani, and to try to understand where their incredible pride and determination originates, one must pay a visit to the San Salvatore del Bireto's Church. The Church was built in 904 and it used to be called Platea as it was the venue where doges would be elected by placing the Bireto hat on their head. Hence the name San Salvatore del Bireto.
The church had a very central role in the political and religious life of Atrani, doges' ashes were also be guarded in the Church.
San Salvatore del Bireto's most ancient elements are a XIV century gravestone of Atranese Dame Filippa Napolitano, and a XII marble slate depicting two peacocks spreading the tail, parted by a palm tree. The left peacock stands on a human head in between two sirens; the peacock on the right stands on a hare pecked by two birds. The peacock is Juno's symbol and was widely worshipped in the Orient, also is is an explicit icon of vanity and pride but most importantly of resurrection, which properly represented doges' and locals' inclinations.
The Church has a squared structure and two aisles and a nave supported by columns and towered by barrel vaults.
Originally the Church would face west, accessible by Via Arte dell Lana. However during the baroque ferment, San Salvatore de' Bireto underwent drastic changes, and the new façade with the clock and the elegant white steps, were added to the original structure. The Church was opened right on Umberto I square, asserting its importance for life in Atrani. During this same time, the steeple with the 1298 bell was also built.
The Bronze doors that nowadays are kept in the Collegiata di Santa Maria Maddalena, formerly belonged to this Church as they were a gift to Atrani by the local nobleman Pantaleone Viarecta, the same that donated the bronze door to Amalfi's famous Duomo.
Lastly the view onto the square from the Church is the best way to really dive into the times of Doges, regattas and noblemen walking around Atrani, which somehow managed to keep its ancient splendour throughout the years and throughout all historical events.