Collegiata Santa Maria a Mare
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Collegiate Church of Santa Maria a Mare is one of Maiori's prides. The town is lesser known then other towns on the Coast but it is a favourite resort for families as well as being rich in history, and a clear example of modern architecture intertwining with ancient buildings. Tradition here perfectly blends with contemporary life.
The Collegiate itself sticks out from modern buildings creating a beautiful contrast, which enhances the Church's architecture.
The colourful maiolica tiled dome looks like Maiori's crown, whose jewels are treasured inside the Sacred Art Museum just next to the Church. Formerly on this hill there was a small chapel dedicated to St. Michele Archangel, which was partially destroyed by a Pisani invasion. Following to the extraordinary finding of the wooden statue of the Virgin Mary and the Child at sea, the former chapel was enlarged and dedicated to Santa Maria a Mare (Our Lady from the sea). Furthermore in 1505 the Church was raised to the title of Collegiate, its status being later confirmed by Leone X in 1514 and then by Paolo V in 1647, receiving even more privileges in 1695 by Innocenzo XII. In 1769 the Statue of the Virgin Mary and the Child was crowned and made solemn. Unfortunately the two golden crowns, one for the Virgin Mary and one for the child were stolen in 1802 however Maioresi were and are devout to their Saint Patron, that they taxed themselves to pay for two new crowns, forged in Rome and donated to the statue in 1804.
During the centuries the collegiate was sacked many times, and the huge amount of ornaments and precious decorations were stolen. Nonetheless the Church is absolutely stunning still today.
The entrance to the nave is towered by a magnificent organ which was built at the beginning of the XX century by Zeno Fedeli and was restored to its original sound during the latest renovation in 2003. The most beautiful element is certainly the coffered ceiling with gold and precious stones decorations that runs above the nave, it was commissioned to Alessandro de Fulco by local noble families in 1529.
One of the many refurbishments brought back to light XVI century columns and capitals.
On the main altar, decorated with polychrome marbles stands the legendary XV century wooden statue. From the left aisle there is access to the XVIII century sacristy with a Greek-cross structure, where not only there is a balcony with a gorgeous view on Ravello and Atrani, but also there is an alabaster gothic altar with English school bas-reliefs and a small ebony and ivory relic casket.
The Sacred Art Museum is in the XVIII century crypt, with a maiolica tiled floor there are ancient columns and more relic busts, among which there are St. Clemente's relics which were transported here from Rome in 1789.
Despite the numerous sacks, the Church still hosts many paintings and a large bell from 1334, which is the only one spared out of the original eleven. The Museum hosts a large collection of paintings and sculptures from the XV century onwards as well as an important collection of Neapolitan silver manufacturing tradition.