At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The Blessed Vincent Romano

Priest who devoted himself to helping the poor


The Blessed Vincent Romano came from a poor family
The Blessed Vincent Romano came
from a poor family
The Blessed Vincent Romano, a priest from Torre del Greco on the Bay of Naples who became known for his tireless devotion to helping the poor, was born on this day in 1751.

Admired for his simple way of life and his efforts in particular to look after the wellbeing of orphaned children, he was nicknamed “the worker priest” by the local community. His commitment to helping poor people extended across the whole Neapolitan region.

He would demonstrate his willingness to roll up his sleeves in a different way in 1794 after his church – now the Basilica of Santa Croce – was all but destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.

Not only did Romano devote many hours to organising the rebuilding he actually cleared a good deal of rubble with his own hands.

He was born Vincenzo Domenico Romano to poor parents in Naples. He developed a strong faith as a child and began to study for the priesthood in Naples at the age of 14.

He was ordained as a priest in 1775 and assigned to Torre del Greco, where he led a simple and austere life.

Camillo de Vito's painting shows Torre del Greco  engulfed by fire after the 1794 eruption
Camillo de Vito's painting shows Torre del Greco
engulfed by fire after the 1794 eruption
The eruption of Vesuvius in June 1794 destroyed most of Torre del Greco as a lava flow swept down to the sea, bringing down and the church and part of the bell tower.

Romano, then assistant pastor and treasurer of the church, promoted its reconstruction. The rebuilding began in 1795 and continued over many years, ending with the consecration of the new structure in 1827.

Miraculous events seemed to accompany the reconstruction, including the arrival of a ship from Libya loaded with timber, which was offered as a gift for the construction of roof trusses. No one could explain this act of generosity nor knew who had commissioned it.

The new church was designed by Ignazio di Nardo, who was also responsible for the urban plan for the reconstructed city.

After the death of the incumbent parish priest in 1799, Romano became the provost of the parish, part of his mission being to promote the better education of children. He welcomed all people into his church.

Pope Paul VI, who beatified Romano in 1963
Pope Paul VI, who beatified Romano in 1963
Romano died in December 1831 after a long period of ill health. His remains are housed in the Basilica.

The beatification process began under Pope Gregory XVI in 1843 when Romano given the title of Servant of God. In 1895 he was declared to be Venerable after Pope Leo XIII recognized that Romano had lived a life of heroic virtue.

He was beatified by Pope Paul VI in November 1963 after the necessary two miracles received papal approval.

The first was the healing of Maria Carmela Restucci in December 1891 from an aggressive breast tumour after she had invoked the patronage of Romano, her recovery confirmed by her doctor as something unexplained by science and medicine.

The second was the healing of Maria Carmela Cozzolino in 1940 from an ailment diagnosed by her doctor as throat cancer but which miraculously disappeared when she appeared to be nearing death after she invoked the intercession of Romano. Again, the cure could not be explained.

Travel tip:

Torre del Greco was once part of Magna Graecia – Great Greece – in the eighth and seventh centuries BC but its name is thought to originated in the 11th century AD when a Greek hermit was said to have occupied an eight-sided costal watch tower called Turris Octava. From the 16th century it became popular with wealthy families and even Italian nobility, who built elaborate summer palaces there. In the 19th century and early 20th century Torre del Greco enjoyed its peak years as a resort to which wealthy Italians flocked, both to enjoy the sea air and as a point from which to scale Vesuvius via a funicular railway. A thriving café scene developed, and the art nouveau Gran Caffè Palumbo became famous across the country.  Since the 17th century it has been a major producer of coral jewellery.

The rebuilt Basilica of Santa Croce in Torre del Greco
Travel tip:

Built originally at the beginning of the 16th century, the Basilica of Santa Croce is the religious heart of Torre del Greco and houses the remains of the Blessed Vincent Romano. It was rebuilt after the Vesuvius eruption in 1794 and now overlooks Piazza Santa Croce in the historic centre of the town. Other buildings of note include the 18th century Palazzo Vallelonga and the Camaldoli alla Torre monastery.


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