It is nearly impossible to descend to Positano's beach without landing first in front of the Santa Maria Assunta church. The famously green tile domed church is the town's most famous icon and eagerly sought after by painters and photographers, as well as couples from all over the world seeking the perfect wedding photo backdrop.
The church's roots date back to the 10th century when it began as a Benedictine Abbey dedicated to San Vito. It was later rededicated to the Virgin Mary in the 12th century when a Byzantine panel of the Virgin arrived and is seen placed above the church's altar. According to one legend, this panel was aboard a sailing ship that stranded in the area due to a calm sea. After numerous attempts to set sail again, the sailors heard a voice saying, "Rest, rest." The captain reasoned the voice to be of the Virgin telling him to leave the panel with the people of the village. When he did, the winds returned and the ship continued on its journey.
Another legend tells of the panel being stolen by pirates. When they tried to leave Positano's shores, a terrible sea arose preventing their passage. From sea, they could hear the cry of "posa, posa," translating to "put it here." The fearful pirates set the panel back on shore and the storm ceased, allowing them to flee the area. The villagers built a church on the spot where the panel was returned and the town grew around it taking on the name Positano.
More likely, the panel was brought to Positano by the Benedictine monks, but that's not nearly as interesting of a story to tell. Is it?
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