Celebration in Amalfi for Byzantine New Year’s Eve

The long-awaited event returns to the Amalfi Coast. Wearing the damask chlamys with a white cross will be Marisa Cuomo, the lady of wine, who in the church of S. Salvatore de Birector will receive the title of Magister of Amalfi Civilization.

August 31st, 2022. By Anna Volpicelli, cover photo by Andrea Lucibello

Medieval atmospheres dress the towns of Amalfi and Atrani to celebrate for two days-Aug. 31 and Sept. 1-the long-awaited Byzantine New Year. An important event for the entire Amalfi Coast that retraces the stages of a crucial moment in the history of the Amalfi Republic. 


In the Middle Ages, the Byzantine New Year marked the beginning of the fiscal and agricultural year of the Eastern Empire, of which Amalfi was a peripheral autonomy. At that time, on September 1st, the establishment was inaugurated, a system, that is, of fifteen-year cyclical dating used by the curials, who were responsible for drawing up public and private acts. In the days of the monarchy, this date marked the coronation ceremony of the duke through the assumption of the ducal cap, the symbol of his power.

The contemporary version

Organized by the Municipality of Amalfi in collaboration with the Municipality of Atrani and the Centro di Cultura e Storia Amalfitana, the modern version of the Byzantine New Year was born in 1980 from an idea of Giuseppe Gargano, an Amalfi historian, and medievalist. 

The event, which has always involved the towns of Amalfi and Atrani, the only civitas of the Amalfi Republic until the middle of the 11th century, brings back to life the historical procession where more than 100 historical characters will parade wearing the costumes of the time and peep at the church of S. Salvatore de Birecto in Atrani, palatine chapel and site of the coronation of the dukes of Amalfi. 

Here will take place the bestowal of the Magister of Amalfi Civilization, which is awarded annually to a personality of origin or adoption from the territory of the ancient seafaring durum who has distinguished herself for particular merits in one of the prominent areas of medieval Amalfi civilization.

Marisa Cuomo Magister di Civiltà Amalfitana in Costa d'Amalfi 2022
Photo Courtesy Marisa Cuomo

A woman Magister of Amalfi Civilization

This year, Amalfi is dedicating the 22nd edition of the event to the Historical Rural Landscape. The title of Magister of Amalfi Civilization will go to Marisa Cuomo, the lady of wine who, since 1982 in Furore, has led the award-winning family business Cantine Marisa Cuomo with her husband, Andrea Ferraioli. 

The first woman to become an entrepreneur in the wine business, Marisa Cuomo is considered a pioneer in enology, which brought the territory as early as 1995 to obtain the appellation of controlled origin for its wines. “Over the years,” she tells us movingly, “we have won numerous national and international awards, but to receive such an important recognition from the city of Amalfi and the Amalfi Coast is an emotion that cannot be described”

After gallery owner Lia Rumma, Marisa Cuomo is the second woman to wear the damask chlamys with a white cross. “It was an unexpected announcement. One day Amalfi Mayor Daniele Milano called me and said he had to meet me to talk to me about something. I thought he wanted support for an event or something, so I thought he wanted to talk to my husband. When, instead, he knocked on the door, he asked for me. I greeted him, and he informed me of the title. I was speechless,” she says with simplicity and much emotion.

The program

The celebration of the Byzantine New Year will open on August 31 with a conference on the Amalfi Middle Ages, a round table discussion whose theme will be “Wine Routes on the Amalfi Coast. Cultivation, production, and trade from the Middle Ages to the present.” 

A meeting held at the Arsenali della Repubblica di Amalfi coordinated by the director of the scientific committee of the Centro di Storia e Cultura Amalfitana Giovanni Camelia at which Domenico Camardo (The rural landscape and vine cultivation in the northern territory of the Amalfi Duchy), Mario Notomista (The wine of Gragnano and Lettere from the medieval to the modern age), Giuseppe Gargano (Greek wine, wine of the sea, the medieval wine-making in the Duchy of Amalfi) and Simone Lucibello (From the bunch to the cup. Artistic visions from the preservation of the vine and wine production between Romans and the Middle Ages). 

An interview with Marisa Cuomo will follow it. On September 1, however, the heart of the event in Atrani, will crown the rite of the bestowal of the Magister of Amalfi Civilization. A practice in vogue from 839, the year of the birth of the autonomous republic, to the first part of the 10th century, only to be revived with the institution of the annual election of representatives of the Amalfi Coast Universities in 1266 during the Angevin era, and continuing until the Bourbons. 

Opening the re-enactment will be Sbandieratori e Musici Città Regia (Royal City Flag-wavers and Musicians), who will perform in Piazza Duomo at the same time as the departure of the Amalfi Historical Procession, which will wind its way from the majestic staircase to the Church of San Salvatore de’ Birecto. The event will conclude, in Amalfi’s Piazza Duomo, with a fire show by the “Opera Fiammae” company.