The inhabitants of a small town in the southern Italian region of Apulia, in the province of Lecce, have once again marked the anniversary of a devistating earthquake in their city with a celebration of the city’s Patron saint, Gregory the Illuminator.
Nardo’s inhabitants, who are non-Armenian, held a three day celebration starting February 20, in honor of the first Armenian Saint, who is believed by the city’s resident’s to be its protector.
On February 20, 1743, Nardo was hit by a devistating earthquake that destroyed almost the entire city. The only structure to survive in tact after the quake was the city’s statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator. According to the city’s registers, only 350 out of the city’s 10,000 inhabitants died in the earthquake, leading Nardo’s inhabitants to believe that St. Gregory saved the city. Every year, they mark the anniversary of the earthquake by holding three days of celebrations in his honor.
After Gregory’s death, his corpse was moved to a village near Erzincan and his remains were scattered far and near in the reign of Zeno.His head is believed to now be in Italy, his right hand at Echmiadzin, Armenia, and his left at the Holy See of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon.