Damn a culonna! At the origins of the popular saying

by Arianna Giannetti

Damn 'culonna! " How often do you happen to hear it?

I've always imagined Naples like a purple and colored woman who gets upset, lingers and inveighs, then suddenly subsides, but only for a moment, ready to scream and squawk even more. It has always given me the idea of a complex and threatening creature, attractive and calm, but ready to launch first your own attack.

The people who live there she goes crazy for Naples: first he loves it, defends it, "Naples is the most beautiful city in the world". Then he curses her, denies everything, "here everything sucks: 'to rubbish,' to the Camorra, 'to politics". Yet he worships her. It is such a demanding, tiring relationship, it is really difficult to clarify your heart. I believe that any Neapolitan experiences this ambivalence within himself. How many times do I dream and think of going away to study far away and instead then I find myself with sparkling and curious eyes in front of this open air show, made up of skits and theaters, noise, suddenly I feel lucky, suddenly I understand how much a privilege it is to live in this city.

mannaggia 'a culonna


It's been a month since a Naples rains. Let's say it rains so to speak why it pours, the whole sky has decided to pour into the streets and flood the squares, now there is a new tour of the boys of the Kayak Naples which starts from Posillipo and gets to Capodimonte, to then go back down to the Aminei Hills up to via Marina, in short also Naples in Venetian style invaded by canals and canals, it can now be visited by canoe or gondola according to preferences and needs. And in this cheerful atmosphere of thunder and lightning, the protagonist of that epiphany for the drafting of the weekly article was my mother on a dreary morning in late November. It was raining, as usual in the land of the sun. I was having a coffee tight tight and the desire to go to the University had slipped right under the shoes.

But go with the moped up to Fuorigrotta?

Yes mom…

Holy Maronna !! Unfortunate! Damn 'culonna!

There it was, magnificent and beautiful, an invective that suddenly sparked all my curiosity. Mom, but what does that mean Damn 'culonna?

And so here we are finally at us. What does this ancient Neapolitan saying refer to?


Piazza Ottocalli, mannaggia 'a culonna!
Ottocalli square

The history of the extraordinary column has very ancient origins, in fact it refers to an anecdote that dates back to 1500. The marble column was located in Ottocalli square in the neighborhood San Carlo all'Arena, so called for the eight duty horses (horses were a copper coin in use at the time) which had to be paid in order to enter the city. The column, which was located near the Church of Saints John and Paul, had magical powers: he was able to influence and dominate time according to the needs and complaints of the people.

Precisely for this reason it was revered, and from a simple superstition it soon passed to a real popular belief!

It is reported in some written testimonies of the time that, in periods of Drought the parish priest of the church would process the mass a right of the column, in order to gracefully ask for cooler and humid temperatures for crops, and in periods of heavy rain and atmospheric disasters, a left, so as to bring back a mild, temperate and dry climate.

The end of tradition: damn 'a culonna!

This beautiful and dear tradition to the Neapolitan people stopped abruptly in 1590 by thearchbishop Annibale of Capua. He decided to tear down the column to arrest a now declared one superstition and to prevent the spread of a highly pagan ritual.

After this terrible decision, the people fell into despair. People relied on the column to recover from their anxieties and to find consolation and support for their fears. The loss of that pillar in the lives of citizens was a hard blow to accept.

But soon, as happens in these cases, nothing remains in a state of rest and each system seeks the new condition of equilibrium. So it happened for the column which, halfway between "folkloristic quote and blasphemy“, Today he returns to our homes and our streets to indicate a situation that did not go as we had foreseen. An expression, damn 'a culonna, attributed at the time to thecollapse of the column which had led to the bad outcome of the wish, and which today is instead used, in a less noble way, so as not to insult those in front of us!

Arianna Giannetti

Bibliography & sitography

[1] https://napolipiu.com/lo-sai-perche-si-dice-mannaggia-a-culonna Napolipiù.com

[2] https://www.latestatamagazine.it/2019/06/23/mannaggia-a-culonna/ Latestatamagazine.it

[3] Gino Doria, The streets of Naples, R. Ricciardi, 1971, p. 331.

[4] Romualdo Marrone, The streets of Naples, in This Italy, vol. 233, Rome, Newton & Compton, 1996, p. 650, ISBN 88-8183-426-X.

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