The Marina Grande (Large Seashore) is the harbor of Capri, located in the bay on the north side of the island, in front of Naples and its gulf. The harbor consists of two large arms. The western one is the former and it works as a commercial port, where ferries and hydrofoils berth, while the east arm is the latter and it is occupied by the tourist port, where pleasure boats park.
The commercial port was built in 1928, as an extension of a small preexisting reef. Until that moment, ferries did not land on the seashore. They lied at anchor in the bay while passengers and goods were carried by fishermen from Marina Grande on the island with their boats. That technique is still used nowadays for cruise ships. The tourist port had been built about thirty years ago and was initially aimed at dividing the goods transport from passengers. But, its function was turned to host tourist boats, whose arrivals increased enormously in the last years.
The village of Marina Grande is very old. Among its renovated buildings we can see some structures and passages from previous houses, that were initially built right upon the shore, a few meters of distance from the sea. Many paintings and prints from past centuries represent Marina Grande into its original appearance, with few buildings collected in the area now comprised between the commercial port entrance and Largo Fontana (Fountain Square). They are very suggestive pictures showing what had seen by the first astonished tourists who came to the island.
The Church of San Costanzo is on a higher place, in the district of Aiano di Sotto. It is the most ancient catholic building on the island. As reported by the tradition, Costanzo Patriarch of Constantinople, while he was coming back home from Rome, escaped to a violent storm and landed fortunately on the isle of Capri. He interpreted his rescue as a God will and decided to settle on the island with his disciples in order to convert inhabitants to Christianity. His relics had been kept inside the church he founded and from then he has been worshipped as Patron Saint of Capri.
In 987 A.D. the Archbishop of Amalfi created the diocese of Capri and replaced the old Christian church with a new one in Byzantine style. The church of San Costanzo was the seat for the Bishop of Capri until 1596 when they decided to move the seat into the new cathedral in the center of Capri that was better protected from Muslim pirates (here still called Saracens). This transfer caused the rivalry between Capresi (inhabitants of center) and the “Greeks” (people from Marina Grande). Since then, even if once a year the relics of San Costanzo are carried here and kept for a week during the festivity of the Patron in May to recall the origin of the worship, the religious paths were definitively separated and the Marina Grande chose another Patron, the Madonna Della Libera (Our Lady of Freedom, once again against Saracens), whose festivity is on September. Also, the Church took her name in 1972.
The Byzantine church, with central symmetry, was deeply rearranged by Counts Arcucci (the family of Charterhouse’s founder) in the 14th century. He enlarged the church with a high presbytery covered with a cross vault on the Southern side, and with a porch and the current facade on the opposite side. In this way, they changed the traditional sense of direction of the old Christian churches (from the West to the East) to an unusual disposition from North to the South. They left inside some precious columns taken from the near Roman villa, which were removed in the 18th century and placed inside the Royal Palace of Caserta.
In the wide area near the Church of San Costanzo, there is the villa of Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus. Nowadays there are only remains of the villa on the coastline, in a place called “Bagni di Tiberio” (Tiberius Baths). The nucleus of Augustus’ villa was higher, and today it is occupied by the buildings owned by Williams Bismark, also known as “Fortino” (Blockhouse).