The Basilica of Santa Maria a Pugliano is the main church in Ercolano and the oldest church in the area around Mount Vesuvius.
The church contains two pagan marble sarcophagi from the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, later adapted into Christian altars, probably in the 11th century. There are records of an oratory dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the 11th century on a hill called Pugliano, whose name probably derives from the 'praedium pollianum', a farm on the outskirts of Ercolano belonging to someone called Pollio or Pollione. One noblewoman in Naples in 1076 left legacies to various churches in the city as well as to 'S.Maria at Pugnanum tari 8'. Her will is the oldest document that confirms the existence and the high reputation of the church in the 11th century. During the following centuries the church's popularity increased more and more and pilgrims flooded here from everywhere. In the early years after the Council of Trent the church obtained formal acknowledgement of its eminence: in 1574 was first mentioned as "basilica"; two years later became the parish church of Resina and Portici and by papal bull on 13 June 1579 Pope Gregory XIII confirmed the plenary indulgences of his predecessors to the pilgrims visiting the church on the first Friday of March, Easter Day and 15 August, Assumption day. In that century main works were made to enlarge and embellish the church. During the eruption of 1631 the churc was miraculously spared by the lava. Some years later a new street (via Pugliano) was built on the solidified lava to easily reach the church from the town centre. On 18 October 1849 Pope Pius IX, hosted in the royal palace of Portici by the king of Naples during his exile from Rome, visited the basilica.
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