O’ Munaciello

Madrina Club Blog

There are many folk figures who nurture the vivid world of Neapolitan fantasy and legends, but a place of honor belongs to the Munaciello.  The Munaciello is one of the spirits of the house, sometimes benevolent, sometimes naughty, depicted as a small monk who sneaks secretly into Neapolitan houses, often to leave money but much more often to cause shame or mishap the poor tenants. But who is the Munaciello really? Matilde Serao in his book “Leggende Napoletane”; identifies him as a character who really existed under the Aragonese kingdom of Alfonso V, during 1445, a child born of the clandestine love between the daughter of a rich merchant and a shop boy. The small child, born deformed, would have been forced by his mother to go around covered by a habit to hide his horrifying appearance. Another legend, on the other hand, wants him to be one of the guardians of the wells of Naples, so minatureand agile as to be able to slip into all the tunnels of the underground of Naples, enter the houses and have his way with the women. “Munaciello!”.  The married women would say, guilty of some amorous escapade,to justify an unexpected unborn children.  But there are many stories about the Munaciello, and almost all true: in the Pantheon of Neapolitan ghosts, together with the Bella Mbriana, one can say he occupies one of the podiums of the ghosts.