to step back in time quite a few centuries to make sense
of those names. The Kingdom of Naples was a separate state
between 1150 and 1860. During those centuries, "foreign"
communities of merchants and diplomats developed in the
capital city, Naples; thus, in the same sense that there
are today in Naples churches serving the English and
German communities, for example, there were for many
centuries churches in Naples serving those from Genoa,
Florence and elsewhere. The above-mentioned "Spanish"
church was in fact a major church and monastery (now the
Naples city hall) built by the Spanish at the beginning of
the viceroyal tenure in Naples (1500). It was named "of
the Spanish" to distinguish it from the older church "of
the Italians" and that latter name goes way back to 1328
and was a tribute to honor sailors from Pisa whose fleet
rested in the port of Naples for a while on the way home
from a victory over the Saracens further south the year
before. They were "Italians" as opposed to "Neapolitans".
In the same
fashion, the Kingdom of Naples (or the Kingdom of the Two
Sicilies) had its own churches "abroad." One of the best
known of these is the Chiesa
dello Spirito Santo dei Napoletani (photo,
above). It is located in the Regola district of Rome on via
Giulia. The original premises included a monastery and were
dedicated to Sant'Aurea, martyred in Ostia in the third
century. In its long history, the church has also been
called Sant'Eustasio. The new church was built between 1574
and 1619 by the Neapolitan Confraternity of the Holy Spirit.
The design for the new church was probably by Domenico Fontana, very
active in Rome before his move to Naples, where he was the
architect for the new Royal Palace in 1600. The Church of
the Neapolitans underwent rebuilding at the beginning of the
1700s and again in the 1850s. By the mid-1900s, however, the
church was in very poor condition and was closed; it was
finally restored in the mid-1980s and reopened.
Among the art
work in the church is the Martyrdom
of San Gennaro, the last work by the great
Neapolitan painter of the Baroque, Luca Giordano. Also, for a
number of years, the church held the remains of the last
king and queen of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and those
of their infant daughter —that is, King Francis II, Queen Maria Sofia, and
Princess Maria Cristina Pia. Those remains were moved to the
Church of Santa Chiara
in Naples in 1984.