Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Oct 2012      

he Church of San Diego all'Ospedaletto

San Diego all'Ospedaletto, also known as San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) Maggiore, is on via Medina one block south of the main post-office. In 1514 Giovanna Castriota Scanderbergh, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Joan III, ordered the construction of a chapel dedicated to Saint Joachim as well as a small hospital ("Ospedaletto") for indigent nobles. When Castriota died, the hospital came into the possession of the Franciscan Friars Minor of the Observance. Work on the building of a new church and the conversion of the hospital into a monastery started in 1595; from that time on, the complex, dedicated to Saint Diego of Alcal√†, was called San Diego all'Ospedaletto. The monastery was built onto the north side of the church (on the left in this photo) and was connected to the church  through a passage on the north side of the church. The courtyard had archways in grey piperno stone on each side and a central well. Since the premises of the monastery now serve other purposes (it's a police station, as are a number of other ex-monasteries in Naples), that entrance is closed. The front entrance to the church, itself, is closed. The entire church has been closed for decades, and, as far as I know, there are no plans to reopen it.

Various sources cite earthquakes in 1688 and 1784 as being responsible for great damage to the church and for many important works being lost, including frescoes by Massimo Stanzione and Andrea Vaccaro. They were replaced by works by Angelo Mozzillo and Andrea Mattei. The church was also badly damage during the bombings of 1943, which caused the collapse of the vault and the tribune. All that remains of the original decorative art are the frescoes by Battistello Caracciolo in the vault and the paintings that make up the Stories of the Virgin, located in the lunettes in the large chapel on the left. They are probably also by Caracciolo, although some sources attribute them to a lesser known, but significant, painter of the Neapolitan Baroque, Michele Ragolia. (His best known work is not in Naples, but rather in Polla, south of Salerno, in the Cilento area (#9 on this map); a remarkable 40-painting display on the ceiling of the Sanctuary of Sant' Antonio in that town.) In the last chapel on the right there is a painting of the Passing of Saint Joseph by Massimo Stanzione (1640). At the side of the entrance stand the two funeral monuments (visible in the above photo) of the princes of Piombino,
done in 1703-1704 by Giacomo di Colombo to drawings by Francesco Solimena. The monastery, suppressed in 1808, was used by the police forces of the Royal Garrison following WWI. On that occasion, the arches on the south side of the cloister were cut to permit motor vehicle traffic. As noted, those premises are currently a police barracks. The fact that the church is closed means that you just can't walk in and try to clear up some of the confusion about the artwork on your own. Published guide books with photos of the interior exist, but those photos were taken by special arrangement with the city administration.

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