| Naples: Life, Death & Miracles
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Santa Maria Donnaregina
The church of Santa Maria Donnaregina is one block from the Duomo. The church that we see today was built between 1307 and 1320 by Mary of Hungary, wife of Charles II of Anjou, and is on the site of an ancient monastic complex dating back to the eighth century. The pillars which form the three naves support the Nuns' choir, which preserves on its walls frescoes by Pietro Cavallini and assistants. They date from the second decade of the 14th century and are a good example of Neapolitan Gothic mural decoration. In the left wall is the tomb of Mary of Hungary, a work by Tino Camaino. The remains of the flooring of the original, primitive church are assembled on a panel in a nearby chamber. Among items of artistic interest is the series of frescoes on the wall, attributed to the Roman artist Filippo Rusuti and his students. They depict The Last Judgment, the Prophets, and the Apostles. (See update, below.)
Update: June 2009
Since October 2007, the church has housed the new Diocesano Museum. ("Diocesan" in English is the adjective from "diocese," the area under the jurisdiction of a bishop; thus, the museum is the Diocese Museum. It is, in fact, directly across from the residence of the archbishop of Naples.)
The restoration and conversion to a museum has been spectacularly successful (photo, right). There are two floors containing hundreds of items of religious art on permanent display, including works by Solimena, Falcone, Giordano and de Matteis; there are also unique items such as a collection of reliquary crosses. There are also a great many anonymous works, often displayed prominently in the six side chapels on either side of the single nave. Special items on temporary display, such as the current (May-July 2009) exhibit dedicated to a recently found wooden sculpture of the Crucified Christ by Michelangelo, are shown in a special area—what used to be the large choir loft at the front of the church above the main altar.
Technically, the church is called "Donna Regina Nuova" (new) to distinguish it from the nearby Donna Regina Vecchia (old). Originally, it was all a single complex. The old church dates back to the eighth century. After the earthquake of 1293, Queen Mary of Hungary, wife of Charles II of Anjou, decided to build a new convent on the site, where she also wanted to be buried. Then, the nuns of Donna Regina decided to build the new church (above), while the old one stayed within the confines of the convent. Today, Donna Regina Vecchia houses a museum for contemporary art named the Museo Madre (an acronym for Museo d'Arte Donna Regina).
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