| Naples: Life, Death & Miracles
| link to a Google search page HERE
main index © Jeff Matthews
The church and adjacent monastery of the Spirito Santo are near the northwest corner of the old historic city on via Roma (also known by the original Spanish name of via Toledo). The refurbished monastery now houses the architecture department of the University of Naples. (The photo, left, is in the courtyard of those premises. The photo of the courtyard, right, is from 1890-1900.)
The church and monastery got off to a false start, so to speak, in 1562, when Pope Pius IV gave the Dominican order the go-ahead for a plan to build a "conservatory" (meaning, here, "shelter") for prostitutes, their children, and the poor, in general. The early construction was demolished under viceroy Alcalà in order to expand the main road leading north out of the city. New construction at the present site began, however, soon thereafter and was generally complete by 1600 although additional construction continued well into the 1700s. At one time or another, great Neapolitan architects such as Ferdinando Fuga and Luigi Vanvitelli contributed to the final product. Many of the paintings and works in marble commissioned for the original complex are still preserved within the church. The premises served not only to "conserve" the destitute, but to teach them a trade, one of which was music; the use of "conservatory" to mean "music school" stems from this usage at this and similar institutions in Naples.
The ex-monastery of Sant'Andrea delle Dame, which today is part of the University of Naples School of Medicine, was founded in 1583 to house the order of Augustine hermits. The church interior, with a single aisle and no transept, preserves its late-16th-century layout; the presbytery displays rich marble wall decorations created by the Ghetto brothers in the last quarter of the 17th century, after a design of Giovanni Domenico Vinaccia.
The building is almost at the top of the northwest height of the historic city of Greco-Roman Neapolis and is not far from presumed site of the ancient Greek acropolis. The conversion of this site to a medical building was part of the massive construction in the early 1900s to convert the quarter into a modern hospital zone with medical school. This entailed tearing down a number of ancient buildings to erect the new hospital and the incorporation of other old structures, including Sant'Andre delle Dame, into the hospital facilities. The courtyard is open from the main entrance and may be visited.
Santa Maria della Redenzione dei Captivi was founded under the name of Santa Maria della Mercede by a pious association set up in 1548 to redeem the Christians captured by the Muslims. ("Saracen" raids were common in those days along the shores of the kingdom.) The church was renovated in the 18th century following the latest dictates of the Neapolitan rococo; the church is characterized by the magnificent, almost theatrical design of the facade by architect Ferdinando San Felice. It was here that Alfonso Maria de Liguori, future saint and celebrated author of Canti di Natale (Christmas Songs) took the vows to enter the priesthood. The location is fitting since the church is adjacent to the music conservatory and at the top of the street, via San Sebastiano, long known for the presence of a great number of music shops. (There is a lovely, active monastery and church on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius named for Liguori.)
[There is an historical display on the premises of the Bank if Naples about S.M. della Redenzione dei Captivi. See this link for the text of that display.]
San Giuseppe a Chiaia is on the street named Riviera di Chiaia, now the inner road running along the north side of the long public park, the Villa Comunale. When the church was built, however, in the early 1600s, it was seaside property, the park being a much later addition to Neapolitan topography. The original chapel was built by Father Flaminio Magnato as a Jesuit convalescent home. After the expulsion of the Jesuits from Naples it became a nautical school, and in 1817, King Ferdinand I had it converted into a home for the blind. It is again a church. According to historian Vittorio Gleijeses, it once housed a religious relic that is the source of an amusing Neapoplitan expression.
[Further mention of this church here.]
[Also, there is a longer article on this church by Selene Salvi here.]
Santa Maria Apparente is a high and imposing church about halfway along the length of the street named Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. That street is one of the main east-west thoroughfares in Naples and starts at Piedigrotta in the west (where the Mergellina train station now stands), runs up the hill and then east all the way to a point above the National museum, a distance of about two km. The road was built in the mid-1800s, so when this church was built--in the late 1500s--the area was truly bucolic, set, as it is, below the height of San Martino. The church was commissioned by Brother Filippo da Perugia and the original architect was Giovan Battista Cavagna. The buildings adjacent to the church formed part of the original monastic complex, which was then expanded between 1634 and 1656. The monastery was closed in the late 1700s and for a while served as a prison, housing inmates jailed in the wake of the 1799 insurrection that led to the short-lived Neapolitan Republic as well as prisoners arrested after the turmoil of the 1848 revolts. The original plan for the main street in front of the church called for major road-straightening, a bridge, and demolition of some of the nearby buildings, none of which came to fruition; thus, the high double stairway entrance to the church sits directly on a curve. In the form that one sees it today, the stairway was rebuilt in 1930.
Santa Maria di Montecalvario is in the heart of the Spanish Quarter of Naples. The church was founded in 1560 with a donation by the Neapolitan noblewoman Ilaria d'Apuzzo. It was consecrated as a Franciscan establishment in 1574. This church, too, was originally part of a monastic complex. The monastery was one of the many that were closed in Naples during the brief French rule of the kingdom in the early 1800s. For some years it served as a barracks. The church has been maintained since 1923 by fathers of the Mercedari Order. Among the many art works of interest in the church are some attributed to Giacomo di Cosenza, but, in any event, to the school responsible for introducing into the Kingdom of Naples in the 1520s the modern styles of Raffaello and Michelangelo.
Chiesa del Cenacolo (Church of the Last Supper) is on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a short distance from Santa Maria Apparente (above). As churches go in Naples, it is relatively recent; it stems from the early 1800s. It was originally the chapel in a rest home for the elderly, the structure that surrounds this small church on both sides and which has since been converted to other uses. The Cenacolo is the first church in Naples run by the laity.
to main index