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Miscellaneous churches 4            

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ore churches in various parts of Naples. Again, they are no less interesting for their inclusion under this "miscellaneous" rubric.

Santa Maria di Montesanto is the final resting place of Alessandro Scarlatti, the great composer of the Neapolitan Baroque. The original foundation of a church in Naples built by Carmelite fathers from Sicily was in 1640 on other premises, near the old San Bartolomeo theater, the original opera house in Naples. That proved too noisy an environment for the order and they moved to a new site at Montesanto, at the base of the San Martino hill, in 1646. The architect of the church and adjacent monastery was Pietro de Marino; the dome is by Dionisio Lazzari. It was finished in 1680.

The church contains a bust of San Gaetano, invoked by the people as a protector from the great plague of 1656 and at the origin of a typically Neapolitan story. Farmers coming down to this church from the San Martino hill had to walk a ways along the outside of the city wall and come in through the major Royal Gate past the church of the Spirito Santo. Rather than do all that walking, they simply knocked a hole in the wall nearer to their church and came straight on in. The Spanish viceroy at the time, Ramiro Guzman, finally caved in and officialized the hole, calling upon the great architect, Cosimo Fanzago, to make it into a worthy gate. He did, after which it was called Porta Medina. To the people, it was Porta "Pertuso"—Neapolitan dialect for "hole". All the walls and gates in that area were eliminated in the 1870s, and the guardian bust of San Gaetano, mounted over "The Hole", was moved into the church.

San Nicola alla Carità is on Via Toledo amidst a number of other churches and monasteries built as the Spanish expanded the city to the north along their new thoroughfare named for the great viceroy, Don Pedro de Toledo. In the early 1600s, the fathers of the Pii Operai order were concerned with caring for the sick in that area. In 1646, one of them, a Swiss named Giovan Battista Burgo, left the group enough money to buy the original building on the site; a small church was built on the premises in 1647. It was under expansion in 1656 when the great plague of that year broke out. Construction was halted and then restarted and finished by 1716. The order was suppressed by Murat and the premises given over to military use. The religious order was restored in 1819 and the church redone in 1843. The facade was designed by the great painter of the Neapolitan Baroque, Francesco Solimena. The interior of the church also contains his Storia di San Nicola.

Chapel of San Giovanni di Pappacoda
is in the heart of the historic center of Naples, one block east of the major road, via Mezzocannone, in the university district. It is across from the "Orientale" university of Naples in the square of San Giovanni Maggiore. The chapel was founded in 1415 by Artusio Pappacoda, a nobleman of the Angevin court. The chapel was redone in the 1770s and little remains of the original late-Gothic frescoes and ornamentation within the chapel, itself. 

The ornamental main portal is the work of Antonio Baboccio da Piperno (1351-1435), He was a goldsmith, architect and sculptor. (Since his name, Piperno, is also the name of one of the most used  kinds of rock used in building—"peperino" in English—used in building, one is tempted to think that his surname was derived from his craft (such as "Smith" or "Cartwright"). He is well known for his work on the cathedrals of Milan, Naples, and Messina, as well as works in France; he was one of the primary "cathedral builders" of the Angevin dynasty in France and Italy. Not seen in this photo is the small Gothic belfry on the north-east corner of the chapel. It, too, is by Piperno and was retained during the 18th-century restoration.

Santa Maria alla Carità. Like many of the other churches along via Toledo (aka via Roma), the small church of Sant Maria alla Carità with an adjacent monastery was established as a "conservatory"—that is, a shelter for destitute and sick women—in the mid-1500s. Interestingly, this was the beginning of the new age of larger hospitals in Naples, which fact diminished the need for smaller institutions such as Santa Maria alla Carità. The benevolent "conservatory,"  thus, was not financially able to support itself. The monastery was closed and reopened various times under various circumstances. The church, itself, was given to the confraternity of the Bianchi del Rosario in 1823; they remodelled it completely, giving the facade the appearance that it has to this day. The church is remembered for the visit of Pope Pius iX in 1848 as well as for the fact the premises hold a number of important documents relating to the lives of prominent Neapolitan artists of the 1600s, such as Battistello and Cavallino.

San Vitale is in Fuorigrotta, a western suburb of Naples, on the other side of the Posillipo hill. As early as 985 a.d. there is documentation of a church dedicated to Saint Vitalis (see Regii Neapolitani Archivi Monumenta, 11, Napoli 1849, p. 55). The presence of the cult of Vitalis may go back to as early as the 600s when Naples was a dependency of the Byzantine exarchate of Ravenna (where there is still prominent religious architecture dedicated to the saint.)

The well-known San Vitale church in Fuorigrotta that was simply called "the church" —it went without saying— goes back to the 1300s and was one of the most sacred and revered houses of worship in the area. That lasted until the 1930s when Mussolini's mega-builders, to the horror of the local population, decided to tear it down to make room for a broad new street to the brand new Mostra d'Oltemare, the overseas fairgrounds. The new church of San Vitale (photo), thus, is not really that old. It contains art and ornamentation from the original church and, most importantly, a plaque that informs you that this, from 1837 until 1939 (when the original church was demolished), was where the tomb of the greatest of all Italian Romantic poets, Giacomo Leopardi, was to be found. (When the demolition came, Leopardi's tomb was moved to the reputed final resting place of another poet, Virgil.)

Santa Maria degli Angeli a Pizzofalcone. In spite of the surrounding urban sprawl that has encroached upon this church since it was finished in 1610, it is still easy to see from many spots in the western part of the city.  In those days, if you walked out the front door of the church and turned right, you would within a few minutes be at the Pizzofalcone cliff overlooking the bay and the Egg Castle (Castel dell'Ovo). The property had originally (1587) been given to the Theatine order by Costanza del Carretto, d'Oria, princess of Melfi. The interior of the church is perfectly rectangular and is so strikingly symmetrical in the positions of the naves, transept and apse that an early comment on the structure was that it was "best-proportioned church in Naples." The church contains significant art from the 1600s and 1700s. Also, some damage done to the structure in WWII has been repaired. The Theatine monastic order was suppressed (as were all religious orders) by the government of Murat in 1808, and though the church remained open, the gardens and the monastery, itself, were taken over for other purposes. Today, for example, one part of the old monastery is now a military court-room; another has been incorporated into the adjacent Politeama , one of the most popular venues in Naples for plays and musical theater.

The church of Sant' Antonio Abate has an important place in the urban development of the city. It is located at the eastern end of via Forio, the long street that runs from the National Museum all the way to the other end of what was once the entire city of Naples. That area was below the entire northern wall of the city as it existed until the Spanish expanded it in the 1500s. The path of modern via Foria was actually a small river, fed partially by rain run-off from the heights of the city. Along that path and just outside the walls there grew up a number of church-run hospitals of which Sant'Antonio Abate was one. It is mentioned as early as the year 1313. The religious order, itself, is called the Antonines or the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony; it was founded in 1090 for the specific purpose of caring for the sick and, more precisely, for those afflicted with ergotism, a dreaded epidemic of the day now known to have been caused by the ingestion of infected grain. The disease produced convulsions, seizures and other symptoms and came to be called "St. Anthony's Fire" by those who cared for the afflicted.* The order found its way to Naples with the Angevin dynasty and built the Sant'Antonio Abate hospital to deal with those afflicted in Naples; it was not a hospital for lepers as some sources have claimed. The order was active here until the coming of the Aragonese dynasty in the 1400s.

The premises of this church-hospital have changed owners a few times since then and the current physical configuration is the result of centuries of rebuilding and transformation, some quite recent. As it appears now, the church still stands and has recently been painted. The rest of the original church/monastery/hospital complex has been subdivided over the centuries and taken over by secularism. Very secular—there's an antique shop and a hardware store, I believe, and a lot of the square block is just taken up by apartments.

*(added: June 2012) A correspondent, Larry Ray, reminds me that..."LSD is a derivative of ergot, a fungus that affects rye, wheat and other cereal grasses...The flowering head of an grain will spew out sweet, yellow-colored slime, called "honey dew," after it is infected. The "dew" contains fungal spores that can spread the toxicity, for centuries diagnosed as an unholy possession, madness or at least a disease instead of a powerful and potentially lethal toxin... So the victims treated at the original Sant'Antonio Abate on via Foria (so named, I have read, because the roadway was 'outside' the city walls and the roadway was used to take daily loads of trash out to various trash piles) were among the legions who were unwittingly taking a bad LSD trip, which includes the Salem Witches, and countless souls who were locked up, burned or otherwise treated badly for their bizarre behavior..."


San Gennaro al Vomero is one of the new churches in the Vomero, “new” meaning during the urban expansion of that section of Naples in the 1880s and 90s, a period that saw the opening of four new parishes in Vomero. The church was finished in 1892 and is located one block north of Piazza Vanvitelli. The design is classicheggiante —that is, in imitation of classical style—as is clear from the façade. The architect was Luigi Bottino. The church has had to undergo two restorations in its relatively brief history—one after the earthquake of 1930 and other after the quake of 1980.

There is significant artwork on the premises from earlier ages, including some from monasteries that no longer exist. The oldest work of art in the church is the oil painting on wood of The Life of Saint Benedict dated to 1475.

This small Neapolitan church, San Michele Arcangelo or San Michele a Port'Alba, from the 1600s has a single semi-oval mullioned clerestory symmetrically flanked by two pairs of pilasters on the facade! (I think. But one can never be sure about such things. Indeed, I asked a gentleman standing outside if he knew the technical name for that "thing [my term!] over the entrance." He said, "A window.") In any event, the facade is said to be a good example of Rococo architecture.

The church had been closed for a long time, but has now been restored (at least on the inside); as of February, 2011, it may be visited. (I am not aware that they are going to polish up the exterior. It is still grimey.) The church is on the south end of Piazza Dante fronting on one of the busiest streets in Naples. When it was first reopened, they left the doors wide open, so you could look in as you passed; it was a delightful surprise to turn away from the grim hustle and din of the city and glance into this small piece of the Neapolitan Baroque. It was so bright and gleaming inside that some of it leaked out the doorway and into the street. Passers-by saw it, felt it, and were sore afraid. The church was originally called Santa Maria della Providenza and was built around 1620 and then rebuilt in the 1700s by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro and expanded by Giuseppe Astarita. Artwork within the church includes paintings by Giuseppe Marullo and Vaccaro, himself.

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