Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Oct 2004

Pio Monte della Misericordia: Church and Art Gallery

In 1601, driven by the charitable aspirations of the Counter Reformation, seven Neapolitan gentlemen founded a quasi-secular organization dedicated to taking care of the needy in Naples. Their original idea was to raise enough money to support a number of beds (places) in the Hospice for the Incurable. An early site for the organization was built almost immediately, but by mid-century the organization expanded into the premises that one sees today (photo), on via Tribunale, one block from a side entrance of the Naples Cathedral.

The building is the work of architect Francesco Antonio Picchiatti and was completed in 1670. It is directly across the street from the small square, Piazza Sisto Riario Sforza, in the center of which stands the oldest of the three well-known "spires of Naples", the 24-meter high Spire of San Gennaro, erected in 1636 and the work of Cosimo Fanzago. (The other two spires are at Piazza San Domenico Maggiore and Piazza del Gesù Nuovo.)

The two-story building rests on a portico of five arches and contains an art gallery on the first floor. The building was designed not to look like a church, though it does contain one on the premises. That interior church, too, is the work of Picchiatti and is built to an octagonal plan with seven altars. It is best known today for the presence of Caravaggio's spectacular and complicated painting, The Seven Acts of Mercy, one of the most influential works of art in the 17th century in Naples.

update Sept. 2014 - There is currently a dispute in Naples over the possible loan of The Seven Acts of Mercy. 

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