The plans for the church
were drawn up in 1622 by the Society
of Jesus (the Jesuits), and the church was
opened in 1665 after some years of interrupted
construction. It was originally dedicated to St. Francis Xavier
(San Francesco Saverio, in Italian) friend of St.
Ignatius Loyola and one of the members of the first
company of Jesuits. The interior of the church still
displays numerous works of art depicting the life
and missionary activities of St. Francis Xavier,
including a—by today's ecumenical
standards—"politically incorrect" painting of Paolo de Matteis' The
Triumph of Religion over Heresy through St.
Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, St.Francis Borgia
and the three Japanese martyrs, while Mohammed is
cast down with the Koran. Some prominent works
have gone missing over the centuries, including a
painting by Salvator Rosa, or have been moved to
other premises (such as a painting by Luca Giordano
that is now at the Capodimonte Museum). The church was rededicated to San
Ferdinando when the Jesuits were expelled from
Naples in 1767. The façade of the church has
recently undergone restoration.
For many years, the
church of San Ferdinando was thought to be one of
the many creations of Cosimo
Fanzago; however, a document in the holdings
of the San Martino museum in Naples and signed by Giangiacomo Conforto
(1569-1631) shows that the original plan was that of
Conforto. Fanzago's finished church differs only in
some small details.