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main index © Jeff Matthews entry May 2009
below, the large rectangular building left
of center is the old mint.
church represented the first presence in
Naples of the Augustinian religious order; the
property was given to the Augustinians by Robert
I of Anjou in 1259, a time when that dynasty had
not even fully secured its grip on the kingdom
and was still struggling against the descendants
of Frederick II of
Hohenstaufen. It was the first of the
three early Angevin additions to the city of
Naples, the other two being the construction of
a hospital at the church of S. Eligio and the
building of the church of S. Maria del Carmine.
(This was even before they got around to the Maschio Angioino, the
Angevin Fortress down at the port.) The new
church of Sant’Agostino was built next to an
earlier Basilian monastery with its even older
“Ademaria” tower (still standing). (The
“Ademaria” spelling is apparently correct and is
so cited in many sources without an explanation
of the etymolgy. If you are betting that it is
simply a miscopied version of “Avemaria”
that level of erudition is above my pay-grade.
It was also called the “Tower of Paleopoli,”
(Old City) a reference to the original
pre-Naples settlement of Parthenope,
but I don’t know why.) The Augustians
appropriated the monastery when they built the
church next door.
The 1780 date over the
entrance marks the Bourbon
In its very long history, the church/monastery was the site of the Augustinian university (1287); it was also severely damaged by an earthquake in 1456. It went through partial restoration in the late 1600s under the direction of the prominent architect, Bartolomeo Picchiati, and further restoration was completed by the Bourbons in 1780. The Augustinian monastic order was suspended (as were almost all others in Italy) after the unification of Italy in 1861; the risanamento was shortly thereafter, and since that time the church has fallen on hard times although my understanding is that it was actually used until the earthquake of 1980. It has now been closed since then, and I know of no exact catalogue of works of art in the church. Some have been moved to storage, some have been stolen, and some are probably still there. In any event, a list of the works that at least used to be on the premises include the magnificent statue of Saint Augustine Trampling Heresy by Giuseppe Sanmartino, one of the greatest of all Neapolitan sculptors and creator of the renowned Veiled Christ (on display in the Sansevero chapel in Naples); also, there are (or were) a number of paintings by Evangelista Schiano and Giacinto Diano, both noted Neapolitan artists from the mid-1700s.