© Jeff Matthews
These churches were certainly not "miscellaneous" to the people who built them, nor to those who have frequented them over the centuries in Naples. It's just that a separate item about each church in Naples would denude the cyberforests of the world. These, then, are the first entries of a potentially very long series noting the presence of the many small or less noticed churches in a city where—in 1700—ten percent of the population belonged to the clergy.
Santa Caterina a Formiello is
at the extreme eastern end of the old historic center of
the city, near the old eastern
wall of the city and the gate called Porta Capuana.
It was founded about 1510, completed in 1593, and
dedicated to the virgin martyr of Alexandria. It
constituted an important part of an ancient monastery that
originally belonged to the Celestine order and which
passed to the Dominican fathers after 1498. They kept it
until the 19th century, when the monastic
premises were closed and used as a wool factory.
Exceptional frescoes by Luigi Garzi from 1685 and various
16th century funeral monuments are kept within
the church. The church has a single-aisle Latin cross
interior covered by a barrel vault with five chapels on
San Giovanni a Carbonara
is at the northern end of via Carbonara, just outside what
used to be the eastern wall of the old city. The name carbonara
(meaning "coal-carrier") was given to this site allocated
for the collection and burning of refuse outside the city
walls in the Middle Ages. The monastery/ church complex of
San Giovanni, itself, was founded by Augustinians in 1343.
The church was completed in 1418 under King Ladislaus of
Durazzo, who turned the church into a Pantheon-like
tribute to the last of the Angevin rulers of Naples. It
was expanded over the course of the following three
centuries and contains sculptures and artwork of
considerable interest, including the chapels of Caracciolo
del Sole and Caracciolo di Vico.
Santa Caterina a Chiaia (photo left) is also known as Santa Caterina martire) and is near Piazza dei Martiri in the western, Chiaia section of the city. The church was built originally as a small family chapel by the Forti family and then ceded to the Franciscan order, which expanded it by 1600. The church that ones sees today, however, is the result of a series of remodelings, including one as late as 1732 in the wake of a serious earthquake in that year. The facade is characterized by a representation of the Martyrdom of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The main entrance is marked by a plaque commemorating a restoration of the facade in 1904. Art work in the interior is mostly dedicated to the life of Saint Catherine, including a prominent dome display by Gustavo Girosi from 1916.
The New Church of Santa Maria of Jerusalem —also known as the Church of the Thirty-Three is hidden away on via Pisanelli, a small street in the historic center of Naples. It was built in the second half of the 16th century and later demolished to make place for the present one, built at a right angle to the earlier church. Inside, there is stucco decoration and an 18th-century majolica floor. The small convent annexed to the church became, in 1539, home to a group of cloistered Capuchin sisters. The premises still serve that purpose. The church was called Thirty Three from the number of sisters who could be housed there, with a clear reference to the age of Christ at the time of the Crucifixion. (The photo on the right is as about as close as you're going to get. When they say "cloistered," they're not kidding, and when I say "hidden away", I mean invisible. A stealth nunnery.)
Santa Teresa a Chiaia is one of the many churches in Naples built by Cosimo Fanzago, the greatest architect of the Neapolitan Baroque. The church is two blocks in from the Villa Comunale in the western part of Naples. The original church and monastery on this site were from 1625 and belonged to the Carmelite Order. At the time, the area inland from the sea, in back of the string of seaside Spanish villas, was wooded and relatively bucolic. In the years between 1650 and 1664, a new complex was built by Fanzago, and it was quite large, occupying much of the land around the church that one sees today. The monastery was closed in the 1860s and various episodes of urban renewal—and in some cases, urban blight—have truncated the original complex such that, of the original premises that included gardens and such, only the church remains. Some care has been taken, however, to keep it looking the way it did when it was built. The facade is an excellent example of the Neapolitan Baroque. Within the church, there are significant examples of art work by Luca Giordano.
San Giuseppe dei Ruffi is in the historic center of the city, one
block north of the Cathedral of
Naples at the intersection of via dei Tribunali
and via Duomo. The site, itself, was originally the
location of the ancient monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli,
closed in the 1500s. In 1611 it was acquired by the
Ruffo family as a site for a new convent. Restructuring
the earlier premises was done to a design by Dionisio
Lazzari; the work was begun in 1669 and the new convent
was inaugurated in 1682, the work completed by Lazzari's
student, Giovan Domenico Vinaccia. The Ruffo family
retained the premises until 1828 when it was given over
to sisters of the Sacramentine order, who retain it to
this day. Much of the ornamentation in the church was
not completed until the early 1770's. Obviously, San
Giuseppe dei Ruffi has severe competition one block away
at the Cathedral; nevertheless, the interior of the
church is a spectacular example of the Neapolitan
Baroque and Rococo.
of the nearby buildings along the same north-south axis,
the original complex was truncated by the construction of
via Duomo, the broad, straight road that now connects
Corso Umberto in the south to via Foria on the northern
side of the historic center. That construction was part of
the Risanamento, the urban
renewal of Naples in the late 1800s.
San Pasquale. The church and adjacent monastery of San Pasquale are one short block to the north of the Villa Comunale and Riviera di Chiaia on San Pasquale square, between Piazza Vittoria and Mergellina. The complex goes back to 1749 when Charles III of Bourbon and his consort, Maria Amalia, had it built in thanks for having been blessed with a male heir to the throne. Church and monastery were given to the Fathers of Alcantarini Leccesi. The monastery was closed by the government of the new nation state of Italy in December of 1866. The premises contain significant art work of Antonio Sarnelli and Giacinto Diano.
degli Angeli delle Croci
is mentioned elsewhere in this encyclopedia, since the
courtyard and monastery of the original vast complex now
house the Department of
Veterinary Medicine of the university if Naples.
The church, itself, remains open as such; the façade
looks down from the end of via Michele Tenore, the street that
runs along the west side of the large Botanical Garden in Naples. (The
odd term delle Croci
[of the crosses] in the name of the church derives from
the crosses that used to be situated along the street
leading up to the church.) Those crosses were taken down
in the wake of street construction in the area in the
mid-1800s, at which time, the double stairway was added
to the entrance.
The church was started in 1581 by the Franciscan order; the façade is "Serlian" (from Sebastiano Serlio, the Italian Mannerist architect and author of the influential treatise, I sette libri dell'architettura)—that is, it presents a central arch between two prominent architrave elements. The statue of St. Francis above the entrance was long attributed to Cosimo Fanzago but may actually be by father Crisanto Gagliucci, who is said to have sculpted it originally for the church of Santa Maria la Nova. If that is true, the relocation is due to the light fingers of Fra Giovanni da Napoli (d. 1648), the powerful head of the order at the time, who is said to have helped himself to as much of the statuary and silverware from Franciscan churches throughout the area in order to decorate the new church. If it is not true, then Fanzago gets credit for the statue as he does for most of the rest of the church. Early comments on the church was that it had a "happy" look to it, which may account for the fact that it was a popular place for noble and even viceregal weddings. The courtyard contains a remarkable series of frescoes by Belisario Corenzio arrayed along the 36 arches of the arcade. Taken together, they are a study of Neapolitan nobility of the 16th century; each section displays an heraldic crest and a painting of the appropriate duke, count or prince. The murals were among Corenzio's last works. In his day, he was a leading muralist in Naples and like his contemporary, Fanzago, his works were spread throughout the city.
The church of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi (the somber building on the left in this photo) was originally known as Santa Maria di Monteoliveto (Mount of Olives). It is the single remaining religious remnant of what was once the Mount of Olives monastery, founded in 1411. The entire complex was at one time one of the largest monasteries in Italy. Urban renewal from the 1930s literally built around the old monastery, leaving much of the original structure standing in the center. At the east end, the church, itself, is still in use, but the adjacent monastery is now the Pastrengo barracks of the Carabinieri (Italian national police force).
Art within the church
and the façade, itself, display the influence of the
Florentine Renaissance. Within the church are the
monument tomb of Maria d'Aragona, the tomb of architect
Domenico Fontana, and
paintings by Giorgio Vasari and Pedro Rubiales. It is
also home to a group sculpture in terracotta from 1492
by Guido Mazzoni of the Lament over the Dead Christ. The
church once housed three paintings by Caravaggio: St. Francis
in Meditation, St. Francis Receiving the
Stigmata, and Resurrection;
but they were destroyed in the earthquake of 1805. The
original design of the church was greatly modified in
the 1600s by architect Gian
Battista Cavagna, and the church had to be
restored after the bombings
of WWII. As of February 2009, the church is again
open to visitors.
The church of Santa Maria dell’Aiuto [Saint Mary of Eternal Help or of Succour] is on a small east-west street of that name about 150 yards into the old city across the street (via Monteoliveto) from the east side of the main post office. It is just past the better-known church of Santa Maria la Nova.
The architect was Dionisio Lazzari [see Lazzari, Dionisio(1) (2)] and, in its newly restored condition (after years of being closed), the church may be appreciated for the absolute gem of the Neapolitan Baroque that it was. The historian Celano (writing when the church was new) recounts what has become folklore surrounding the origins of the church—that two children in 1635 posted their own crude drawing of the Blessed Virgin in a window of a lower floor of what was then the Palazzo Pappacoda (not to be confused with a church of a similar name) and collected donations. When they had collected enough, they hired a real artist to do his own rendition on canvas—again to solicit donations. The process gained speed and by the time of the great plague of 1656, a small chapel had been founded and then a church—on the site of the original Pappacoda building and dedicated to Our Lady of Succour. In an age when such concrete manifestations of faith were held to protect from earthquakes, eruptions of Vesuvius and pestilence, not only churches arose, but also the three so-called “plague columns” —or votive spires—of Naples. See (1) (2).
The church is in the design of a Greek cross—that is, a central nave with a transept of equal length as the nave; it has a central dome. A partial inventory of the art works contained in the church includes:
—three paintings by Gaspare Traversi dated 1749: The Nativity, The Annunciation, and the Ascension of the Virgin;
—the monument tomb of Gennaro Acamparo by Francesco Pagano from 1738;
—also by Pagano, the angels that support the candelabra of the main altar;
—the painting of The Virgin of Succour by Giuseppe Farina;
—The Flight of Joseph by Nicola Malincolico;
—the side ovals of The Archangel Michael by Giacinto Diano.
The restoration of Santa
Maria dell’Aiuto has been spectacularly successful.
The church of Santa Maria della Sapienza is one of the large, old churches in Naples that no one notices. It is on via Costantinopoli near Piazza Bellini, an area greatly affected by the risanamento, the urban renewal of the city in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Specifically, the church and convent were affected by the construction of the nearby First Polyclinic Hospital and medical school of the University of Naples, which required the demolition of some nearby buildings. After the unification of Italy, it was common practice in Naples to convert old monasteries to secular use, usually leaving the adjacent churches intact. (Sometimes they didn’t, as in the case of the church of Croce di Lucca, the old convent of which was adjacent on the south to the convent of S.M. della Sapienza.) The Sapienza convent was demolished, but the church was left standing; yet, it has been closed for many years and is badly in need of restoration.
There was a convent on the site in 1519, quite early in the period of the Spanish vice-realm in Naples. The unusual name, Sapienza (knowledge) derives from what was on the property before that: a shelter for poor students, sponsored by Oliviero Carafa (1430-1511), from one of the best-known families in medieval and Renaissance Naples. He was an Italian cardinal, the archbishop of Naples, friend of popes (and would-be Pope, himself), diplomat and great intellectual patron of Renaissance arts. (He is, for better or worse, remembered today for his opposition to Michelangelo's use of nude figures in the fresco of The Last Judgement.) The name Sapienza stayed with the premises when the convent was built. The later configuration of S.M. della Sapienza comes from a complete rebuilding done between 1625 and 1670. Some sources claim that the remake was the idea of Francesco Grimaldi (1543-1613), whose work in Naples on the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro in the cathedral and Santa Maria degli Angeli a Pizzofalcone is well-documented. That is possible, but he died before real work had even begun; thus, the premises took their newer form through the work of two other architects, primarily Giovan Giacomo di Conforto and Orazio Gisolfo. Most sources attribute the facade to Cosimo Fanzago, the greatest Neapolitan architect of the time. The interior was noteworthy for the presence of frescoes by Belisario Corenzio (c. 1558 - 1643) and paintings by Giovanni Ricca, Domenico Gargiulo (aka Micco Spadaro), and Andrea Vaccaro, among others. The paintings have long since been removed from the decaying church for safekeeping.
The basilica of San Gennaro extra moenia ("beyond the walls") was the first church in Naples named for San Gennaro, the patron saint of the city. The origins are probably in the 4th century, that is, at the time that the mortal remains of the martyred saint were moved to the adjacent catacombs at the foot of the Capodimonte hill, well to the north of the ancient city walls. The tomb of San Gennaro with this adjacent church was an important site of worship in the early centuries of Christianity in Naples. The site went into severe decline when the Longobards invaded Naples in 831 and removed the remains of the saint to Benevento. A short time later, in 872, the Benedictine order started construction at the site of a large monastery dedicated to Saints Gennaro and Agrippino (the patron saint of Naples before San Gennaro). They rebuilt the basilica and incorporated it into the north end of the monastery, making the entire structure well over 200 meters long. For hundreds of years, the monastery continued to use the nearby catacombs as a cemetery. In the 1400s, the monastery premises were converted to a hospital; it served in that capacity during the plague of 1479 and subsequent outbreaks. In the 1600s the facility also served as a kind of poorhouse, caring for the indigent and not just the sick, acquiring the name of San Gennaro dei Poveri (of the poor). It is still an important medical facility in Naples. The basilica is now on hospital premises and is more correctly called the Basilica di San Gennaro dei poveri. (See also the general entry on the catacombs.)
Basilica of Santa Lucia a Mare
The minor pontifical basilica of the sanctuary of Santa Lucia a Mare was set up as a parish and at the same time a sanctuary and, more recently, a minor basilica. The basilica-sanctuary is in the Santa Lucia district, within the historic center of Naples. Always a goal for pilgrimages, it was built as a parish in the second half of the 18th century and rebuilt in the second half of the 20th century as a diocese sanctuary dedicated to the popular cult of Saint Lucia.1* The church is called "a Mare" (on the sea) because it once stood on the shore of the beach before the expansion of that area out into new blocks of land reclaimed from the sea and built on landfill during the urban renewal of Naples in 1900.
There is no simple answer to "When was it built?" The structure in this image (right) was built as described above. Tradition says it is on a site of an "original" church (of which there is no trace) founded by a niece of the Emperor Constantine, but there is no mention of this original church before the ninth century. The first occupants were Basilian monks, who had a monastery on the nearby islet of Megaride, where today the Castel dell'Ovo (the Egg Castle) stands. The church then passed to nuns of Santa Patrizia, the female branch of the same order.
The church is typically called a "monument" because it's an important part of the history of the city. It you go there today, it is impossible to see why. The entire area has changed since the early-mid 1800s, and time has not been good to the church.
This image should explain why. The orange sections are buildings (almost all hotels) on the new blocks of land "reclaimed from the sea and built on landfill" mentioned above. (From far left to far right of this image is about 500 mtrs/600 yrds). The original seaside road was via Santa Lucia, which still moves up and angles off to the right to the Royal Palace and Piazza del Plebiscito. The church of Santa Lucia a mare is hidden away just to the left of the sideways letter S. in the street name "via S. Lucia." It is now almost impossible to find, but it didn't use to be. You were right above the beach and just up from the Egg Castle (just below this image).
In 1588 much of the building was remodeled. In 1845 an adjacent road was raised, which buried the church. The current church was rebuilt on top of that, and that is the church that was practically destroyed in 1943 by bombs. It was rebuilt immediately after the war. The works of art now on the premises are sparse: On the main altar there is an eighteenth-century polychrome wooden statue by Nicola Fumo (1647-1725)2** which depicts Saint Lucia; in the choir loft there is a panel of the Rosary by Teodoro d'Errico (1588); in the parish office there is a portrait of the priest Luigi Villani by Gioacchino Toma. Other works, medieval and modern, were destroyed during WWII.
*1. [The saint, herself, was a very real person, more precisely known as Lucia of Syracuse (283-304) because she was born in Syracuse on the island of Sicily. She died there as well, a martyr to emperor Diocletian's infamous persecution of Christians. The closer you get to Sicily the more likely you are to hear her referred to as "Santa Lucia of Syracuse." Although her mortal remains are interred in Venice, "the headquarters" of her devotees is still the Church of Santa Lucia of the Sepulcher in Syracuse.] back to top of this entry
**2.[Fumo was one of foremost sculptors of the Neapolitan Baroque. He was born near Salerno and studied under Cosimo Fanzago. He worked almost entirely in polychrome wood, and many of his works are still extant in various places in the province of Campania. Some are elsewhere, as far away as Madrid. back to top of this entry
There is a complete discussion of the saint, herself, here.
sources: Napoli Sacra, 12° itinerario. pp. 726-7. Elio de Rosa, editore, Cosmofilm, S.p.A., 1996.