Naples and Campania, Day Seven 19 May 2008

| May 19, 2008
Mia Reinoso Genoni

(Photo by Peter Goltra.)
Monday morning we returned to sites in Naples, beginning with the Cathedral complex. Pictured here is the current entrance, facing the via del Duomo. Incorporating Early Christian and medieval structures with medieval and Early Modern decoration, the building is a tour of Naples in and of itself. In 1294, Archbishop Filippo Minutolo and King Charles II of Anjou began the building campaigns of the complex; as is evident from the chapels, renovation and expansion continued well into the Baroque.
(Photo by Peter Goltra.)

The cathedral complex includes one of the first Early Christian churches, built shortly after the Edict of Milan. The 4th-century Basilica of Santa Restituta is now accessed through an entrance halfway down the left aisle of the main cathedral. The Basilica, however, has a north-south orientation, which allowed its original entrance to face the decumanus.

(Upper photo by Peter Goltra.)

One reaches the 4th/5th-century Baptistery from the right side aisle of Santa Restituta. The mosaics are of extremely high quality and are deeply classicizing.

(Photo by Peter Goltra).

The main cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption, is oriented east-west, so that the altar is in its traditional location to the east, but the building now interferes with the Hippodamus plan of the city. The height of the nave and transept was changed by the addition of a gilt wooden ceiling in 1621, while the presbytery and apse were rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries.

(Two left photos by Peter Goltra.)

One of the chapels to the right of the altar is the late medieval Minutolo family chapel. It has some fine frescoes, including a wonderful Quo Vadis? scene, as well as fabulous crockets (left). The 1402 tomb of Enrico Minutolo (center) was the setting for Boccaccio’s story of Andreuccio da Perugia in the Decameron. Immediately to the left of the entrance there is an eye-catching fresco of Mary Magdalene (right), an image which today suggests the combination of Lady Godiva and a hair shirt.

Under the altar is the Chapel of the Succorpo, or Crypt of San Gennaro. It is all’antica in form and structure, quoting the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum Augustus and utilizing a trabeated support system. It was built at the behest of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, to house the bones of San Gennaro and to be the cardinal’s own eternal resting place. The Succorpo is thus both a reliquary and a funerary chapel, as well as a stunning example of Neapolitan classicisizing architecture. Pictured here is the 16th-century Roman sculpture of Oliviero Carafa, with the family stemma visible above.

(Photo by Peter Goltra.)

The Treasury is directly opposite Santa Restituta, reachable via an entrance in the middle of the right aisle of the main cathedral. It was built in response to a terrible plague that rampaged through Naples in 1526-7; begun in 1608, this chapel was dedicated to their patron saint, San Gennaro, and two medieval chapels were demolished for its construction. Francesco Grimaldi designed the space; Cosimo Fanzago created the gilt brass gate; it was frescoed by Domenichino and Giovanni Lanfranco; and it features painting by a number of masters, including Jose de Ribera.

(Photo by Peter Goltra.)

In front of the original entrance to the cathedral, in the Piazza Cardinal Sisto Riario Sforza, now stands the Guglia di San Gennaro, a votive spire typical of Naples. It was erected in response to a Vesuvian eruption of 1631. Designed by Cosimo Fanzango in 1637, it was completed in the 1650s. The dome of the cathedral complex is just visible in the upper left of this image. Across the street (via dei Tribunali) is the church of Pio Monte di Misericordia, which houses Caravaggio’s spectacular Seven Works of Mercy of c. 1607, dating to his first stay in Naples. Tragically we were not allowed to take pictures, but there is a short, grainy video on youtube that is of some aid:

(Photo by Peter Goltra.)

North and just slightly west of the Cathedral are the churches of Santa Maria Donna Regina, Vecchia and Nuova. Pictured here is the entrance to SMDR Nuova. The original church was created under the patronage of Queen Mary of Hungary, begun in 1307. It was enlarged in the 17th century, and, somewhat bizarrely, in the campaign of 1928-34 G. Chierici separated it into two churches, the “old” and “new”.

One reaches SMDR Vecchia through a separate entrance via a classicizing courtyard. The church consists of a single nave with a truss roof, which is now hidden by a 16th-century ceiling, and has a polygonal apse, as seen here. SMDR was created for the Clarissans. As such, it had two audiences, as was also true of Santa Chiara. Here we see a different solution to this problem of two audiences, both of whom needed to face the altar, but one of which needed to remain invisible:

(Photo by Peter Goltra.)

This view is taken from an angle, just in front of the apse. Here we see the nun’s choir is actually elevated over the rest of the congregation, so that the Clarissans could celebrate mass but remain hidden. In the 1992 Gesta article “Hearing is Believing: Clarissan Architecture,” Caroline Bruzelius suggested that perhaps it was more important that the nuns were able to hear the mass, as opposed to seeing it; although they would have faced the altar, the height of their choir may well have precluded any view of it. At the bottom right of this image we see part of the tomb of Mary of Hungary…

(Photo by Peter Goltra.)

seen in full in this photograph. It was built after her death in 1323, by Tino di Camaino, and became an important model for Angevin tombs.

At the far west end of the via Tribunali, down the road from the original cathedral entrance and Pio Monte, we find the oddly difficult to photograph church of San Pietro a Maiella. It is dedicated to Pietro Angeleri, a hermit who lived on the Maiella, and who became Pope Celestine V. Tragically for him, he was better suited to being a hermit than a pope. He abdicated, fleeing to Montecassino, where, legend has it, Benedict arrested and then later poisoned him. The church dates to c. 1313-4, and is of interest in part because, as this view of the left aisle shows, it retains its original medieval facing. San Domenico, which we visited on the 22nd (Day Ten), had a similar appearance before it was stuccoed.

I happen to be interested in images of the Madonna del Latte, and was quite taken with this one: the Madonna del Soccorso, attributed to an anonymous quattrocento painter, and located between the first and second chapels to the left of the presbytery.

(Photo by Peter Goltra.)

Our last architectural stop for the day was San Paolo Maggiore, located on the via dei Tribunali back towards the Cathedral complex. It is Theatine, that is to say, a church of the Order of Clerks Regular (founded 1524). Francesco Grimaldi, who was a member of the Confraternity, designed it in the early 17th century. It was built on the site of an ancient temple, and the elevation of the staircase coincides with the height of the podium of the temple. The portico of the temple was incorporated into the facade, set back a bit, but a 1688 earthquake caused it to collapse. All that remains are the two columns still standing, seen in the photo above, and…
in this detail. San Paolo Maggiore is the only church reproduced by Palladio, no doubt in large part due to this adept use of spolia.

A number of the great Baroque masters active in Naples also contributed to the decoration and articulation of San Paolo Maggiore, including Francesco Solimena, Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, and Ferdinando Sanfelice.

We had the remainder of the afternoon to ourselves. Some of us went to the Archaeological Museum, where we were treated to wonders like the Farnese Hercules, one of my favorite works. The size! The scale! The power!

(Photo by Peter Goltra.)

In this, and other stolen moments, others went to Capodimonte – pictured here is the Porcelain Room.

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