Art et Culture

The Church of San Domenico Maggiore - Naples


The Church of San Domenico Maggiore, founded in 1231, as it is today, includes part of the old church of San Michele Arcangelo a Morfisa, which dates back to the 10th century and was officiated by Basilian monks and late by Benedictine monks.
The construction of the basilica dates back to the Angevin Reign, when, according to the wishes of Charles II, building began and continued till 1324.
An earthquake and fire in the 15th and 16th centuries seriously damaged the Church, then in 1670 the new Baroque taste was imposed on the older Gothic style.
Cosimo Fanzago was called on to plan the high altar, while the ceiling was covered by caissons and the walls were decorated with gilded plasterwork.
In the 18th century, Domenico Antonio Vaccaro redesigned the floor, marble, balusters were added, brass gates were placed on the side chapels, the organ which is still there today was positioned, the apse finished and the sacristy fixed.
And finally, in the 19th century more transformations were made to the ceiling, the windows were decorated with coloured glass and the presbyterial area was lowered.
On the Churchs exterior, the wall of the apse dominated the piazza.
Here there is the entrance under the altar and the 16th century stairway and portal, built in the times of Alfonso of Aragon.
The only recognisable Gothic style elements are in the ogival style portal on Vico San Domenico, one of the most beautiful in Naples for its marble decorations, and the typical polygonal apse of Neapolitan Angevin Churches.
The Church has a Latin cross plan and three naves with lateral chapels, a transept and an apse.

THE CENTRAL NAVE
It has a panelled ceiling.
Along the walls, within 12 medallions, there are the portraits of the Dominican Saints.

THE RIGHT NAVE
To the side of the facades interior, there is the Renaissance Saluzzo Chapel, founded by the Carafa family in 1508.
The first chapel holds the Sepulchre of Bartolomeo Brancaccio, which is the work of a follower of Tino di Camaino, and a small 15th century fresco of the Madonna of Humility, a trace of the primitive decoration of the Church.
The next chapel was entirely frescoed by the Roman artist Pietro Cavallini, between 1308 and 1309.
The rigorous geometry of the architecture and the bright impasto characterise the stories of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew, Mary Magdalen, Saint John the Evangelist and the Crucifixion.
After the third chapel which holds an austere 14th century crucifix, in the fourth chapel there is a painting of Baptism of Jesus by Marco Pino that has been dated 1564 and a painting of the Ascension from the early 17th century by the Flemish Teodoro dErrico.
Next there is the chapel with a tombstone of Costanza Dentice from the workshop of Tino di Camaino.
From the sixth chapel, which is decorated with 16th/17th century frescoes, one enters the Large Chapel of the Crucifixion.
Here, according to tradition, over the altar there was the crucifix (today there is a reproduction) from which Christ spoke to the praying Saint Thomas.
The chapel is a treasury of Neapolitan sculpture from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Sepulchre of Ferdinando Carafa is attributed to Giovanni da Nola, and those of Caterinella Orsini and Mariano dAlagno to the Lombard Tommaso Malvito, who, among other things, created the Sarcophagus of Diomede Carafa with Giacomo della Pila and Domenico Gagini.
To the left of the Large Chapel, two arches can be recognised.
They are the remains of the ancient Gothic Church, pertaining to the chapels of Carafa di Ruvo and del Doce.
In both funerary monuments there are works by Tommaso Malvito in collaboration with Giovanni da Nola.
In the first there is the wooden Nativity scene by Pietro Belverte, and for the second Raphael painted the Madonna of the Fish, which is now in Madrid.
Coming out into the seventh from the 14th century frescoes, there are the tombs of the family of Saint Thomas of Aquino.
Then there is the New Sacristy.
It is in the late Baroque style, and was planned by G.B. Nauclerio.
On the vaulted ceiling there is the bright fresco with The Triumph of Faith over the Heresy of the Dominicans, of 1709, by Francesco Solimena.
On the walls there are walnut stiles and above them there runs a long balcony with canopy where the 45 Arcs of the Aragon Kings and dignitaries of the Kingdom are preserved.
These are the only remaining testimonies of the wooden sepulchres that existed in the Churches of the 15th and 16th centuries, after they were eliminated according to the Popes wishes in 1568.
Today, after important restoration work, the materials found in the arcs, which were unfortunately repeatedly violated and ransacked, are now on display in the adjacent Treasury room.
The superior quality robes, in the damask or brocade, the coats, the tight hose pants - which had a little cap to cover the private parts and were often skilfully delineated with shaped padding - the pants, ample cloaks, skirts.
Shirts and headgear of the Sovereigns and dignitaries are kept in the wooden wardrobes near the furnishings with the series of embroidered cloths that were donated to the Monastery in 1799, and the holy vestments.
Back in the Church, from the right transept one enters the nucleus of San Michele Arcangelo a Morfisa.
Of this ancient Church we can see some areas covered by cross vaults with tufa stone ribs, separated by an ogival arch.
The presbytery has four chapels on the sides.
The polygonal apse holds the wooden choir and the organ, both made in the 18th century.
The altar and the desks to the side are surrounded by a joined marble baluster whose installation was completed by Cosimo Fanzago.
Between the two chapels of the left transept, rich with sculptural works, there is the Sepulchre of Filippo dAngiò by Tino di Camaino and helpers and that of Rinaldo del Doce that has the signature of Tommaso Malvito and Giovanni da Nola.
In this arm of the Church there were two paintings that now are held in the Museum of Capodimonte, namely the Flagellation by Caravaggio and the Annunciation by Titian.

THE LEFT NAVE
Proceeding towards the main entrance one comes across the Chapel of the Madonna of the Snow from the altar of the same name with a statue of the Madonna and Child between Sanit John the Baptist and Saint Matthew, by Giovanni da Nola in 1536.
To the right there is the bronze bust of the poet G.B. Marino.
Past the second chapel that holds the Sepulchre of Leonardo Tomacelli by Malvito, we arrive at the third last chapel in which there is a sweet Madonna with child by the workshop of the Sienese Tino di Camaino, a statue of the Baptist and the Sepulchre of Bernardino Rota, both by Girolamo dAuria.
The monument holds representations of the art, of nature and of the personifications of the Arno and the Tiber, symbols of the Italian and Latin languages in which the poet composed his works.
From the next, with the Sepulchre of Antonio Carafa, also known as the Malicious for his skill in political dealings, we arrive at the last chapel, of the Madonna of Zì Andrea, with its Baroque forms.
The chapel in named after the wooden statue of the Madonna of the Rosary, which was sculpted according to the wishes of brother Andrew of Auria; and finally, we have arrived at the entrance of the Church, with 16th century Muscettola chapel to the left.
The Convent was for many centuries the seat of the Studio, the institution founded by Federico II, from which todays University originated.
Saint Thomas of Aquino (whose cell can be visited with permission of the fathers), taught theology there.
Among the more remarkable students there were the Humanist Gioviano Pontano and the philosopher Giordano Bruno.
The historical spaces that the Studio occupied are now the seat of confraternities: that of Sacrament, founded in 1628, preserves above the altar the painting on canvas entitled The Vision of Fra Giovanni of Altamura by Massimo Stanzione; that of Rosary holds a painting by Fabrizio Santafede.
In the 17th century Cloister of Statues there are sculptures from the destroyed Church of Saint Sebastian. (Raffaella Maffia)

Address
Naples, Piazza San Domenico Maggiore 8

How you can get there from the Hotel
From the Piazza Amedeo Station take line 2 on the subway, in the direction of Gianturco, and get off in Piazza Cavour (second stop). From Piazza Cavour enter in Via Santa Maria di Costantinopoli arriving to the crossroad with Via Benedetto Croce; proceed, turning on the left, for about 200 metres.


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