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See the Sansevero Chapei and Its Sculptures
Around the corner from the Piazza San Domenico in the Via F. de Sanctis is the Sansevero Chapel which contains the mausoleum of the Sangro Princes. Among the figures are real cardiovascular systems and skeletons as well as most peculiar sculptures.
- Family Travel
I hadn't planned to include this on my day of exploration but i had a little time, and I saw a sign and....
.....it was an experience I am very, very glad I did not miss!
The Capella Sansevero was first constructed as the chapel of the Di Sangro family in 1590. In 1613, a later family member converted into a family tomb. But what you see now....and it is stunning...is the result of plans set in motion by Raimundo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero...a known alchemist.
In the mid-1700s that he commissioned one Giuseppe Sammartino to be the sculptor of the chapel...and what a truly magnificent, and most wonderfully-skilled, job that man did!
In the centre of the chapel lies an (apparently) marble sculpture of the dead Christ, covered in a sculpted marble veil so thin that fine detail of the body beneath is clear. It is a truly stunning achievement.
And around the chapel are most wonderful sculptures by Sammartino and others. I was expecting the veiled Christ to astound me, but I was even more astounded by the complexity of the netted man: 'Il Disinganno' (Disillusion) by Francesco Queirolo.
But I also know that in the chapel are 'marble' sculpture which are not marble at all. They were created from a substance invented by (or partly by) alchemist Prince Raimundo. I wonder which they are?
There are many Masonic symbols within, for the Prince was (perhaps inevitably) a Mason. And the original floor tiles formed a maze: another deeply important (and somewhat enigmatic) symbol. You can see some of them on display within the chapel, although the floor is now simple black-and-white tiling.
Underneath the chapel two strangeness are exhibited: skeletons of a man and a pregnant woman, with all their arteries, veins and capillaries in place. For centuries it was believed that Prince Raimundo's alchemical skills had allowed him to create a substance which hardened all these vessels after death, so they could be displayed. But common sense would dictate this could not be so, for flesh and muscle are not there...only bones and vessels.
It has been shown in recent times that the vessels are actually made of beeswax, wire and silk. Close examination (through glass) certainly shows that the main vessels are most definitely not 'real'. But, even so, it is still a wonderfully complex achievement and must have taken whoever did it (not, I suspect, the Prince himself) many months to create.
So...you really must visit Sansevero for the sculptures, even if you don't want to see the anatomical display. They are truly unmissable.
No photos are allowed, and there are several guardians on duty. So I have had to resort to photographing the postcards I purchased, to give you an idea of what you must not miss.
The chapel is open on weekdays 10-1740. Closed Tuesdays. Open Sunday and holidays from 10-1.10. It has longer opening hours on some dates through the year and is closed on e.g. 25th December. For details look at 'orari e tarriffe' on the museum website below. Entrance fee was 7 euro in 2011.
The website has an English version and is very detailed...well worth reading.
You buy tickets from a small office on the corner of the chapel end of Via Francesco di Sancti and Calata San Severo. You can just about see it in my photo (the chapel entrance itself is on the right).
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Originally built around 1590, it is the remodelling of the chapel by the ecentrice alchemist and experimenter Prince Raimondo di Sangro in the 18th century that makes this chapel worth a visit. It is hidden away to the north of piazzetta Nilo and the real highlights of this small but extraordinarily ornate chapel are the allegorical marble sculptures - "Disillusion" by Francesco Queinolo, "Modesty" by Antonio Corradini, and the amazingly life-like "Veiled Christ" by Guiseppe Sanmartino. All are absolutely incredible and well-worth the hunt to find the chapel! Strictly no photographs.
Open Monday-Saturday (winter) 10.00 -18.00, 10.00 - 19.00 (summer), Christmas and Easter. Sunday 10.00 - 13.30. Closed Tuesday. Euro 6.
From the train station it is best to walk around the Piazza Garibaldi and then down the via Umberto and then branch right after about six streets, then go left after about another couple of streets. No public transport goes near it, and a taxi would be a nightmare! Armed with a good map, it is easy enough to find. From the Capella, it is an easy enough walk to the National Archaelogical Museum.
- Arts and Culture
Tucked away in the side streets of the historic centre, and well-signposted, is this small chapel. Many legends are attached to the founding of the chapel, relating to miracles worked on this site. But the chapel owes its fame not to these miracles but to the work of the seventh Prince of Sansevero, Prince Raimondo de Sangro, who carried out extensive remodelling of the chapel and filled it with masterpieces of sculpture. The most famous, and the star attraction here, is The Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino (1753). This sculpture shows Christ after he was taken off the cross, covered by a light veil, and the effect is striking, especially the ability of the sculptor to create the impression of a gauzy veil in the solidity of the marble.
The Prince was a keen alchemist and is thought to have experimented on his servants. In the crypt is a sight that is definitely not for the squeamish – two bodies, one male and one female, with blood, veins, arteries and some vital organs intact, and held together with a framework of wire. I’ve read that there was speculation as to whether these are just sculptures as well, but they seem too perfectly executed not to be real. It’s now generally accepted that they are indeed the remains of people, probably 2 of his servants, but no one has yet figured out how he managed to preserve this much of the human body.
Entry costs €5. All photography is forbidden, a rule strictly enforced by the security guards. My picture is therefore a scan of a postcard I bought in the gift-shop in the chapel – I would love to credit the photographer but he/she isn’t named.
- Arts and Culture
San Severo Chapel and Crypt
It’ a small private chapel, located in the heart of Naple’s historical centre, built at the end of 16th century, Eccentric Prince Raimondo de Sangro is associated with the chapel. The prince was an alchemist and man of science who lived in the 18th century; his personality is transfused in many artistic, architectural and scientific elements of the Chapel. Here you can admire sculptural masterpieces of the 17th and 18th centuries, including the “Disinganno” by Queirolo, the “Pudicizia” by Corradini, but the most famous is the “Cristo Velato” (Veiled Christ) by Sammartino, who created this alabaster figure beneath a marble veil: it’s a work of breathtaking technical virtuosity.
In the crypt, under the Chapel, there are the mysterious anatomical machines, two perfect replicas of human circulatory system, with the entire system of blood veins and arteries and with some organs, perfectly preserved. According to a legend the anatomical machines are the result of a gruesome experiment that the prince made on two of his servants, a man and a woman (who was pregnant): he gave them a poison which transformed their blood in marble.
PRICE: 5 euros
OPENING HOURS: 10,00-20,00 (You can enter until 20 minutes before the closing)
During Christmas period:
24-25-26-31 December h. 10,00-13,30
1 Jenuary closed
6 Jenuary h.10,00-13,00
[Egicom05 - by Elisir]
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