Duomo - Cathedral, Naples
You access the basilica of Santa Maria Restituta via the Duomo itself. Although once a separate church, the two buildings are now one.
SM Restituta is the oldest structure in modern Naples, a church which was first erected under Emperor Constantine in the 3rd century (200s). As soon as you enter you can feel its age: the columns supporting the roof came from a Roman temple which stood on the same site.
It's a lovely place, its side-chapels decorated in styles over the centuries. One in particular (on the far left, as you look towards the altar) has the most beautiful mosaic apse, with golden touches which reminded me very much of the early Byzantine mosaic work I have seen in similarly old Christian structures.
But SM Restituta has more for you to uncover, for its 4th century (300s) baptistry has been restored and renovated. You'll have to pay a small fee (1.50 euro in 2011) to enter, but it is worth it to see the 5th century (400s) frescoes and the vast stone font which, it is thought, originally came from a temple to Dionysus. Look at it, cast your mind back almost 2000 years, see believers undergoing total immersion when they were accepted into the faith...
Like almost all the centro storico, the Duomo is built on top of the Graeco-Roman city. You can access these excavations from SM Restituta (a Roman street, an earlier church with mosaic floors) but, unfortunately, when I visited the excavations were closed. It was not clear whether this was an ongoing closure.
I was unclear about whether photography is actually allowed in SM Restituta, but noticed others taking photos without comment from staff.
Naples' Duomo dates from the 1200s, although to be perfectlky honest you have to look hard to see evidence of that nowadays. The facade dates from the 1800s and there interior dates from...well, almost any time in between those dates.
No photos are allowed on the interior, which is a great pity as the chapel of San Gennaro, Naples' patron saint whose blood miraculously liquefies three times a year, is a stunning example of ornate ebullience. If his blood does not liquefy then disaster will fall upon Naples...and, apparently, this has happened most recently in 1944 (Vesuvius' last eruption), 1980 (when there was an earthquake) and in 1988 (Naples lost an important football match...not quite in the same league as earthquakes and eruptions, perhaps!).
San Gennaro's chapel is but one of several within the church itself, and 'his' bones are on display in the rather lovely crypt.
For me, the highlight of my Duomo visit was the first 'chapel' on the left as you enter. Actually it's a church in itself, the basilica of Santa Maria Restituta...and that basilica is why the Duomo is a 'must-see', imo. See tip below.
The oldest church in Naples, Basilica di Santa Restituta dates from the 4th century AD, built on the orders of Constantine the Great. It is considered an important example of Paleo-Christian architecture, constructed over the ruins of more ancient structures. The basilica became a mere side chapel within the cathedral when the larger structure was constructed in the 13th century. In the original design, the basilica consisted of five naves, but in a 14th century renovation, the outer ones were closed up and converted into several side chapels of which one preserves a mosaic of the Madonna with Saints Gennaro and Restituta dating from 1322 AD. Subsequent renovations in the 17th and 18th centuries saw the addition of Renaissance and Baroque details, such as the stunning frescoed ceiling which rests over Gothic arches and recycled Roman columns. Basilica di Santa Restituta gives access to il Battistero di San Giovanni in Fonte and to the underground archaeological ruins of Graeco-Roman structures, discovered in the early 1970s.
[Note: when I visited in Apr 2010, the underground excavations were closed for an extended period for archaeological works.]
One of the oldest baptistries in the western world to have survived intact, il Battistero di San Giovanni in Fonte dates from 550 AD (San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome has an older baptistry, but it was heavily remodelled). This one in Naples is accessed from the Basilica di Santa Restituta, and is thus part of the cathedral of Naples. The small square baptistry is topped by a dome covered in patches of mosaics that have survived since its construction in the 6th century AD. The baptistry and its mosaics are of great architectural value as they are of the few survivors from the early Christian period.
Completed in 1646 by the architect Francesco Grimaldi, the Reale Cappella del Tesoro di San Gennaro is a masterpiece of Neapolitan Baroque architecture. It was constructed as part of the Duomo, to the right hand side of the nave opposite the Basilica di Santa Restituta, to honour the patron saint of Naples, San Gennaro. So important was the saint to Neapolitans that no expense was spared in the construction of his chapel, from richly carved polychrome marble to a dome painted with exquisite frescoes. The renowned Neapolitan artist, Francesco Solimena designed the elaborate altar.
Discovered by chance during an early 1970s restoration, the archaeological excavations of the Duomo lie below the Basilica di Santa Restituta. The ruins are accessed from the basilica and transport the visitor to an even earlier period than the construction of the ancient basilica itself, when street levels were much lower. The foundations of earlier Roman and Greek period buildings, including the Temple of Apollo, Paleo-Christian floor mosaics over pagan ones, an aqueduct and some residences, can be seen. Whether or not one likes archaeology, visiting these ruins is a must as they help to illustrate the length of history that the city of Naples has witnessed.
[Note: when I visited in Apr 2010, the underground excavations were closed for an extended period for archaeological work.]
Dedicated to the patron saint of the city, San Gennaro, the cathedral of Naples was constructed in the 13th-14th centuries on the orders of Carlo I d'Angiò, King of Naples and Sicily, known in English as Charles I of Anjou. The chosen site was just outside la Basilica di Santa Restituta, the oldest church in the city, which resulted in the fusion of the two structures, along with the ancient Baptistry (Battistero di San Giovanni in Fonte), into one cathedral. Successive additions and renovations over the centuries, including the construction of the Capella di San Gennaro in the 17th century, have resulted in a cathedral complex composed of three churches, mixing multiple architectural styles, from Paleo-Christian to Gothic to Baroque, not to mention the Roman columns that decorate the sides of the large pillars. The neo-Gothic façade was only added in the late 19th century (designed by the architect, Errico Alvino) but incorporated impressive 14th century doors.
A very grand building, dating mostly from the 13th century. A surprisingly welcoming interior with a lot of colour and life. The chapels are especially interesting; in particular, the Capella dei Tesoro di San Gennaro, painted by artists specially imported from Rome (e.g. Guido Reni) is filled with pictures of various miraculous events in the life of the saint, and people's amazed reactions to them. Here are also a number of silver busts of saints, and hidden behind the altar for most of the year, a silver bust of the saint himself, containing his skull and phials of his congealed blood. The Capella di Santa Restituta, opposite, is Naples' oldest surving bascilica, originally a 4th century Paleo-Christmian structure. A very lovely place, with some good ancient frescoes and mosaics, especially in the Bapistry.
The Scavi dei Duomo are a hodgepodge of styles and structures from Greek times onwards. Worth a visit if one's interests lie in that field.
Duomo: Monday-Friday - 8.00 - 12.30, 16.30-19.00
Saturday: 08.00-12.30, 16.30-19.30. Sunday 08.00-13.30, 17.00-19.30
Santa Restituta, Scavi and Baptistry: Monday - Saturday - 09.00-12.00, 16.30-19.00, Sunday 09.00-12.00
Duomo & Excavations: free.
Excavations: Euro 3
No photographs - however, if one is discrete in the Duomo, then it is possible to take pictures (no flash) without causing the wrath of God. However, in the Baptistry, it is only possible to take photographs when the man at the ticket booth goes for a wander, or else you can also manage to take photographs (no flash) from behind one of the thick and substantial pillars.
The Cathedral of Naples (or Duomo) is dedicated to San Gennaro (Saint Januarius), the city's patron. Originally built between 1294 and 1323 in French Gothic style, it was considerably restored and altered after an earthquake in 1456. It was built on the foundations of two early Christian basilicas. Beneath the church, excavations have revealed Greek and Roman artefacts, just as at San Lorenzo Maggiore. In the centre of the front, which dates from 1877 to 1905, is an older doorway dating back to1407.
The church houses a vial of the Saint's blood, which is believed to have the power of liquefaction. According to the legend, this occurred for the first time when the saint's remains were transferred to Naples in the time of Constantine . It is now brought out twice a year, on the first Saturday in May and 19th September, and usually liquefies. According to legend, if the blood should fail to liquefy, then something bad will happen to Naples. The saint's tomb can be seen in the richly decorated Confessio (1497-1506) under the high altar.
We didn’t go inside as a Mass was just finishing and it would have meant fighting against the people leaving the building. Instead we went to get a quick lunch, planning to return – but decided while eating that it was time to leave the Centro Storico and explore another side of Naples.
The Duomo San Gennaro has been built in the 13th century in French-Gothic style.
In the 19th century the facade has been remodeled in the same style as the duomos in Orvieto and Siena.
The crypt underneath the church holds the bones of St. Januarius, the patron saint of the church.
Via the left side of the church you enter the S. Restituta, a basilica from the 5th century.
Via the right side of the church you enter the Capella S. Gennora from the 17th century that holds the scull of St. Januarius and two ampoules with his blood, that becomes fluid every year on certain dates.
The chapel can be considered a church in the church,in fact apart of being a chapel of the Duomo,is the church reserved to the cult of St.Gennaro.
It was built in 1608,on project of Francis Grimaldi,to fulfil to a vote made by the Neapolitan people to be escaped to the 1526 plague (the pestis).
To realize it, were demolished the oratory of Saint Maria of the Stella and the little church of Sant'Andrea and besides an adjacent ground to the cathedral was purchased. The access in the Chapel is closed by a beautiful golden gate,the bars to "balaustra", if hit, emit a pleasant musical sound.
The Chapel has a central plant and it is covered by a dome with frescoes. The inside of the chapel is an abridged edition of the best neapolitan Six hundred,the precious marbles connected with that ability that the School of stones made hard Baroque Neapolitan equal to that, sublime, fiorentina. Behind the altar the statue of St.Gennaro towers;on the both sides of the greater altar there are two enormous silver candelabra. Other detail of great interest are the 51 silver statues representing the compatronis in Naples: on the first Saturday of May these statues are taken for a long time procession around Naples as "sacred escort" to the statue of the patron Saint. St. Gennaro’s treasure preserves the very precious gifts made by many Europeans kings and the famous silver Matteo Treglia’s sub-machine gun stormed by diamonds,emeralds and rubies. In the chapel the Imbusto is preserved,a silver gilded statue of the Saint that contains St.Gennaro’s skull visible from a little door and the cruets with the blood of the Saint. The blood melts twice during the year,in May and in September, renewing a prodigy of which scientists of the whole world are occupied, a prodigy that also happens in St. Gennaro’s sanctuary to the Solfatara of Pozzuoli, where the stains of blood are revived on the stone on which the saint was beheaded.
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Built in the Gothic style at the end of the 13th century upon the wish of Carlo II d'Angio, the cathedral sits on the site of the old cathedral Stafania. It has been subjected to numerous restoration works in the subsequent centuries, and the facade has been restructured significantly during the restoration work carried out following the earthquake of 1349. The three portals of Antonio Baboccio have survived from the original structure. Under the second arcade on the left side of the central nave there is a baptismal font which is made of an Egyptian basalt basin decorated with Bacchic masks and on the upper parts from 1618 there is multi-coloured marble. The 18th century organs and the episcopal throne are under the last two arcades of the central nave.
Information by Wcities
Open Hours: 9a-noon M-Su, 4:30p-7p M-Sa
Built between 1294 and 1323, the Duomo of San Gennaro lies behind a mostly 19th century facade. It was commissioned by Charles II of Anjou and completed by Robert of Anjou. The nave is lined with ancient columns and houses the relics of San Gennaro, patron saint of Naples (martyred in AD 305). The ornate Cappella San Gennaro holds his head, within a silver-gilt bust. The Cappella Carafa, a Renaissance masterpiece built in 1497 to 1506, contains the saint's tomb.
Wink and you'll miss this excellent church. This is because, unlike most other Italian cities, Napoli has a very small square in front of its Duomo. Actually, what is today Via Duomo was created only in 1860 by Ferdinand of Borbone. Before that, the buildings were even closer than now!
The church was built in the year 1294 in an area formerly occupied by two smaller churches, and before that by a Greek temple. As most other churches in this part of the world, it has been restored, modified, expanded and enhanced several times, thus "hiding" the original style. For instance, the facade has very little of the gothic appearance.
If I had arrived earlier (thanks to Trenitalia!) I would have seen its three-nave interior, with the Greek and Roman columns that were "reused" to erect it, at the expense of other older temples. This was also a habit in those years. I could also have enjoyed the baroque baptism fountain and the chapel of the Crucifix.
Unfortunately, I got there only by 8 pm, and it was closed, so I had to content myself with the beautiful facade, which was last restored in 1972.
Life can be tough at times.
Right next door to the Duomo, the San Gennaro Treasury Museum is worth a look if you are particularly interested in fine arts and crafts, particularly in fine silver. There are some spectacular pieces of fine Renaissance and Baroque artistry here, statuary and decorations for the San Gennaro chapel next door. It all stands as further testimony to the great love and devotion paid by the people of Naples to their patron saint. The museum also includes a look at two antechambers that were used to store various San Gennaro valuables over the centuries: rooms that display intense love for the elaborate decorations that characterize Neapolitan Baroque.