One of the most magnificent churches in Napoli, Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo also has the most interesting façade in the city. The rusticated pyramidal shaped squares on the façade belonged to the 15th century Palazzo Sanseverino, which was purchased by the Jesuits in 1580 for the construction of their church. Only the façade was retained while the interior was completely rebuilt in a splendid Baroque style. The elaborate Baroque doorway was added in the 17th century to the original portal of the palace. Numerous renowned Neapolitan artists, including Cosimo Fanzago, Lanfranco and Francesco Solimena, contributed to the rich works of art within. The church is named "Nuovo", i.e. "New", to distinguish it from an older Jesuits church in Naples. When the Jesuits were expelled from Naples in 1767, their church was for a while occupied by the Franciscans, but it was later totally abandoned and closed for decades. It was not until 1900 that the Jesuits returned to Naples and to this church.
This is one of two churches well worth visiting in the Piazza del Gesù (the other is Santa Chiara – see below). Its unusual façade is in a style known as "ashlar" and it is one of the few examples of this characteristic 15th-century façade in Naples. The shape also struck me as unusual for a church, and I read later that this is because it wasn’t originally built as one but as a home for Robert Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno, in the 15th century. The residence was passed down through the family for several generations but when one of them was disgraced and had to flee the city it was put up for sale and found its way into the hands of the Jesuits who converted it into a church.
The contrast between the sober exterior and the riot of Baroque decoration inside is what makes this church special. We couldn’t look round as fully as I‘d have liked as a Mass was being said, but we did explore the western side aisle with its stunning ceilings. At its far end we came across a little side chapel tucked away which was covered all over its walls and ceiling with metallic plates symbolising various body parts – legs, arms, heads, even breasts, as well as whole babies. It appears that the saint to whom the chapel is dedicated, St Ciro, is known for his ability to heal the sick, and these medallions were each a sign of someone’s prayer.
We didn’t however manage to see properly the frescos on the ceiling of the central nave, by Belisario Corenzio and Paolo de Matteis, nor the painting of The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple (1725) one of the most noteworthy works by Francesco Solimena, the great painter of the Neapolitan Baroque. Nevertheless I enjoyed my visit to this inspiring church.
Do open my extra photos to get the full effect of the contrast between exterior and interior.
It's a great church and you have to visit the inside with lot of art. But the most amazing things are outside. The facade of the building is made in "bugnato" (diamond cut stones) and on every stone there is a sign that sand back to an ancient cult. We've been looking at the signs for more than two hours, every sign is different from the other but nobody know the meaning. Its difficult to take ggod pictures of signs, so I tried to show you the modern signs (graffiti) with the church on the back.
This Church, that gives its name to the Square , was previously an exclusive palace of Salerno Princes. For this reason its external façade and its internal places are very different. The first one is in ashlar work , formed by “piperno” blocks carved in diamond shape (this is the original part); the second was rebuilt in Baroque style with a great pictorial and sculptural decoration. The author who realized the frescoes is Luca Giordano. The piperno’s blocks were worked by “Maestri pipernieri” belonging to an influental and secret corporation. Every block has a stange symbol (see the tip about the legend of Gesù Nuovo in "off the beaten path"). The particularity of this church is the difference between the two parts : when you are outside , you’ll never imagine to overstep a door and found a sumptuosity that makes you amazed and enjoyably surprised.
To visit the Oratory ask the door keeper of the school (Liceo) in n. 1 Gesù Nuovo square
[Egicom05 – by Elisir]
This Chiesa/Church, also known Trinità Maggiore, was part of the Sanseverino Palace, built in the the 15th century.