Basilica of San Gennaro
Extra Moenia

Basilica of San Gennaro Extra Moenia in Naples.

The early Christian Basilica connected the city of the living to that of the dead. Today it is a gateway between the past and the future, opening the neighbourhood once more to the city.

The city of 500 domes

Religious worship in Naples is represented by almost 500 churches and 2,000 votive aediculae, from different eras and in various architectural styles.

In Naples, a church is not simply where you go to Mass. A church is a place of devotion, where you go to ask for future graces and leave votive offerings for those received. The religious buildings overlap and are stratified, spanning a period of time ranging from the early Christian period to the 20th century. Due to the extremely large number of churches in the city, it has been nicknamed the city of 500 domes.

In addition to the 500 domes, there are other, smaller places of worship that are equally important for the city: the approximately two thousand votive aediculae, which are important examples of religious architecture from various eras. Originating from the Greek era, they spread increasingly in the 18th century, serving a dual purpose: to evangelise the people and create a network of street lights for the darkest alleys.

The aediculae are regarded as an object of worship that is closer, less distant and less dispersive than the churches. For many of the faithful, they are basically a sort of personal church, never without lights and flowers, where you can go at any time.

A 5th century Basilica

Among the many churches in Naples, the early Christian basilica is the oldest one dedicated to San Gennaro.

The Basilica of San Gennaro Extra Moenia was built in the 5th-6th century, close to the catacombs where the patron saint was buried.

The Basilica is composed of three large naves with a semicircular apse, which provides the finest example of early Christian architecture. The Basilica has undergone several changes over the centuries, which can still be seen in some features of the structure.

The relationship with the San Gennaro dei Poveri Hospital

The San Gennaro dei Poveri hospital was built on the former site of the ancient Benedictine monastery dedicated to Saints Januarius and Agrippinus.

To address the plague epidemic in 1468, Cardinal Carafa decided to turn the monastery into a hospital for plague victims, which was further enlarged during the Great Plague of 1656, when even the church was used to house the sick.

The choice of the site was based on hope, rather than logistics, as the Sanità was a particularly healthy area and considered a place of miraculous cures, due to its unpolluted air and the presence of the tombs of the saints.

The relationship with the neighbourhood

The Basilica, originally built as access to the catacombs, is now a gateway to Rione Sanità.

With the abandonment and closure of the Basilica, the neighbourhood lacked an important access point and remained virtually isolated following the construction of the Ponte della Sanità.

The reopening of the Basilica, in 2008, was of great symbolic valuebecause it once more became possible to connect the Catacombs to the neighbourhood, a link that had been broken in the 1960s when the Capodimonte entrance was opened.

The basilica represents the city reopening to the neighbourhood and vice versa, and the district reacquires its cultural significance, with renewed confidence in its own resources.

«Beauty in the form of art belongs to all, as the Constitution says, and we bring it to life.»

Don Antonio Loffredo

The spaces of the early Christian basilica of San Gennaro Extra Moenia

The styles of the Basilica

Since the 5th century it has gone through transformations and upheavals.

The Basilica has undergone several transformations: in the 17th century it was renovated to reflect Baroque trends, in the late 19th century, the vault was replaced with a trussed ceiling, up to the restoration of the early 20th century, when attempts were made to restore it to its original form.

Today, San Gennaro Extra Moenia appears as an enormous testament to the ages it has spanned: it retains the original layout with three naves, a semicircular apse and bare columns that hold up the triumphal arch and archways in the Catalan-Durazzesque style, while the entrance hall is in a Renaissance style, with frescoes attributed to Augustine Tesauro.



The Mount of the Crucifixion seen by Annamaria Bova

Golgota is a work in iron and steel made by the Neapolitan artist in 2008 and exhibited on the occasion ofPaleocontemporanea.

The works in the Basilica, a transcendence of past and present

Testaments to the present have also found a place among the essential spaces and various eras of the basilica, such as the works by contemporary artists, some of which were shown for the first time at the Paleocontemporaneaexhibition. The theme of the event was transcendence, and it involved the participation of about 60 artists. The exhibition of contemporary art in places so rich in history has resulted in the creation of a dialogue between past and present.

The works on display in the Basilica include the imposing Golgota by Annamaria Bova, as well as the balancing installation In Down for Salvation by Emmanuele De Ruvo, featuring a confessional suspended between opposing forces.

Contemporary art works in the Basilica of San Gennaro Extra Moenia
The work "In Down for Salvation" by Emmanuele De Ruvo.

The Basilica as a meeting place

Rione Sanità rediscovers a place of meeting and growth.

The great Basilica, while preserving its original religious function, is becoming a space for concerts, exhibitions and events, which welcomes and always surprises new visitors.

It is no longer perceived as a static monument, but as a meeting point in constant motion, which contributes to the positive change in the image of the district, not only among outsiders, but also among those who live there.

Artists who have performed in the Basilica include: Paolo Alderighi and Stephanie Trick, Trini Massie and The Sound of Gospel Singers and Sanitansamble.

What has been created around San Gennaro Extra Moenia

The Catacombs and Basilicas are a great example of recovery from the grass roots, living nuclei from which ideas and initiatives for the district have emerged.

The Basilica has become an important meeting place for the district.

For example, in addition to Sanitansamble, other initiatives have been set up, including a shelter for mothers and children, an after-school space with a play room, a theatre workshop and recording studio, and a hand-crafted metalwork shop, inspired by a training course by the master Dalisi.

Riccardo Dalisi's ironwork shop
The Iron Angels ironwork shop.

Basilica San Gennaro Extra Moenia

The Basilica is accessible through the Catacombs of San Gennaro, entrance in Via Capodimonte, 13.

Visiting hours
Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (Last admission 5 pm)

The Holy Mile, guided tour in Italian of Rione Sanità

Every Sunday at 9 am
3 hours 30

Buy your tickets