Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità

The Basilica of Rione Sanità which houses the Catacombs of San Gaudioso

It is considered one of the boldest works by the Dominican architect Fra Nuvolo, who created one of the most important examples of Neapolitan Baroque.

The "Presepe Favoloso"

The "Presepe Favoloso"

A nativity scene on permanent display, created by La Scarabattola artisans.

The nativity becomes a means of communication to represent the need to stay together.

A new treasure in the Rione Sanità.

The happy crowd

Since Christmas 2021, the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità is home to the Il Presepe Favoloso, a wonderful piece of art created by the Scuotto brothers, a famous family of Neapolitan artisans, in collaborations with the restorer and nativity set designer Biagio Roscigno.

The work represents the need to stay closer after the pandemic, going back to a happy crowd, through the art of nativity, a powerful means of communication.

The Neapolitan nativity is one of the best representation of community living, telling the stories of its characters, their moments of joy and despair, their past, present and future, while a sacred event is happening.

A new treasure

The Presepe Favoloso is about 4 m large, for a height of 2,20 m and it can be admired from all its sides. The work includes one hundred characters, animals and details.

The nativity is located in the sacristy of the Basilica, right in the depths of Naples, as an ideal counterpoint to the presepe Cuciniello, a classic nativity on display in the Museum of San Martino, built on the city’s highest point.

The Presepe by the Scuotto brothers has revisited the traditional Neapolitan nativity of the 18th century, even though staying true to its spirit.
The Presepe Favoloso blends the tradition of refined and folk nativities. The Scuottos and their workshop La Scarabattola are well known for their dynamic interpretation of the tradition, which is renewed in their contemporary works.

The project was co-financed by the Italian government and Regione Campania (POC Campania 2014-2020), with contributions by Saint-Gobain, Famiglia Sossio Cirillo, Faraone, Edil Vetro S.r.l., Rimani, Coop4Art, Ceramiche Vesuviane, Marazzi.

Project and coordination of the exhibition: Nicola Flora (DiARC) with architects Francesca Iarrusso and Domenico Rapuano
Graphic project: Luigi Maisto
Management: Catacombe di Napoli and Fondazione di Comunità San Gennaro

The Neapolitan Baroque

The Baroque period influenced art and architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Baroque architecture arose from the church's need to emphasise its centrality during the time of the Counter-reformation. However, it was also influenced by the philosophies of Copernicus and Galileo, and the conception of life as a dream, as in the works of Shakespeare.

Baroque architecture is characterised by curved and sinuous lines and a complex exuberance created by chiaroscuro effects achieved through the use of various materials, such as marble and Piperno. Baroque created its spaces through a combination of painting, sculpture and stucco.

The main exponents of Neapolitan Baroque include Giovanni Antonio Dosio (Church of the Girolamini, Cloister of the Certosa di San Martino)Francesco Grimaldi (Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Pizzofalcone, Treasury Chapel in Naples Cathedral), Fra Nuvolo (Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità), Cosimo Fanzago, the most prolific of all, who took charge of the restoration of the complex of San Gaudioso, now lost.

Fra Nuvolo's great basilica

The Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità is considered one of the most ambitious projects by the Dominican architect, Fra Nuvolo.

The Basilica was built between 1602 and 1610. Its distinctive feature is its dome with yellow and green majolica, known all over the city because it can be seen immediately as soon as you pass through the Ponte della Sanità.

The church is built on a Greek cross plan, with a raised presbytery to incorporate the previous Christian basilica, from which the catacomb is accessed.

The basilica is a landmark in Rione Sanità, and is locally known as the church of San Vincenzo 'O Munacone (St. Vincent the Big Monk), because it contains a famous statue of St. Vincent Ferrer. According to tradition, the statue was carried in procession in 1836, when the city was struck by yet another cholera epidemic. Thanks to the Saint's intercession, the disease miraculously stopped, and the ritual has been repeated ever since on the first Tuesday of July in remembrance of the grace received.

The origins of the Basilica

The Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità was built as a sign of the devotion of the Neapolitan faithful to the Virgin Mary, following the discovery of a fresco dating from the 5th-6th century. This is the oldest depiction of the Madonna in Naples, and it is now preserved in one of the chapels of the Basilica.

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

from Noi del Rione Sanità - Ed. Mondadori

Detail of the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità

A fascinating artistic programme

The Basilica is a true haven of painting, preserving precious works of art from the 17th century all along its aisles.

Santa Maria della Sanità holds many examples of Mannerist, Classic and Baroque trends, and is considered a museum of 17th-century Neapolitan painting.

In addition to the rich heritage from the seventeenth century, the Basilica also has works by contemporary artists such as Gianni Pisani, Annamaria Bova and Riccardo Dalisi.

The oldest collection of works dates back to the design and construction of the church, with late-sixteenth century Tuscan-Roman style paintings.

Another group of works date back to the mid-17th century, by artists commissioned because of their affinity to the works of Massimo Stanzione, and also featuring classical elements derived from the Emilian trend.

Numerous works from the second half of the seventeenth century were done by Luca Giordano, such as the painting of The Virgin with St. Hyacinth, St. Rose and St. Agnes and the one dedicated to St. Vincent Ferrer, so dear to the devotees. Another important work by the Neapolitan artist is The Glory of St. Pius V (1671-72), painteed to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the victory of Lepanto and the Instituion of the Feast of the Our Lady of the Rosary.

Other works by Luca Giordano are The Ecstasy of Mary Magdalene in the chapel of the Crucifix and St. Nicholas with the Dominicans Blessed Ceslaus of Kraków and San Louis Bertrand.

Dionisio Lazzari created the marble pulpit in 1677, and the staircase was rebuilt in polychrome marble. The ante-sacristy, frescoed by G.B. Di Pino, preserves a few votive offerings donated by the devotees of San Vincenzo Il Monacone and leads to the elliptical cloister overshadowed by the so-called Ponte della Sanità (La Sanità Bridge).

The relationship with the neighbourhood

A close emotional bond links the Basilica to the inhabitants of Rione Sanità.

The great Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità rises up in the main square of the district, from where the urban development of the area, once the site of the Neapolitan necropolis, began.

The central location of the Basilica makes it the nerve centre of neighbourhood life, and it was here that the project to restore its cultural and human heritage began.

Thanks to the activities of the youth involved in the projects of Don Antonio Loffredo, the basilica became a catalyst for change, the place of those who believed in the redemption and restoration of the district.

«For the Neapolitans, San Vincenzo is both love and legend. It is he who hears the weeping of the mothers of Naples and reads the love letters of our beautiful daughters.»

Father Giuseppe Rassello

The statue of St. Vincent in procession in the Sanità District

Around the Basilica, a resourceful neighbourhood

The development of Rione Sanità began in the 17th century, in a pristine valley considered as miraculous due to its healthy environment.

It became an area where Neapolitan nobles and burghers settled, and the royal familiy would also pass through here on their way to the Royal Palace of Capodimonte.

The remains of the necropolis, the churches built in honour of the saints buried there and the Baroque palaces of the nobility are a heritage that remained hidden for a long time. The main cause of this abandonment of the district to itself was probably the construction of the Ponte della Sanità, which was intended to simplify the route from Capodimonte to Naples city centre.

The importance of the cooperative

The "Cooperativa La Paranza" was founded in 2006, and in 2009 it was awarded the management of the archaeological site of the Catacombs of San Gennaro and San Gaudioso, which was the starting point for a broader redevelopment of the district.

The whole project is based on and focused towards:

  • The evolution and development of social capital of the communitythrough the re-appropriation of its own cultural heritage;
  • Economic development, since the increase of visitors is to the benefit of productive activities in the district;
  • Employment, thanks to the work opportunities generated by activities connected with the sites of the Catacombs and the associations linked to the San Gennaro Community Foundation.

In ten years of commitment in the district, social services and recreational facilities have been created, including a shelter and after-school centre, a theatre workshop, an orchestra, a craft workshop, a recording studio, and a Bed & Breakfast. All these services are run by the young people of Rione Sanità, who wanted to employ their skills and energy in the service of the district in which they were born.

Basilica Santa Maria della Sanità

The entrance to the Basilica is in Piazza Sanità, 14.

Opening time
From Monday to Sunday and holidays from 10 am to 1 pm (Last admission 1 pm)

The Holy Mile, guided tour in Italian of Rione Sanità

Every Sunday at 9 am
3 hours 30

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