The basilica of Santa Maria alla Sanità, a treasure hidden underground
Today we suggest you a stroll through a historic Neapolitan quarter to discover the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità.
The Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità (known also as San Vincenzo alla Sanità) is one of the most fascinating churches worth visiting in Naples. It is located in the popular quarter of Sanità and called by the locals San Vincenzo, since it houses a statue of the Saint Dominican Vincenzo Ferreri, whose cult is popular in the zone. The shrine was constructed in the early 17th century and projected by the Dominican Giuseppe Nuvolo, who made it erect over the catacombs of San Gaudioso.
The church and the complex itself were completed in 1610, after eight years of works. Some years later, in 1613 the main dome was finished. The shrine may be noticed from the bridge called Ponte della Sanità that passes over it and is a part of corso Amedeo di Savoia, joining the area off Archeological Museum to the museum and park of Capodimonte. The round form of the temple has made the inclusion of the former paleochristian shrine possible, and so one may access directly the catacombs through the basilica. The first chapel on the right is dedicated to San Nicola and on the wall above there is the most antique fresco of the Madonna of Naples, called Madonna della Sanità. It is dated back to about the 5th to 6th century.
The entrance to the paleochristian shrine and to the catacombs is placed under the presbytery. In a room preceding the sacristy there are votive offerings of San Vincenzo Ferreri, called affectionately “‘O Monacone” (“the Monk”) by local community. Moreover, inside the complex there is also the elliptical cloister, constructed in the early 17th century, with a pier in the centre that supports the 18th-century bridge above. The form of the cloister, designed by Fra’ Nuvolo, is extremely original since all of the Neapolitan structures of its kind are rectangular or square.
Nowadays, the venue consists in a destination of guide tours in the quarter of Sanità. Furthermore, the cloister is a site of frequent theatrical shows, organized especially by the cultural association “Nuovo Teatro Sanità”, led by Mario Gelardi.
A visit at the basilica, catacombs and the quarter are definitely worthwhile. Write it down in your calendar!