More than two hundred Catholic Churches exist in downtown Naples alone. Open to everyone, they provide quiet reprieve from the frenetic city traffic and display stunning works of art for free. They also transport visitors back through centuries of medieval, Byzantine, and ancient history. But with so many Churches in the area, which ones are the most important?
Here are my top picks of churches to see in downtown Naples, which can also be followed as a day-long tour:
1) Santa Maria del Parto at is a wonderful little treat because you must take an elevator up to this church built in the 1520s. Jacopo Sannazaro, the Neapolitan humanist and poet during Angevin times, has his tomb behind the altar. There’s also a Mergellina Devil painting that shows St. Michael vanquishing the devil disguised as a beautiful woman.
2) Santa Maria di Piedigrotta at Piazza Piedigrotta 24 was mentioned by Giovanni Boccaccio in 1339. A church founded by fishermen in Mergellina, the building initially faced the grotto, but then was rebuilt to face the city.
3) Santa Maria La Nova at Piazza Santa Maria La Nova 44. Charles I of Anjou had this church built with niches full of famous masterpieces of the Renaissance. A cloister courtyard next door is also worth a visit for its stunning frescoes on the walls and even a sculpture by Riccardo Dalisi.
4) Sant’Anna dei Lombardi at Piazza Monteoliveto. The Church is tucked along a side road and its most impressive artwork lies in the back with the Vasari Refectory that has a ceiling fresco and handcrafted wooden marquetry along the walls.
5) Gesu Nuovo at Piazza del Gesu Nuovo contains richly decorated Baroque art and a niche with San Giuseppe Moscati that has silver images of specific body parts. These votive offerings are purchased by worshippers wishing to be healed.
6) San Gregorio Armeno Church at Piazza San Gaetano 1 has the weekly miracle of Saint Patricia.
7) Cappella Sansevero at Piazza Raimondo De Sangro di Sansevero 16 contains what’s considered a “wonder of the world” –
the Veiled Christ.
8) Il Duomo at Via Duomo 147 is also known as the Naples Cathedral.
9) San Giovanni a Carbonara at Via San Giovanni a Carbonara 5 has a unique circular Cappella Caracciolo del Sole and has paved Tuscan tiles. Behind the altar is the tomb of Ser Gianni Caracciolo, Joanna II’s lover and Grand Seneschal at the court.
10) Certosa di San Martino at Largo San Martino 5 is a cloister with beautiful marble columns in a courtyard, opulent gardens, and a richly decorated church. The Certosa also houses several exhibitions that delight adults and children alike, including the presepe, European carriages, and medieval ships.
Note, however, that each church opens at its own specific hours. Some are only open in the mornings, others open haphazardly. Most churches tend to open from about 10 a.m. to 12 p.m, close for the afternoon riposo or pausa, and then re-open from around 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Due to the vast riches inside, each church hires a custodian to take care of the grounds. Custodians tend to be elderly retired gentlemen who are kind, well-informed, and enthusiastic about showing tourists the artwork in their church – including gems that might be hidden in back recesses – if only tourists go up to them and ask questions with a sense of wonder and appreciation.Take The Church Tour