The church of San Domenico Maggiore, protagonist of the history of Naples

by Gaia Borrelli
Church of San Domenico Maggiore

The church of San Domenico Maggiore, located in the homonymous square, is certainly one of the most monumental and recognizable in the ancient center of Naples. It was commissioned by Charles II of Anjou and initially built in the Gothic style, from 1283 to 1324, it became the most important church for the Dominicans in Naples and the church of the Aragonese nobility.

The church, built on a pre-existing one, was strongly desired by King Charles for a vow made to the Madonna in the period of Sicilian vespers, while the consecration to San Domenico was wanted by Pope Alexander IV.

The church is built in Gothic style with a Latin cross plan with three naves around which the side chapels are located. The apse is located in the opposite direction to the pre-existing church, in fact it faces the square where a secondary entrance was created in the Aragonese period.
The architecture of the church has undergone many changes over the centuries; the first began in the Renaissance following earthquakes and fires, then later, in the Baroque period, the Church took on the aspect that still characterizes it today. In fact, the original floor was replaced by a floor designed by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, while the high altar is by Cosimo Fanzago.
With the settlement of Gioacchino Murat, the complex was destined for public work and this involved various damage to the library and to the works of art present in the complex.

The church and the convent complex have welcomed over the centuries personality of enormous caliber. In fact, the lessons of St. Thomas Aquinas were held in the convent adjacent to the church, while among the illustrious students who attended the convent we even find Giordano Bruno and Tommaso Campanella. The rooms in which Giordano Bruno lived have now disappeared as they are incorporated, together with a part of the convent, into the Liceo Casanova.


As for the works of art we know that the church In addition to the works in it currently preserved, it also housed the Flagellation by Caravaggio and the Annunciation by Titian (now in the Capodimonte museum), the Madonna del Pesce by Raphael (currently exhibited at the Prado Museum in Madrid), two Saints by Guido Reni (missing) and the Madonna and Child with St. Thomas Aquinas by Luca Giordano (stolen). In the conventual part instead there are paintings by the most illustrious exponents of the Neapolitan school, including Mattia Preti, Cesare Fracanzano, Francesco Solimena and Luca Giordano.

There is also a museum, which we invite you to visit.

-Gaia Borrelli

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