The Restoration Laboratory of the Girolamini Church

by Arianna Giannetti

The December 20, 2019 we of Stories of Naples we went to have a look at one of the monumental complexes most beautiful in our city, a little hidden gem in the heart of via Duomo, open for a very special occasion: the visit of the Central nave of the Girolamini Church he was born in Restoration Laboratory.

Il Laboratorio di Restauro della Chiesa dei Girolamini
Interior of the Girolamini Church seen from the Transept

In this windy December we had the opportunity, presented to us almost by chance, to visit the magnificent Church of the Girolamini or of S. FIlippo Neri reopened to the public in 2009 after about thirty years of forgetfulness and since then it can be visited occasionally according to the calendar.

The whole Girolamini complex, a national monument since 1866, includes: two cloisters, the Picture Gallery, the Church, the Congrega dell'Assunta, and finally, the oldest public library in the city, known by all as the Girolamini Library. A truly majestic work that represents one of the most flourishing and precious cultural centers of our territory.

The opening of the construction site open sky made it possible to follow the rebirth live in progress from the Left side nave of the Church with its chapels, including those of the Transept and side of the Apse.

The project is of the Superintendency Sabap for the Municipality of Naples and was financed by Pon Culture and Development 2014-2020. The latter is part of the programming of the Mibac, co-financed by European funds ERDF and belongs to the Programming of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities.

The main facade, signed by Ferdinando Fuga, peeps out on the homonymous clearing in via dei Tribunali ed l’unica in tutta Napoli completamente costruita in White marble. Although we cannot see it, but from under the bandages and curtains of the restoration we can imagine the ancient splendor of the bardigli.

In a moment, we pass by caciara Christmas to the respectful silence of the magnificent Church. Intrigued we enter the womb of the structure, which welcomes us inside with a plant Latin cross with three naves, delineated by twelve granite columns ofLily island.

Il Laboratorio di Restauro della Chiesa dei Girolamini
Right nave - ph Luigi Iacopo De Blasi


In the central nave is installed the restoration laboratory of the works of art of the site. So, almost without realizing it, we queue up to listen to the explanations of the restorers.

Il Laboratorio di Restauro della Chiesa dei Girolamini
Restorers at work

The restoration of a canvas, we are told, follows the process theranostic of a real patient: there is first of all a phase diagnostics, to evaluate color losses and possible lifting. Subsequently, an investigation is carried out on the conditions of the frame to estimate its replacement, it is also essential to recognize the painting technique and the study oficonography. Next, we move on to the phase therapeutic, with the actual restoration that is done by hand.

Il Laboratorio di Restauro della Chiesa dei Girolamini
Nothing is accomplished from scratch, otherwise it would be production of a false! All the grafts they are added only where the canvas is missing and there are holes. ph Luigi Iacopo De Blasi

We poke our noses into the perimeter of the laboratory and approach the canvases spread over sunbeds, placide e pronte per essere operate. One of the restorers explains that among the causes of deterioration of a work of art, the main one is the attack of biotic agents, which in the paintings on wooden and textile supports are presented in the form of fungi, bacteria and insects.

The phenomenon is closely related to the presence of humidity, and sometimes the works can even be attacked by rodents, such as mice and rats. However, it is the insects that cause the most significant damage, in particular the wood it is ruined because it is rich in proteins, vitamins and sugars. The canvas ofImmaculate, he tells us, it had suffered very serious damage due to an aggressive infestation, the wood had become extremely brittle, but which had been saved through massive relief works.

Proceeding along the nave then, we walk among the canvases hung out to dry under the transparent gauze of a very light one Japanese paper, this operation is called velinatura, and it is a necessary step for the protection of the painting that could suffer trauma or accidents during the subsequent restoration phases. It seems to be inside a real one emergency room, with all the tools resting on the work table, and the doctors who move safely from one point of the Church to another, a place they now know in detail.

Il Laboratorio di Restauro della Chiesa dei Girolamini
Gilding -ph Luigi Iacopo De Blasi

Look up, they tell us, they are performing the gilding!

The shipyard is a bustle of engineers, designers and technicians: the temptation to slip in the yellow helmet and climb up the scaffolding, so to see more closely, it's strong, but we give up, and continue to fantasize from below.

Il Laboratorio di Restauro della Chiesa dei Girolamini
Restoration Laboratory - Luigi Iacopo De Blasi

With an eye to the coffered ceiling, severely affected by the bombing of 1943, assaporiamo la bellezza e lo sfarzo delle decorazioni baroque. They chase each other from counter-façade, decorata con un affresco di Luca Giordano "the Expulsion of the merchants from the temple", up to the High Altar, framed by two Angels holding torch carved in the white marble of Carrara.

We continue our little trip and reach the left Transept which represents the Nativity exquisitely designed in marble, in the right one instead stands the chapel of the Holy Martyrs, carved in wood. This apparatus was actually one stage machine, able, through the use of counterweights, to descend into the depths of the Church canvases of the saints, showing instead the reliquary of San Filippo Neri.

Il Laboratorio di Restauro della Chiesa dei Girolamini
Canvases of the saints - ph Luigi Iacopo De Blasi

We conclude the tour enthusiastic, we are fascinated and happy to have had this incredible one blown. Being immersed in the complex world of restoration has kidnapped and involved us, the restorers have transmitted to us all the passion they experience every day in their work, in loving what you do. So it takes very little to fall in love with little things, just a friend who says: Ti va di visitare una chiesa riaperta dopo trent’anni?

Arianna Giannetti

Photo by Luigi Iacopo De Blasi

Bibliography & Sitography



[3] AA.VV., Naples and surroundings, Touring Club Italiano Milano 2007, ISBN 978-88-365-3893-5

[4] Technical manual-Restoration and paintings on canvas. Chiara Caruso


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