onsdag 25. september 2013

In and Around Napoli III

 Inside Pio Monte della Misericordia
Our excursion this morning began at Pio Monte della Misericordia, a church in the historic center of Naples, famous for the Seven Works of Mercy, the painting by Caravaggio.  No sooner had we arrived, when a priest emerged and gave a sermon to the five grateful souls who had the good fortune to be present.

Our next destination was the Cathedral of Napoli or the Cattedrale di San Gennaro, named after the city’s patron saint. The cathedral was built 600 years ago on the foundations of two ancient Christian churches, the Santa Restituta (6th c) and the baptistery of San Giovanni in fonte (5th c). The latter is the oldest monument in Western Christendom and has awe-inspiring mosaics, still intact - more or less. The Duomo is indeed magnificent, but the baptistery of San Giovanni resounds more of bygone times.

Mosaics in the Baptistery of San Giovanni 
However, we had an agenda to follow, and our next stop was the recently refurbished complex of San Domenica Maggiore, the so-called Insula Conventuale di San Domenico Maggiore. The complex contains not only the church and convent of San Domenico, but also the library, the study chamber and chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. The entire “insula”  is like a small city within the city, and the sights are in abundance. We shall focus on St.Thomas’ study chamber from the 13th century.
“Cella abita da S. Tommaso d’ Aquino negli anni 1272-1274,”
said the brass plaque on the door of the cell.

Inside St. Thomas' study chamber.
The monk from Armenia explains.
The "cell" is not open to the public on a daily basis, only on special occasions are guests allowed inside.Was it providence when a group of pilgrims from Prague arrived on the scene with two Armenian monks (Domenicans) as guides? Because these pilgrims were allowed to enter the cell of St Thomas in small groups - under polite supervison. And yours truly, a pilgrim from the far North, was allowed to join the company from Prague inside St.Thomas’ chapel. An incredible moment.
Photos from St Tomas' chapel.

The Royal Palace of Caserta
It was time  to return to our headquarters in Vomero, since our plan for the afternoon was to go with Giustino to see the Royal Palace of Caserta, some 35 kilometres north of Napoli. We had an extensive agenda on this day, to say the least. But the visit to Caserta was worth the trip.

We had heard of the splendour of Versailles, but who knew that the Royal Palace of Caserta was built with the former as a model example, only on a larger scale? The construction of the palace began in 1752 when Charles VII of Naples (later king Charles III of Spain) commissioned  the architect Luigi Vanvitelli (whose list of achievements includes the facade of the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano) to lead  the construction. The king  wanted to have an impressive new royal court and administrative center in a location protected from attack from the sea.

The palace has an immense garden, 1200 rooms, two dozen state apartments, a large library, a theatre - and its own royal chapel, the Palatine Chapel, where we could  enjoy "Vanvitelli and his angels", an exhibition with paintings of angels who seemed to be in silent dialogue with their marble counterparts in the chapel.

Photos from the Palace of Caserta