Museo Diocesano di Napoli
At the start of the seventeenth century the Poor Clares at the convent of Santa Maria Donnaregina decided to build a new baroque church. Work on the new sacred building – hence known as Santa Maria Donnaregina Nuova – began in 1617. The majestic staircase leads up into the nave of the church, which is faced with polychrome marbles and has a seventeenth-century ceiling entirely frescoed with the Glory of the Virgin. The presbytery houses a fresco by the young Francesco Solimena, which depicts ‘The Miracle of the roses of Saint Francis’, and next to the high altar are the last two paintings made by Luca Giordano.
Within the church is the Museo Diocesano di Napoli, which boasts a collection of more than three hundred works of sacred art. This new art venue to grace the old town of Naples stands on the axis of the decumanus maximus.
It occupies a space of about 3000 m2 and exhibits works by Neapolitan and non-Neapolitan painters and craftsmen of unquestionable artistic merit, which are part of the church’s art collection not previously available to the public. As these wonderful works of art stream past their eyes, visitors will be taken on an historical, religious, and artistic journey, imbued with local tradition.
The exhibition sections include, on the ground floor, the nave, the chapels (on the left, the chapels of the Immacolata, the Rosario and?the Carmine and, on the right, the chapels of Sant’Antonio, the Annunziata and San Francesco) and the church presbytery, with the rooms either side and behind. Also on the ground floor, visitors can admire the frescoes by Francesco de Benedictis, the fourteenth-century wooden crucifix by an anonymous sculptor, and the oil painting by Fabrizio Santafede depicting the ‘Madonna enthroned with Saints’.
On the first floor, artworks are exhibited in the nuns’ choir, overlooking the presbytery, in the choir of the converse sisters, on the counterfacade, and in the spaces above the side chapels.
On display in the exhibition rooms are the ‘Mourning of the Dead Christ’ by the painter Andrea Vaccaro, the fifteenth-century polyptych by an anonymous Neapolitan painter depicting ‘Saint Benedict and his stories’, reliquaries such as the silver bust of San Massimo and Santa Candida by Giovan Domenico Vinaccia and many other works of art. Other rooms are devoted to themes such as the Passion of Christ and the sacraments, martyrdom, the consecrated life (monasticism, mendicant orders, regular clerics) and works of charity. Jewels and relics, wooden statues, and a small lapidarium complete the exhibition.
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