Santa Maria Assunta — The cathedral of Naples ☆☆

The nave, Il Duomo di Napoli, Naples, Italy (Photo by Vitold Muratov)
The nave

The duomo of Naples and Feast of San Gennaro

The neo-Gothic facade of Naples' cathedral—built in the French Gothic style for Charles I in 1294 but rebuilt after a disastrous earthquake in 1456—was finished in 1905, but the central portal survives from the 1407 version.

The 16 piers inside are made up of 110 antique columns of African and Asian granite removed from nearby pagan buildings.

The third chapel on the right is the sumptuous 17th-century Cappella di San Gennaro, elaborately frescoed by Domenichino and, later, Giovanni Lanfranco, who completed the concentric clouds of saints and angels spiraling up the airy dome.

Also here is a painting of San Gennaro Exiting Unharmed from the Furnace by Giuseppe Ribera, showing one of the miracles performed by Benevento's persecuted bishop in AD 305, who survived both being thrown to lions and this roasting only to be done in by an ax to the neck.

Among the silver reliquaries you'll see one of St. Irene Protecting the City, in which the saint holds a scale model of Naples circa 1733.

The most venerable items in all of Naples, however, are the ears-poking-out silver reliquary bust that preserves the head of the city patron, St. Gennaro—of New York City–street festival fame—and two vials of his coagulated blood, also stored behind the chapel altar.

No blood for commies

"This phenomenon, this 'standing miracle,' repeats itself on various feast days...except during times of strife, famine, oppression, and the election of a Communist mayor."
—On the regular liquefaction of St. Gennaro's blood, Saints Preserve Us!, 1993The latter are taken out on the first Saturday of May and on September 19 and December 16 amid much religious pomp and ceremony, whereupon they miraculously boil and liquefy back into blood again (Gennaro, incidentally, is the patron saint of blood banks).

The speed with which they do so is a prediction of Naples' prosperity for the coming months. When the miracle occurs, the faithful line up to kiss the vials.

To the right of the High Altar are two chapels with staccato remnants of 13th- and 14th-century frescoes (including by Roman Gothic master, Pietro Cavallini) and inlaid marble floor.

The Crypt of San Gennaro (a.k.a. Cappella Carafa, a.k.a. Cappella del Succorpo) beneath the High Altar is one of the greatest examples of Renaissance design in Naples, including the Cosmatesque-style tomb of Pope Innocent IV (1315), and a striking late 15C/early 16C statue of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa kneeling in prayer.

To the left of the High Altar is a chapel containing an Assumption by Umbrian master painter Perugino.

Off the left aisle is the entrance to the ancient Basilica di Santa Restituta, a pre-existing church built in the 4th century atop a Temple to Apollo, which may have contributed the antique columns of the nave (rebuilt in the 14th century).

Luca Giordano's brush was active again here on the ceiling, but the highlight is the baptistery at the back. This domed cube of a room is the oldest building of its kind in Christian Europe, built around AD 390 and retaining impressive swatches of the original mosaics on the dome.

From this little side church you can also descend to the basement where a few scraps of Greek and Roman streets, walls, and even mosaics remain.

Photo gallery
  • The nave, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Vitold Muratov)
  • The facade, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Miguel Hermoso Cuesta)
  • Apparition of the Virgin Mary and San Gennaro (1637–38) by Domenichino, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • Assumption of the Virgin with Cardinale Oliviero Carafa (1506) by Pietro Perugino, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • The 4C Battistero di San Giovanni in Fonte, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Dominik Matus)
  • Mosaics from AD 390 in the 4C Battistero di San Giovanni in Fonte, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Dominik Matus)
  • A fresco fragment in the 4C Battistero di San Giovanni in Fonte, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Dominik Matus)
  • San Pietro by Pietro Bernini (father of the famous Gianlorenzo) in the Cappella Brancaccio, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • Fresco by Pietro Cavallini in the Cappella Tocco, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • The Chiesa di Santa Restituta, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Vitold Muratov)
  • Infermi alla Tomba di San Gennaro by Domenichino in the Cappella di San Gennaro, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The statue of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa in the Capella Carafa crypt, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Sadoleto)
  • The Capella Carafa crypt, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Miguel Hermoso Cuesta)
  • Saint Januarius leaves the furnace (1646) by Jusepe de Ribera, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • Ossessa Liberata dall
  • Il Paradiso in the dome by Giovanni Lanfranco, with pendatives by Domenichino, in the Reale cappella del tesoro di San Gennaro, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Peppe Guida)
  • Paradise, by Giovanni Lanfranco, in the dome of the Reale cappella del tesoro di San Gennaro, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro)
  • Patrocinio dei santi Gennaro, Agrippina e Agnello Abate by Domenichino in the Reale Cappella del Tesoro di San Gennaro, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Giuseppe Guida)
  • The altar of the Reale Cappella del Tesoro di San Gennaro, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Peppe Guida)
  • Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe holds aloft the blood of San Gennaro as it liquefies during the annual festival on 22 September 2009, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by Paola Magni)
  • The Reliquary of San Genaro in the Cappella di San Gennaro, Il Duomo di Napoli, Italy (Photo by José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro)
Naples tours
 
More tours
 
 

Tips

How long does Il Duomo take?

The cathedral takes about 45 minutes—a bit longer, perhaps, if you visit all the ancillary sights.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
     
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
     
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
     
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
     
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
     
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
     
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
     
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
     
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah


* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).