Purgatorio ad Arco Church Naples

The Baroque (Santa Maria delle Anime del) Purgatorio ad Arco Church in Naples was built in the early 17th century. Believers came to the church after visiting the cemetery below. The facade is decorated with motifs referring to funerals.

Purgatorio ad Arco Church Napels

Useful information

Purgatorio ad Arco Church Napels
Top part of the facade

Address: Via dei Tribunali, 39 – Napoli. Telephone: +39 081 440438. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 10:00 to 14:00. The museum, including guided tours, must be booked in advance via e-mail: complessomusealepurgatorio@gmail.com. Tours are held Monday through Saturday at 12:00 in Italian and, Saturday only, at 11:00 in English. Admission: the church is free, the museum is 7 Euro (3 Euro for children).

(Note: Opening times and admission prices may have been subject to change since the time of writing).

History and description

Construction of the Purgatorio ad Arco Church began in 1616. The construction was paid for by a number of aristocratic families, with the intention of making it into a cemetery for the less fortunate.

The addition Ad Arco is explained by the former proximity of a tower. This tower was called Torre d’Arco because it was open on all four sides so that people could pass underneath. Although the tower had already been razed to the ground in 1564, the neighborhood continued to be called ad Arco by the local population.

The consecration of the upper part of the church took place in 1638.

The lower part was not completed until the 18th century, so from then on it was used as a cemetery for the poor.

A major restoration was needed after the 1980 earthquake. The reopening took place in 1992.



The facade is decorated with skulls and bones. The portal and the relief above it (“The Madonna with the Souls of Purgatory”) date from the 18th century and are the work of Cosimo Fanzago.

Museum and Hypogeum

The sacristy and facade now make up the Museo dell’Opera Pia del Purgatorio ad Arco. The cemetery below the church is also part of the visit.

The Hypogeum is the same size as the church itself and is accessed through a trapdoor. Along the side walls are many niches and altars dedicated to the cult of souls in purgatory. These souls are called anime pezzentelle (“beggar souls”).

Skull of Lucia

The biggest attraction of the Hypogeum is the so-called “Skull of Lucia”, decorated with a crown and bridal veil. Lucia was about to marry when she found death. There are several legends about the cause of this death. She is said to have been murdered on her way to the altar, she is said to have committed murder herself, she is said to have suffered from an incurable disease, and much more. It was her father who had the skull interred in the church.


The church is best known for its devotion to the Souls in Purgatory.

Purgatorio ad Arco Church, Naples

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