The San Giovanni Maggiore Basilica is one of the oldest churches in Naples. After having been closed for years due to restoration work, this church reopened in 2012. In addition to the works of art, there are several relics on display that were brought to Naples by Emperor Constantine.
San Giovanni Maggiore Basilica Naples
The address of the Basilica di San Giovanni Maggiore is Vico S. Maria Dell’Aiuto 14 – Naples. Telephone: +39 081 7951111. Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 09:00 to 18:00, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 to 14:00. Entrance fee: Free of charge.
(Note: Times and prices may be subject to change).
Before the San Giovanni Maggiore Basilica was built, a pagan temple dedicated to Antinoüs stood on this site. An inscription on the architrave indicates that the church was erected around the year 324.
A major reconstruction took place between 550 and 560, by order of then Bishop Vincenzo. Other changes were carried out in 1685 by Dionisio Lazzari.
More reconstructions became necessary after the earthquakes of 1732 and 1805. Between 1872 and 1877, after part of the basilica collapsed, restorations were again carried out.
The San Giovanni Maggiore Basilica consists of three naves, with nine chapels. Two larger chapels can be seen in the transept. The semicircular apse is a remnant of the early Christian church and is characterized by arches resting on pillars.
Several relics brought to Naples by Emperor Constantine are kept in the apse. Among them are a piece of wood from the cross, a thorn from the crown of Christ and the sponge that was used for quenching his thirst.
Other relics include a bone from a leg of the Apostle Philip, a rib and a tooth of John the Baptist, an eye of Saint Lucia, bones of Saints Laurens and Elisabeth, blood of Saint Zachariah, as well as a number of relics from several other saints.
One of the rocks with which St. Stephen was stoned is preserved in the church, as well as some implements used to martyr St. George and a veil of St. Margherita.
Works of art
Unfortunately, many works of art have been looted from the church over the centuries.
The main altar was designed and crafted by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro in 1743. It is flanked by two Corinthian Roman columns from the 4th century.
Near the entrance is a 1730 painting by Giuseppe de Vivo (“John the Baptist preaching to the Disciples”). Also next to the main entrance is a “Crucifixion” painted on wood from 1768.
In the Cappellone del Crocifisso in the left transept are statues representing Constantine and Helena. These were made by Lorenzo Vaccaro toward the end of the 17th century.
Giovanni Da Nola created the marble sculpture group “Baptism of Jesus between San Francesco di Paola and San Giacomo della Marca and the Crucifixion.”
Giuseppe Simonelli painted the “Resurrection of Lazarus” in the third chapel on the left.