The Cappella Sansevero is a chapel on a side street of the Spaccanapoli in Naples. This burial chapel of the Sangro family is famous for the beautiful sculptures and somewhat sinister anatomical models kept in the crypt.
Sansevero Chapel Naples
Opening hours: 09:30 to 18:30 (Sundays and holidays: 09:30 to 14:00). Closed Tuesdays.
Admission fee: 7 Euro; young people between 10 and 25 years: 5 Euro; children up to 10 years: free; ArteCard holders: 5 Euro.
It is forbidden to take pictures inside the chapel.
History Sansevero Chapel Naples
The Cappella Sansevero was built towards the end of the 16th century, with the intention of housing the tombs of the Sangro family. In the 18th century it was completely renovated and filled with sculptures by order of Prince Raimondo di Sangro di Sansevero.
Around 1590, an innocent man was taken to prison. As he walked past the garden of the Palazzo di Sangro, a piece of wall fell down and an effigy of the Madonna appeared. After his innocence was proven and he was released, the effigy became a place of prayer. Not long after, Duke Giovan Francesco di Sangro recovered from a serious illness after begging the Madonna for help and had the first version of the chapel built.
What to see
The most famous work in the chapel is the “Veiled Christ” by Giuseppe Sanmartino (1753). None other than Antonio Canova once declared that he would gladly give 10 years of his life to create such a work of art.
“The Disillusionment” (Disinganno) is a masterpiece by Francesco Queirolo. It is one of 10 statues in the chapel that personify different virtues. Most of these were designed by Antonio Corradini, but often executed by other artists. “The Disillusionment” describes a man who has freed himself from sins (in the form of the perfectly executed net).
Corradini himself was responsible for the statue depicting “Modesty” (Pudicizia).
The ceiling frescoes (1749) in the chapel were painted by Francesco Maria Russo. The theme of the frescoes is the “Glory if Heaven”. The striking colors are supposedly due to an invention by Prince Raimondo himself.
Most of the marble floor was destroyed in an earthquake in 1889. Some of it can still be seen in the corridor leading to the crypt, while they also moved a small section to a wall in the room where the models are on display.
Prince Raimondo was known as a scientist, alchemist and inventor. Two anatomical models of human bodies are on display in the crypt of the chapel. The skeletons are real, the veins and arteries are not, but it is still not clear exactly what the prince used to make it so lifelike and tenable.
The models are of a man and of a woman. At the foot of the woman there used to be fetus, but this was stolen a few years ago. Of course, at that time all kinds of stories circulated about the prince, and it was believed that he had killed two of his servants himself in order to carry out his experiments.
Before the skeletons were transferred to the crypt of the Sansevero Chapel, they were in a room in the prince’s palace called the Chamber of the Phoenix.
Documents show that the models were made under the prince’s supervision between 1763 and 1764 by the physician Giuseppe Salerno from Palermo.
Address and public transportation
The Sansevero Chapel is located at Via de Sanctis 19 – 80134 Naples (tel. +39 0815518470). Metro: Dante.