The enormous Gothic Santa Chiara Basilica in Naples was built in the 14th century, but its present appearance is the result of a reconstruction made necessary after World War II. Its main attraction is the Chiostro delle Clarisse, constructed in the 18th century.
Santa Chiara Basilica Naples
Address, opening hours and ticket price
The address of the Basilica di Santa Chiara is Via Santa Chiara 49/C – Naples. Phone: +39 08119575915. Metro: Dante. Entrance fee: The church itself is free. Admission to the cloisters is 6 Euro (students and those 65+: 4.50 Euro). Basilica opening hours: From 07.30 to 13.00 and from 16.30 to 20.00. Monastery courts opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 09:30 to 17:30; Sunday from 10:00 to 14:30. The ticket office closes 30 minutes before closing time.
History and Description
The construction of the Santa Chiara Basilica took from 1310 and 1328, but its consecration did not take place until 1340. The architect was Gagliardo Primario. The patron, Robert of Anjou, had it built for his wife, Sancia di Maiorca.
The convent was inhabited by the Order of the Clares. This complex was to house, in addition to some 200 clergy, the tombs of the royal family of Anjou.
Now the church is in the center, but when it was built, this part of town was still considered a suburb.
Not everyone liked the complex. Robert’s son, Charles of Anjou, once even compared it to a stable. Eventually, the tombs of both Robert and Charles would be placed in the basilica. Several descendants of the House of Bourbon are also buried in this church.
Between the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the basilica received a Baroque facelift by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, Gaetano Buonocore and Giovanni Del Gaizo.
In an Allied air raid in 1943, the church was bombed. Reconstruction, which attempted to restore the original Gothic style, lasted until 1953. Of the original church, a 14th century fresco to the left of the main entrance and a chapel with the tombs of several Bourbon kings remain.
What to see inside the church
The tomb of Robert of Anjou, crafted by the Bertini brothers, is placed behind the main altar. The tombs of Charles of Calabria and Mary of Valois are the work of Tino di Caimano.
Almost nothing remains of the frescoes painted by Giotto that used to grace the interior. In the adjacent Cloister, however, there are still frescoes by the famous artist on the theme of the Crucifixion.
The four famous cloisters were created in the 18th century by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro. He did, however, make use of the already existing porticos.
Chiostro delle Clarisse
The most famous of these cloisters is the Chiostro delle Clarisse. This dates from 1739 and measures 82.30 by 78.30 meters. The walkways that traverse the central garden of lavender and citrus trees are framed by 72 ceramic-covered octagonal columns. The columns themselves are connected by benches. There used to be a cemetery on the north side.
Originally this cloister was a medieval garden. Domenico Antonio Vaccaro gave this garden its present appearance between 1739 and 1769. He did this by order of the then Abbess Ippolita di Carmignano. He was assisted by the wife of Charles of Bourbon.
Vaccaro created two paths running diagonally through the cloister. This was thus divided into four sections. Two of these were used as ornamental gardens, while the other two were used for vegetables.
Compared to the fairly austere church, this Chiostro Maiolicato is a true feast of colors and scents.
The ceramic tiles were painted by Donato and Giuseppe Massa and depict scenes of rural life. They did this after drawings by Vaccaro himself. The colors used are mainly yellow, green and blue, which blends well with the colors of the garden itself.
The benches are decorated with majolicas depicting mythological events.
The frescoes depict events from the life of San Francesco, interspersed with events from the Old Testament. It is not known who the painter was.
The two fountains used to adorn the church itself. These too have been covered with tiles.
The other, smaller cloisters are the Chiostro di San Francesco, the Chiostro dei Frati Minori and the Chiostro del Servizio.
Santa Chiara Museum
Next to the cloisters is a small museum with objects used mainly during liturgical services. Also on display are fragments of some frescoes painted by Giotto. The highlight, however, is the ruin of a Roman bathing complex from the first century, including a sauna (laconicum). More about the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Chiara.