The Santa Maria del Carmine Maggiore Basilica is one of the largest churches in Naples and its bell tower is the tallest in the city. Its biggest attractions are a reputedly rather agile crucifix and a Byzantine icon.
Santa Maria del Carmine Maggiore Basilica Naples
History and description
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Carmine Maggiore was founded in the 13th century by friars of the Carmelite monastic order. The friars had been expelled from the Holy Land during the Crusades and presumably landed near Naples aboard Amalfi ships.
In 1268, 16-year-old Konradine of Hohenstaufen had made an unsuccessful attempt to depose Charles I of Anjou. According to tradition, his mother, Elisabeth of Bavaria, tried to raise money to ransom her son. When the ransom money arrived too late, she gave it to the friars to build the church. In return, however, the friars had to promise to pray for Konradine every day.
Built in the 17th century by Giuseppe Nuvolo, the church’s 75-meter-high bell tower is the tallest in Naples. The lower floors were built by Giovan Giacomo di Conforto in Ionic, Doric and Corinthian styles, respectively. The onion-shaped dome is decorated with majolicas.
Between 1753 and 1766, the austere Gothic architectural style of the original church was replaced by the Neapolitan Baroque style giving the church its current appearance.
What to see
In the transept, there is a monument in memory of Konradine of Hohenstaufen.
Behind the main altar is a 13th-century Byzantine icon called Madonna della Bruna. Every year on July 16, a fireworks festival is held in honor of the icon.
There is a legend attached to the crucifix in the tabernacle under the main arch. In 1439, during the war between Alfonso of Aragon and Robert of Anjou, the crucifix is said to have dodged a cannonball fired at the church.
The elaborate Baroque decoration in stucco, woodwork and polychrome marble, is the work of Niccolo Tagliacozzi Canale.
The statue of St. Michael the Archangel is attributed to Girolamo Santacroce.
Pietro and Giuseppe Mazzetti were responsible for the high altar.
The sacristy features frescoes by Filippo Falciatore depicting saints of the Carmelite order.
Next to the church is a frescoed cloister. The walls of the portico were painted by Leonardo da Pistoia (1502-1548). In 1606 the paintings were completed by Giovanni Balducci.
Address: Piazza del Carmine, 2 – Napoli. Telephone: +39 081 201196. Opening hours: From 07:00 to 12:00 and from 18:00 to 19:30; Sunday from 07:30 to 12:00 and from 18:00 to 19:30. Admission: Free of charge. (Note: Rates and times are subject to change).