The Santa Maria del Parto Church in Naples used to be the central point of the small fishing village of Mergellina. The church was constructed on land given to the poet Jacopo Sannazaro by Federico d’Aragona, then King of Naples. The view from the forecourt of the church is magnificent.
Santa Maria del Parto Church Naples
History and description
The official name of the church is Chiesa di Santa Maria del Parto a Mergellina. The church was constructed in the 16th century and owes its existence to the friendship between a poet and a king.
The poet Jacopo Sannazaro (1455-1530) received the stretch of land on which he was to build a house, a tower and a church in 1497.
The building really consists of two church, the Chiesa Inferiore is dedicated to the Natività (“Birth”). The Chiesa Superiore is dedicated to the saints Giacomo and Nazario.
The lower church was dug out into the tuff stone underground. It was dedicated to the Madonna del Parto in 1525. On the 25th of every month, prayers were recited for pregnant women and women wanting to get pregnant.
Construction of the upper church took longer than expected, partly because of an epidemic of the plague and partly because of the war between the French and the English.
The church consists of a single nave with three chapels on each side.
What to see
The facade of the church displays two tondi (paintings in a round frame) containing portraits of both poet and king.
The portal is decorated with five coats of arms. The central one belongs to the religious order of the Servites of Mary. It is flanked by the coats of two cardinals. The ones on the sides belong to aristocratic families with ties to the royal House of Aragon.
The marble tomb of Jacopo Sannazaro is located in the apse. The sculptors were Bartolomeo Ammannati, Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli and Francesco Ferrucci.
Of Giovanni da Nola’s 16th century lime-wood nativity scene only five (nearly) life-size statues remain. The statues lack any accessories that might distract from the importance of the depicted event.
The “Veneration of the Three Kings” by the Flemish painter Cornelis Smet in the chapel to the right of the presbytery was a present of the king to Sannazaro.
The first chapel on the right contains a “St. Michael trampling the devil” by Leonardo da Pistoia. It depicts the Archangel about to pierce the throat of a demon, personified as a half-naked woman with snake-like features. The painting is also known as “The Devil of Mergellina”. According to legend the painting had been commissioned by cardinal Diomede Carafa. In order to stop Vittoria d’Avalos from whispering naughty things into his ears, he had the artist use special paints and ointments. Vittoria renounced her love for the cardinal, who then triumphantly had the words Fecit victoriam alleluia 1542 Carafa (“Hurray”) engraved on the work.
Address: Via Mergellina – 80122 Napoli.
Phone: +39 081 664627.
Opening times: From 07:30 till 12:00 and from 17:30 till 19:30.
Ticket price: Entrance is free.
(Note that opening times and admission may be subject to change.)