The Santa Maria di Piedigrotta Church in Naples is especially known for the main altar with its statue of the Madonna and Child. Having been almost completely destroyed in 1343, the church has been gradually reconstructed in the course of the centuries.
Santa Maria di Piedigrotta Church Naples
History and description
The Chiesa di Santa Maria di Piedigrotta stands on the site of an older chapel dedicated to Santa Maria dell’Idria. Later this church was probably dedicated to the Nativity of Mary. The oldest reference to the present name dates back to the 13th century.
The church was so small that mass was often needed to be held outside, with two makeshift wooden altars flanking the entrance.
In 1343, a seaquake demolished the church, which was completely swept away. According to legend Mary is supposed to have made an apparition to Maria di Durazzo, the hermit Pietro and the monk Benedetto requesting that they build the church at the site.
In 1353, the congregation of the Canons Regular of the Lateran took over the church. Lack of money, the church having lost all of its assets during the disaster, prevented them from enlarging the building.
The king of Naples, Alphons of Aragon, gave then enough money to build the church, but not nearly enough to enlarge it to the extent they had wanted. Wars and epidemics also hampered progress.
The cloister, designed by Tommaso Malvito, was finally built around 1480.
It was not until 1554, however, that work on a new, bigger church started. The most important renovations were finished by 1560.
Between 1575 and 1580, the entrance of the building, till then facing the Cave of Posillipo, was moved to the church square.
In the early 17th century, the transept was shortened on both sides. In the left part a new sacristy was built.
The facade, campanile and cupola were all completed toward the end of the 18th century.
In 1812, renovations of the interior started. The altar was brought forward and a new wooden apse was created.
In 1853, Enrico Alvino renovated the facade.
What to see
In the beginning of the 18th century, a new high altar was built by the architect Gennaro Raguzzino. The construction was so lavish, that the church ended up in debt. The parapet with its marble inlay work was added in 1757.
Address: Piazza Piedigrotta, 24 – 80122 Napoli. Phone: +39 081 667961. Opening times: From 08:00 till 19:00; Sundays and holidays from 08:30 till 10:30 and from 12:30 till 19:30. Ticket price: Free.
(Note that opening times and admission may be subject to change.)
The Festa di Piedigrotta, a traditional festival celebrated annually on September 8th, has been discontinued.