The Scots pine woodwork under the soft light streaming in from the clerestory windows above the neo-Gothic arcades creates a warm glow that seems to wrap its arms around you. An immediate sense of belonging takes hold. It’s like finding your footing on an uncertain terrain.
Those of us who have lived or who have traveled far from home, be it by choice or by circumstance, know what it’s like to seek that grounding. While we embrace our new life, our new surroundings, our new culture, we feel a void. The need to connect to something familiar, something shared – be it our culture, our traditions, or our faith.
For Anglicans living in Naples 180 years ago, that was not so easy. Considered a “cult” by the Roman Catholics, Anglicans could only worship on British soil, the confines of the British Consulate. Thus, from the time the Anglicans established the Naples Legation Chaplaincy in 1831, congregants met in Palazzo Calabritto in Piazza dei Martiri, the British Ministry to the Court of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
Over the next 30 years the British petitioned the Bourbons for permission to build an Anglican church in Naples to no avail. It wasn’t until Italy unified that they won the right. In March 1861, Giuseppe Garibaldi not only granted the Anglicans permission to build a church, but he gifted them the land as well, a show of gratitude for British support of Italian Unification.
On a small parcel of land set along Chiaia’s Via San Pasquale, the British built the first Anglican Church in Southern Italy. Today, it is still one of only a handful of non-Roman Catholic Churches in Naples.
The cornerstone of this small, but striking neo-Gothic church was laid in 1862. Designed by Thomas Smith and Son of London, their neo-Gothic plan beat out the designs of eleven other English architects.
Constructed of red, grey, and brown tufo stones from Sorrento and adorned with white stone from Malta, the pointed arches so characteristic of Gothic architecture are one of the church’s most prominent features. Three Gothic arches create the arcaded portico that welcome visitors to the church and Gothic arcades line each side of the nave creating the north and south aisles.
They are also the prominent feature of the semi-decagonal apse, repeated in the apse’s arch and stunning stained glass windows. An intricate and brightly colored Celtic design, the windows were recently restored thanks to the generosity of the congregation. With no outside funding or endowments, the Naples Chaplaincy relies solely on the generosity of its congregants who raised over €37,000 to make the much needed restorations.
Christ Church Naples was consecrated in March 1865 by the first Bishop of Gibraltar, the Right Reverend Dr. Sanford. Today, it is part of the 44th Diocese of the Church of England, the Diocese in Europe. Serving a diverse Christian community, the church welcomes congregants from the English Anglican community, the American Episcopalian community, as well as Christians from all over the world. Personnel serving at the NATO Base in Bagnoli and the American Navy bases at Capodichino and Gricignano also worship here.
Every Sunday, this diverse congregation comes together around their common faith to worship under the spiritual guidance of the church’s vicar, Reverend Kingsley Joyce. Bright and engaging, his kind face and the warm glint in his eyes makes you feel immediately at home. A twenty year army Chaplain, Reverend Joyce’s love for the Church and his passion for Italy brought him to the Naples Chaplaincy in 2008. A Chaplaincy that includes all of mainland Southern Italy, Reverend Joyce conducts services at Christ Church in Naples as well as the Cathedral Church in Sorrento, and in Bari and Capri. The married father of three grown children also serves as the Chaplain to the British Community at Joint Forces Command (JFC) Naples.
The Holy Eucharist is held every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and children ages 5 to 14 are invited to attend the church’s Sunday school during the service. Music features prominently in Anglican worship and the Christ Church Choir is on hand each week to sing the service’s anthems. Three organists accompany the choir on the church’s 117 year old organ. In 2008, Reverend Kingsley added an Advent Carol Service and during the Christmas season the church hosts a series of concerts, I Suoni di Napoli, which includes The Messiah performed by the Choral Scholars of Naples.
Beyond the weekly service, choir practice, after service get togethers and the Christ Church Naples Facebook page provide congregants opportunities to connect and socialize with other English speakers living in Naples. Local groups such as the AIWC – American-International Women’s Club of Naples also meet at the church.
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