Crossing Via Duomo into the heart of Centro Storico along Via dei Tribunali, a massive church on the right commands your attention. Its principal facade, the work of Ferdinando Fuga, sits at the far end of a small piazza, Piazza dei Girolamini. You may never see the doors to this Florentine style church open and the piazza is not much to look at, but linger here a minute or two and you’ll eventually notice the Banksy (British graffiti artist) on a wall to the right of the church.
Back around the corner on Via Duomo and across the street from the Cathedral, you’ll find the entrance to the Girolamini Monumental Complex designed by the Florentine architect Giovanni Antonio Dosio. A massive compound, it was built during the Spanish Vice-Royal period by the Oratorian Fathers (1592 – 1619), a secular clergy founded by San Filippo Neri in Rome. It is for him that the church is dedicated, while the complex takes its name from the order’s first meeting place in 1561, the San Girolamo della Carità church in Rome.
Inside the complex you’ll find two cloisters, the small “chiostro maiolicato”, and the larger 17th century cloister which has been blessed with an abundance of orange and lemon trees. The former leads to the San Filippo Neri Church, while the latter leads to the Picture Gallery. (or the latter leads to both – I can’t remember)
The church, which is about as large as the Duomo, is filled with Baroque treasures by the Neapolitan masters. Of particular interest is Luca Giordano’s depiction of the Neapolitan lazzaroni in the fresco above the principal entrance, Christ Expelling the Traders form the Temple. The Angels of Giuseppe Sanmartino are not to be missed, which along with his Veiled Christ are said to be the most famous and important works of this 18th century Neapolitan sculptor.
The Picture Gallery features a collection of 16th to 18th century works by masters of the Neapolitan school. Here, you’ll find more works by Luca Giordano as well as those of his contemporaries like Battistello Caracciolo, Jusepe de Ribera, Francesco Solimena, and Massimo Stanzione. The first gallery of its kind in the city, it was formed from a donation made by a Neapolitan tailor. Over the years, the gallery’s holdings were enhanced through donations from priests and benefactors. The gallery was closed for fifteen years after sustaining serious damage during the earthquake of 1980, which also caused severe damage to the large cloister.
Though it is not currently open to the public, the complex is also home to the oldest library in Naples (1586), the second oldest in Italy – the Biblioteca dei Girolamini. An archive of nearly 160,000 precious texts, it is now under the control of the Italian state after it was discovered that the library’s director had been looting the library since his appointment in 2012.