Take your time and savour one of the most beautiful churches in Naples. A church filled with so many treasures, no matter how many times you visit, you will always discover something new. Royal sepulchres, fragments of 14th century Giotto-esque frescoes, 16th century Neapolitan sculpture, Cosimo Fanzago’s high altar (1652), a Baroque era panelled ceiling (1670), and 24 side chapels, each one, more beautiful than the next.
One of the largest convent complexes in the city when it was built by the Angevins (1238 – 1324), San Domenico Maggiore served as the Aragonese royal church, the mother church of the Dominicans, and the monastery was the original seat of the University of Naples. It was here that Saint Thomas Aquinas studied and where he returned in his final years to teach theology.
Beyond his chapel in the right nave, the sacristy is not to be missed. It features Francesco Solimena’s frescoed ceiling, Triumph of Faith over Heresy by the Dominicans and a 3 sided double-tier gallery with 45 coffins containing the remains of members of the Aragonese court.
At the end of the right nave, is the Chapel of San Michele Arcangelo a Morfisa, a 10th century church that was incorporated as a side chapel when the complex was built. It is through this chapel that most visitors enter the complex from Piazza San Domenico Maggiore.
But this is not the main entrance, and explains the less than regal facade, the polygonal walls of the apse we see from the piazza. The front of the church is set in a courtyard on the north side of the church, where you’ll also find entry to the ancient convent which was reopened to the public for May of the Monuments 2012 after a lengthy restoration.
Find your way around San Domenico Maggiore with the help of placards that are located at each chapel, with a lengthy descriptions in Italian and abbreviated descriptions in English. An audio guide is also available from the Treasure Room (when open).
There is also a lovely cloister connected to the church (accessed from Vico San Domenico Maggiore when church closed), which often hosts art exhibitions and has a lovely café. Entry is €5.