by Antonella Bianco
A little known wonder. The name of this church refers to the fact that in this place, Via Carbonara, until the end of the Middle Ages, they burned the garbage of Naples, letting the water from the hills to the north (Sanità-Capodimonte) drag the sediments to the sea. The Church of San Giovanni a Carbonara was built on land donated by the noble Gualtiero Galeota to the Augustinian Friars, who began to build the church in 1343. Completed in the early 15th century by King Ladislao D’Angiò, he transformed it into the Pantheon of the Angevins.
The church is reached by an elliptical double staircase dating to 1707, the brainchild of Ferdinando Sanfelice, a great architect who transformed the stairs into a dramatic architectural element.
Inside, we find a single nave, latin cross church with side chapels that preserves its original gothic structure, especially in the sanctuary. In the apse, stands the tomb of Ladislao, the King of Naples, which features loggias, niches, sculptures, and allegorical figures such as the four virtues at the base. The monument is adorned by statues of Ladislao and his sister Giovanna II. Eighteen meters high, it is topped by a king on horseback wielding a sword, something that is rarely seen in a church.
The side wall of the altar houses the Crucifixion by Vasari and behind the apse and the tomb of the King, is the splendid octagonal chapel Caracciolo del Sole, with frescoes depicting the stories of the Virgin and scenes of life as a hermit.
Also in this chapel is a Tuscan style tiled floor in many lovely shades of blue.
On the side of the chancel is the chapel Caracciolo di Vico, done in pure Renaissance style. A circular chapel, it is full of arches, columns, niches, sarcophagi and statues of the leaders of the family Caracciolo.
Opposite the entrance to the church is the altar of Miroballo, started in the 16th century by Jacopo della Pila and completed by Tommaso Malavito. It cointains an impressive group of statues and is decorated with scenes of San Nicola’s life, the Virgin with Child by Michelangelo Naccherino and the statues of San Agostino and San Giovanni Battista.
To the left of the entrance, the Somma Chapel was erected between 1557 and 1566. Designed by D’Auria and Caccavello, the lower part of the altar is the work of D’Auria, while Caccavello did the tomb of Scipione di Somma located in front of the entrance to the chapel.
San Giovanni a Carbonara is so rich, special, and ancient, and of the hundreds of churches in Naples, even if its facade is a bit of a detractor, it is the queen of refined beauty.
A journalist and sociologist of communication, Antonella Bianco was born in Naples in 1984. At the age of six, she won an international literary prize for children, and she started to cultivate her passion for writing. Among her many professional experiences in journalism over the past decades, she worked for the national newspaper Il Resto del Carlino. She also worked for the television program Salotto in periferia, a political discussion program with studio guests. She is currently collaborating with the website Napolivillage, and also proof reads texts and collections.
A lover and practitioner of swimming and archery, she especially likes sport journalism, writing about: water polo, basket and several other minor sports. Contact Antonella at email@example.com.