Only meters away from Via San Gregorio Armeno – Christmas Alley, one of the “wonders of the world” lies tucked down a narrow street inside the Cappella Sansevero. The Veiled Christ was sculpted by Giuseppe Sanmartino who was part of a larger group who bedecked this church with more than thirty works of art during the Rococo period.
Also of great interest is the man who reconstructed and commissioned these pieces during the 1700’s. An Italian noble and scientist, Raimondo di Sangro invented a long range canon while serving in the military and created a water-proof cape for his friend King Charles VII.
Raimondo’s interest in alchemy led to many rumors that he could create blood out of nothing, that he could replicate the liquefaction of San Gennaro’s blood, and that he killed people to use their bodies for experiments. We do know that he was the master of the Neapolitan masonic lodge, for which the Church excommunicated him. Although the Church eventually revoked his excommunication thanks to Raimondo’s influence within the city, after his death in 1771 the Church threatened to excommunicate Raimondo’s family if they didn’t agree to destroy his writings as well as the results of his scientific experiments. Raimondo’s family acquiesced and today the man who brought us such wonderful art is himself shrouded in mystery. The astronomer de Lalande described him as not an academic, but an entire academy.
If you walk down the steps to an underground chamber, two anatomical machines – a male and female skeleton with vein and artery structures – display Raimondo’s scientific work.