The artistic wealth of Naples has few equals in the world, it is well known. Many of the city's masterpieces and beauties are even almost hidden, inexplicably underestimated by general attention. These include the Complesso Monumentale di Sant'Anna dei Lombardi, one of the greatest Neapolitan Renaissance gems, located in the heart of the Neapolitan historical centre.
The foundation of the church is dated 1411 by Gorello Origlia, christened at the time as the church of Santa Maria di Monteoliveto. However, several renovations were made to the structure, which soon became the favourite church of the Aragonese royal court. The heart of the Neapolitan Renaissance style, but not only, in fact, there were also many artistic influences from later currents, making the complex a meeting of the art of several centuries in a single physical point.
The 'Little Sistine Chapel' of Naples: Giorgio Vasari's Sacristy
We have already pointed this out, we do it again, and we will probably do it again later: Sant'Anna dei Lombardi is an authentic 'hidden gem' of Neapolitan art. It is truly difficult to find such Renaissance baggage in the city, even more vaguely in the whole of Campania. The most majestic example at our disposal resides in the church's Sacristy, frescoed by the artistic-literary genius of Giorgio Vasari in 1545. The sublime mind of the artist from Arezzo renewed the room by remodelling the medieval architecture that characterised that room. By stuccoing the vaults, Vasari thus created a pictorial cycle divided into three bays, each corresponding to a precise iconographic programme.
In the composition of the Sagrestia, Giorgio Vasari was strongly inspired by Michelangelo, he who was always a great admirer of his. In fact, the final product is also referred to as the 'little Sistine Chapel', because the inspiration was precisely taken from that masterpiece. The vault thus became a fantastic, outstretched celestial sphere, where the 48 Ptolemaic constellations alternating with personifications of virtues were depicted. The theme of the entrance vault is that of Religion, while in the central octagon is that of Eternity; in the third bay is that of Faith. Vasari's Sacristy represents as best it could the harmony of the Renaissance style, where elegance and balance come together.
The symbolic sculpture of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi: The Lamentation over the Dead Christ
Another symbol of Renaissance art in the Monumental Complex of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi is The Lamentation over the Dead Christ. We are talking about a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture, a work created by the Modenese artist Guido Mazzoni in 1492. Mazzoni, a true master in working with terracotta, rendered the scene with a unique realism, giving extreme emphasis to the details. We find evidence of this in the rendering of the expressiveness of the faces, where the suffering is vivid, manifested between cries of pain and fainting, almost as if to hold back tears. The centrepiece of the scene is the body of Christ being deposed from the cross. Around him we find the following figures, thus forming a semicircle around him: Joseph of Arimathea, Magdalene, Mary of Salome holding the Virgin Mary, John the Evangelist, Mary of Cleophas and Nicodemus.
Modanino, as Guido Mazzoni was also called, made the Lamentation of Christ one of his workhorses; in fact, there were many of his realisations of this type, including those in Busseto, Ferrara and Venice. The uniqueness of the sculpture of St. Anne of Lombardi lies in the personification of the Spanish royals within the work. Indeed, the faces of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus actually conceal the features of Ferdinand I and his son Alfonso of Aragon. In short, an impressive realism behind which are hidden really curious historical anecdotes.
There's Michelangelo Buonarroti too in Sant'Anna dei Lombardi
The magical aura of the Church of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi cannot leave one indifferent, from the moment one enters the only nave present. Above all, the Correale Chapel, also clearly of Tuscan Renaissance style, has a great visual impact. It is a cubic space whose history is made famous by Benedetto da Maiano, who created the marble altarpiece depicting the Annunciation between Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist together with busts of Sybils, Tiburtina and Delfica specifically. Among the various sculptures in this chapel, a cherub positioned high up to the right of the altar, with his lively, bright gaze, definitely steals the scene.
This little putto, so naughty and clever, has even been attributed to Michelangelo Buonarroti, for what was one of his earliest works. It is studies from the last century that have reconstructed such a noble and important attribution. Michelangelo, then aged 14, was most probably a pupil at the workshop of Benedetto da Maiano, which was an authentic institution in Florence at the time. Hence his early works, including this cherub. It must be said that this is not an official attribution, but only one of style, since Michelangelo's style is almost identical to that expressed in this sculpture. So, if we needed another reason to make Sant'Anna dei Lombardi one of the most important churches in Naples, we now have it.
The secrets of the Hypogeum: the place of expiation and burial of the dead
Another part of the Sant'Anna dei Lombardi Monumental Complex that is rich in fascination and mystery is the Hypogeum, also known as the Crypt of the Abbots. A hypogeum, in the most generic sense of the term, was understood as an underground construction that could have many uses and purposes. It could have been designed for hydraulic works, military purposes, but above all for religious purposes. And this is precisely the case with the hypogeum of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi, since its main function was precisely that of expiation and burial of the dead.
There is a large number of drains in the chamber, and it is precisely in this way that the technique of burying the dead was perfected. As mentioned, not only buried, the dead also received atonement for their sins. Recently, the Crypt of the Abbots was chosen as the place to keep the remains saved from the demolition of the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Naples. The latter also contains the remains of Bernardo Tanucci, trusted man to the royals Charles of Bourbon and Ferdinand IV.
A week end in Naples discovering the best attractions
All that remains is to take action to discover the Monumental Complex of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi
, a place so rich in beauty, art and history. All this will be possible by taking advantage of the Naples Pass
, another reason to visit the complex, which is open every day. From Monday to Saturday, opening hours are from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm, while on Sunday it is open from 12.30 pm to 5.30 pm.