The history of the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello

The church of Santa Caterina a Formiello is one of the most prestigious and important monuments of the city of Naples, an unmissable stop on the ideal tour in the shadow of Vesuvius. Absolute masterpiece of the southern Renaissance, the church of Santa Caterina is located in an area of great monumental interest, located as it is between Porta Capuana, Castel Capuano and the famous eighteenth-century aedicule of San Gennaro made by Ferdinando Sanfelice and Lorenzo Vaccaro.

The sanctuary was founded around 1451 by the Zurlo and the Aprano, and then passed immediately to the Celestines who dedicated it to the virgin martyr of Alexandria.

With the extension of the walls of the late fifteenth century, the church was incorporated into the city perimeter together with San Giovanni a Carbonara. The epithet "a formiello" is due to the presence, not far from the church, of the infamous Bolla aqueduct, and other thermal springs.

The turning point for the church came in the Aragonese age: first of all with Alfonso II of Aragon and his failed attempt to forcibly establish the Augustinian nuns, and then with Federico, who returned the Augustinian nuns to the original convent of La Maddalena, and in 1498 he donated the church to the intransigent order of the Dominican fathers of the Reformed Congregation of Lombardy who managed the sanctuary until the suppression of religious orders in the French Decade. 

The construction of the new Dominican building was begun on the beginnings of the sixteenth century by the Tuscan architect Romolo Balsimelli, to whom we owe the solemnly Renaissance and Brunelleschi aspect of the building. But the works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that occupied the interior of the church with a Latin cross and a single nave give Santa Caterina a Formiello its interesting and intriguing dual soul. 

Renaissance and Baroque.

Things to see in the church of Santa Caterina in Formiello

The entry into Santa Caterina a Formiello will give you the Stendhal syndrome, such is the beauty and shine of his works. The severe Renaissance structure is in fact covered by the chromatic symphony of the Baroque works! From the Martyrdom and the Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria realized in the counter-façade by Luigi Garzi between 1695 and 1697 to the sumptuous decoration of the dome and the transept where the deeds of the Dominican order are exalted. The famous Cilento painter Paolo de Matteis and Luigi Garzi are among the protagonists of this encomiastic magnificence.

And if you raise your eyes to the sky, you will be dazzled by the frescoes in the vault of the cruise, the stories of Saint Dominic made by Borremans between 1708 and 1709!

But if you look carefully at the transept, and take a step back chronologically, you can admire the unique Spinelli noble shrine built between the late 1500s and the early 1600s by the award-winning D'auria-Caccavello company. A tribute to the counter-reformist spirit, which wanted the woman as a devoted servant of the heroic husbands in arms even in the post-mortem.

Last but not least, the fourth chapel on the left  where the relics of the Holy Martyrs of Otranto are preserved, slaughtered by the Turks in 1480 in their siege of the Apulian city, and brought back to their homeland by Alfonso II of Aragon and subsequently moved to Santa Caterina a Formiello.

After so much beauty, a moment of silence and emotion in the face of the horror of death and war...

The church of Santa Caterina a Formiello: the cloister, yesterday and today

The church of Santa Caterina a Formiello also has a monastery and two cloisters which in the nineteenth century were transformed by the Bourbons into a flourishing military textile industry called precisely the Lanificio Borbonico. With the advent of the Unification of Italy, the industry ceased its activity, to become a singular and picturesque monument of industrial archeology. Currently, however, the ancient structure is being redeveloped also thanks to the presence of the Made in Cloister Foundation and the Lanificio 25.

How to reach the church of Santa Caterina in Formiello

The church of Santa Caterina a Formiello is located in Piazza Enrico de Nicola 49 and can be easily reached by the underground lines 1 and 2 (Piazza Garibaldi stop) and by the FS (Naples Central Station).

The church can be visited from Monday to Saturday from 8.30 to 20.00. Saturday is celebrated Mass at 6pm. Sunday is open from 9.00am to 1.30pm but Mass is celebrated three times.