The church of Santa Chiara: the sanctuary of the Angevin

Any respectable tourist, Neapolitan or foreigner, has traveled via Benedetto Croce at least once in search of the typical Neapolitan atmosphere. Among the various monuments that overlook the famous street, it is certainly not to be missed the fascinating church of Santa Chiara, built by the Angevins as a family shrine at the beginning of the 14th century. In fact, the majestic Gothic structure houses a conspicuous series of tombs from the French dynasty.

One of them is the colossal monument of King Robert of Anjou, who died in 1343, sculpted by the Tuscan Giovanni and Pacio Bertini, unfortunately damaged by the bombings of the Second World War. The tomb, where the king appears four times, is embellished by a couplet by Francesco Petrarca, the great poet so loved by the educated Roberto that he hosted it with great honors at his court: Cernite Robertum Regem Virtute Refertum.

At his side, in the stands, two other important monuments, sculpted by the famous Sienese sculptor Tino di Camaino who in Naples codified the basic scheme of the funerary iconography so wide-spread in the Neapolitan churches, or that of the sarcophagus resting on the virtues-columns, repre-sentative of all the moral qualities that characterized the ruler: the monument of Charles Duke of Calabria, the son of King Robert who died prematurely and that of Charles' second wife, Maria of Valois, who also died at a young age.

It is possible to admire other tombs of the royal family (in the counter-façade and in the tribune), but the slabs of the small Maria d'Angiò (daughter of Carlo and Maria, work of the Camaino) and Ludovico di Durazzo, nephew of the previous one, created by Pacio Bertini, arouse particular emotion in the chapels on the right side.

The Bourbons, the Del Balzo and the other beauties of the church of Santa Chiara

But Santa Chiara hides in her guts the remains of another important royal dynasty: the Bourbons. In fact the last chapel on the right, built around the middle of the eighteenth century by King Charles III, houses in the crypt below the mortal remains of the most prominent members of the noble family. From Ferdinand I to Francis II, passing by Philip, the son of Charles III who died early and immortalized by a splendid monument of Giuseppe Sanmartino, the author of the Veiled Christ, the members of the ancient French lineage rest a few meters from the "Angevin cousins ".

On the altar of the chapel, "the anachronistic" 16th century painting by Girolamo Macchietti representing the Incredulity of St. Thomas. The chapel of the Bourbons is also a living testimony of the destroyed eighteenth-century reconstruction of the church by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, which today can be admired in its entirety, only thanks to some photos taken before the disastrous bombardment of 1943.

The "family sagas" of Santa Chiara continue with the chapel of Balzo, richly stratified: from the medieval and "tineschi" sepulchres of the founders of the family (Raimondo del Balzo count of So-leto and his wife Isabella d'Apia), to the Baroque reconstruction early seventeenth century realized by the architect Jacopo Lazzari. Wonderful, on the altar designed by the latter, the statue representing St. Francis executed by the Tuscan sculptor Michelangelo Naccherino.

The ideal tour itinerary ends with other beauties to admire. The Museum of the Franciscan Opera which preserves some of the works escaped from the disaster of the war and other vestiges found during excavation works that allow to integrate the reading of the monument, such as, for example, the exceptional Ecce Homo ligneo from Giovanni da Nola.

The infamous cloister, one of the most beautiful among the many "Neapolitan cloisters", where the majolica decorated by Giuseppe and Donato Massa, represent a unicum of its kind. And finally the original Neapolitan Crib made between the 18th and 19th centuries, where the realistic representa-tions of the costumes of the time skillfully blend with the strict religious spirit of his sacred charac-ters.

How to reach the Monumental Complex of Santa Chiara

The Monumental Complex of Santa Chiara is located in Via Benedetto Croce 16 and is easily accessible with the Circumflegrea and Cumana lines (Montesanto stop); with line 1 (Piazza Dante stop); with line 2 (Montesanto stop)

The church of Santa Chiara can be visited every day from 7.30 am to 1.00 pm and from 4.30 pm to 8.00 pm.

The museum and the cloister are open Monday to Saturday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Sunday from 10.00 to 14.30.