The monastic citadel of Santa Chiara in Naples was built, from 1309 to 1343, at the behest of King Robert of Anjou and his wife Sancia di Mallorca for the Franciscan order. The church has a single rectangular nave with side chapels opened by arches. During the seventeenth century the face of the fourteenth-century basilica changed radically due to baroque adjustments in stucco, marble, gilded wooden carvings, canvases: precious decorations that were irremediably destroyed in the bombing of 1943.
The restoration, completed in 1953, returned the building to its Gothic appearance, more severe than it must have been originally but quite suggestive, with the tomb arks of the Angevin royals placed on the rectilinear wall of the apse.
These tombs were created by Tino da Camaino and Giovanni Pacio Bertini for Robert of Anjou, Mary of Valois and Charles of Calabria. In the choir of the Poor Clares, traces of the important passage to Naples of Giotto and his workshop around 1328 are still preserved.
Inside the monastic complex of Santa Chiara in Naples, the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Chiara can be visited, which includes the majolica cloister, some exhibition rooms with fragments, ceramics, decorations from the monastery before the bombing and an archaeological area of considerable interest .
The area of Santa Chiara, once outside the city walls and then occupied by the Franciscan Poor Clares in the 14th century, was used between the end of the 1st and 4th centuries AD. to the spa area. In it, almost all the rooms of the Roman baths can be identified: a natatio (pool), a laconium (room with hot, dry air). A tepidarium and perhaps a frigidarium or a nymphaeum with imposing brick arches. The cloister of the Poor Clares, built in the 1840s, a true decorative whim desired by the abbess Ippolita Carmignano, was designed by the architect Domenico Antonio Vaccaro and the masters of enamel-painted ceramics.
THE DECORATIONS OF THE CHURCH OF SANTA CHIARA IN NAPLES
Donato and Giuseppe Massa, known as “riggiolar”, dominators of the art of eighteenth-century Neapolitan majolica. The cloister appears more of a leisure garden than a place dedicated to meditation, modeled on the famous French lambris, gardens embellished with seats with decorated walls, widespread throughout eighteenth-century Europe. The construction site of Santa Chiara was the first to be opened in Naples by the workshop of Giotto (1328-1330), who had already finished the frescoes in the most important Franciscan basilicas: in San Francesco in Assisi and in Santa Croce in Florence.
The literary sources on the history of the city tell us about the vast fresco cycles with the Stories of the Old and New Testaments and the Apocalypse, which were then destroyed in the mid-16th century when a Spanish regent Barrionuevo, to give more light to the church, he ordered a coat of lime to be given to all the walls.
SANTA CHIARA IN NAPLES
Fortunately, some important figurative evidence remains in the nuns’ choir, once a chapter house. The fragments of a Lamentation over the dead Christ in the background of Calvary and painted architectural motifs which pretend to be wooden stalls as a continuation of the real ones which were located further down are certainly from Giotto’s team, based on his design. The master’s hand has been recognized in the detail of the bearded head which demonstrates, with the rich coloring, an intense emotional expressiveness. In the same room there is the large fresco by Leilo da Orvieto, depicting the Redeemer among Franciscan saints and donors (ca. 1340), while in the “Maria Cristina di Savoia” room there are two Crucifixions by the hand of two of Giotto’s collaborators, all testimonies fundamentals of the master’s entourage in the city.
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