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"Cappella Sansevero" Cappella Sansevero Tip by leics

Cappella Sansevero, Naples: 5 reviews and 9 photos

by leics
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I hadn't planned to include this on my day of exploration but I had a little spare time, and I saw a sign and.... was an experience I am very, very glad I did not miss!

Capella Sansevero was first constructed as the chapel of the Di Sangro family in 1590. In 1613, a later family member converted into a family tomb. But what you see now....and it really is the result of plans set in motion by Raimundo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero who was a known alchemist.

In the mid-1700s that he commissioned one Giuseppe Sammartino to be the sculptor of the chapel and what a magnificent, and most wonderfully-skilled, job that man did!

In the centre of the chapel lies an (apparently) marble sculpture of the dead Christ, covered in a sculpted marble veil so thin that fine detail of the body beneath is clear. It is a truly amazing achievement.

And around the chapel are most wonderful sculptures by Sammartino and others. I was expecting the veiled Christ to astound me, but I was even more astounded by the complexity of the netted man: 'Il Disinganno' (Disillusion) by Francesco Queirolo.

But I also know that in the chapel are 'marble' sculptures which are not actually marble at all. They were created from a substance invented by (or partly by) alchemist Prince Raimundo. I wonder which they are?

There are many Masonic symbols inside for the Prince was (perhaps inevitably) a Mason. And the original floor tiles formed a maze: another deeply important (and somewhat enigmatic) symbol. You can see some of them on display within the chapel, although most of the floor is now simple black-and-white tiling.

Underneath the chapel two oddities are on show: the skeletons of a man and a pregnant woman, with almost all their arteries, veins and capillaries still in place. For centuries it was believed that Prince Raimundo's alchemical skills had allowed him to create a substance which hardened all these vessels after death, so they could be displayed. But common sense would dictate this could not be so, for the flesh and muscle are not there, only the bones and blood vessels.

It has been shown in recent times that the vessels are actually made of beeswax, wire and silk. Close examination (through glass) will tell you that the main vessels are most definitely not 'real'. But, even so, it is still a wonderfully complex achievement and must have taken whoever did it (not, I suspect, the Prince himself!) many months to create. really must visit Sansevero for the sculptures, even if you don't want to see the anatomical display. They are truly unmissable.

No photos are allowed and there are several guardians on duty. So I have had to resort to photographing the postcards I purchased to give you an idea of what you must not miss.

The chapel is open on weekdays 10-1740. Closed Tuesdays. Open Sunday and holidays from 10-1.10. It has longer opening hours on some dates through the year and is closed on e.g. 25th December. For details look at 'orari e tariffe' on the museum website below. Entrance fee was 7 euro in 2011.

The website has an English version and is very detailed...well worth reading.

You buy tickets from a small office on the corner of the chapel end of Via Francesco di Sancti and Calata San Severo. You can just about see it in my photo (the chapel entrance itself is on the right).

Address: Via Francesco di Sancti
Directions: Calata San Severo runs off the extreme western end of Via dei Tribunali, from Piazza Miraglia.
Phone: +39 081 5518470

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Apr 1, 2016
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Comments (1)

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Feb 24, 2016 at 11:15 PM

    Oh wow, yes, that is on my list too now :-)) Long live the old alchemists :-) Before they turned into greedy people....

    • leics's Profile Photo
      Feb 25, 2016 at 12:41 AM

      It's a very strange and entirely breath-taking place...and those sculptures are simply stunning.


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