Santa Maria della Misericordia church
The main façade of Santa Maria della Misericordia church has an architectonic motif of two orders with a triangular tympanum above. Inside the church there is a nave, shallow side chapels and at the end the presbytery. The Archconfraternity of Santa Maria della Misericordia is to the left of the church portal, made of piperno rock. You can note the marble bass-relief of cherubs carrying a medallion with the Virgin and Child. At ground level, there is a courtyard and an arcade running along three sides. There is a big drop between the entrance the courtyard (C. Fedele, 1991).
The first building, dating from 1532, was used as a hospice for poor priests under the guidance of priest Benedetto Tizzone together with the help of the Count of Oppido, Giovanni Antonio Caracciolo.
We have little information about the church’s foundation. During a pastoral visit in the 16th century a tombstone using “Lombard script” and dated 1358 was found. (E. Ricciardi, 1998)
In 1533 St. Gaetano Thiene, along with other Theatines, was invited to Naples by Giampietro Carafa to found a home of the Order. Priests were lodged in the hospice and St. Gaetano stayed in the rooms above the church. However, the following year, he was elected provost of the Home of Theatines Order and he left the church. Priests accepted an invitation from Maria Longo, founder of the Incurabili hospital (Hospital of the Incurables) and moved there (L. Saddi, 1991).
In 1566 and 1569 two floods devastated the area and the church also was damaged. In 1585 the nobles congregation established by St. Gaetano updated the spaces that were used as a hospice for poor priests and pilgrims.
Among the other charitable works, the Confraternity was involved in the burial of the poor, who worked at the hospital and gave accommodation to pilgrims.
During this period the church was buried by floods and rebuilt at a higher level, in the same place. The room where St. Gaetano lived was added to the new building and is now the sacristy.
In the first half of the 18th century the complex was enriched with works by some of the best Neapolitan artists. In particular the church was decorated with paintings and stuccoes by artists from Domenico Vaccaro’s circle. The rooms of the Confraternity were completely renovated in the 1730s. The large canvas for the ceiling, by Leonardo Olivieri, was commissioned for the oratory as well as the majolica-tiled floor, by Gaetano Massa.
From the inscription on the entrance portal we learn that the 17th century building was heavily damaged in an earthquake (1806) and restored by the Confraternity Governors. The whole seventeenth-century complex was not drastically altered. (L. Saddi, 1991)
During World War II, the church was badly bombed and damaged. In 1967 important restoration was done in order to restore the nave ceiling and the dome to their previous splendour.
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