Santa Anna dei Lombardi a Monteoliveto

September 28, 2010 / Art & Archaeology
Naples, Campania

santaannadeilombardi1Naples is home to much glorious baroque, but here’s a place where the Florentine Renaissance extended south. The church and monastery of the Olivetan monks (Benedictines) was begun in 1411. Despite dramatic changes – a revision to suit baroque taste in the main church, an 1805 earthquake, a bomb strike in 1944 and the modern enclosure of the original four cloisters within a carabinieri (police) barracks – the monks’ refectory, redesigned and frescoed by Giorgio Vasari in the 1540s, remains to enthrall the visitor.

santaannadeilombardi2Not that Vasari wanted the commission at first, dismissing the space as ‘Gothic, low and dark’, an impression probably reinforced by the beautiful but old-fashioned marquetry around the walls (including a delightful rabbit).

santaannadeilombardi3Light relief comes from painted figures of saints in rich drapery between the darker panels.

But once the ceiling was re-stuccoed to his specifications, creating shapes in plaster ‘in the modern style’ upon which to paint, Vasari settled to work. Assigning a vault each to Faith, Religion and Eternity, he added associated virtues and many zodiac and mythological images. Thus the monks who ate here in silence could read the images above them both as a book of instruction and an aid to prayer.

Dear Readers, today’s note is quite a scoop! This refectory is not in the guidebooks as it has been under renovation forever. Just recently opened, and “rediscovered” by Penny. Great work, hats off to her!

Penny Ewles-Bergeron

by Penny Ewles-Bergeron

Author, artist… celebrating the many good things in Naples.

8 Responses to “Santa Anna dei Lombardi a Monteoliveto”

  1. Please tell us where in Naples this marvelous site/sight is. I will certanly add it to my list for the next time I go to Naples.

  2. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Thank you all – it’s not far from Via Toledo. There is a Via Monteoliveto and the little square with the church is to the west of this. If you Google the church name a little map comes up online. Best plan is to visit the church in the morning and eat at Il Garum just outside in the square. Very good food!
    Another note will follow with another masterwork from this church.

  3. Gian Banchero

    Hmmm, quite unlike modern church architecture that lacks any sense of spiritual space… Thank you Penny for the article and photos.

  4. Gorgeous! Looks like he was inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling! Thanks for the post. Naples is a incredible city with so many treasures.

  5. Jenny

    Thank you for this, especially the photos. I visited this remarkable church today after a delicious lunch at Il Garum, coincidentally! Not sure how you got the lovely photographs as photography is strictly forbidden! We had the added delight of a concert pianist rehearsing in the sacristry while we visited. Love Naples.

  6. Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    Thanks for the comment Jenny. I had a pang of jealousy that you were here and ate at Il Garum! We miss Naples very much having departed just over a year ago. As for the photos, there was a very Neapolitan solution to the problem but more than that I cannot say. :-)


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