Esoteric Naples

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San Bonaventura Facade
San Bonaventura Facade

For many years May has been the month of the art in Naples. Many places usually closed are open to the public, the usual open places have their opening time longer; this is possible thanks to the cooperation between the public system and volunteers.

This years i went to visit a church never seen before and open right and only for this event: San Bonaventura. So if you want to see it go to Naples only in May. Any other month it’s closed. The Church is on Via San Giovanni Maggiore Pignatelli.


 It’s a very small church XIV century. It’s not very rich church but i want to talk of it because in the crypt there are bones, skulls of the people buried in the past there.  It was a habit around Italy and obviously in Naples to bury priests, nobles, bishops and so on in the churches. So you can see graves usually in the crypt but also bones emerged from them.

As Neapolitan we don’t have any fear to see skulls, to touch them, to adopt them. In the past indeed was very common that people used to adopt a skull, to clean it, to talk to it, even to bring it at their home! Like a family member!
Why? Because we have a strange relationship with the death: we’re scared as everyone, but in the mean time we are fatalists: it’s an event in the life like many others. We have to cohabit with it and we need to minimize it.

So you can find every kind of bones and skull in many churches, huge collection is “il Cimitero delle Fontanelle”. Fontanelle from the name of the street where the cemetery is, so “Fontanelle Cemetery”. There, you could see thousands of bones, skulls in an orderly manner, cleaned, victims of the 1656 plague and 1836 cholera. The Neapolitan used to take care of them in the past.

Many places around the city are esoteric, mysterious: esoteric Naples.

Cristo Velato
Cristo Velato

The most famous is “la Cappella di Sansevero” The Sansevero Chapel, where there is the “Cristo Velato” a stunning statue and where all the masterpieces are soaked with legends. In the underground cave you’ll see the “Macchine Anatomiche” Anatomical Machines, skeleton of a man and a woman in an upright position, with the arterial-venous system almost perfectly intact. I want to tell you the legend.

It seems … I say … seems, that the Sansevero Prince, “Don Raimondo di Sangro” one of the most important Neapolitan scientist for that time and alchemist, injected a substance into two servants to “plasticize” their venous system. …
Well don’t worry he did not kill anyone really, this is the legend.
The reality was he took two corpses and plasticized the venous system and for the knowledge of that time was something very unbelievable. We still don’t know how he did it.
And how about other places? Too many to talk about them in one post. It takes pages.

But not only places are esoteric in Naples …
Have you ever met “o Munaciello” – the Little Monk – in your home? No? Well he’s in every Neapolitan home.   When something unusual happens and there is any explanation for it every Neapolitan use to say: “it was the little monk”!
He’s a joker spirit: someone who could scare you but also take care of you.
Someone who leaves money in a forgotten pocket, who hides the necklace that was on the table, or makes strange noises in the night to scare you just to have fun.
The name Little Monk is because the popular imagination see him like a kid who wear the habit. It seems that he was a real foundling who lived in the renaissance, he was very ill and died at young age, well known for its sweet liveliness. So he’s a kind of bizarre spirit!
True? False? Who knows! But in Naples we like to think someone known or unknown in the next life is taking care of us.

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