The Sansevero Chapel, the temple of Prince Raimondo di Sangro
The San Severo Chapel in Naples is a fascinating and full of mystery monument. Famous throughout the world for being the custodian of one of the most surprising works representing the veiled Christ.
The Chapel of San Severo it is the most visited by Italian and foreign tourists who want to breathe personally the air of mystery that reigns around the sculpture. A monument not to be missed and known in every detail.
Those who live and live every day in Naples or all those who spend even a few hours from this splendid city cannot avoid visiting the San Severo Chapel, one of the 10 most interesting places to see absolutely.
According to legend, the veil of marble that can be seen on the body of Christ, it consists of a veil of real fabric which has undergone a transformation into rock (marbling) thanks to the application of a substance created by the Prince of San Severo, a famous alchemist.
In reality the veil effect is due to the great artistic talent of Giuseppe Sanmartino that is the author of the sculpture and the legend has been dispelled by analyzes carried out on purpose.
The halo of mystery is strong even on some works with a somewhat macabre appearance hidden in secret rooms that can now be seen in the San Severo Chapel: anatomical machines. These findings have increased the mysterious nature of the Prince and the veiled Christ.
However, the place is not only important due to the presence of the incredible statue of the veiled Christ and of its magic, there are indeed other reasons why this must absolutely fall within the things to visit in Naples.
First of all the Chapel is a veritable treasure chest, a place full of esoteric and religious symbolism that we try to help you discover in this guide. Its location hidden among the ancient alleys of Naples makes it even more suggestive and engaging, so we try to snatch its secrets and discover the right way to visit a place rich in history like the Chapel of San Severo in Naples.
10 things to see during your visit to the Chapel of San Severo
The veiled Christ
Located in the center of the historic building is the sculpture created by the artist Giuseppe Sanmartino.
Its amazing beauty and the details that distinguish this marvel of marble art, immediately attract the attention of those who visit it. Impossible not to be attracted by the surreal atmosphere and admired the very real appearance of the statue.
The veil is the detail that makes the sculpture talk a lot because of the lightness of its transparent aspect that covers the Christ lying on soft-looking cushions.
The face and body of Jesus reveal the signs on the skin left by the torture inflicted on the side, on the upper and lower part of the feet as well as on the hands. The face shows the suffering experienced during the abuse.
A sculpture so incredibly real and so beautiful that Antonio Canova declared that he wanted to give up 10 years of life to have it all for himself.
Legends of the Veiled Christ
The debate on the veil of Christ is the center of attention of many discussions but the focus on this splendid sculpture is also addressed because of the legends that were born over time on the veil.
One of these is that of marbling of the veil carried out by the Prince of San Severo.
The veil made of marble appears so thin and soft that it seems to fly away from the moment to the other.
The veil appears soft, in reality, thanks to the ability of the sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino while the legend tells of the esoteric powers of Prince Raimondo di Sangro.
The noble is said to have the capacity to be an alchemist and could make fabrics solid by using a special product whose formula is still secret. The same product seems to have also served to solidify the body's organs so as to make them hard as marble while maintaining the original appearance.
The anatomical machines in the San Severo Chapel in Naples
There are in the Chapel two bodies without skin which is thought to belong to those who were once the servants of the prince. The legend of the petrifying potion of the mysterious prince, however, has given rise to several versions of the same story, some more likely and acceptable than others that seem more imaginative.
Among some documents drawn up by notaries of the time, it is documented writing a real contract stipulated between the Prince of San Severo and Dr. Salerno.
The document describes the task assigned by the noble to the doctor who would have had the task of building a pair of complete skeletons of the cardiovascular system that the alchemist had prepared.
The contract specifies specifically the instructions according to which the arteries and veins must consist of wire and wax in different colors.
This wax had to be treated with a secret substance and every model created would have had a purely scholastic and didactic purpose. The legend stems from the fact that the owner objected to scientific analyzes of anatomical structures and therefore rumors have arisen of the Prince's malice.
Sculptures, statues and frescoes in the San Severo Chapel
The Chapel of San Severo in Naples does not contain only the veiled Christ, its historical and artistic importance has great value also for the frescoes and the works that are contained in it. The beauty of these creations make the building a real art museum which leaves both art experts and simple spectators speechless, who cannot but remain captivated by such mastery.
Every work present in the Chapel of San Severo in Naples remember or have the appearance of some of the members of the di Sangro family.
It was the Prince himself who created some of the works with the precious collaboration of the sculptor and artist Corradini who belonged as the Prince to the Freemasonry.
His is the work entitled Veiled modesty, or a sculpture that Raimondo di Sangro wanted to give as a dedication to one's mother: Cecilia Gaetani of Aragon.
The woman who died at a young age, 23, at that time the Prince was only one year old.
Veiled Modesty and Disillusionment
Two works that you can't help but look at in every detail.
The veiled Modesty represents the mother of the Prince of San Severo and Disillusion symbolizes the father of the same.
The first work depicts a woman covered by a veil that tightens around her female body emphasizing its forms. The painted woman remains firm to a broken stone that symbolizes the age of the Prince's mother, too young when her life was broken. The nobleman of San Severo wanted to dedicate a virtue like modesty to his unknown mother who found a strong contrast with his father's libertine behavior.
To the latter the Prince dedicated the work entitled Disillusion, representing the lifestyle that man had without limits or conscience.
Antonio di Sangro was the Prince's father e he lived in a shameless way as can be seen by looking at the statue that represents it carved by Francesco Queirolo.
The depiction is composed of a man who tries to escape from a network to run towards faith or an angel with open wings who offers his comfort.
The Prince's father after having lived a life of debauchery in fact, he retired to a convent where I find the peace of the soul.
Two very significant works that show the story of a family destroyed by the death of the young woman and the debauchery of a man who then succeeded in finding the right path through faith.
Tomb of Raimondo di Sangro
The Prince Raimondo di Sangro of San Severo has a tomb that expresses all the magnificence and lack of modesty of the noble, even if at first glance it appears sober and austere we must not be deceived.
The symbology on the mausoleum clearly shows every glory in science of the Prince, but also his literary and military successes without forgetting any detail.
The most imposing area of the tomb is represented by the inscription on the marble plaque which contains a funeral eulogy that was not made by engraving but created in relief.
The technique used to carry out the writing is extremely elaborate through the use of some chemical solvents created by the Prince himself.
The sentence certainly dictated by the Prince before his departure is very interesting and reads as follows:
Here lies an extraordinary man perfect for everything he dared to undertake, a famous investigator and researcher of the most mysterious secrets of Nature.
A self-praised eulogy which gives an air of solemnity and authoritative celebration to the tomb of Prince Raimondo di Sangro, a monument found in the Sansevero Chapel of Naples.
Not to be missed during the visit to the historic building, a passage owed to the Prince to admire his refinement of details studied also for his death as well as during his life.
Tomb of Cecco di Sangro
A singular work to be admired in the Sansevero Chapel is represented by the statue of Cecco di Sangro located above the entrance. This fantastic creation is a true tale of an event that really took place in the history of a well-known ancestor of the Prince.
Among the members of the noble family there was also Cecco di Sangro, a militant commander under the command of Philip II who became famous thanks to the campaign carried out in the territory of Flanders.
THU he remained locked up for 2 days in a box and with this trick he managed to be introduced into the fortress of Amiens where he took his enemies by surprise.
The legend that hovers over this episode tells that the funerary monument was also created in memory of the death of the Prince.
In the days near his death, Raimondo di Sangro, was willing to be cut into pieces and locked up in a coffin from where, according to his madness or alchemy, he should have come out alive, his resurrection, however, was prevented by the early opening by the family.
The labyrinth in the Sansevero Chapel in Naples
The Prince of Sansevero loved his enigmatic being and showed it in everything he did including the floor of the chapel that he wanted to achieve in a very particular way.
A real labyrinth to go to be able to correctly complete the allegorical itinerary of the Chapel of Sansevero.
The path was created thinking of a way to reach wisdom. Whoever walks through it is the initiate who must enter the labyrinth designed to be very difficult and intricate but which ultimately allows knowledge to be reached.
To be able to do it though, you must follow a continuous white marble line and without any joint just as the Prince required it to be in his time. The work was certainly very difficult to compose and realize so much that the noble alchemist could not see it completed before the day of his death.
Once completed though suffered damage due to a ruinous collapse which happened in 1889, its destruction was almost complete. A part of the labyrinth can still be seen in the part that is in front of the funerary tomb of Raimondo di Sangro and cannot be absolutely missed as it represents an unmistakable sign of this place and its magic.
Vault with symbols of Freemasonry in the Chapel of Sansevero
Every Masonic and esoteric reference in the Chapel in different places can also be seen in the vault in the building. The painting was made by a well-known painter of the time known as Francesco Maria Russo. It is a splendid fresco in which the Glory of Paradise or the Paradise of the Di Sangro is represented.
The work is unique and original for various reasons that give it an even greater value than it already would have for the beauty of the painting. Among these reasons there are the symbols that have been inserted inside the fresco as the triangle which, combined with the design of the dove, occupies a predominant place being placed at the center of the painting.
This geometric form has the duty to represent the Trinity in the Christian religion, while for those who follow Pythagoras it indicates the birth of the cosmos but for the Masons it represents the symbol of the Venerable Master. The second reason or detail that gives a particular value to the artist's work is recognizable in the colors chosen for the realization of the scenes. The mixture of shades was formed by Russo using a formula that was given to him by Prince Raimondo di Sangro himself, and it could only be that way since every part of the Chapel bears his imprint. After over 250 years the colors used are always the same without having ever had the need to be retouched or restored. The tonality is still alive and radiant as the same day in which they were used by the painter and nobody knows how to explain what is the secret used by the nobleman to obtain this prodigy.
One of the many mysteries that continue to exist in the Chapel of Sansevero and that it is worth going to see with your own eyes.
Legend of the Sansevero Chapel in Naples
On the Sansevero Chapel and on the di Sangro family several legends have been born that date back to ancient times. Since the period dating back to its construction, stories have been told that have crossed over in different versions and allegories.
Among these stories there is the story of an innocent man who, in 1590, was about to be imprisoned and imprisoned without having to blame. In passing near the Sangro family building from Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, the man noticed that a piece of wall collapsed and there appeared the image of the Madonna.
The Innocent then seized the opportunity by asking the grace of Santa Maria saying that if he had released him he would have given her a silver lamp with an inscription on offer. It was truly a miracle if that same man was recognized as innocent and freed, from that moment the Madonna was one of the favorite destinations of the pilgrims who had heard of what had happened and went to the sight of the place to have a blessing. Some time after Giovan Francesco di Sangro, he became seriously ill and received the miracle from the Madonna who completely cured him and in return he had a small chapel built.
The real temple though, it was built and built by Giovan Francesco di Sangro's son, known as Alessandro di Sangro, king of Alessandria.
The patriarch created a large and imposing sanctuary that had the purpose of becoming the funerary chapel for the entire family starting from the ancestors to the future members. That building can still be seen today but only in the remains that have remained or the original structure, this because in the 700s the Prince of Sansevero reorganized the structure in the way it can be admired today.
Located on the left side of the entrance to the Chapel, near the door is the statue of Decorum which was created by Antonio Corradini, an artist sculptor who created the work in 1751 dedicating it to Isabella Tolfa and Laudomia Milano, the two wives who they married Giovan Francesco di Sangro.
The work represents a young man in a half-dress who wears a garment made of lion fur on his hips. In part to it there is a small column on which there is a lion's head cut to represent the power of man over nature.
The column shows an engraving with Sic floret decoro decus written in Latin that means Beauty shines through decoration. The boy's shoes are different for each foot, on the left he wears a busby and on the right foot only a hoof. This detail seems to want to symbolize the relationship between the gods and the underworld, while other opinions give different meanings related to social extraction.
Liberalità is a work that can be seen on a pillar located in the first part of the Sansevero Chapel, on the left side, and is dedicated to Giulia Gaetani of the Eagle of Aragon. The noblewoman was wife of the 4th Prince of Sansevero and was made by the sculptor Queirolo in the mid-1700s.
The woman represented by the marble statue is covered with a soft fabric that falls on her body. The left hand holds a cornucopia that represents abundance and generosity, from which gold and riches fall. The right hand instead holds a compass and some coins to symbolize balance and knowledge. On the ground, near the female figure, there is an eagle which means strength and temperance.
Zeal of religion
Located between the second and third chapel, there is the Zeal of religion, the creation created to remember Ippolita del Carretto and Adriana Carafa della Spina. The two women were the wives of Giovan Francesco di Sangro and were remembered for their great faith. The author of this imposing creation was first attributed to Antonio Corradini even if later on he changed his mind recognizing in Queirolo the true author of this work.
The discovery of some written texts in the Banco di Napoli archive, however, have defined the true artist who created Lo Zelo della religione with the name of Frotunato Onelli, a Neapolitan sculptor who worked under Celebrano. A 1767 document confirms that this artist could not finish the aforementioned work in the established times and had to be helped by other artists with more experience to be able to finish it by fixing some defects in creation.
The virtue of faith exalted with art and represented by the two women is embodied in an adult man who holds a light in his left hand to symbolize the truth while in his right hand he holds a small whip. With the latter punishes the sacrilege and in the meantime holds the foot on some snakes that symbolize heresy escaping from a book. The sculpture is completed with 3 putti of which two places in the highest position are above a capital and hold a large medallion showing the portraits of the two nuns, while the third is burning heretical texts using a torch.
Sweetness of the conjugal yoke
Qeust'a grandiose and curious work is also known as Benevolenza or with the name of conjugal Amor and was created with a dedication from Raimondo di Sangro to Gaetana Mirelli. The woman was the wife of the Prince's son, Vincenzo, when she was still a young woman. For this reason the profile of the girl depicted on the medallion was made as a very delicate sketch.
This way of painting was used when the portrait depicted characters still alive. A document would attest to the received payment of the work and it is thanks to this precious receipt that it was possible to trace the identity of the sculptor Paolo Persico who had 160 ducats for this creation.
The work depicts a young woman waiting and wearing the clothes in vogue in the ancient Romans. Behind the woman is a pyramid. In the raised right hand you can see two burning hearts that symbolize a great love, the one between the spouses. In the left hand instead there is a game covered with feathers which means obedience.
On the ground near the woman there is a small angel supporting a pelican, an animal that in the Middle Ages depicted Christ's sacrifice on the cross and for this reason was associated with Charity.
Why visit the Sansevero Chapel in Naples
The Chapel of Sansevero is a true example of art and mystery in which there are still hidden today many incredible stories and symbols of which nobody knows the meaning.
So many secrets to discover or endless works of art that you can't avoid going to visit as it is not enough to read the stories or see the photographs printed in some manual.
The direct visit to the Chapel of Sansevero in Naples must be carried out in person, placing oneself in front of the veiled Christ, carefully observing the veil to grasp the secret of its realistic appearance, observing every small detail of the suffering body of Christ in life-size as if it were really the true one. Continuing with the visit of the statues dedicated to the mother and to the father of the Prince of Sansevero, Raimondo di Sangro, the famous and fascinating alchemist on whom many and different versions of his life still seem to hover today. A somewhat ambiguous and interesting character due to his knowledge of chemistry and sciences, his interest in the human body and the construction of a building so incredibly full of symbolism and mysterious signs full of history in every part. There are many works contained in the Chapel and it is impossible to grasp its meaning except by observing them carefully, breathing the atmosphere and experiencing the emotions that they transmit from time to time.
Information on the Sansevero Chapel
- Everyday: 09: 00 - 19: 00
- Last entry allowed up to 30 minutes before closing
- Closed on Tuesdays
- Ordinary ticket: € 8.00
- Skip the Line Ticket with Guided Tour: 39 €
- Artecard: € 6.00
- Boys from 10 to 25 years completed: € 5.00
- FAI members: € 6.00
- Children up to 9 years: free
- Tel: 081 5518470 | Ticket office: 081 5524936
- E-mail: [email protected]
- Official site of the Museo Sansevero
How to reach us
Address: via de Sanctis Francesco, 19 / 21, 80134 Naples
from the station you can take the C82 which will stop in via Nuova Marina, at the intersection with via Porta di Massa, then continue on foot following the signs
those arriving at the Naples Central Station can take a taxi or rent a car and follow the route previously described. If you do not want to drive, take the 2 metro line to the station with a stop in Piazza Cavour and continue on foot following the signs.
Once you reach Capodichino airport, take a taxi or rent a car. In the second case, enter the A56 and continue until the 5 exit, proceed on Corso Amedeo di Savoia, then via S. Teresa degli Scalzi and via Enrico Pessina, then turn left into via Broggia, then from this point follow the directions explained previously.
Hotels near the San Severo Chapel
Video description of the statue of the Veiled Christ
Chapel of San SeveroThe Sansevero Chapel is one of the most fascinating and mysterious places in the city of Naples, considered the artistic, philosophical and scientific "temple" of the Prince of Sansevero, Raimondo di Sangro.
Email: [email protected]
Hours for visitors (updated to 2 August 2021):
- Monday: -
- Wednesday: -
- Thursday: -
- Friday: -
- Saturday: -
- Sunday: -
Ticket price for visitors (updated to 2 August 2021):
- Whole | €8
- Artecard | €6
- Children from 10 to 25 years | €5
- FAI Members | €6
- Children up to 9 years | €0