Originally built as a palace in 1470 for Roberto Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno, the Church of Gesù Nuovo is situated just outside of the historic centre of Naples.
Following its confiscation from the Sanseverino family in the 1580’s the building was acquired by the Jesuits to convert into a church and given the name of the Church of Gesù Nuovo, which in Italian means New Jesus.
Work on the conversion took place between 1584 and 1601 and retained the original facade of the palace with its Bugnato style, which has bulges and protrusions, giving it its’ rustic ashlar diamond projections.
In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from Naples and the church passed to the Franciscan order, although the Jesuits returned in 1821, but were once again expelled in 1848.
Standing in the square in front of the church is a Spire, the Guglia of the Immaculate Virgin which was built to invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary. Although construction on it started in the 17th century it was not completed until 1750. It contains scenes in bas-relief showing scenes from the New Testament.
The architectural style of the interior of the church is renaissance, while the fittings are baroque in style. The plan is that of the Greek cross with the three aisles leading from the three entrance doors. Its large pillars are covered with marble and the altars and balusters are constructed of inlaid marble. It contains 11 chapels and numerous frescos showing scenes from the bible. The dome was replaced in 1688 following an earthquake which caused the original one to collapse.
The High Altar is constructed of rare marble and bronze and precious stones and was extremely expensive when it was made in 1857. At the sides are two choirs constructed in red marble. In the chancels are two organs dating from the 17th century. The one on the left is pre 1646 and is no longer in use but the one on the right, built in 1650, was restored in 1986 and consists of 52 registers and 2,523 pipes.
The chapels on either side of the nave are dedicated to the saints:
Under the altar in the chapel of the Visitation there is a bronze urn containing the remains of St. Joseph Moscati (1880–1927) a local doctor who worked with the city's poor.
Adjacent to the right transept are the Rooms of St Joseph Moscati, the entrance of which is on the left of the chapel of St. Francis Xavier, these contain some mementos of the Saint including a recreation of his study, complete with the armchair in which he died and a number of photographs showing the different stages in his life and his Beatification and Canonization, which took place on 25th October 1997 by Pope John Paul II.
In the chapel of St Francis Xavier (1506-1552).The altar-piece shows St Francis receiving a vision of the Virgin Mary. He is considered to be one of the greatest missionary in the modern age. While the chapel of St. Francis Borgia (1510–1572) contains a large canvas painting.
The Sacred Heart chapel, dedicated to the Holy Trinity is at the end of the right aisle. On the side walls are frescos carried out by Belisario Corenzio (1558–1643) the Greek-Italian painter who moved to Naples in 1590.
In the left aisle, there are five chapels. The first one is the Holy Martyrs chapel. The altar-piece represents the Blessed Virgin with Child Jesus and Three Saint Martyrs. It is attributed to Giovanni Bernardino Azzolino (1560-1610). Next to that the Nativity Chapel has an altarpiece by Girolamo Imparato. (1550–1621) which dominates the altar.
In the chapel of St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) - who was the founder of the Jesuit Order- are statues of David and Jeremiah by Cosimo Fanzago (1591 –1678) the Italian architect and sculptor who also helped complete the decoration of the chapel after the 1688 earthquake. On the upper part, paintings show episodes in the life of the Saint.
The chapel of the Crucifix contains a wooden statue of Christ crucified, with the Blessed Virgin and St. John, this was sculptured in the 17th century.
At the end of the left aisle, is the chapel of the Jesuit saint St. Francis De Geronimo (1642-1716). The statue of the Saint from Naples was sculptured in 1934.
When visiting this church one should also visit the Church of Santa Chiara located on the same square to the front and left of the Church of Gesù Nuovo.
To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.
Copyright - All Photographs copyright Ron Gatepain