San Lorenzo Maggiore
POINTS OF INTEREST
San Lorenzo Maggiore
One of the city's unmissable sights, with a travel-through-time descent to Roman and Greek times, as well as the grandest medieval church of the Decumano Maggiore. The Archaeological Area explores the original streets below the bustling Centro Storico, first with the Roman law courts then down a level to the streets, markets, and workshops on the cardo (North-South road) crossing the decumani (East-West road) of the 1st century BC Neapolis.
The church of San Lorenzo features a very unmedieval facade of 18th-century splendor. Due to the effects and threats of earthquakes, the church was reinforced and reshaped along Baroque lines in the 17th and 18th centuries. Begun by Robert d'Anjou in 1270 on the site of a previous 6th-century church, the church has a single, barnlike nave that reflects the Franciscans' desire for simple spaces with enough room to preach to large crowds. A grandiose triumphal arch announces the transept, and the main altar (1530) is the sculptor Giovanni da Nola's masterpiece; this is a copy of the original, now disappeared, pedestal. Also found here is the church's most important monument: the tomb of Catherine of Austria (circa 1323), by Tino da Camaino, among the first sculptors to introduce the Gothic style into Italy.
The apse, designed by an unknown French architect of great caliber, is pure French Angevin in style, complete with an ambulatory of nine chapels covered by a magnificent web of cross arches. The left transept contains the 14th-century funerary monument of Carlo di Durazzo and yet another Cosimo Fanzago masterpiece, the Cappellone di Sant'Antonio.
Tickets to the scavi also gives access to the Museo dell'Opera di San Lorenzo, installed in the 16th-century palazzo around the torre campanaria (bell tower). In Room 1 ancient remains from the Greek agora beneath combine with modern maps to provide a fascinating impression of import and export trends in the 4th century BC. The museum also contains ceramics dug up from the Svevian period, many pieces from the early Middle Ages, large tracts of mosaics from the 6th-century basilica, and helpful models of how the ancient Roman forum and nearby buildings must have looked. An app is available to do further do justice to a place that exists in several historical dimensions.