San Paolo Maggiore


San Paolo Maggiore

Like the nearby Santi Apostoli, this church was erected for the Theatin fathers in the late 16th century (from 1524), the period of their order's rapid expansion. This was another instance where Francesco Grimaldi, the (ordained) house architect, erected a church on the ruins of an ancient Roman temple, then transformed it into a Christian basilica. Spoils from the temple survive in the present incarnation, especially the two monumental Corinthian columns on the facade. An earthquake knocked down the original facade in 1688, and damage during World War II, coupled with decades of neglect, led to further deterioration that has since been reversed. Two large murals by Francesco Solimena in the sacristy have been restored. In the first, Simon Magus is depicted flying headlong down to Earth as biblical and Neapolitan figures ignore him. Similarly spectacular is the fresco depicting the imminent conversion of Saul: illuminated by a light-projecting cloud, the future Saint Paul tumbles off a horse in the picture's center. The richly decorated Santuario di San Gaetano is below the chuch, housing Saint San Gaetano's remains.


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