Basilica and Catacombs of San Severo

The basilica of San Severo in Rione Sanità

Two sites, two hidden treasures of Rione Sanità which are among our next redevelopment projects, to give them back to Naples and to the district.

San Severo

St. Severus was the eleventh bishop of Naples, between 363 and 409 A.D.

During his episcopate Christian faith was threatened by paganism and Arianism. Despite this climate, Bishop Severus was able to help Christianity flourish, and came to be considered the spiritual leader of the Neapolitan Christians.

The catacombs of San Severo

The catacomb of San Severo dates from the 5th century AD and was discovered by
Gennaro Aspreno Galante in 1867.

All that now remains of the original catacomb is a small, almost square room entirely carved out of tuff. It has undergone various changes over the centuries, with one side eventually being demolished to build a rectory.

Three arcosolia are still visible, two of which partially intact, while the third is almost completely indecipherable.

The arcosolia

The arcosolium opposite the entrance has remains of the fresco, which depicts San Protasio on a dark green background. Some copies that were sketched and preserved allow us to identify the missing portion, in which Galante is looking at the effigy of the martyr Gervasius: these are the oldest images of the martyrs in Milan, dating to the 5th century, and are even older than the mosaics of the same figures in the basilica of San Satiro in Milan.

In the arcosolium on the left, a jeweled cross is depicted together with two saints, the youngest of which might be St. Ambrose, while the other older is St. Severus:the two saints met in 391 and their friendship is confirmed by their written correspondence. The outside of the arcosolium is decorated with floral motifs and birds, and the figure on the surviving external corner is indicated as Sanctus Evtyches.

In the middle arcosolium we can see five figures: in the center, a young man holding in his left hand an open codex, to the side of him four saints, including the two right next to him as the Apostles Peter and Paul. The other two are assumed to be the bishops Gennaro and Severo.

The burial of San Severo

During his intense pastoral activity, the bishop Severus
had four basilicas built.

These include, the basilica outside the walls where he chose to be buried. The catacomb of San Severo also suffered the same fate as those of San Gennaro and San Gaudioso: in the 9th century it was abandoned by the faithful and by pilgrims, following the transfer of Severus' relics to within the city walls.

The Lave dei Vergini

The catacombs remained abandoned throughout the Late Middle Ages, partly due to the landslides that invaded the area and often blocked the entrances to the burial sites.

The transfer of St. Severus

After the theft of the remains of San Gennaro, those of all the saints and bishops buried outside the city walls were transferred to safer sites.
These included the remains of St. Severinus, which were brought to the intra moenia basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore.

The Basilica of San Severo Outside the Walls

The Basilica was built in the 16th century on the burial site chosen by St. Severus.

The present-day basilica was built in 1573 by the will of the archbishop Carafa, who entrusted it to the Conventual Franciscans. In 1680 the friars commissioned a renovation of the complex by the architect Dionisio Lazzari.

"Your quiet shores instill calm to the senses and transport the soul from the terrible and atrocious fever of worries to a dignified peace."

St. Ambrose to the bishop Severus

La basilica di San Severo fuori le mura

Nothing remains of the Early Christian crypt, probably due to lack of funds. The facade features the characteristic Bourbon colours "lemon and strawberry", with three frescos on the altars: in the centre is St. Severus, with St. Francis and St. Anthony depicted on either side.

The interior of the Basilica is in a Latin cross plan, with three chapels on either side, and it houses works by artists including Leandro Carcano (The Annunciation)Paolo De Matteis (Our Lady of the Rosary with Dominicans saints)and Peter Lambertucci (Saints Peter and Paul).

The Chapel of Sant'Antonio

The Chapel of Sant'Antonio, from 1621, consists of a single nave decorated with precious stucco and seventeenth-century paintings.

It is a small treasure chest containing works by artists such as Giordano, Fracanzano and Vaccaro, while along the side walls there are 12 paintings presenting the life of St. Anthony. The ceiling is decorated with four large paintings: The Eternal Father, The Virgin and Child with Saints, The Immaculate Conception and St. Francis. It was here that Domenico Cimarosa received his first music lessons, in the 18th century.

Reopening project

We are working so that the Miglio Sacro and the entire city can regain another important element.

The reopening of the San Severo complex is a further sign of hope, proving that beauty that seemed lost can be restored through commitment and passion.

Basilica and Catacombs of San Severo

The San Severo complex is temporarily
closed to the public.

Opening times Catacombs of Naples
Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm (last admission 5 pm)
Sundays and holidays from 10 am to 1 pm (last admission 1 pm)

Plan your visit