Basilica and Catacombs of San Severo

The basilica of San Severo in Rione Sanità

The recovery of the Basilica of San Severo and the Cappella dei Bianchi is another great milestone for the whole Sanità area.

San Severo

He was the twelfth bishop of Naples, between 363 and 409 AD.

San Severo's episcopate unfolded in a period when Christianity was heavily threatened by paganism and arianism. Despite the situation, Severo managed to strengthen Christianity, becoming the spiritual father of Neapolitan Christians.

The burial of San Severo

During his intense pastoral activities, Bishop Severo had four basilicas built, one of which he chose as his place of burial. Like San Gennaro and San Gaudioso, the Catacombs of San Severo were abandoned in 9th century by faithful and pilgrims after the remains of Severo were moved within the city walls.

The abandonment of the Catacomb

After the remains of San Gennaro had been stolen, all the saints and bishops buried outside the city walls were secured within the walls. San Severo made no exception, as his remains were brought in the basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore.
During the Late Middle Ages the catacomb still remained abandoned because of the mudslides flooding the whole area and closing the entrance to the burial sites.

The Basilica of San Severo outside the city walls

The Basilica was built in the 16th century on San Severo's burial site.

The Basilica was originally built in 1573 by archbishop Carafa and restored in 1680 by architect Dionisio Lazzari. Nowadays it's one of the main meeting places for the people of the Sanità, that has been brought back to its splendour in the spring of 2017.

«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

The restoration works involved the dome, the façade and the square. The façade is painted white and pink, with frescoes of San Severo, San Francesco and Sant'Antonio. The square is now alive with new street furniture and the mural Perseveranza (Perseverance) by Matu & Sal.

The interior of the Basilica has a Latin cross structure, with three chapels on either side, with works by Leandro Carcano (The Annunciation), Paolo De Matteis (Our Lady of the Rosary with Dominicans saints), and Pietro Lambertucci (Saints Peter and Paul).

The recovery of the sites

The Basilica of San Severo is an important meeting place for the youth of the surrounding area, as it's home to the Sanitansamble orchestra, the Apogeo Records recording studio, and after-school activities for children. Back in the 18th century, it was where Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa was taught his first music lessons.

Music and its power to turn sound into colours is the idea behind the huge wall painting Perseveranza by Matias Noguera Matu. The Chilean artist, with the help of volunteer Salvatore Bakalù, created the impressive piece of art where sound and vision melt, recalling the bonds explored by Klee, Kandinsky, Carrà.

Street furniture has been organised and created with the support of the Department of Architecture - University of Naples, L'Altra Napoli ONLUS association, Fondazione Vismara, Euphorbia, the Association of Trade and Merchants of Rione Sanità, ReLegno, Consulting and Design Studio Asta Fiorenza and Romano Francesco, and chosen with the people of the Sanità.

The Cappella dei Bianchi

The restoration of the chapel unveiled a treasure chest.

In 1621 the Archconfraternity of the Bianchi (a religious group) bought the Chapel of Sant'Antonio to celebrate rituals and to bury their deceased associates.

The Chapel enshrines works by Italian painters Giordano, Fracanzano and Vaccaro. The side walls tell stories of San Francesco through 12 paintings and the vault is decorated with 4 paintings: Il Padre Eterno (the Heavenly Father), La Vergine col Bambino e Santi (The Virgin with child and Saints), L'Immacolata e San Francesco (The Immaculate and San Francesco).

The catacombs of San Severo

The catacomb of San Severo and its frescoes are not yet open to the public.

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.

Basilica and Catacombs of San Severo

The Basilica and the Chapel are open to the public, entrance is free.

Opening times
From Mondays to Sundays, from 10 am until to 1 pm.

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