Church of Santa Caterina da Siena

The “Pietà de’ Turchini” Centre for Early Music can boast an exceptional location: the Church of Santa Caterina da Siena.

The building houses the works of important artists, an anthology of great historical significance of the culture of the second half of the 18th century.

Its history begins in the seventies of the 16th century, when it housed the hospital of Santa Maria della Vittoria erected by the will of Don Giovanni d’Austria, winner of the famous battle of Lepanto, to which the hospital of San Giacomo was later annexed. In 1613 the complex was sold by the governors to the Dominican Feliciano Zuppardo, who in 1615 placed some tertiary of his order there. Thus, it was the following year, that by Pope Paul V, the cloistered convent was born. The building underwent profound changes and, today, of the 17th century church only the splendid holy-water stoups (recently restored) at the ends of the aisle  with Santa Caterina and San Domenico, attributable to the school of Cosimo Fanzago, remain. The first restoration work dates back to 1760, the year in which Ignazio Chiaiese remade the floor in cotto tile and majolica. But it was only in 1766 that the church and the monastery were radically renovated by Mario Gioffredo, who rebuilt the pronaos that serves as a perspective view to the church, frescoed in the vault by Vincenzo Diano with the representation of the Glorification of the Church (1784). Indoors, the architect Gioffredo collaborated with the painter Fedele Fischetti, who painted the Glory of St.  Catherine on the vault, The Eternal and the Evangelists in the gallery, and in the lunettes on the altars Cardinal and Theological Virtues. In the main altar, designed by Gioffredo himself, as the art historian Anthony Blunt points out, one can read the artist’s classical tendencies that can be seen throughout the church. The building has a single aisle with four chapels on each side and a semicircular apse. Coherent with the expression of this academic taste is also the choice of painters, to whom the paintings on canvas that decorate the altars are attributed. Francesco De Mura, author of Sant’Agostino (first chapel on the right) and of the Madonna del Rosario (second chapel on the left), is here in a moment of extraordinary pictorial happiness, underlined by the use of chromatic materials with increasingly brighter and precious tones, due also to the contact with painters such as Corrado Giaquinto, Luca Giordano and Paolo De Matteis. Giacinto Diana is painted the Calvario (second chapel on the right), dated 1782. The work belongs to an academic phase, in which the artist uses a warm and golden chromatic material, which fades into delicate pastel shades, embellished with touches of clear and vibrant light in an “arcadia demuriana”scenario. In addition to the frescoes, Fedele Fischetti also painted the canvases with the Circumcision (third chapel on the right), the Virgin, the Magdalene and St. Catherine holding a cloth with St. Domenico Soriano and Noli me tangere (first chapel on the left). In these works of his early maturity, which take up iconographic models and formal solutions by Pompeo Batoni, the artist demonstrates the attempt to participate in the new applications of mid-century classicism. The canvas with the Mystical marriage of Saint Catherine on the high altar is by Andrea Malinconico. No less important than the great pictorial works are the testimonies of Neapolitan craftsmanship, that is to say of those decorative arts, of which there are traces in the whole Europe. Of particular value are the sumptuous marbles and the precious wooden inlays.

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