A vow between Naples and St. Januarius
The years between 1526 and 1527 were terrible for Naples because of: the war between Spanish and French, the plague and many eruptions of Vesuvius.
Neapolitan people were discouraged and hopeless but on 13rd January 1527 (by some elected of Deputation Seats) expressed a solemn vow to St. Januarius. It was stipulated a notarial contract with the Saint represented by 5 Neapolitan notaries, being that he was died 1300 years before!
In this vow they required the protection of the town and salvation from calamities; in exchange they would realize a new Chapel in the Cathedral where they could safeguard the relics and the treasure. St. Januarius granted a favour.
The most excellent Deputation of the Royal Chapel of St. Januarius
On 5th February 1601 the elected of Seats nominated a laic Deputation composed by twelve members, two for each Seat, whom it was charged to protect and promote the worship of the Saint and to provide the foundation of the Chapel which was inaugurated on 16th December 1646.
The Deputation realized the Royal Chapel of the treasure of St. Januarius as an art gallery for its architecture, its gate and floor designed by Cosimo Fanzago, its precious marbles, the sculptures, the silverwares, many paintings and frescos by famous painters.
However, the role of the Deputation did not limit just to realize this Chapel but also to commission unique masterpieces developing artistic heritage with gifts by royals, emperors, famous men and common people that composed the treasure of St. Januarius. Besides, they safeguarded intact this treasure until nowadays.
If the treasure is still complete, the credit belongs to the Deputation who, over the centuries, has preserved and has protected it. They are strenuous and passionate defenders of St. Januarius.
The Chapel of treasure of St. Januarius
It is possible to go in a real architectural and artistic masterpiece where Kings and Queens, noblemen and common people honoured the Saint with gifts and prayers for over centuries. It is a blaze of frescos, paintings, statues, silver busts, polychrome marbles that fascinate the visitors and give them the sensation to be in a space without time. The great gate delimits the limit between city of Naples and curia. This aspect is remarked by different drawing on the floor and urban coat of arms under the altars. A majestic bronze gate delimits the enter. In front of it there is the Great Altar and two other altars are on the sides of the Chapel.
The Chapel was consecrated on 16th December 1646 and there were put the relics, the cruets with the blood and the statues of co-patrons.
The project of the gate was started in 1630 and finished in 1665 by Cosimo Fanzago who drew also the floor. On the gate there is a two-faced bust of St. Januarius in brass and bronze realized by Gennaro Monte.
The Chapel was also one of four conservatories in Naples because there was a perfect acoustics, first example of quadrophonic with two pipe organs and two choirs. Many teachers music played here: Scarlatti, Cimarosa, Pergolesi and Durante.
The high altar and the relics of the saint
Certainly, the high altar encloses the most precious treasure. On the back there is the safe which safeguards the cruets with St. Januarius’ blood and on the altar there is the bust of the Saint and inside the skull bones. It is possible to open the safe by silver melted and chiselled key pairs that you can see at the beginning of museum route near the copy of the bust.
The extraordinary silver frontlet renews the myth of great Neapolitan goldsmith of the seventeenth century. Along the sides come in succession big and small recesses intended to guard the statues and the busts of the co-patron saints. They seem to take care the bronze statue of St. Januarius in the middle of the altar.
Being in the Chapel of the treasure of St. Januarius means to contemplate many works that live in symbiosis with each other. A perfect alchemy that harmonizes bronze and silver sculptures, frescos, paintings and architectural decorations.
When – in order to avoid many problems- the Deputation decided that only non- Neapolitan painters should have realized decorative paintings, Neapolitan artists did threatening and violent acts against the foreigners.
After many years of selection, the role was committed to Domenico Zampieri, called “Domenichino”. The main part of frescos and paintings were realized by him: on the Western altar, for example, there is the oil on copper representing The Decollation of St. Januarius.
Other artists decorated the Chapel, in particular: Giovanni Lanfranco who completed the frescoes of the dome representing the paradise and Jusepe de Ribera, called “Spagnoletto” who realized “St. Januarius unhurt from furnace” on the Eastern altar.
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