San Lorenzo Maggiore

Gothic interior of the church. 

Gothic interior of the church. 

Roman road underneath the church.

Roman road underneath the church.

The church of San Lorenzo Maggiore, near via San Gregorio Armeno,  is one of the most fascinating churches in Naples and its history is complex.  This area was originally the centre of ancient greek life in Naples, then a forum in Roman times before being abandoned due to a landslide.  In 1270 this area was donated to the Franciscan order by King Charles I, for them to build a new church.  The plan was grand, as the Angevin court wanted to express their power through the construction of a new building.  Thanks to documents, we now know that San Lorenzo Maggiore wasn't just another church, but a very important cultural and political centre in Neapolitan life.  Here, King Alphonse of Aragon held the investiture ceremony for his son Ferdinand.  The Angevin family have their monumental tombs here, like the Tomb of Catherine of Austria, first wife of Charles, made by Tino da Camaino (1323-1325).  Many other important artists left masterpieces here, like the wonderful altarpiece by Simone Martino and the Polyptych by Colantonio, one of the most important figures of the fifteenth century in Napoli (both works are now at the Museo Capodimonte).  The Gothic style was replaced by the Baroque style and then earthquakes helped to alter the appearance of the church.  Still visible is the original ancient greek pavement and also from the from the Baroque period, we still have the magnificent Cacace family Chapel and the chapel dedicated to Saint Anthony from Padua, both in polychrome marble designed by Cosimo Fanzago, who realised one of his most significant works, creating a fascinating harmony of  sculpture, architecture, painting and marble.  Still today, it is possible to see all the different stratifications and modifications of styles and centuries.

There is also a lot more to this church for underneath is a roman time capsule.  Underneath the church is the remnants of Roman Napoli.  You can visit these underground excavations by descending a staircase and you will see a roman road with shops.  

There are also historical halls of the convent, a courtyard and a museum which houses a collection of the history of the church.

The church is free, but you have to pay to visit the other parts and the museum.

There are also guided tours in english

Guided tour, showing the underground origins of the church.

Guided tour, showing the underground origins of the church.

The altar with the Madonna of the rosary and saints by Massimo Stanzione in the Cacace Chapel.

The altar with the Madonna of the rosary and saints by Massimo Stanzione in the Cacace Chapel.

The courtyard of the monastery of San Lorenzo Maggiore.

The courtyard of the monastery of San Lorenzo Maggiore.

The frescoes in the Pope Sisto V Hall.

The frescoes in the Pope Sisto V Hall.

The frescos of the Franciscan order in the internal halls of the friars refectory.

The frescos of the Franciscan order in the internal halls of the friars refectory.

Detail of the Cacace family Chaptel by Cosimo Fanzago.

Detail of the Cacace family Chaptel by Cosimo Fanzago.

The library of san Lorenzo Maggiore.

The library of san Lorenzo Maggiore.

The Roman area underneath the church.

The Roman area underneath the church.

The Cacace Chapel.

The Cacace Chapel.

Official website: San Lorenzo Maggiore

Piazza S.Gaetano, 316 - 80138 Napoli

Tel.: +39 081 211 08 60

Email: scavisanlorenzo@libero.it

Church free entry.

Tickets for the underground guided tour and the Museum: 9 € / Concession with Artecard, over 65, teachers and university students € 7 /  Under 18 € 6 € / School groups € 4

Opening time:  Mon - Sun 9.30 - 17.30 

Nearest metro station:  Linea 1 - DANTE