Visit Naples: Discover the Sansevero Chapel

Cappella SanSevero

A mysterious and esoteric Naples, made of beliefs and suggestions, lies behind the Neapolitan metropolis. Discover with us the other face of Naples

Are you in Naples and looking for an alternative tour to discover the mysterious side of this city? We accompany you along a fascinating and esoteric path.

Our journey can only begin from the Sansevero chapel. Located in the heart of the Old town, behind Piazza San Domenico Maggiore and near San Gregorio Armeno, it is famous for its "Veiled Christ". It is a marble sculpture made in 1753 by the Neapolitan artist Giuseppe Sanmartino depicting Jesus dead, covered by a transparent shroud.  The chapel, now deconsecrated, is all to be discovered: it is in fact imbued with alchemical symbols.

The history of the Sansevero Chapel

Visiting Naples cannot disregard this stage. The chapel was the Prince of Sansevero, Raymond Di Sangro, who was a sort of sorcerer, an evil alchemist, and the first Grand Master of Neapolitan Freemasonry. Described by Croce as "the Neapolitan incarnation of Dr. Faust", Raymond is the protagonist of many popular legends also related to the chapel itself. Just think that to explain the realization of the famous veil reclining on Christ, finely draped as if it had been placed after on the statue accomplished, it is claimed that it was precisely Prince Raymond to intervene through his magic, " Crystallizing "With an alchemical procedure a true veil. Later, always according to the "Black legend", blinded the author Sanmartino, so that he "never performed for other such extraordinary sculpture".

It was the prince who organized the decoration of the chapel in an astonishing and original manner, according to the structure of the Temple of Freemasonry. Visiting you will find the statues of the liberality, the education, the sincerity, the suavity, the zeal, the dominion, the modesty and the disillusion that would find correspondence even in the tarot cards. Each of them would refer to the Alchemist's rite of Initiation.

The Masonic and esoteric references are also not lacking in the vault of the chapel. The fresco that decorated it was the work of a certain Francesco Maria Russo and represents the glory of paradise or the paradise of Sangro. There are two elements that characterize it: the triangle and the colors.

The first, placed at the center of the scene with a dove, represents the Trinity for Christians, the cosmic birth for the followers of Pythagoras and the sign of the venerable master for Freemasons. The colors, however, would have been obtained through a mixture formulated by Raymond and, after almost three centuries, are always alive and shining without ever having been retouched.

The labyrinthine floor

In the allegorical itinerary designed by Raymond, the labyrinthine floor was fully covered: between the years ' 60 and ' 70 of the eighteenth century by the artist Francesco celebrate, today it is coated with Neapolitan terracotta tiles. Given its difficult execution, the prince did not have time to see it finished before his death. The project in fact envisaged a floor of marble polychrome inlay with shades from blue to white, with internally embedded a line of white marble, continuous and seamless, conceived by the prince himself. The strenuous effort to realize the floor was made vain when in 1889 a severe collapse destroyed it almost completely, so as to discourage any attempt at restoration. But if you pay attention, still today some slabs of the eighteenth floor are visible in the sparrow in front of the tomb of Raymond Di Sangro, while others can be found exposed in the underground cave and in the sacristy. Of these remains you can appreciate the labyrinth motif, which represents the difficulty of the itinerary that must make the initiate to reach the knowledge. The numerous crossroads and Bal must induce man to choose the right way to get to the truth.

The anatomical machines of the Sansevero Chapel

The mysteries and legends that surround the chapel do not end here. For the less impressionable, on the lower level, descending a spiral staircase, you will find "the anatomical machines".  Kept in two glass cases, in the entrance to the secret laboratory, they were built around 1763-64. To conceive them was Prince Raimondo aided by the Sicilian doctor Giuseppe Salerno.  These are the true skeletons of a man and a woman wrapped in the arterial and venous system in exceptional state of preservation. We still do not know with certainty the procedure used to achieve such an astonishing result. The bodies and the entire circulatory system are too complex and anatomically precise so that they may have been simply "reproduced" and have given rise to numerous, but disturbing, conjectures and legends. Many at the time told that it was two of Raymond's servants who had been injected with an unknown liquid that would have made all blood vessels solid, the so-called "metallization process". Later the corpses would have been deprived of the organs, leaving only the bony structure with the whole circulatory system. This hypothesis leaves dismay if you think that the woman was pregnant, remains visible the umbilical cord, and at the same time poses many questions about methodologies: How was the liquid injected, since there were still no needles for medical purposes? It certainly leaves astonished the precision of the reproduction considering the fact that at the time there was no complete knowledge of the venous and capillary system. At the same time, the hypothesis that liquid (like mercury) could have been injected into the body of a corpse does not hold, since only the blood in the bloodstream pumped from the heart could spread the liquid throughout the body.

What is the truth then? Mystery. Even today there is no unique explanation, only visiting you can get an idea! Still no doubt about what to see in Naples?

If this story intrigued you continue to follow Campania tourism. The next stage of our tour of "mysterious Naples" will speak of death but also of life and hope. Curious to know more?

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