Pio Monte della Misericordia: Church and Art Gallery
In 1601, driven by the
charitable aspirations of the Counter
Reformation, seven Neapolitan gentlemen founded a
quasi-secular organization dedicated to taking care of
the needy in Naples. Their original idea was to raise
enough money to support a number of beds (places) in the
Hospice for the Incurable.
An early site for the organization was built almost
immediately, but by mid-century the organization
expanded into the premises that one sees today (photo),
on via Tribunale, one block from a side entrance of the
The building is the
work of architect Francesco
Antonio Picchiatti and was completed in 1670. It
is directly across the street from the small square,
Piazza Sisto Riario Sforza, in the center of which
stands the oldest of the three well-known "spires of
Naples", the 24-meter high Spire of San Gennaro, erected
in 1636 and the work of Cosimo Fanzago. (The other two
spires are at Piazza San
Domenico Maggiore and Piazza
del Gesù Nuovo.)
The two-story building rests on a portico of five arches and contains an art gallery on the first floor. The building was designed not to look like a church, though it does contain one on the premises. That interior church, too, is the work of Picchiatti and is built to an octagonal plan with seven altars. It is best known today for the presence of Caravaggio's spectacular and complicated painting, The Seven Acts of Mercy, one of the most influential works of art in the 17th century in Naples.
update Sept. 2014 - There is currently a dispute in Naples over the possible loan of The Seven Acts of Mercy.
See this link.