Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Oct. 2003    

aints Marcellino & Festo Monastery

Fortunately, Naples goes on periodic binges of restoration: a Roman market here, an Angevin castle there; you can do a lot with 2,500 years of history. One of the delights, then, of walking around at random is finding such a place. I stepped through the large portal of a building I had never visited before and got one of those Wizard of Oz moments (when Dorothy, in the MGM film, opens the door of her house, which has just bounced down in Oz, and the film suddenly goes from black and white to color). I didn't start to sing, but I think I might have gasped briefly. I was in the newly restored courtyard of the old monastery of Saints Marcellino and Festo. It was tidy and colorful, newly painted, with a hypnotic series of arches running around the perimeter of the courtyard. Also —at least when I was there— there were some very short gardeners tending the ample vegetation. That added to the Munchkin effect.

This monastery was the result of the fusion in 1565 of two older, smaller religious facilities housing, respectively, a Basilian order and a Benedictine one, both of which go back to the very hazy times of the independent Duchy of Naples in the 8th century. It is yet another example of the many monasteries in Naples that have been converted to other use; it has been affiliated with the University of Naples since 1907 and currently houses part of the Paleontology Department. Recently, funds from the European Foundation for Regional Development have helped to restore the courtyard to the state shown in the photo. It is not particularly easy to find, but it's worth the effort. It is accessible from via Mezzocannone by walking east behind the main university building down a small street named via Orilia.

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