Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

 entry July 2003

The Church of San Ferdinando

The ever changing nomenclature of Neapolitan streets and squares now calls it Piazza Trieste e Trento, but the square at the Royal Palace end of via Roma used to be Piazza San Ferdinando, a name that still defines that entire area of the city. The area takes its name from the Church of San Ferdinando, adjacent to the Galleria Umberto and directly in front of the large fountain in the center of the square. It is often the first church that visitors to Naples see when they walk up past the San Carlo opera to have a look at Piazza Plebiscito

The plans for the church were drawn up in 1622 by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), and the church was opened in 1665 after some years of interrupted construction. It was originally dedicated to St. Francis Xavier (San Francesco Saverio, in Italian) friend of St. Ignatius Loyola and one of the members of the first company of Jesuits. The interior of the church still displays numerous works of art depicting the life and missionary activities of St. Francis Xavier, including a —by today's ecumenical standards— "politically incorrect" painting of Paolo de Matteis' The Triumph of Religion over Heresy through St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, St.Francis Borgia and the three Japanese martyrs, while Mohammed is cast down with the Koran. Some prominent works have gone missing over the centuries, including a painting by Salvator Rosa, or have been moved to other premises (such as a painting by Luca Giordano that is now at the Capodimonte Museum). The church was rededicated to San Ferdinando when the Jesuits were expelled from Naples in 1767. The façade of the church has recently undergone restoration.

For many years, the church of San Ferdinando was thought to be one of the many creations of Cosimo Fanzago; however, a document in the holdings of the San Martino museum in Naples signed by Giangiacomo Conforto (1569-1631) shows that the original plan was by Conforto. Fanzago's finished church differs only in some small details.

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