Immerse yourself in the heart of Naples and see the
ancient burial places of early christians and the mysterious
tombs of seventeenth century Neapolitan nobility.
Inspiration, imagination and bizarre art blend the Counter-
Reformation ideas of “Purification” with typical Neapolitan
From the necropolis to the centre of the neighbourhood
Under the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità, the neuralgic centre of the district, we find the second most important early Christian cemetery in the city.
Crypt of San Gaudioso, from the 5th century AD.Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
The valley that is now one of the most densely populous neighbourhoods in Naples, was once a necropolis and burial ground.
The story of St. Gaudiosus
Septimius Celius Gaudiosus, known as Gaudiosus of Naples or Gaudiosus the African, was bishop of Abitina, in Tunisia. He arrived in Naples through a fortuitous event: after the invasion of the Vandals, he refused to convert to Arianism, so king Genseric had him placed on a ship without sails or oars, along with other exiled Christians, including Quodvultdeus, bishop of Carthage (buried in the Catacombs of San Gennaro).
Tomb of San Gaudioso, V - VI cent. A.D. Catacombs of San Gaudioso (V - VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
When he died, between 451 and 453 AD, he was buried in the cemetery outside the city walls of Naples, and his place of burial soon began to arouse devotion.
So-called Cubicolo di Nostriano. V - VI sec. A.D. Catacombs of San Gaudioso. (V - VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
From that time onwards, the early Christian underground cemetery expanded and gradually became the Catacombs of San Gaudioso.
The Catacombs of San Gaudioso conserve valuable frescoes and mosaics from the 5th and 6th century that feature many symbols that were widely used in the early Christian era, such as the fish, the lamb, and grapes with branches.
Cubiculum, Catacombs of San Gaudioso. (V - VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
However, it is difficult to determine with certainty the extent and the number of the chambers, due to the numerous transformations undergone by the Catacombs..
Cistern, Catacombs of San Gaudioso. (2017)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
Once they were abandoned, the 'Lave dei Vergini' invaded and obstructed the access, while other parts were modified or filled in for the construction of the Basilica.
Arcosolio of Pascenzio. V - VI sec. A.D. Catacombs of San Gaudioso. (V - VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
One of the most ancient frescos in the catacombs
The fresco of Pascentius, dated to the 5th/6th century, may represent a scene of welcome.
Its centre is dominated by the figure of the Apostle Peter, who is introducing the deceased Pascentius to a third person, either Christ or most probably St. Paul.
Another interesting element is the presence of two candlesticks with burning candles placed the side of the figures, frequently found in many African representations.
Crypt at the entrance of San Gaudioso, from the 5th century ADCatacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
The catacombs of San Gaudioso were also used as a burial site in the 16th century, after the discovery of a fresco of the Madonna that had been previously concealed by mud.
The Madonna della Sanità, from the 5th-6th century, is the oldest depiction of the Virgin Mary in Campania.
Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità.Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
After the discovery of the fresco, the Catacombs were entrusted to the Dominicans, who built the Basilica so as to incorporate them into the building.
The tombs of the 17th century nobility
During the 17th century, the site mainly contained graves for aristocrats and the clergy.
Marco Antonio d'Aponte and Scipione Brancaccio. Seventeenth century A.D. Catacombs of San Gaudioso. (XVII sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
The tombs of the nobles and clergy were created following a special procedure. The skulls were placed on display in the walls of the ambulatory...
while the rest of the body was frescoed, usually with the clothes and professional instruments that represented the social status of the deceased.
Donna Sveva Gesualda and Maria de Ponte. Seventeenth century A.D. Catacombs of San Gaudioso. (XVII sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
The frescoes were painted by Giovanni Balducci, an artist who refused payment in order to be buried among the aristocrats in the Catacombs of San Gaudioso.
Descent to the drains, Catacombs of San Gaudioso. (V - VI sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
The burial of nobles and clergy involved the practice of draining.
Scolatoi or "cantarelle", Catacombs of San Gaudioso. (XVII sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
Draining was a process in which corpses were placed in niches so that they would lose their fluids.
Scolatoi, Catacombs of San Gaudioso. (XVII sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
This process took place in small cavities called seditoi, drainers or in Neapolitan cantarelle, from the Greek canthàrus, due to the vessel placed under the deceased...
... which had the function of collecting the cadaveric fluids. Once the process was complete, the bones were washed and finally laid to rest.
Central Ambulach from the 5th century d.C., Allegory of death. Catacombs of San Gaudioso. (XVII sec. d.C.)Catacombs of Naples | Rione Sanità
A place unique in the world, particular and intriguing
Don't miss it!