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A visit to Naples is unthinkable without a stop at the most important churches, for they are precious keepers of invaluable works of art and testify to the city's glorious history. A tour of these churches should begin at the Cathedral, the centre of the city's religious life. Inside is the containing the relics of this saint, the patron of Campania. Named after Our Lady of the Assumption, the cathedral was built by Charles II d'Anjou on the site of the earlier Stefania, a 6th century basilica whose remains can still be seen in the adjoining Palazzo Vescovile (Archibishop's Palace). Situated on the same site were the Basilica of Santa Restituta, the twin building of the Stefania (4th century), and the seat of Asprenus, the first bishop of Naples, who was subsequently elevated to sainthood. The construction of the Cathedral was actually ordered by Charles II, who requested its building. The facade was destroyed by the 1349 earthquake and was completely rebuilt over the centuries. The neo-gothic style now predominates, as intended by the designer Enrico Alvino. However, the most recent reconstruction work was carried out in 1951 and 1969 in order to repair the serious damage caused by bombings of 1943. The portals of the church are in the 15th century style and are the work of the sculptor Antonio Baboccio (1407). Note the main portal, decorated with Lions supporting columns (14th century), and a Madonna by Tino di Camaino. The interior follows a Latin cross plan with aisles, sustained by 16 piers supporting a total of 110 antique granitic columns. The monument to Charles I, Charles Martel and Clementina of Hasburg, which stands out in the double facade, was created at the end of the 16th century by Domenico Fontana. The Christening Font is a fine work of the 17th century. Of particular note in the right-hand transept is the altar-piece of Our Lady of the Assumption, by Perugino. To the right of the presbytery (second chapel), lies the Minutolo Chapel, a fine example of Gothic architecture. It is distinguished by the Minutolo Tombs and a series of beautiful frescoes and paintings, said to be the work of Montano d'Arezzo and Roberto d'Oderisio.Internal To the left of the presbytery (second chapel), is the Chapel of St. Lawrence, with its Jesse Tree, a valuable fresco by Lello da Orvieto (14th century). The polygonal apse dates from the 18th century, while the four transept chapels preserve their original Gothic appearance. Of particular interest are the four paintings in the transept, and the 14th century bishop's throne in marble (situated beneath the left-hand organ). The Cathedral also contains many tombs of illustrious figures including St. Asprenus, the first bishop of Naples. Below the high altar is the Cathedral's Succorpo, a small chapel, also known as the Confession of St. Januarius or the Carafa Chapel. It is maintened by Bramante contributed to its design (it is currently closed for restoration work). It is reached via a double staircase which is closed by two bronze doors and was commissioned in 1497 by Cardinal Oliviero Carafa. The relics of St. Januarius are kept here. They are contained in an urn at the altar, opposite which is the Statue of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa at Prayer by the local artist G. T. Malvito. The construction of the Chapel of the Treasury of St. Januarius (San Gennaro) was begun on the 7th June 1608 to a design by Francesco Grimaldi, to fulfill a wow made by the city which some decades earlier had been threatened by the plague. The brass entrance gate was designed by Cosimo Fanzago in 1630. The chapel follows a Greek cross plan and is surmounted by a dome. The dome was painted in the 17th century by Lanfranco (Heaven); the remaining frescoes are the work of Domenichino (Episodes from the Life of St. Januarius). The paintings on copper at the altar are by Domenichino and Ribera. The high altar was built to a design by Solimena and is completely covered with silver and gilded copper decorations. In front of this are two beautifully made silver candelabras. Behind the high altar there is a safe with two keys, one in the possession of the Cardinal of Naples and the other with the Mayor (who is the head of the Treasury delegation) - the safe contains the two phials of the martyr's blood which are displayed to the public twice a year - in September and on the Sunday before the first Sunday of May - when the liquefaction miracle repeats itself. It is in this occasion that the exquisite Reliquary Bust is displayed to the public; it was made in the city in the 14th centuty by the French Masters Etienne, Godefroyd, Guillame de Verdelay and Milet d'Auxerre. It is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Gothic goldsmith's art from beyond the Alps. The Sacristy, entirely painted by Giordano and Farelli, contains the Bust of St. Januarius cloaked in a red cope, and 44 silver busts of the co-patron saints of Naples. Up until a few years ago these statues were paraded through the streets of the old town centre - from the Cathedral to Santa Chiara - to celebrate the "May Miracle" which commemorates the removal of the saints remains from Montevergine, in the province of Avellino, to Naples. Internal Church of Santa RestitutaThe Church of Santa Restituta was built around 334. It is situated within the Cathedral and is reached via the entrance opposite the Treasury Chapel. Not much remains of the original structure, the ancient Constantine Basilica with its Latin cross plan. Some Baroque details were added to the building's characteristic Byzantine style during the most recent restoration work around the end of the 17th century. The entire building rests on 17 Corinth columns. The chapel contains the body of Santa Restituta, of African origins, who together with St. John is the patron of the island of Ischia. Note the mosaic of the Madonna with Child Enthroned between Saints Januarius and Restituta by Lello da Orvieto. Of particular artistic interest is the Chapel of San Giovanni which used to be the baptistery. Otherwise known as San Giovanni in Fonte, it dates from the 4th-5th centuries. The building is square in form and opens at one end into the Church of Santa Restituta. Note in particular the splendid mosaic decorations, created at the time of the baptistery's foundation. They represent Episodes from the Gospel, Saints, Symbols of the Evangelists, and a Monogrammatic Cross. 


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