Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Veiled Christ

Nook of Naples: Only meters away from Christmas Alley, one of the 'wonders of the world' lies tucked down a narrow street inside the Cappella Sansevero. The Veiled Christ was sculpted by Giuseppe Sanmartino during the Rococo period. Little is known about the artist except that he was part of a larger group who bedecked this church with more than thirty works of art.

But far more interesting for the visitor is the man who reconstructed and commissioned these pieces during the 1700's. An Italian noble and scientist, Raimondo di Sangro invented a long range canon while serving in the military and created a water-proof cape for his friend Charles Bourbon who became king of Naples in the early 1700's .

Raimondo's interest in alchemy made rumors abound that he could create blood out of nothing, that he could replicate the liquefaction of San Gennaro's blood, and that he killed people to use their bodies for experiments. While the veracity of these claims remains unknown, we do know that he was head of the Neapolitan masonic lodge, for which the Church excommunicated him. Although the Church eventually revoked his excommunication thanks to Raimondo's influence within the city, after his death in 1771 the Church threatened to excommunicate Raimondo's family if they didn't agree to destroy his writings as well as the results of his scientific experiments. Raimondo's family acquiesced and today the man who brought us such wonderful art is himself shrouded in mystery.

Getting There: Via de Sanctis 19 (They charge a 6 Euro admission, 5 Euros if you have an Artecard. No pictures allowed.)

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