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Complesso Monumentale San Lorenzo Maggiore - La Neapolis Sotterrata

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Address: Piazza San Gaetano 316, 80138, Naples, Italy
Phone Number:
+39 081 211 0860
Recommended length of visit: <1 hour

Historical Description

When was Neapolis founded? It is not clear the...

Historical Description

When was Neapolis founded? It is not clear the specific date but archaeological studies show the late sixth - early fifth century BC. Initially were only inhabitants coming from the city of Cuma, then others settlers were also added: Calcidesi, Pithecusan, (today's citizens from Ischia) and the Athenians.

The urban layout of Neapolis is structured in a regular network of streets. History and archeology, architecture, sculpture and painting of San Lorenzo Maggiore Complex had already written important chapters in the history of Naples.

It can be assumed that St. Lawrence complex - geographically and topographically- is the heart of Old Naples The deepest backgrounds of the complex of San Lorenzo can be found in the basement of the Greek - Roman Neapolis, at the "Via Augustale", where, in the Roman period were stationed the general markets. At the end of the fifth century AD, a huge flood, a mixture of mud, stones and water buried the whole area. Later it was built an Early Christian Basilica dedicated to St. Lawrence Martyr.

John Bishop of Aversa donated the early Christian basilica of S. Lorenzo to the Friars Minor, in 1234. The primary Basilica was later replaced by the current monument, which construction began in 1284 under King Charles I of Anjou.

The Friars Minor have devised the new complex of S. Lorenzo, supported and protected by the Anjou King, who provided a constant devotion to the brothers of St. Francis of Assisi, favoring them with generous donations and lands.

A particular event explains the deep pledge between the Angevin sovereigns to the Friars Minor: a son of Charles II of Anjou, Ludovico, attracted by Franciscan Friaries way, joined the Order of Friars Minor. Ludovico was elected bishop of Toulouse Immediately after his religious profession. He had lived poor and died very young, in 1297; he was canonized in 1317 by Pope John XXII.

  The Archeological Area

The model that we cross just entered the cloister, makes us understand how was settled the Roman market. Neapolis had three main streets: the upper decumanus currently via Anticaglie; the Major decumanus currently Via Tribunali and the lower decumanus, currently Via San Biaggio dei Librai or better known as Spaccanapoli.

The underground archaeological area of San Lorenzo Maggiore extends below the transept of the Angevin church, the chapter house and the southern arm and the west of the monastery.

The monument in tuff blocks of IV-III century. B.C. was replaced by a building market to the imperial age. It is arranged on two floors exploiting the existing natural gap between the portion of the street stalls and the Courts of stenopos in alignment with Vico Giganti, visible in the archaeological underground area.

The complex as a whole seems to be the result of a unified building program, but it is currently not possible to determine what date from the initial phase of this impressive monumental structure is.

The most recognizable part of the romans buildings is date based by the technical construction in the late first - early second century. A.D., after the earthquakes of 62 and 64 A.D. and the eruption of 79 A.D.

Only a few clues remain of the late Republican and Augustan period, despite the Emperor Augustus and his descendants has been attributed many edifice projects in the city.

The construction previous mentioned was composed of two floors. The first floor was occupied by "macellum", a market intended for sale of foodstuffs, consisting of a rectangular space porch with circular pavilion of the tholos at the center. It invokes a common type of Hellenistic period, attested to the imperial age in Campania at Pompeii and Pozzuoli in the Serapeum.

The tholos was part of an enclosure with a mosaic of large white tiles, which opened a porch covered with marble slabs. The tholos was a small temple. It was the place where merchants were offering the first fruits to God hoping to get back multiply profits. The basement of the circular building is preserved, three steps with a few tracks with marble facing and part of a terracotta funnel. It is now partially visible an oval slot realized on the occasion of the re-paving of the cloister.

The main entrance was on Via Tribunali, while the stairs connect the lower level of the monument, to the portion of stenapos in the underground archaeological area.The eastern front of the complex includes a small building in the North organized into two narrow shafts interconnected with brick facade punctuated by a pediment with two pilasters, in which a door opens and a tiny window of a thick railing.

Toward to the south nine tabernae bipartite in two adjoining spaces, with a vaulted ceiling: the facade is made of brickwork, instead the perimeter walls and partitions of rooms were in reticulate. In such environments can be observed, reflecting the commercial use of the area, elements such as an oven and tanks, which, often documenting phases of use of a later period the original structure.

a. The first tavern is "Erarium" today would be called the bank. Probably romans preserved the treasure of the city! The place is particularly interesting for the signs from the big iron bars.

b. Tabernae fulloniche today would be called dyeing. You can admire tubs and sinks where were brought cloths, washed and dyed with natural detergents soda, clay, purple and uric acid.

c. Bakery. Someone jokingly calls "the grandmother’s pizzerias” It is interesting to note the shape of the dome of the oven and the cooker top.

To the south of the modular system, tabernae bind to a cryptoporticus, a long basement corridor reticulate and brick arches with barrel vaults, divided into smaller adjoining rooms. The building rests, using as the back wall, on the screen in yellow tuff blocks of the fourth century BC phase. In the cryptoporticus can be admired the stone counters, of uncertain interpretation, however, given the presence of small flow channels of water perhaps were used to expose and sell fish.

Entering in a new environment where you notice a water collector, perhaps of Greek origin: it is important to note the arrangement of stones, placed in barrels, round shape with a particular shape and without the mortar between the stones. All block interlocked. The age we talk about 150-200 BC

The following environments were more elegant edifices, that were built with better materials as can be seen from the mosaic floors and “impluvium”, a gush of water inputs of Roman." These rooms were a particularly popular venue for meetings of philosophers and political scientists called "scole". In the last area after the corridor, on the right wall, you can see a few remains of frescoes and mosaic floor in particular.

Chapter Hall

In the middle of the east side of the cloister is the entrance to the Chapter Hall, decorated with a Gothic portal of the second quarter of the fourteenth century, flanked by beautiful windows with four lights and surmounted by a low arch bezel. Above these beautiful quadrifore it was found parts of a fresco (and recently restored), probably painted by a strict observance unknown artist disciple of Giotto around 1340, depicting St. Francis, who gives the rule to friaries and the Poor Clares of Assisi. The fresco was detached years ago and kept inside of the Museum; it is curious to observe how this fourteenth-century fresco was the model of the table of Colantonio with the same subject, part of the altarpiece for the Sanchez family, one time was kept in San Lorenzo but now is on the Museum of Capodimonte.

The Chapter Hall is 7.50 meters high, wide 16.30 meters and deep 12.8 meters. It preserves the Gothic structure, with six vaults supported by two ancient granite bare columns; in what reminds the Chapter House of St. Augustine at the Mint in Naples, built slightly earlier. There are frescoes with grotesque decorations, allegorical figures of Sand and Villa, with a small central fresco depicting the Virgin Mary and under the 1608 date; in the surrounding walls there are paintings in the shape of trees with fruits representatives of people (men and women) of great cultural value, theological, scientists, kings and queens, followers of St. Francis of Assisi. Its author was almost certainly Luigi Rodriguez.

The Sisto V Hall

The Sixtus V Hall consists of a great rectangular hall, 43.60 meters long and wide 9.80 meters. The main entrance is an elegant antique vestibule Swabian which, according to Celano, was once frescoed. This majestic hall was for a long time the place of the Neapolitan Parliament meeting.

The frescoes on the walls and on the vaults date back to the early 17 century were executed by Luigi Rodriguez, during the reign of Philip III, commissioned by the Viceroy Ferdinando Ruiz Castro and Andrada. The vault is divided into seven compartments, each of which are painted life-size seven Virtues; more precisely, at the center of each compartment it is depicted one of the seven main virtues (Clemenza, Providence, Gravity, Magnificence, Dignity Director, magnanimity, affability), surrounded by four smaller Virtue for each main one. In the semicircles of lateral arch can be seen views of Naples that correspond to the different provinces of the Kingdom: today you can admire them only six.

Finally, the decoration of the room is completed with coats of arms, arabesques and allegories. Only the lower part of the perimeter walls, for a height of 4 meters from the floor, it was not covered with frescoes: it was the custom to cover these portions of walls with tapestries and precious fabrics to increase the local magnificence.

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TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

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Day trip to Naples.

On our wander around the fabulous city of Naples, we came across San Lorenzo Maggiore. We weren't supposed to take photos, so none on my review. Small, but very beautifuly... read more

Reviewed 1 week ago
Jo K
Worcester, United Kingdom
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858 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 89: English reviews
Worcester, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
340 reviews
120 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 122 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 week ago

On our wander around the fabulous city of Naples, we came across San Lorenzo Maggiore. We weren't supposed to take photos, so none on my review. Small, but very beautifuly inside. Just like so many churches in Naples..... crazy outside on the streets, a serene, beautiful inside to the churches.

Thank Jo K
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
231 reviews
120 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 63 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 weeks ago via mobile

The cost was 9 euros to enter and only 1 euro for a guide and took about an hour. They also have a free guide option to download on your phone with their free wifi. We opted for the guide, which we enjoyed. She took us with a group through the sites and explained a lot of really interesting details... More 

Thank CanuckTraveller345
Greater Perth, Australia
Level Contributor
347 reviews
134 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 54 helpful votes
Reviewed 4 weeks ago via mobile

This tour takes you underneath the San Lorenzo church to at least 3 different eras. There remains of the Agora from the Greek city, more of the roman forum & parts of the medieval Franciscan complex. An interesting onsite to the area.

Thank John F
Level Contributor
79 reviews
58 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed 19 April 2017

Take the tour to go back in time to the Ancient Greek/Roman period. With this tour you will. Clara our guide explained how we were going 10m underground to walk along ancient streets and see and go inside some of the shops, houses. The tour lasts about an hour and you can see the different periods between Greek and Roman.

Thank ian1811
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
356 reviews
210 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 213 helpful votes
Reviewed 12 April 2017

We paid for entry to this attraction and thought it great value. Near the entrance there is a courtyard and we and others could sit on the seats in this peaceful setting, use the bathrooms, log into free wifi. Either through luck or misfortune, we were advised that the English tour underground had already left so we could explore ourselves.... More 

Thank Julie L
Madrid, Spain
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 December 2016 via mobile

My wife and I visited the complex on the 26th of November. We did the tour of 18:00. A woman was at the ticket box. She told us the adult price was 9 euros 'plus one euro for the guide'. I asked her for two tickets and payed her. When I received the tickets I could see that the price... More 

2 Thank isaacjoa
Longwood, FL
Level Contributor
56 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 49 helpful votes
Reviewed 24 November 2016 via mobile

An outstanding immersion in Ancient Greek, roman and medioevali civilizations. Marisa, our guide, was so enthusiastic in describing all the sectors of this complex. It is surely worth visiting! Stunning!

Thank pleiade98
Canterbury, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
49 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
Reviewed 5 November 2016

This tour was interesting and the guide very knowledgeable but at 10 euro per person it was quite expensive for a relatively short tour (approx 30 mins). In comparison the Sotteranea tour of the underground tunnels, just across the road was the same price for a 2 hour tour with a lot more to see and a lot more information.

1 Thank alijwhelan
Cannes, France
Level Contributor
22 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 November 2016

This is one of the underground visits that you can undertake in Naples, this one showing some ancient, rather well conserved buildings dating from the Greek and Roman periods. It's interest is somewhat limited by the fact that (1) it's very short (2) explanations are minimal.

Thank Damien G
Greater London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
11 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 30 October 2016 via mobile

Very interesting market place its a small place but you do get an idea or a feel of how it would have been back in the day what makes it more fascinating is the fact that its underground easy site to imagine the Romans out shopping. I think I paid £7.00 eruos

Thank Terry W

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