In search of lost Middle Ages : the basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore in Naples
Hledání ztraceného středověku : bazilika San Giorgio Maggiore v Neapoli (4.–17. století)
Source document: Convivium. 2016, vol. 3, iss. 2, pp. 48-67
ISSN2336-3452 (print)2336-808X (online)
License: Not specified license
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The basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore in Naples played an important role in the city's history during the Middle Ages. Built by Bishop Severus (c. 362–408), it was the earliest of the city's four baptismal basilicas (Catolicae maiores) and was governed by a priestly congregation controlled by the Chapter of the cathedral. The seat of religious and civic institutions, it was the site of public ceremonies performed by the bishop. Architect Cosimo Fanzago rebuilt the church after it was largely destroyed by fire in 1640, but visual and textual sources enable reconstruction of its primitive features. The original church's only surviving structure is the Early Christian apse, pierced by three arches resting on marble columns. The apse's exact chronology and the function of its triforium are still debated. As affirmed by the ninth-century Gesta episcoporum Neapolitanorum, the apse was decorated with a mosaic, the iconography of which is investigated here. The church's interior was divided by marble columns into a nave and two side aisles (twenty-two columns were reused in other buildings and survive today). A transept gave access to the apse. In the high altar, topped by a ciborium built by archbishop Hubert d'Ormont in 1310, the relics of Severus were visible through two fenestellas confessionis. The marble urn, a thirteenth-century cloth, and fragments from the bishop's first burial place in the catacombs of San Severo are now on display behind the baroque altar.