05 April 2013


The city of Naples is about 140 miles to the south of Rome.  But they are very different places.  As most Italians will tell you, Naples is louder and more energetic, più vivace, as the Italians would say.  The people also have a great deal more piety than you see in Rome.  And the Pizza in Naples is much, much better than the Pizza in Rome.  On the negative side, it is one of the most corrupt in Italy.  There is a general stereotype among Italians that Neapolitans are not trustworthy.  One is constantly warned before going to Naples to beware of robbers, thieves, and pickpockets.  That corruption is extremely evident in the city government.  As is widely known, the company with the contract for garbage collection in Naples is a mafia run organization.  In order to punish the city for anti-Mafia activity, the company seems to collect the contract fees, but not the garbage.  It is therefore one of the dirties cities in Europe, with mounds of uncollected and rotting garbage lining the streets.  Also, most Italians are very aware of the importance of tourism and keep the historic areas clean.  There is a level of graffiti in Naples--even on the churches in the historic city center--that you do not see in other cities in Italy, at least in the tourist areas.  It is very sad, because there is a great amount of beauty in the city.

The city of Naples (or Napoli, in Italian) is ancient, and has pre-Roman roots.  Its name comes from the Greek:  Neo Polis, the "new city".  It was originally a Greek settlement, and only much later came under the control of the Roman Empire.  After the collapse of the Roman Empire, it eventually formed part of the Two Kingdoms of Sicily, and was the seat of government in the Kingdom.  The Two Kingdoms ended when the people voted in a plebescite to join the emerging united Italy in the mid 19th century.

Among the things to see there are the Duomo, the Cathedral of St. Januarius (or San Gennaro, in Italian).  He is the most important saint of the city, as his his relic.  St. Januarius was a 3rd/4th cntury martyr under the Diocletian persecution, and his body was brought to Naples after his death.  The church in Naples has preserved not only his bones, but a relic of his blood.  There is a miracle associated with it, in that the blood--which had long since dried--miraculously liquifies.  It usually occurs on his feast day, and its liquefaction is seen as a sign of blessing on the city.  However, there have been times it has failed to liqufy, and disaster has struck.  Every year, the people of Naples gather on the feast to see if the miracle will occur, and therefore whether it will be a blessed year (or not) for the city.

In the pictures below is also one of the greatest carvings I have ever seen, the Christo Velato, or veiled Christ.  It is a carving of Christ in the tomb covered in a linen blanket.  The carving is so delicate, do perfect, it really looks as though it is the body of a man covered in a damp cloth.  Pictures are not allowed in the chapel, so the one below is actually a picture of the post card.

We Dominicans have our own church, the Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore.  The Dominicans arrived there in the 13th century, very early in the life of the Order.  There was a church there, originally dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.  Eventually it became a priory, and a new larger church built in honor of St. Dominic.  For several years, St. Thomas Aquinas stayed there, and his former cell is now a chapel.  There is a story that here while in prayer, the icon of the crucifix spoke to him saying, "You have written well of me, Thomas, what reward would you have?' St. Thomas replied,"None other than Yourself, Lord." The icon of the crucifix is still in the cell, and some pictures of it are below.

Also buried in the Basilica of St. Dominic is the body of Bishop Luke Concanen, an Irish Dominican and the first Bishop of the Diocese of New York.  Unfortunately, Bishop Concanen was never able to make passage to the U.S., and died in Naples before ever taking possession of his Diocese.  Terence Cardinal Cooke, the former Archbishop of New York, had plaques in honor of Bishop Concanen placed in the church.

Finally, Naples is important historically for its harbor.  It is located in a bay, and when the weather is good, the views of the bay are stunning.  Unfortunately, the weather was not very good when we were in Naples.

Here are the pictures from Naples: