Pio Monte della Misericordia is an institution founded in 1602 by seven Neapolitan nobles who, aware of the needs of a population in need of help and solidarity, decide to donate part of their possessions and their commitment to charitable works.
Caravaggio’s painting, from the top of the high altar of the chapel, summarizes the actions of solidarity exercised by Pio Monte della Misericordia in an extraordinary synthesis of the Seven Works of Corporal Mercy still carefully exercised today.
The ancient seat, with the historic building built in the seventeenth century, has a vast historical and artistic heritage and a rich Fine Art Gallery with paintings from different schools and periods, including works by Massimo Stanzione, Jusepe de Ribera, Luca Giordano, Andrea Vaccaro, and a considerable quantity of paintings and sketches by Francesco De Mura, a gift from the artist to the Institute. For some years the collection has been enriched with important works on the theme of Mercy performed by great contemporary artists.
On the second floor of the building are housed the Historical Archive and the Library, where documents from the fourteenth century are kept, as well as several private funds, including that of Aquino di Caramanico, with the precious parchment of the proclamation to Doctor of the Church of San Tommaso d’Aquino.
For over four centuries, Pio Monte della Misericordia, with its Governors and Associates, has continued the work of assistance and charity by adapting the interventions to changing needs.
The Pio Monte della Misericordia is a monumental building of Naples situated in Piazza Riario Sforza, along the decumanus. A secular charitable institution, among the oldest and most active in the city, houses inside a seventeenth-century church where the canvas of the Seven Works of Misericordia by Caravaggio is preserved, among the most important paintings of the seventeenth century, and other prestigious paintings of the same century belonging to the Neapolitan school.
Foundation and status of Capitulation (seventeenth century)
The period of the Counter-Reformation is the historical setting for the birth of Pio Monte, born by the will of a group of seven young nobles made up of Cesare Sersale, Giovan Andrea Gambacorta, Girolamo Lagni, Astorgio Agnese, Giovan Battista d’Alessandro, Giovan Vincenzo Piscicelli and Giovanni Battista Manso who, starting from 1601, used to meet every Friday at the hospital of the Incurables to put in place at their expense a program of assistance works that had the aim of giving food to the sick. Over time, the charitable works increased to the point of accumulating a large capital with a charitable fund, which amounted to 6,328 ducats, to be destined for the poor.
For these reasons, Pio Monte della Misericordia was founded in 1602, an institutional body that since then has been involved in bringing together resources and organizing charitable activities, which at that time consisted in helping the needy, assisting the sick, redeeming slaves Christians from the infidels, assisting prisoners, freeing prisoners for debts and housing pilgrims. In 1603 the statute of Pio Monte was drawn up with approval first of the viceroy Giovanni Alfonso Pimetel de Herrera, in 1604, and then with the endorsement of Pope Paul V, which took place in 1605.
The statute has been governing and controlling the mechanisms, management of funds and election of governors for more than four hundred years. This consists of 33 articles constituting the so-called Capitulations and from the beginning it was financed only by lay people. Good governance was instead guaranteed through the six-monthly rotation of seven governors engaged in the various works, in order to ensure maximum correctness in the use of the benefit funds. These met twice a week in the Audience hall to determine the tasks and how to organize the activities to be carried out.
The room consisted of a seven-sided table where the phrase Fluent ad eum omnes gentes was inlaid in each segmentand a work of mercy that fell on the governor who sat in that portion of the table and was to take charge. According to a well-defined six-monthly rotation mechanism it happened that each of the elected governors rotated from time to time to take on all seven of the planned activities: the first elected was given the task of visiting the sick, after six months he passed to the the activity of burying the dead, then that of visiting the prisoners, then of redeeming the prisoners, of helping the shameful poor, of housing the pilgrims and, lastly, of the last planned charge, of managing the capital fund of Pio Monte.
The seven governors came from the Neapolitan nobility and were over the age of 25; they were also elected every three and a half years. The appointment of the seven governors took place through a voting mechanism that involved a junta made up of about eighty members over the age of 18, always chosen with particular mechanisms established by the Capitulations.
The first seat of Giovan Giacomo di Conforto (first half of the 17th century)
At first the seat of the institution was in a small church built between 1607 and 1621 by Giovan Giacomo di Conforto, who paid 25 ducats for the project. The commissions of all the paintings that decorate the interior of the church also date back to this period; in fact in 1607 the payment of 400 ducats to Caravaggio for the execution of the Seven Works of Mercy resulted, painting destined for the presbytery and first in chronological order of the whole religious environment.
Caravaggio’s work was so popular with the governors of Pio Monte that in 1613 they applied a first condition to the painting which forced him to insist in the chapel for which it was conceived without any possibility of removal from this place, even for years subsequent, and also prohibiting its possible transfer; then later a second note also sanctioned the prohibition of reproduction and copy of the painting.
In 1621 the canvases of the other altars were requested from artists such as Giovan Vincenzo da Forli, between 1607-08, with the Good Samaritan; to Giovanni Baglione was asked in 1608 the Deposition of Christ; to Fabrizio Santafede the Saint Peter who resurrects Tabitha, dated 1611, and the Christ in the house of Martha and Mary, from 1612; in Battistello Caracciolo it was commissioned in exchange for a fee of 100 ducats The Liberation of Saint Peter in 1615; and finally, a little later than these, is finally the canvas by Giovanni Bernardo Azzolino depictingSan Paolino who frees the slave of 1626-30.
Although born with secular ideologies, Pio Monte since its foundation has always established a “collaborative” relationship with the Jesuit order, for which funds were allocated on several occasions over time to build various structures managed by them. During the entire second decade of the seventeenth century, despite the costs incurred for the construction of the Neapolitan headquarters, Pio Monte was immediately particularly active in carrying out the predetermined activities, such as for example in Ischia, in the Casamicciola area, where under the guidance of the same of Conforto a hospice was built that could accommodate up to 300 poor people per year.
The new headquarters of Francesco Picchiatti (second half of the 17th century)
In 1653 the church of the building was demolished to be completely rebuilt and from 1658 to 1678 the complex was reorganized into a larger building, thanks also to the purchase of about 10 neighboring buildings, as the previous one became insufficient for the growing needs of the ‘body. Of the first church there is no evidence from which it is possible to understand what its shape and architecture was, however thanks to the map of the city by Alessandro Barattafrom the mid-seventeenth century it is clear that this had a considerably smaller shape than the current one, with a roof without a dome and with a rectangular plan, perhaps with three chapels on each side within which the paintings and the main altar were placed on the front where was the painting by Caravaggio.
The new building project was entrusted after a first refusal by Cosimo Fanzago, in excess of works already previously accepted, to the architect Francesco Antonio Picchiatti, who received a fee of 30 ducats plus another 80 per annum for the drafting of the preparatory drawing. of construction. With Picchiatti the building of Pio Monte and the adjoining church will take on the aspect they still have today.
Meanwhile in 1666 instead the works of the great dome of the church ended while in the same year the sculptures of the external portico were commissioned to Andrea Falcone, originally commissioned to Gianlorenzo Bernini, who however refused because of other commitments made previously, and which in a second At the moment they were shot at Falcone which was supposed to have carried out the statues under the supervision of Fanzago and who instead most likely performed independently, as the architect and sculptor from Bergamo does not appear in any document attesting his work within the construction site.
Between 1668 and 1671, the two stoups of the church, designed by Picchiatti, and the balustrades, marble altars and other decorative elements of the internal chapels were completed by Falcone, works that he performed with the help of Pietro Pelliccia. The Deposition of Christ commissioned for compensation of 200 ducats to Luca Giordano also dates back to 1671 with the aim of replacing that of the Baglione in the chapel, paid 120 ducats, then relocated within the rooms of the Pio Monte palace constituting the picture gallery. Finally, in 1674 four other sculptures were commissioned from Falcone to be inserted in the church hall, including aSan Gioacchino, a San Giuseppe and two prophets; however, due to the death of the sculptor, he managed to finish only the statue of the prophet David in 1675, which was then placed on the monumental staircase leading to the rooms on the first floor of the complex.
Finally, between 1678 and 1680, Bonaventura Presti, a pupil of Picchiatti, was documented inside the construction site to complete the rooms on the third floor.
Activities from the eighteenth century to the present
At the beginning of the eighteenth century and until 1720 the building was affected by restoration works led by Giovanni Battista Manni; other works then took place in 1763.
In 1782 Francesco De Mura inherited 180 paintings he made and destined according to his will to be sold at auction to help Pio Monte cope with the welfare works to be put in place; of the donated canvases remained in place 33.
Starting from 1914, Pio Monte sanctioned the absolute ban on the sale of his works of art and in 1973 at the will of the then superintendent of the institution, Tommaso Leonetti, count of Santo Janni, the Picture Gallery was established.
In 2005, however, the entire complex was created by creating a circuit in which both the church and the rooms on the first floor of the building, organized for the exhibition of some archival documents and the pictorial collection of the foundation, became part.
Even today, Pio Monte della Misericordia lends its charitable work to a series of local institutions; the church is also still consecrated.
Church of Pio Monte
The building of the Pio Monte insists a few meters from the staircase that leads to the right nave of the Duomo, in front of the real chapel of the treasure of San Gennaro and the spire of the same saint.
The church is incorporated into the building and therefore has no facade. The entrance therefore takes place through a portal located within the portico in piperno with five arches that characterizes the lower part of the main facade of the building, the latter 33 meters long and spanned on three levels, where on the ground floor is the portico with Ionic pillars, work by Salomone Rapi, on the first floor, intended for offices and characterized by the frieze on the front bearing the verse of Isaiah ” Fluent ad eum omnes gentes ” which became the motto of Pio Monte, the pillars are of order Corinthianand in the upper one, intended for officials of the institution, the capitals are composite.
The wall inside the portico is decorated with a sculptural complex depicting the Madonna della Misericordia (at the third arch) in the center, under which is a marble plaque engraved with the verse « Civis | concivivm miseriæ crevere in montem | patritiorum pietas | vt prosterneret misericordiæ montem ecitavit | year M • D • C • I. | deipara protegente piorvm mvnificentia mirifice crevit | egestates mvlta hic opportvna habent avxilia | et ideo hvnc ampliorem locvm mseris | primatvm coetvs erexit | year MDCLXXI “. On the sides of the portico (under the first and fifth arches) there are two allegorical figures within two niches leaning against the wall which summarize the works of corporal charity. All three statues were made by Andrea Falcone, son of the most famous Aniello, perhaps based on a design by Cosimo Fanzago.
The entrance to the church is in line with the second arch, from right to left, of the building, while the portal on the fourth arch opens towards an atrium that leads to the internal courtyard of the building, in the center of which is a seventeenth-century well in piperno while the buildings destined for the institution’s headquarters wind around. Finally, on the staircase leading to the first floor is the statue of King David by Andrea Falcone.
The church has an octagonal plan with an imposing and luminous dome and with six side chapels.
The interior features simple stucco and white and gray marble decorations on the walls. The six side chapels, as well as the presbytery, are characterized by balustrades that delimit the rooms, by altars and frames with marble friezes, all works by Andrea Falcone and Pietro Pelliccia. The chapels alternate between the four major ones (at the entrance, the front of the classroom and the two side ones) and the four smaller ones (the corner ones), where above the latter there are niches inside which there are balconies that can be accessed through the rooms on the first floor of the building, while above the arch entrance to the church another niche opens which allowed the governors to be able to admire the canvas of Caravaggio at the main altar, staying in the hall of the choir, always located at the first floor of the building.
Considering the geometries of the internal space, of the side chapels, as well as of the dome, the church as a whole assumes an architectural structural relevance similar to that of the nearby real chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, designed by Francesco Grimaldi in 1608.
The floor of the church is in polychrome marble and terracotta, also by Falcone; on the sides of the entrance there are two stoups designed by Picchiatti but still executed by Falcone, particular for the bizarre shapes.
The presbytery has on the side walls a Sant’Anna from around 1665 by Giacomo Di Castro and a Madonna della Purità from around 1670 by Andrea Malinconico, while in the center is a baroque altar behind which the large canvas of 1607 by Caravaggio dominates depicting the Seven Works of Mercy.
On the counter-façade above the front door there is instead a faithful copy of Christ and the adulteress of Luca Giordano from around 1660. In the side chapels there are paintings depicting Gospel stories used as allegories to represent the corporal works of mercy described individually.
The paintings on the right are, from the first chapel going towards the presbytery: the San Paolino that frees the slave (1626-1630) by Giovanni Bernardino Azzolino, which describes the action of redeeming slaves; the Christ in the house of Martha and Mary (1612) by Fabrizio Santafede, who identifies giving hospitality to pilgrims; finally the Good Samaritan (1607-08) by Giovanni Vincenzo Forlì, which represents the act of visiting the sick.
The canvases on the left are instead, from the first chapel going towards the presbytery: the Liberation of San Pietro (1615) by Battistello Caracciolo, which represents the act of freeing prisoners; the Deposition of Christ (1671) by Luca Giordano, which recounts the work of burying the dead; finally San Pietro reviving Tabitha (1611) by Fabrizio Santafede, who describes the deeds of feeding the hungry, drinking the thirsty and dressing the naked.
Library and historical
In one wing of the building are the library and the historical archive of Pio Monte della Misericordia.
The library is coeval with the foundation of the institution and was formed with donations and testamentary bequests. The room contains about 17,000 volumes, mainly books on history, southern history, heraldry and art history.
The documentary archive is one of the richest in Naples and tells through its documents the whole history in detail of Pio Monte. Among these are a copy of the articles of association of 1602, the document of approval of the first capitulation of King Philip III signed by the viceroy Giovanni Alfonso Pimentel de Herrera of 1604 and the brief copy of Pope Paul V of 1605 with which « […] was endorsed for the establishment of Pio Monte ». The contracts stipulated with the authors who made the paintings in the church, all the payment and planning documents for Picchiatti’s works and the will of Francesco De Mura are also kept with which he inherited 180 of his paintings to be auctioned, so as to have capital to support charitable activities.
The Picture gallery
From the left portal in the portico of the facade you can access, going up to the first floor, the historical rooms of the complex, where there are also the pictorial collections of Pio Monte, considered one of the most important in Naples.
The Quadreria del Pio Monte della Misericordia consists of 140 canvases, although about 122 are exhibited in the rooms, ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, mostly the result of donations made for the benefit of the institution, among which the conspicuous collection left in 1782 by the painter Francesco De Mura, which originally counted 180 of his works. Another important nucleus of works of art concerns the donation from the heritage of Gennaro Marciano, from 1802, and from that of Maria Sofia Capece Galeota, which took place in 1933.
In the museum rooms of the palace are also preserved sacred vestments of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, other pieces of applied art, some archive documents and the original furniture of the complex, including the historic seven-sided table used for the meetings of the governors, made by anonymous carvers of the seventeenth century and which is exhibited in the second anteroom, and the fake wardrobe on the wall of the coretto room which hides an opening thanks to which the governors were allowed to be able to admire the Caravaggio canvas on the main altar of the church.
The Pio Monte della Misericordia Picture Gallery is a picture gallery in Naples located in the Pio Monte della Misericordia complex.
The picture gallery is made up of 140 paintings, of which 122 exhibited in the halls, mostly the result of donations or testamentary bequests that occurred during the life of the foundation.
The canvases are exhibited in ten historic rooms on the first floor of the Pio Monte palace; the most conspicuous nucleus is represented by the works left by Francesco De Mura on August 19, 1782, who in fact donated 180 canvases made by him on the condition that the foundation sold them only for charitable purposes. However, around 33 of these works remain on display, including paintings and sketches.
Other important donations that enriched the artistic collection were that of June 9, 1802 by Don Gennaro Marciano, who saw among the precious pieces the paintings attributed to Mattia Preti and the two on Sant’Apollonia and Sant’Agnese by Massimo Stanzione, and then that of the noblewomanMaria Sofia Galeotas Capece, in 1933, who donated 31 paintings, including the ‘ Self-portrait of Luca Giordano, the Sant’Antonio Abate of Jusepe de Ribera and paintings by Agostino Beltrano and Giovanni Stefano Maja.
The first opening of the picture gallery took place in 1973, at the behest of the politician, and superintendent of Pio Monte, Tommaso Leonetti of Santo Janni. The paintings on display are almost all from the Neapolitan school and date from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century.
Exceeded the first ramp of the monumental staircase, passing through the statue of David by Andrea Falcone (1674), you reach the first floor of the picture gallery. Welcomed in the great Hall of Assemblies, where twice a year the General Assembly of the Associates is held, composed of about 240 members, who meet to elect new Governors, listen to the report on the charitable activities and approve the budgets. The large hall is used, as necessary, for conferences, cultural events and charity concerts.
Study of Governators
The hall was called the Hall of the Governors of the Cult and Hospital, because once the environment was probably destined to an office that took care of the Cult and Hospital of Elena d’Aosta.The office was managed by the Pio Monte della Misericordia until 1969. Nowadays the room preserves part of the sketches of Francesco de Mura and the precious gift of the Governor Fernando De Montemayor, with sacred furnishings and vestments from the mid-eighteenth century.
Old government hall called Crest hall
This hall called “of old government” because until ‘70 of last century here governors met for decided on the charitable activities. Is called also “ hall of crest” for the symbol, with seven mountains overcome by a cross, reproduced on the floor. All the canvas exposed in this room are made by Francesco De Mura, paintings and sketches bequeathed in the 1782 to Pio Monte to help, as stated in the testament of the painter,“ the needy gentlemen and the ladies”; is the most important of the collection, testimony of the wide production of the main Naples painter of the second half of seven century. In the room are exposed also the silver sacred furnishings of Reale Arciconfraternita and Monte del SS. Sacramento of Spanish noblemen, and sacred vestments once of the Sanfelice family of Bagnoli.
Study of the Superintendent
The Superintendent is the legal representative of the institution and is elected among the seven current governors. The figure was introduced in 1843 without abolishing the collegial power of the seven Governors, who together decide on all activities. The canvases, almost all of them belonging to the seventeenth century, the desk, the two carved wooden bookcases that contain ancient volumes, make the room unified and collected as an office which is still used for official visits. In the office there is also the testimony of what remains of the Sacred Temple of the Scorziata (1579) through the exposition of the surviving silver belonging to this ancient work of charity within the city.
Awesome is its wholesome, this small room has a double opening: from the balcony it is possible to admire the spire of Cosimo Fanzago dedicated to San Gennaro in 1631, and the dome of the Chapel of the Treasure of S. Gennaro; in the wall opposite the balcony, a wooden wardrobe conceals a choir matroneum, which overlooks the Chapel, built to attend religious services. From here it is possible to admire a spectacular overview of the Chapel with Caravaggio’s masterpiece. In this room, in addition to several seventeenth-century paintings, there is a showcase with a complete series of ancient sacred vestments, in gold filigree with floral decorations, donated from the Piromallo Capece Piscicelli’s family, belonged to Cardinal Girolamo d’Andrea, who lived in the mid-nineteenth century.
The hall is the testimony of the institution’s ongoing commitment: as per the statute of 1603, every Friday the seven Governors sit around this table to decide on the activities that need to be implemented. The red armchair underlines the power and the position of the Superintendent. The General Secretary sits with them to verbalize the session. In the Historical Archive of the Pio Monte all the records of these meetings are preserved, from the foundation to the present, containing more than four hundred years of intense charitable activity in the area. The room also contains precious liturgical objects belonging to the Pio Monte della Misericordia, the Sersale family and the Royal Company and the Archconfraternity of the Whites of the Holy Spirit.
In addition to the large paintings by Cesare Fracanzano, this room displays three large paintings from the nearby Gaetano Filangieri Museum with the official portraits of some exponents of the de Sangro and Guevara families, associated with Pio Monte della Misericordia.