Archaeological Museum & 2 Churches

This morning in Naples I visited Naples’ Archaeological Museum, the Church of Gesù Nuovo, and the Church of Santa Chiara. That wasn’t my plan when I started out. My intent was to visit the Archeological Museum and the Capella Sansevero.

Both of the guidebooks I’m using highly recommended the Capella Sansevero. According to one of them, it contains a “spectacular sculpture” along with other less spectacular works. The other guidebook said the “small chapel is a Baroque explosion mourning the body of Christ.”

The latter guidebook, the one I used to find entry information, told me to buy my ticket from the ticket office around the corner. I went to the ticket office and was told they were sold out.

“Sold out until when?”

“Until Wednesday.”

Today is Friday. I leave Naples on Monday. So, I won’t be going to the Capella Sansevero.

I should have used the other guidebook for entry information. I looked at it again immediately after my disappointment at the ticket office. It told me that, due to long lines, I should consider buying a timed ticket online for only two euros extra. I then surfed to the online booking site and found that, yes indeed, it was sold out until Wednesday.

Had I used that guidebook rather than the other one I still wouldn’t have gotten in, but it would have saved me the walk.

Enough about what I didn’t do. Here’s what I did do.

Naples’ Archaeological Museum

The Naples Archaeological Museum received top ratings in both of the guidebooks I’m using and a couple of other sources I looked at.

The museum has exhibits on four levels, the basement, ground floor, mezzanine, and top floor.

The top floor houses a cavernous hall with a large painting on the ceiling and paintings on the walls. Off to either side of that hall are a series of rooms. One side contains mainly frescoes. The other side contains a variety of artifacts—frescoes, paintings, household items, gladiator armour, and probably other items I’ve forgotten.

Many of the items in these two wings date from the first couple or so centuries BCE. Or should that be the last couple of centuries BCE? We count backward before the common era, so it’s the first few in the order we count them. But wouldn’t the first century BCE be the first century after Earth, or maybe the universe, formed? Makes you think, doesn’t it? Hopefully it doesn’t make you think too hard because it’s inane.

There are also some items that date from the first three quarters of the first century CE. But none of the items on either of these two wings on the top floor date from more recently than 79 CE. There is a good reason for that. They were all retrieved mainly from the excavated ruins of Pompeii, but also from Herculaneum and a few other towns at the base of Mount Vesuvius. The eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and those other towns occurred in 79 CE.

The mezzanine level of the Naples Archaeological Museum contains a couple of sections. The biggest houses mosaics, more frescos, and some statuary. The tiles in the mosaics are sufficiently small that you don’t have to stand all that far back for them to look like paintings rather than mosaics. Then again, that might just be my tired old eyes. Normally-sighted people might be able to recognize them as mosaics rather than paintings even if standing in a different postal code. (Do they have postal codes here?)

What about that other section on the mezzanine level, you might ask. I’ll tell you, but you have to promise not to mention it to another soul. The two guidebooks I’m using refer to it as “The Secret Room.” The sign over the door labels it as “Gabinetto Segreto” and a panel beside the entrance names it in both Italian and English as “Gabinetto Segreto” and “Secret Cabinet,” respectively.

Secret?! I’m pretty sure that every guidebook in the word that discusses Naples’ Archaeological Museum, features the Secret Room/Cabinet prominently. How can they still call it a secret? It makes no sense.

The room contains a collection of ancient, usually quite explicit, erotica in frescos, paintings and statuary. When I was there, there were a number of people going through, including some people who looked like teenagers, and some even younger. Pointing and snickering were common among the teenagers.

Now you know. But, shhh, don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.

The ground floor of the Archaeological Museum contains a lot of statues, some of them gargantuan. The most noted one is called Toro Farnese.

At the centre of Toro Farnese is a giant bull. A few people are grappling with the bull. A woman is standing nonchalantly off to the side looking at the scene. She’s holding a spear vertically, with the pointy end up and the flat end resting on the ground. Her other arm is crooked and the hand on the fingers of that arm are positioned as if she’s thinking, “nu, are you going to get on with it?”

A dog sits in front of the bull. The people and dog look to be proportioned roughly correctly in relation to the size of the bull, but around the base of the statue there are a variety of other types of animals in miniature relative to the bull.

The Toro Farnese is carved out of a single block of marble and is a third-century CE copy of a bronze statue that no longer exists. The marble statue was found in Rome, restored, and eventually moved to Naples. That move didn’t take place until 1788. The restoration happened considerably earlier.

Who helped with the restoration? Michelangelo, that’s who. Man, did that guy ever sleep? I ran into a few of his works in Rome, but here he is represented in Naples too.

The basement of the Archaeological Museum contains an Egyptian collection, with the usual assortment of Egyptian artifacts—mummies, sarcophagi, small statuary, decorated scarabs and amulets, yada, yada yada.

The museum apparently also usual offers a numismatic and a gem collection, but a pop-up note on the museum’s website said that those are temporarily closed. If you go, maybe they’ll be reopened by then.

Piazza Dante

My route from the museum to the churches unexpectedly took me through a lively square. Checking on an online map told me it is Piazza Dante.

When I was there, the square was filled with stalls. Some sold junk. Most sold food, some of it being grilled there.

Standing on a pedestal in the square is a statue of Dante, the noted poet.

I mention this and post a picture of the square and statue here primarily as a nod to the person who inspired—some would say nagged—me to start this journal. She’s a onetime, and possibly still, I’m not sure, Dante enthusiast.

In truth, this is a test to see if she reads this and mentions it to me. Although, it’s not really a fair test. Someone who I know is a regular reader of this journal will undoubtedly alert her about the existence of this passage. I don’t expect a comment below because the person will likely want to remain anonymous. But I do expect an email or iMessage. We’ll see.

Church of Gesù Nuovo

The Church of Gesù Nuovo is a baroque church that is decorated within a centimetre of its holy life. Seriously. There’s barely a square centimetre of the wall space and columns that isn’t decorated with paintings, patterns, or sculptures. The floor is patterned marble tiles. There are not, one, but two attractive cupolas. There are also some heavily decorated side chapels with statues.

Church of Santa Chiara

The Church of Santa Chiara is almost across the street from the Church of Gesù Nuovo. The former is of the Gothic style and is very austere, particularly when compared to the latter. But there are some statues and stained glass windows.

Plus, there is a small garden of lit dwarf trees and non-dwarf flowers at the centre of the church. I think that’s temporary, possibly for Easter. Today is Good Friday. Or at least a halfway decent Friday.

Lunch

Lunch today was interesting. I found a trattoria that Google Maps rated fairly highly. Google Maps offered a few reviews, all in English, and all positive. One said, “this is the real deal.”

It certainly was the real deal. There were just two people working there, a woman out front taking orders and serving and a man in the open kitchen in back.

The menus were hand-printed and only in Italian. I tried using the camera function of Google Translate, but it couldn’t handle the hand-printing.

I asked the woman if she had an English menu. She didn’t speak English, but she seemed to have had a general sense of what I was asking and answered, “no.” She then asked me something that I think must have been “do I want pasta” because I recognized the word “pasta” in whatever she said.

I like pasta for lunch. So I said yes because I didn’t think I’d be successful at figuring anything else out. She pointed to one of the pastas on the menu that had a word in it that vaguely resembled an English word for a vegetable (I forget which one, but one I like). I said yes. I also said “vino rosso et aqua frizzante” (red wine and sparkling water) because I knew those words and I wanted to show off even if I butchered the pronunciation. Apparently I didn’t butcher it too badly because that’s what I got.

The pasta turned out to be a type I’ve had before, but I don’t know what it’s called, with what I think is the meat from mussels. There were no shells, so I’m not completely sure that’s what it was.

As it turned out, I quite enjoyed lunch.

As has become my usual pattern, I’ll publish a separate entry later with my post-lunch activities.

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