The church of Sant’Agnello Maggiore, known as Sant’Aniello Caponapoli, located on the highest point of the greek-Roman area of Naples. In the sixth century, Sant’Agnello, bishop of Naples , distinguished himself in the defense of the city against the Lombards and after his death he continued to protect its citizens.
From the seventh century he became the patron saint of Naples and, since 1628 also the United protector.
It is said that his parents were seen in this place while worshipping an image of the Virgin to implore the birth of an heir; when the grace was obtained he erected a small church that took the name of St. Mary Intercessor as a sign of gratitude from his parents. Still young Sant’Agnello (S. Little Lamb) showed early signs of a birth occurred by divine intercession.
He decided to retire near the church and led a solitary and spiritual life ; later he became abbot of the nearby monastery of San Gaudioso and on his death was buried in the church of St. Mary Intercessor. A document of the tenth century states that the saint’s tomb was located in a church in Caponapoli dedicated to Our Lady. Moreover, the first documents about a monastery of Sant’Agnello in this area date back to 1058. In 1517 the church was enlarged, with the addition of a new body, which became the transept of the whole temple; This explains the singular T system of the present church. In 1809 the monastery was suppressed and purchased by Cosmo de Oraziis who obtained several houses for homes; The decline of the church of Sant’Agnello began in 1914 with the displacement of the parish and some artworks in the church of Santa Maria of Constantinople.
The current state of the devastation of the church was determined by several events: in 1943 the church was bombed and years of neglect and pillage followed.Then, in 1962 a building site excavation and restoration was opened and the church underwent several robberies. Today there remains the great altar by Girolamo Santacroce, one of the masterpieces of sculpture of Neapolitan Renaissance, formed by a central panel of mezzorilievo of fine marble which was sculpted between 1517 and 1520 and commissioned by Giovanni Maria Poderico, bishop of Taranto; the altar was rebuilt in 1779 under the direction of Giovanni Maria Pandullo and later modified in a Baroque style with the addition of a marble balustrade on demarcation of the presbytery.
It was then removed from its original site and moved further on where it is today. Other works are housed in the warehouses of the Superintendent. With significant money fundings from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture a long restoration has been launched that has allowed us to reconstruct the altar bringing it to its eighteenth-century configuration.
Address: Largo Sant’Aniello Caponapoli – Naples