Chiesa di San Giovanni a Mare

Church in Centro Storico

The Chiesa di San Giovanni a Mare is a rare example of Romanesque architecture in Naples. Erected by Benedictine monks in the 12th century, the nave forms the oldest part of the building, its columns upcycled from ancient villas. The vaulted ceiling is a Gothic addition, while the side chapels harbour some beautiful Renaissance and Baroque altars. Curiously, the church is home to a Neapolitan presepe (nativity scene) made of gauze and plaster.

Guarding the church is a copy of the so-called Donna Marianna, an ancient Greek bust found nearby and once housed in the church. For centuries an important symbol of the city, its shape inspired the Neapolitan saying 'Me pare Donna Marianna, ‘a cap’ ‘e Napule', used to describe an unattractive woman with a large head. The original bust is now housed inside Naples' City Hall, Palazzo San Giacomo, on Piazza Municipio.