Casa e Chiesa di Santa Maria Francesca delle Cinque Piaghe


The very essence of Naples' cultish brand of Catholicism, this holy sanctuary was once the stamping ground of stigmatic and mystic Santa Maria Francesca delle Cinque Piaghe, the city's only canonised woman. It is also home to her miraculous wooden chair: infertile believers come to be blessed while sitting on it in the hope of falling pregnant.

You'll find the holy furniture piece in the saint's meticulously preserved 18th-century apartment. Here, walls heave with modern baby trinkets and vivid 18th- and 19th-century paintings depicting fantastical holy healings – ex voti offered by those whose prayers have been answered. Other household objects include the stigmatic's blood-stained clothes, her bed and pillow, her self-flagellation cords and a rare, hand-painted spinetta (spinet or harpsichord) from 1682.

The apartment sits above a tiny chapel famed for its beautiful 18th-century Neapolitan liturgical art, including glass-eyed holy statues. Particularly rare is the statue of the Divina pastora (Divine Shepherdess) on the left side of the nave. The only sculpture of its kind in Naples, it features an unusual depiction of the Virgin Mary reclined and wearing a shepherdess' hat that has its roots in 18th-century Spain. To the left of the nave, a statue of Santa Maria Francesca contains the holy local's bones.

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