Located in the heart of the historical center, the Sansevero chapel is a jewel of the world’s artistic heritage, where baroque creativity, beauty, and esoteric blend to create a unique atmosphere giving the shudders.
Raimondo di Sangro and the Sansevero Chapel
Mysterious nobleman of 18th century, Raimondo di Sangro, prince of Sansevero, was an Illuministic, man of letters, inventor and first chief of the Masonry. He called famous artists to embellish his family chapel. One example is the sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino, who is the author of the striking Veiled Christ, very impressive for the prodigious effect of the marble veil. It is a Christ lying after the martyrdom, covered with a veil that leaves the body visible in transparency: signs of torture, hands, and feet pierced by nails, the wound in his side and the pain on his face.
This sculptor not only created wonderful marble statues but also clay figures for the Holy Crib, now exposed at the San Martino Museum. In the Sacristy of the San Severo Chapel, there are also two anatomical machines. They are two skeletons of a man and a woman showing some organs and the arterio-venous system completely intact and visible. The woman also contained a fetus, later stolen. It’s not clear how the process of embalming was carried out or if with corpses or living beings.
As a matter of fact, we can speak of a legend about these skeletons. According to it the man and the woman were two servants of the prince who made experiments on them! While still in life, he made these experiments to have the heart still beating and taking the blood to all the veins. How macabre!