One of the architectural and artistic treasures on the island of Capri, the Church of San Michele in Anacapri is also one of the most impressive churches in Campania.
Worlds away from Capri’s busy Piazzetta, the Chiesa Monumentale di San Michele sits in a pretty little piazza amid the quieter streets of Anacapri.
The island of Capri, one of biggest draws for the region of Campania, is famous for its intensely beautiful landscape and scenery. What many visitors to this lovely island don’t know is that it's also home to some truly extraordinary churches. The Chiesa Monumentale di San Michele is one of the most exquisite churches in Campania and is located right in the historic center of Anacapri, just a short walk along shop-lined streets from Piazza Vittoria in the center of town.
A decorative ceramic tile sign points the way to the Chiesa Monumentale di San Michele. Dedicated to Saint Michael, this church was built from 1698 to 1719 and was founded by a nun from Capri named Mother Serafina di Dio. Today the church is home to the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception who look after the preservation and maintenance of this magnificent church. While the façade of the church is a simple, white Baroque design, as soon as you enter and pay the modest fee to visit the church, you’re just steps from seeing one of Capri’s architectural treasures.
The first thing you see entering the nave of the church is the marvelous hand painted ceramic tile floor. Every inch of it is covered with a grand scene showing the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The dramatic scene takes place in a lush setting surrounded by trees, plants and all types of animals. This wonderfully preserved floor dates from 1761 and was created by Leonardo Chiaiese, one of the best ceramic artists working in Naples in the 18th century.
For an impressive view of the entire floor, climb the spiral staircase to the organ loft and look out over the church from above. The colors of the floor come to life and the scene of Adam and Eve takes on a theatrical setting. The high altar of the Church of San Michele is equally impressive when viewed from above. It features a beautifully engraved marble altar dating from 1719 and an important painting of Saint Michael the Archangel by the Neapolitan artist Nicola Malinconico.
The incredible ceramic floor is so well preserved because it has been walked on so little since it was first laid in the church. Indeed, it is just too beautiful to walk on. The church has cleverly installed a narrow, wooden walkway that circumambulates the octagonal floor plan. Following the path around the church you can get a close up look at the detail on the ceramic floor and stop and visit each of the elaborate side altars.
Be sure to look up to admire the elegance of the Baroque ceiling and dome of the church, which are decorated with stucco work and painted a delicate yellow and white, adding a light feeling to the inside of the church. This is one of the finest examples of Neapolitan Baroque architecture from the 18th century, and while exploring the church you’ll also find many fine examples of works by Neapolitan painters, including Francesca Solimena, Paolo De Matteis, Nicola Malinconico and Giacomo Del Po.
The impressive Church of San Michele is a stop you won’t want to miss when you visit the beautiful island of Capri.
Others Photo Credits: Laura Thayer
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