San Gregorio Armeno ('St. Gregory of Armenia') is a church and a monastery in Naples. It is one of the most important Baroque complexes in Naples.
In the 8th century, the iconoclast decrees in Greece caused a number of religious orders to flee the Byzantine empire and seek refuge elsewhere. San Gregorio Armeno in Naples was built in the 10th century over the remains of a Roman temple dedicated to Ceres, by a group of nuns escaping from the Byzantine Empire with the relics of St. Gregory, bishop of Armenia. During the Norman domination the monastery was united to that of the Salvatore and San Pantaleone, assuming the Benedictine rule.
The construction of the church was begun in 1574, using designs by Giovanni Battista Cavagni, and consecrated five years later. A later consecration dates to 1674, and refurbishment to 1762. The façade has three arcades surmounted by four pilaster strips in Tuscan order. The interior has a single nave with five side arcades: the decoration, with the exception of the five chapels, was finished by Luca Giordano in 1679. Bernardino Lama, likely the son of Giovanni Bernardo Lama, was author of the altarpiece. The interior houses also the famous Holy Staircase, used by the nuns during their penitences.
The cupola was painted with a Glory of San Gregorio by Luca Giordano. The ceiling cassettoni or framed canvases depict the Life of the St Gregorio Armeno and were commissioned by the abbess Beatrice Carafa from the Flemish Teodoro d'Errico. On the right, the altarpieces include an Annunciation of Mary by Pacecco De Rosa, a Virgin of the Rosary by Nicola Malinconico, and frescoes by Francesco Di Maria. On the left, is a St. Benedictaltarpiece by Spagnoletto. The main altar was designed by Dionisio Lazzari, and has an altarpiece depicting the Resurrection by Giovanni Bernardo Lama.
The Idria Chapel houses eighteen paintings by Paolo De Matteis, portraying the Life of Mary. Over the chapel's high altar is a medieval icon, in Byzantine style, of the Madonna dell'Idria.
The main attraction is the cloister (1580). In the centre is a marble fountain, decorated with dolphins and other marine creatures, with the statues of 'Christ and the Samaritana', by Matteo Bottiglieri.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).