A Reconstruction of the Choir Screen of Sta. Chiara in Naples: Research in Progress

Research Team

Caroline Bruzelius and Lucas Giles, Duke University
Andrea Basso, Elisa Castagna, Andrea Giordano, and Paolo Borin, University of Padua
Emanuela De Feo, University of Salerno
Leopoldo Repola, Suor Orsola Benincasa - Naples

Until the 16th century, the internal spaces of churches were segmented into spatial divisions that reflected the role and status of different segments of the communities that used them. The divisions separated religious communities from the public by high walls and often included secondary altars decorated with tombs and altarpieces, which themselves became privileged areas for burials and family memorials. In most monuments, few traces of these internal divisions survive.

The Sta. Chiara research group decided to examine whether new technologies could answer questions about the location and dimensions of the choir screen of Sta. Chiara in Naples, and create a hypothetical model of its original appearance. We used ground-penetrating radar (Repola) and a new laser scan of the monument (De Feo) to identify the location and general dimensions of the structure in the pavement of the church. The process of modeling as a form of reasoning led us to hypothesize that not only did the choir screen continue the pattern and dimensions of the lateral chapels in the church, but it also would have served as a link between the two massive galleries, or tribunes, along the side flanks of the building. It is our hypothesis that the altars of Saint Francis and Saint Claire would have been located on either side of a central opening towards the friars’ choir and the royal tombs located around the altar, thus affirming the role of the church as a center for the veneration of Franciscan saints as well as a royal necropolis.