It is not hard to find churches in Naples that are 500 years old. As a matter of fact, if you know
where to look, you can find paleo-Christian places of worship that are 1,000 years (!) older than
that. Thus, a small church less than 100 years old, hidden away on a major thoroughfare of the city
doesn't get a lot of press; yet, on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele in Naples, there is just such a tiny,
equisite jewel: the Church of the Redeemer (Santissimo Redentore).
The street, itself, is not that much older than the church. In 1850, there was really only one way to
get from Mergellina harbor in the west into the main part of the city to the east; that was along the
Riviera di Chiaia, a road that ran (and still runs) the length of the old Royal Gardens (now the
Comunal Park). Thus, if you stood at the seaside and glanced up at the Vomero hill overlooking that
park and the sea, you saw a largely wooded area dotted with villas, old churches and farmhouses.
The way up to those sites was by a number of smaller roads--or stairways--winding uphill
(very!) from the city. The Bourbon King of Naples in those days, Ferdinand II, decided to "connect
the dots" on the hill, so to speak, by building a major road that would turn inland directly from the
Mergellina harbor, angle up and run along the length of the hill about half-way up the height all the
way to a point above the National Archaeological Museum, covering a distance of over two miles.
It was completed in the early 1850s and named Corso Maria Theresa for Ferdinand's wife, the
queen. After the unifcation of Italy, the name of the street was changed to Corso Vittorio Emanuele
II in honor of the first king of united Italy.
The Church of the Redeemer was built at the behest of Francesco d'Ayala-Valva (1854-1932) a
member of a distinguished noble family in the Campania region of Italy. The completion date on a
plaque on the premises is 1907. The church is remarkable for its medieval simplicity--the plain
contrast of red brick and the white marble of the entrance, window arches, and hanging arches
above the entrance and along the sloping roof that tops the "a capanna fašade" . There are two
marble bas-relief ornaments on the fašade: a lamb above the entrance; and the Last Supper in the
center of the fašade. There is a belfy to the left in the rear of the church. The tiny interior invites
comparison with Greek Orthodox churches; that is, the small distance between the entrance and
altar compels a sense of intimacy. The most visible item in the church is the large golden mosaic of
Christ behind the altar. It, too, suggests Byzantium.