Pio Monte della Misericordia

piomonte

It is one of the greatest and oldest charitable institutions in the city of Naples, located in the building by Francesco Antonio Picchiatti in the XVI century. During the Viceroyalty (1503-1707) Naples was the administrative capital of the Spanish state of southern Italy and faced a serious political and economic crisis. Into this disgraced social context in the year 1601 was born the idea of seven young Neapolitan nobles (Astorgio Agnes, Giovan Battista d’Alessandro, Giovanni Andrea Gambacorta, Jerome complain, Giovan Battista Manso, Giovanni Vincenzo Piscicelli Sersale and Cesare Sersale) to create the Pio Monte della Misericordia in order to practice works of charity for the benefit of poor Neapolitans.

King Filippo III of Spain authorized the institution in 1604 and in the following year the Pope Paolo V did the same.

The first meetings were held at the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo at the Incurables, but in 1604 the associates bought two buildings where the started the construction of the structure. The architect Giovan Giacomo di Conforto built a church with the adjoining seat of the Monte, but the increasing activities of the institution required to build a larger church designed by Francesco Antonio Picchiatti.

The temple, surmounted by a tall octagonal cupola with seven altars, contains wonderful examples of decorative and sculptural works by artists such as Luca Giordano, and moreover the masterwork by Caravaggio titled The Seven Acts of Mercy, realized in between 1606 and 1607; set in a typical scenario of Naples at that time, represents the seven corporal works of mercy objectives of the institution.

The Pio Monte di Misericordia was dedicated at the beginning into supporting the poor people and the pilgrims, and freeing the prisoners enslaved by the Turks, guilty of many attacks in the kingdom.

Currently the members meet every week in these rooms, to decide on care activities to be performed for contemporary social problems.

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The Seven Works of Mercy (Italian: Sette opere di Misericordia), also known as The Seven Acts of Mercy, is an oil painting by Italian painter Caravaggio, circa 1607. The painting depicts the seven corporal works of mercy in traditional Catholic belief, which are a set of compassionate acts concerning the material welfare of others.
The painting was made for, and is still housed in, the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia in Naples. Originally it was meant to be seven separate panels around the church; however, Caravaggio combined all seven works of mercy in one composition which became the church’s altarpiece.
The titular seven works/acts of mercy are represented in the painting as follows:
1. Bury the dead; In the background, two men carry a dead man (of whom only the feet are visible).
2 and 3. Visit the imprisoned, and feed the hungry; On the right, a woman visits an imprisoned man and gives him milk from her breast. This image alludes to the classical story of Roman Charity.
4. Shelter the homeless; A pilgrim (third from left, as identified by the shell in his hat) asks an innkeeper (at far left) for shelter.
5. Clothe the naked; St. Martin of Tours, fourth from the left, has torn his robe in half and given it to the naked beggar in the foreground, recalling the saint’s popular legend.
6. Visit the sick; St. Martin greets and comforts the beggar who is a cripple.
7. Refresh the thirsty; Samson (second from the left) drinks water from the jawbone of an ass.

 

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