San Giovanni a Mare, Naples

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San Giovanni a Mare is a church in Naples, Italy; located near the docks, not far from the church of Sant'Eligio Maggiore.

Naves from the Presbytery.
Roman columns.

The Romanesque church was erected by the Benedictine order before the 12th century. By the 13th century, the church was attached to a hostel of the knightly order of Gerosolimitani (Knights Hospitaller). For some time, the church belonged to the Knights of Malta. The hostel was closed by Napoleonic forces, but returned to the church in 1828. The church has been recently restored. Interior columns are spolia. Arabic and Byzantine influences can be seen in some of the apse columns. Other arches in the dome recall architecture of Amalfi.

Donna Marianna: the Head of Naples[edit]

Donna Marianna bust.

In the atrium is a copy of an ancient Greek bust; the original is now held in the Palazzo San Giacomo. Now referred to as Donna Marianna or the Head (Testa) of Naples, once it was found in the Piazza del Mercato (Plaza of the Marketplace). The bust likely once belonged to a sculpture depicting the mythologic siren Parthenope, associated with Greek mythology including the story of Odysseus, and specifically associated with the craggy cliffs and islands in the Bay of Naples. Over time the pagan bust became a symbol of the city, and paradoxically found itself protected inside a church. It was damaged and threatened with destruction during the periods after the Neapolitan Republic of 1647 and of 1799. In the latter spell, the bust had become associated with Marianne the symbol of the French Revolution.

Coordinates: 40°50′47″N 14°15′48″E / 40.846525°N 14.263270°E / 40.846525; 14.263270


  • Napoli sacra. Guida alle chiese della città, coordinamento scientifico di Nicola Spinosa; a cura di Gemma Cautela, Leonardo Di Mauro, Renato Ruotolo, Naples, Italy 1993-1997, 15 fascicoli.