A unique church in the heart of Naples, just around the corner from the Duomo, holds some surprises. Not only is it a church, it is also seat of a charitable organization, has an impressive picture gallery, and hosts theatrical shows and concerts in the octagonal chapel.

Founded in 1601 by a small group of young noblemen as a charitable brotherhood, it is still a foundation that helps the poor and the exiles (donations gladly accepted). While the side chapels and upper-floor art gallery are filled with splendid paintings, the church is best known for one painting: Caravaggio's "Seven Acts of Mercy". It was commissioned during the artist's time in Naples by the foundation to highlight its focus and evoke compassion in viewers to participate in the suffering of others. The commission originally was to be a set of seven paintings to depict each act of mercy, but Caravaggio cleverly and beautifully intertwined them all into one grand masterpiece. The "sette opere" are the seven acts of mercy as described by Jesus: feed the hungry, heal the afflicted, refresh the thirsty, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, dress the naked, console the imprisoned, and bury the dead. The painting is moving and thought-provoking.

The unusual chapel is octagonal-shaped and, while Mass is held daily at 9:30 AM, is also the venue for theatrical productions, musical concerts, and symposiums. The noble palace to which it is attached also houses the art gallery, an historic archives, and a library.

This is definitely one of the sights in Naples you won't want to miss.

The Church and Museum of Pio Monte della Misericordia is open daily from 9:00 AM til 2:00 PM. Closed Wednesdays.

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Address in Naples:

Via Tribunali, 253.

Ph. (+39) 081 446 94473.

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