An Architectural Jewel in Naples Has Reopened (With a Blockbuster Exhibition to Match)

Thu, 09/15/2022 - 08:52
Interior of the Church of Carminiello in Toledo, Naples

Interior of the Church of Carminiello in Toledo, Naples / Photo via exhibition organizer VanitasClub

In the heart of Naples' beloved Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quarter), near Piazza Trieste and Trento, a Baroque gem has reopened its doors. After an extended closure, the Church of Carminiello in Toledo, with its intricate green and blue majolica tile floors, is welcoming worshipers and drawing in new visitors with an exhibition from Italian-American video artist Bill Viola. 

The church has its roots in what was once a monastery for Spanish expatriates who converted to Catholicism. In 1632, however, Donna Eleonora Guzman, wife of the Viceroy Count of Monterey, decided to move the monastery to another location. The small complex was given to a brotherhood of 63 priests, and became commonly referred to as the Church of the Congregation of 63 Priests. 

In the mid-18th century, the church was rebuilt to extend across Via De Cesare and Vico Sergente Maggiore. Part of the church is set beneath street level; some say it’s effectively a “basement” for the adjoining palace.

Eventually falling into disrepair, the church sat idle until it was featured on the silver screen in Giampaolo Morelli’s 2020 romantic comedy 7 ore per farti innamorare (7 Hours to Make You Fall in Love).

When the film drew renewed attention to the church’s plight, funds managed by the Milan-headquartered organization VanitasClub were earmarked for its restoration. Through artistic, cinematic and gastronomic initiatives, VanitasClub works to recover and return important and underused public spaces to Italian cities.

The exhibition

Still frame from a water-themed work by video artist Bill Viola

To mark the reopening of the Church of Carminiello in Toledo, an exhibition by the renowned Italian-American visual artist, Bill Viola, was inaugurated on September 2. Bill Viola. Ritorno alla Vita (Return to Life) comprises five works: Three Women (2008) is part of the artist’s Transfigurations series, which explores the passage of time, while Earth Martyr, Air Martyr, Fire Martyr and Water Martyr all derive from a permanent video installation that opened in St. Paul's Cathedral in London in 2014. The show is curated by VanitasClub in collaboration with the Catholic Youth Association, and runs through January 8, 2023. 

About the artist 

Considered by many to be the “father of video art”, Bill Viola (b. 1951) is internationally recognized for elevating the status of audio-visual media in the contemporary art realm. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries all over the world, including at Rome’s Palazzo Bonaparte (2022) and Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi (2017).

If you go

Chiesa del Carminiello a Toledo, Via Carlo de Cesare 30, Napoli
Bill Viola. Ritorno alla Vita runs until January 8, 2023


Full: €10
Reduced under 18: €8
Children up to age 5: Free
School groups: €5 per student; accompanying teachers free of charge
For info and reservations: