Only in Naples would a room as colorful, fanciful, mysterious, beautiful, and macabre as this exist. Prince Raimondo di Sangro of Sansevero remodeled his family’s funerary chapel in the 18th century, combining the baroque style then in fashion with his own love of complex symbolism and intellectual quests. Neapolitan sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino crafted “Christ Veiled Under A Shroud,” in which a thin transparent covering seems to make Christ’s flesh seem even more tormented and his suffering greater. (Antonio Canova, the Venetian sculptor, came to Naples to see the work a century later and said he would give 10 years of his life to create something so beautiful.) The prince’s father lies beneath a statue of “Despair on Disillusion,” in which a man disentangling himself from a marble net suggests a troubled soul and mind seeking relief—provided by the winged boy who represents intellect. Prince Raimondo’s mother, who died at age 20, lies beneath a statue of “Veiled Truth,” in which a woman holds a broken tablet, symbol of an interrupted life, with her veil in this case suggesting the unfulfilled promise she took to the grave with her. Raimondo himself is surrounded by colorful floor tiles arranged in a complex maze, symbol of the quest to unravel the secrets of life. Downstairs are two skeletal bodies in which the circulatory systems are perfectly preserved and brightly colored, allegedly with the injection of a substance the prince devised (and the subjects are probably not, as legend has it, the prince’s servants, who he supposedly scarified in the interest of science).
- Frommer's Staff