The Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore is a monumental church in Naples located almost centrally in relation to the lower decumano, in the square of the same name.
Wanted by Charles II of Anjou and erected between 1283 and 1324, it became the parent house of the Dominicans in the kingdom of Naples and church of the aragonese nobility.
The basilica, together with its adjacent convent, is one of the largest and most important religious complexes in the city, both in terms of history, art and culture.
In 1231 the Dominicans, led by Fra Tommaso Agni da Lentini, arrived in Naples and did not have their own headquarters. They settled in the ancient monastery of the church of San Michele Arcangelo in Morfisa, managed by the Benedictine fathers, taking possession of it.
The consecration of the basilica to San Domenico took place in 1255 at the behest of Pope Alexander IV, as attested by a plaque on the right of the main entrance. The construction of the basilica was commissioned by King Charles II for a vow made to the Magdalene during the imprisonment suffered during the period of Sicilian vespers. The first stone was laid on 6 January 1283, with the works that lasted until 1324, followed in the definitive phase by the French architects Pierre de Chaul and Pierre d’Angicourt.
The basilica was erected according to the classic Gothic canons, with three naves, side chapels, large transept and polygonal apse, and was built in the opposite direction to the pre-existing church, that is to say with the apse facing the square, at whose back was opened a secondary entrance during the Aragonese period.
Numerous interventions over the centuries have altered the structure and the original Gothic forms: in the Renaissance period earthquakes and fires started the first remakes; despite everything in 1536 Charles V received a welcome in the temple. Even more incisive were the Baroque reconstruction of the seventeenth century, among which stand out the replacement of the floor with the one designed by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, then completed in the eighteenth century.
With the advent of Gioacchino Murat in Naples, the complex was destined for public works between 1806 and 1815, thus causing damage to the library and the artistic heritage. An attempt at restoration, on the other hand, was carried out with the nineteenth-century restorations by Federico Travaglini, which however led to an overall distortion of the original spatiality of the basilica.
Further damage was suffered by the complex during the period of the suppression of religious orders, when the Dominican fathers again had to abandon the convent (1865-1885) due to some questionable rehabilitation that was intended to give to the structures (gyms, schools, shelter for beggars and seat of the court).
In February 1921 Pope Benedict XV raised the church to the rank of minor basilica.
The restoration of 1953 eliminated the signs of the bombings of 1943, restoring the coffered ceiling, the roofs, the balustrades of the chapels, the paving and the eighteenth-century organ and bringing to light also the frescoes of Cavallini, while more recent interventions (1991) they were on the external staircase in piperno and on the marble door.