The Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples: The Art, Tradition, and Power of a Sacred Space
Ranieri, Elizabeth Nogan
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This dissertation examines the art, literature, and history of the Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore in Naples, Italy, and the way in which this sacred space has been imbued with meaning by the Order of Preachers. The dissertation establishes a framework of sacred space theory and historical context of medieval and early modern Naples. It argues that places are sacrilized through a combination of person, place, and text—all three of which are evident at San Domenico Maggiore. It examines the pertinent first-person writings about the sacred space from the archives and guidebooks by both lay and Dominican authors. The dissertation discusses the early history of the Dominicans and their medieval iconography, paying particularly close attention to Thomas Aquinas and his tenure in Naples, but also to the ways that the Dominicans and their donors used imagery derived from the history and legends surrounding Aquinas’ life—especially the years spent at San Domenico Maggiore—to decorate the space and to attract pilgrims. It explores the systems of early modern patronage of the sacred space by examining specific chapels and artworks. It examines the diffusion of the imagery of the Virgin of the Rosary in early modern Naples and the ways in which the Council of Trent influenced art-making in sacred spaces. It also provides a visual analysis of the Chapterhouse and Sacristy situated within the convent complex and demonstrate how the two spaces use Dominican and site-specific visual rhetoric to represent Dominican agency in these rooms.