In total accordance to the splendor of Capri island and the colourful beauty of Anacapri in particular, Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo is one of the most unique and delightful religious buildings you’ll see in Campania. Located on Piazza San Nicola, which still holds the name of the church previously situated there, it’s one of the finest and most unusual examples of Neapolitan baroque.

The church owes its existence to the vow made by a nun, who pleaded to Archangel Michael for the end of Vienna’s siege from the Ottomans in the 16th century. In gratitude, she built seven monasteries around Campania, one of them being set in Anacapri. A decade later, a church was decided to be built too and the site chosen was that of former San Nicola church. The Neapolitan sculptor and architect Domenico Antonio Vaccaro who was commissioned to take over the project, chose a Greek cross plan with a dome for the structure, while preserving the cloister and bell tower from the previous church. The construction that was interrupted due to lack of funds, was finally completed in the early 18th century. But the story of the church was not an untroubled one, as in the years of the English occupation of Campania both the monastery and the church were suppressed and used as a warehouse and a military accommodation. It was only in the early 19th century when the church reopened as a worship place.

The white, elegant two-story façade with simple columns, stucco works and an Archangel’s depiction in a lunette fresco above the entrance, comes in contrast with the colourful interior which holds a marvelous surprise to the visitors. The whole of the octagonal floor, which measures almost 20m in length, is entirely covered by painted majolica tiles in vibrant colours, depicting Adam and Eve’s expelling from earthly Paradise. The green scenery with the river is so vivid, with an angel holding his sword, flowers and plants, existing and imaginary animals that surround the couple, such as crocodiles, cats, lions, birds, goats, ducks, snakes, camels, pigs, horses, even a white unicorn, all under a blue star-studded sky. The striking, theatrical impression is such, that almost draws all attention from the rest of the church.

But do take some time to observe the clearly baroque, yet not heavily decorated, interior with six chapels that together with the high altar represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Under the apse, the high altar combines baroque and rococo style, Carrara marble and lapis lazuli, alabaster and ancient green and yellow marble. It’s a beautiful work of art, completed by an altarpiece depicting St. Michael the Archangel, two paintings of angels on the sides and an also majolica floor showing a pelican feeding her children with her own flesh. The rest of the chapels are framed with Corinthian columns and have floors of blue and yellow tiles, while the dome with its round windows allows the bright light of Capri to sneak into the church and bring out the colourful floor.

Follow the wooden, narrow footing around the floor to carefully notice the majolica details and to see the chapels. Then take the twirly, iron staircase that brings you one level higher, in order to better observe the interior and the scene on the floor. Finally, don’t miss the beautiful collection of various, handmade, detailed figurines that Neapolitan craftsmen are known for creating in order to decorate Nativity scenes during Christmas, an important tradition and form of art.
That should complete your visit to the enchanting Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo that Roberto Pane, famous art historian and architecture expert, described as “one of the most prestigious examples of the whole eighteen-century Neapolitan production .”

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