St. Francis' ChurchThe Temple of St. Francis in Gaeta: history, restorations, location and useful information to visit this splendid Gothic church
Immagining Gaeta's skyline without the imposing Gothic contour represented by St. Francis' Church, containing the famous Statue of Religion and its monumental staircase, is pretty much impossible.
To get there, you need to go along a tiny upward road that twists and turns from the historic center. Once you get there, though, your effort will be largely rewarded by the breath-taking views over the whole Gulf of Gaeta.
St. Francis' Church is absolutely the symbol of the city, a great artistic heritage site we are sure you will love at first sight!
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY: FROM THE FOUNDATION TO THE LATEST RESTORATION
In 1222 during his stay in Gaeta, Francis of Assisi founded, at the slopes of Mount Orlando, a small convent. In 1285, thanks to the great devotion of the citizens and the funds by Charles II of Anjou and Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, the convent turned into a biggest church in honour to Saint Francis. Over the centuries, the temple has undergone many damages, that have always needed important restoration interventions.
The first restoration took place after the Napoleonic invasion during which the convent was requisited and the church fell into disrepair. Therefore, in 1854 architect Giacomo Guarinelli disegned an intervention that was concluded four years later. Guarinelli did not demolish the old church but he preserved its structure covering it both internally and externally by neo-Gothic decorations.
From 1927 to 1992 the church was entrusted to the Salesians of Saint John Bosco who restored it and also founded the Oratory of Don Bosco in the old convent. The 8th of September 1943, during World War II, a bomb hit the front façade of the building making it necessary to start new restoration works, that took place between 1951 and 1952.
Finally, during the twentieth century St. Francis' Church was newly restored between 2004 and 2008.
WHAT TO SEE: ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The atmosphere that you can feel in this sacred place is somehow magical. From the square where you get once you climb the staircase, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the coastline. Stop for a while to admire the splendid views over the Medieval city with the gulf in the background. This panoramic viewpoint will especially delight all photography enthusiasts... the moment has come to take your reflex camera!
In front of the church, watching over the whole city, there is the Statue of Religion, by Luigi Persico, representing a standing woman holding a big cross.
On the external façade, at the sides of the big marble gate are the statues of Charles II of Anjou and Ferdinand II of Bourbon, both by sculptor Gennaro De Crescenzo. On the tympanum, on the other hand, is the Allegory of the restoration of the papacy and on the cornice, from left to right are the statues respectively representing St. Bernard, St. Ambrose, St. Francis, St. Agostino and St. Thomas Aquinas.
The interior of the church is formed by three naves without transept, covered by a vaulted ceiling and divided by two rows of pointed arches. The whole, together with the decorations of the ceiling and the walls, represents the quintessence of the Gothic and neo-Gothic styles.
The whole setting is extremely bright and the walls are adorned by light coloured decorative elements and the sunlight streams throught wide glass walls. Worth noting, just before the pilars, are 12 big plaster statues representing the Apostles with The Redeemer and the marble pavement with inlaid panels.
The main altar, designed as well by Guarinelli, is made with finely sculpted plaster, with a rich embossed neo-Gothic architectonical decoration.
Like all Gothic churches and cathedrals, also St. Francis Church in Gaeta is vertically designed thanks to a systematic use of pointed arches. The shapes are elongated, expanded and the space seems unlimited causing a sense of dismay to the faithful that walk through it. Light represents one ot the main elements of Gothic art and it is a symbol of the trascendental nature of God. In addition, the interior of the church, after the last recent restoration works looks even more majestic and imposing.
It is no coincidence that it reminds of the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris!
This article ends here. As usual, to find out how to get there and when to visit this architectonical pearl read the box at the bottom of the page!
St. Francis' Church
- HOW TO GET THERE
From the Port of Gaeta: Getting to St. Francis' Church (often called Temple of St. Francis) is really easy. It's impossible not to see from Gaeta's promenade the building standing out over the city. If you are close to the Harbour Master's Office in Lungomare Giovanni Caboto, turn right into Via Begani and continue straight up to 22 Via Angioina. Take then a tiny upward road leading to the monumental staircase below the entrance to the church.
Opening: Saturday and Sunday.
For opening hours contact Pro Loco Gaeta (Tourist Office)
Landline: +39 3200380413 / +39 0771 469205