San Lorenzo Maggiore in Naples

San Lorenzo is founded in the heart of historic Naples in the location of the ancient Roman market, the remains of which can still be visited underneath the church. After a mud-slide in the 6th century C.E., a Christian church, the foundations of which were rediscovered in excavations after World War II, was built over the market.

In 1234 the site was given to the Franciscan order and became the major center of Franciscan spirituality in the Kingdom of Sicily. The friars gradually transformed the old basilica, expanding it to the sides with lateral chapels (probably in the 1250s and 1260s), extending it to the east with a new Gothic choir (starting in the 1270s), and after c. 1324 enlarging it to the west with a new west façade. In the last expansion of the church, the old basilica was demolished and a transept was inserted within the structure. Each addition was conceived in relation to the pre-existing building, even as they partially modified or (even) destroyed it. In the process, the builders entirely voided out the interior of the old basilica while keeping the exterior “envelop” intact.

How can we explain this kind of complex narrative to the public that now experiences San Lorenzo as one vast and unified interior space? Archaeological plans are usually understood only by specialists with deep historical knowledge: our project has therefore attempted to create an animated and illustrated narrative to explain the complicated and on-going process of episodic and gradual transformation that created the church we see today, one that is deeply in the heart of Neapolitan life and culture.

A video of the model developed for this project can be viewed here:

Lux from Umberto Plaja on Vimeo.