The Church of San Domenico di Guzmán in Gaeta
In the 13th century a small convent was founded by Riccardo dell’Aquila, Count of Fondi, and his son Ruggero. It was entrusted to monks of the Dominican order. In 1308 Charles II of Anjou, King of Naples, enlarged the complex which comprised a convent, a cloister and a church dedicated to San Domenico di Guzmán. In 1449 King Alfonso V of Aragon ordered the expansion of the church which included the addition of a lateral aisle.
During the period between the 15th and the 18th centuries, the church was enriched with many works of art. Small side chapels were created dedicated to various brotherhoods. One of these was the confraternity of the Madonna del Rosario, founded in 1571. In 1671, to commemorate the first centenary of the Battle of Lepanto. See the History of Gaeta. Dionisio Lazzari was commissioned to create a main altar and balustrade made of multicoloured inlaid marble. These were moved to the chapel of the Chapel of the Confraternity della Madonna del Rosario in 1710 when Domenico Antonio Vaccaro built a new altar. The church was intricately decorated in a baroque style. In 1809, due to Napoleon’s suppression of religious orders, the whole complex was requisitioned and converted into a military barracks with storerooms and stables. Some of the churches works of art were transferred to other local churches. Between 1928 and 1930 the church underwent a radical restoration by Gino Chierici. All of the Baroque decorations were removed and it was reverted to the original simple Gothic style. The church was re-opened for worship and re-consecrated in 1930. The church and convent underwent further restoration between 1991 and 1996.
The church of San Domenico is located in the historic Medieval quarter of Gaeta. Via Aragonese runs along the left side of the building, in a panoramic position overlooking the sea. The plain stark facade has two doorways. Detached from the church stands the 12th century bell tower, which belonged to the former Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria della Maina. There is also a gateway that leads into the convent and a stairway that leads up to the castle.
The church is only open once a year for religious purposes, on the 8th August, which is the feast day of San Domenico. However, the building is occasionally used for cultural events and exhibitions.