The Church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria in Gaeta
The church of Santa Caterina is thought to date from the 12th century. It was originally a convent dedicated to San Chirico, a Benedictine monk, and it was occupied by Benedictine nuns. Due to its location, on a promontory close to the sea in 1255 the mayor of Gaeta ordered the construction of a lighthouse at the end of the convent which the nuns were entrusted to maintain. The lighthouse was restored several times over the centuries.
A church in the Gothic style was built in the 14th century and was decorated with frescoes, some traces of which still exist. A portal bears the Cross of the Knights of Malta. In 1673 the church was re-dedicated to San Montano following the discovery of the saint’s relics. At the beginning of the 18th century the structure underwent major restructure works by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro. Three altars in multi coloured marble were added. The main altar was dedicated to “Sacra Conversazione di Santillo Sannini“, and there were two side altars, one dedicated to Santa Catterina di Alessandria and the other to San Bernardo. Following the suppression of the convent these altars were transferred to the Cathedral of Sant’Erasmo and to the Church of San Giacomo. In 1851 King Ferdinand II requested that the building should be restored be once again used for worship. The convent, however, was used as a military hospital and barracks. The church was re-opened in 1856 and dedicated to Santa Caterina d’Alessandria. During World War II the lighthouse annexed to the convent was destroyed during naval bombardments.
The church is located in the Medieval quarter, in Via Pio IX, behind the barracks of the Guardia di Finanza. It has been closed to worship since 1989, and is awaiting restoration.