Former Churches of Gaeta

There are a number of interesting former churches of Gaeta that can still be seen today. Some have been restored and are used as venues for local cultural events and exhibitions, while others are now in ruins following years of disrepair. Others were sadly destroyed during the bombing of Gaeta during the Second World War.

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 Aragona 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.

The Former Cappucini Convent of Sant’Antonio di Padova in Gaeta

Bell Tower of the Church of San Domenico in Gaeta Italy
Bell Tower of the Church of San Domenico in Gaeta Italy
Bell Tower of the Church of San Domenico in Gaeta Italy

It is possible to visit the Church of San Domenico on Sundays between 18.00 and 20.00.

Nearby is the La Cappella delle Sepolture della Confraternita del SS Rosario which dates from 1747.

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.

Church of Santa Catterina d'Alessandria in Gaeta Italy
Church of Santa Catterina d'Alessandria in Gaeta Italy

The Church of Santa Lucia in Gaeta

The church of St. Lucia is situated in the very heart of the historical Medieval Centre of Gaeta on the corner of Via Ladislao and Salita Chiaramonte. It is thought to be one of the oldest churches in Gaeta, dating from the VII and VIII century. It was first documented in 976.   It was originally dedicated to Santa Maria in Pensulis. From 1387 it served as the Royal Chapel where the young King Ladislaus and his wife Queen Costanza Chiaramonte would come to pray.  The church was re-consecrated in 1765 by Bishop Carmignani.

The church has an elegant Arabic-Sicilian bell tower. The interior has three aisles which are separated with marble columns decorated with ornate capitals. Some small frescoes are visible in the apse and there is evidence of the presence of mullion windows that have been bricked up. Over the years the church has undergone several modifications, the most significant perhaps being that of 1648 when it was redecorated in a Baroque style, and in 1930 when these decorations were removed and it was reverted to its original Gothic style.  Inside there are works by the artist Giovanni da Gaeta.

The church has been deconsecrated and closed for worship. It is now owned by the town council of Gaeta. On occasions, however, it is used as a place for civil marriage ceremonies. In addition it has been converted into a venue for classical concerts and other artistic and cultural events.

Church of Santa Lucia in Gaeta Italy
Church of Santa Lucia in Gaeta Italy
Church of Santa Lucia in Gaeta Italy

The Church of Santa Maria Sorresca in Gaeta

In the 15th century the Albito family of Gaeta owned a warehouse or sorra that contained wooden barrels packed full with salted fish. This storeroom also housed a holy painting of the Madonna that was said to grant miracles. Thus a small church was built closeby to honour the Madonna and a feast day in her name was held on the 16th April every year.

The church is situated on the corner of Piazza Traniello and Via Duomo. The facade was restored in the mid 1800’s, to the left is the bell tower.  The building itself is octagonal in shape. The 19th century main altar is by Dionisio Lazzarri. Sadly the church is no longer open for worship, but is occasionally used for cultural events.


The Church of San Giovanni della Porta

San Giovanni della Porta takes its name from its position close to the Porta Nuova, just below the grand castle in the Medieval centre of Gaeta. The small church is thought to date back to the 10th century, and was enlarged during the 11th and 12th centuries to its current size. It formed part of the Benedictine monastery of San Giovanni. Over the centuries it was also sometimes known as San Giovanni de’ Monti (1517) and San Giovanni in the Castle (1689).  The building ceased to function as a church from the late 1920’s and was used as a warehouse. Between the years of  2003 and 2005 the building underwent a radical restoration.  It is now privately owned.

The facade is on the left side of the building and is in a simple style with traces of former arches. There are two doorways, the main entrance dates from the 11th century. Inside there is a single nave with a medieval vaulted ceiling. The church is decorated with elements of Baroque stucco work including the altars. The walls and ceilings are brightly painted in a style of the late 19th century. The main altar is dedicated to San Giovanni Battista, meanwhile the two sides are dedicated to Sant’Antonio of Padua and the Madonna delle Grazie. The church has some 15th century frescoes depicting  San Giovanni Battista and Santo Benedettino by the artist Giovanni di Gaeta. Further decorative items such as paintings, sculptures, engravings and pottery were placed in the church after restorations of the early 21st century.

The Church of San Giuda Taddeo o Sant’Onofrio in Gaeta

The first church, built in the 16th century, was dedicated to Sant’Onofrio. Over the centuries it was damaged during various attacks and sieges because of its highly exposed position and it was finally abandoned. The building was completely restored by King Ferdinand II in 1853 and it was re-dedicated to San Giuda Taddeo. The restoration works were carried out by Giacomo Guarinelli.

The building is situated on the ridge of Monte Orlando, and is constructed in a Neo-Gothic style. The edges of the roof are crenellated and the facade has a rose window above a Gothic style doorway. The interior has been stripped of all decoration and the church is closed to the public.

The Church of San Salvatore in Gaeta

The remains of the Church of San Salvatore are located in Vicolo Caetani in Gaeta’s Medieval Quarter. The church was built during the 8th and 9th centuries, close to the 7th century Church of Santa Maria del Parco, now the site of the Cathedral of Sant’Erasmo.  The building was extended during the 16th century.

The church was destroyed during the bombing of  Gaeta in 1943. In 1966 some restoration work was carried out to consolidate the surviving structure. In the 1980’s the site was transformed into a private garden. In 2013 it underwent further reconstruction work to put back in place an original row of columns that divided the three naves.  Traces of frescoes dating from the 9th and 14th centuries can still be seen. The site is now used as an exhibition space.

The Church of Santa Barbara in Gaeta

The Church of Santa Barbara was founded in the 10th century. The remains of the bell tower can still be seen in Salita Chiaromonte.

Santa Barbara is the patron of the Coastguards of Gaeta.

The Church of San Biagio (Church of Sant’Antonio Abate) in Gaeta

The church of San Biagio (formerly la Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Abate) dated back to the Renaissance period. It was situated on the corner of Via Annunziata and Via Begani. It survived the explosions of the Seige of Gaeta in 1860-161, however its structure was badly damaged during the Second World War due to its close proximity to the pier of Sant’Antonio.

In the 1950’s, during the construction of the new seafront – the Lungomare Giovanni Caboto, the Municipal Administration of Gaeta took the decision to demolish the church.

All that remains today is a wall with the marble altarpiece and a series of frames. Some of the other marble decorations and works of art are now held in the Diocesan Museum. The statue of the Madonna della Cintura is now found in the Santuario della Santissima Annunziata.

The Church of San Benedetto in Gaeta

The ex-church of San Benedetto can be found at the beginning of Via Ladislao, close to the church of Santa Lucia. It dates from the 13th century and what still remains of the building has been privately owned since 1814.

The Church of Santa Maria del Monte in Gaeta

The Church of Santi Paolo e Giovanni in Gaeta

The Church of San Nicola in Gaeta

The ruined Church of San Nicola is situated close to the Church of Santa Maria della Sorresca and near the Church of San Giovanni della Porta. It was first documented in the year 958. In the 13th century the bell tower was probably erected and in the 14 century the building underwent radical restoration work in the Gothic style. Between the 17th and the 18th centuries the interior was adorned in the baroque style with decorative elements in stucco plasterwork.  The church was suppressed in 1809 following Napoleon’s invasion.  The church became of abandoned and fell into ruin. Some of the structure was incorporated into residential housing. In September 1943 what remained of the vault was ruined during the bombardment of Gaeta. The site is now a private garden.

Other ancient churches of Gaeta included San Leonardo e San Giovanni di Malta (1225), Sant’Antonio di Padua and San Giacomo degli Spagnoli.

The Church and Monastery of San Michele Arcangelo in Planciano

The Church and Monastery of San Michele Arcangelo was built by Duke Docibile I in the 9th century for brothers of the Benedictine order of Cassino. In 1788 the monastery was used as a military barracks. The church was renovated by Giacomo Guarinelli. In 1863 the barracks were made into a military prison where the prisoners carried out carpentry, mechanics and there was a printing works.

Today the church is situated into the lower part of the castle complex. The church’s façade is decorated with pairs of pilasters and a large rosette window.  It has one nave that is divided into four sections. There are two chapels, the one to the right is dedicated to the “Immaculate Conception” and has a sculpture by Gaetano Della Rocca.  In the apse there is a large niche which has a marble statue of San Michele Arcangelo, which is the work of Gennaro De Crescenzo.  Sadly the church and monastery have suffered great neglect and are in a poor state of repair.

The Church and Monastery of San Teodoro e San Martino

The church and monastery were first documented in 906, in the will of Duke Docibile, which refers to “the vineyards bordering the garden on the side of San Teodoro“. The church was located close to the Porta Nuova, near to the present day castle.  In 1063 it was gifted to monks of the Benedictine order.

The Monastery of Santo Spirito di Zannone in Arzano

The Monastery of Santo Spirito di Zannone dates from 1225 and belonged to brothers of the Cistercian order. They had been forced to abandon their former friary on the island of Zannone where they were in danger of raids by marauding pirates. The new monastery and church, both Gothic in style, were built on the remains of an earlier Roman building in the rural district of Arzano. It continued to be un use up until 1750. Only a few ruins remain to be seen today.

The Monastery of Sant’Agata

The Monastery of Sant’Agata dates from 1327 and was founded by Bishop Francesco Gattola and given to the Franciscan fraternity.  In 1837 the remains of the monastery served as a burial site, during a cholera epidemic in Gaeta. Two works that belonged to the monastery are now housed in the Church of San Carlo Borromeo.  These are a crucifix and a statue of Sant’Agata.

The monks of the Cappucini order built the Convent of Sant’Antonio di Padova in the Montesecco area. There was a nearby church dedicated to St Anthony of Padua.

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All other photos I have taken myself and belong to me  © Louise Shapcott