Though it is one of the iconic and imposing churches in Naples, the Basilica is dedicated to one of the most humble saints of Italian Middle Ages. Francesco di Paola followed on the steps of modesty of his model Francisc of Assisi and of several recluse monks of the Oriental Christianity. Francis of Paola was born in a rich family but chose to live in a distant cave. Francis gave up eating any meat and other animal products but was not afraid to be harsh o people, including royal heads who were criticized by the lonely monk.

The basilica that mimics the ancient Pantheon in Rome was not even intended as a church in the first place, but rather a monument to Napoleon Bonaparte. The tides turned unpredictably for the commissioner of the triumphant Plaza of Plebiscite, King Murat of Naples, who was married with Napoleon’s sister. The Bourbons regained their throne of Naples and continued the work at this main plaza of the city. On one side of Piazza del Plebiscito now lays the Basilica of San Francis, with its Pantheon-like dome and its thick columns, while on the other side there is the grandiose Palazzo Reale, the royal palace.

The church, with its 53 m high dome, is enhanced by the semicircular portico with 38 white Doric columns, designed by Leopoldo Lapera and resembling San Peter’s square at the Vatican. The lintel of the front portico rests on six Ionic columns. The main dome is supported on the inside by 34 columns of 11 m height. The architect Pietro Bianchi finished the work at this basilica in 1846.

In the vast open area between the basilica and the Royal Palace there are two equestrian statues, one of Charles III of Spain and the other of Ferdinand I, both Bourbon rulers of Naples.

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