The catacombs of San Gennaro and San Gaudioso find space in the bowels of the city, telling its oldest history and the very close link that Naples has with the faith. Spaces that were, for a very long time, until the ducal age, a time that was followed by devastation and looting, underground cemeteries and places of prayer. After a long period of neglect, in the early 2000s, Father Loffredo, together with the Sanità boys united in the cooperative la Paranza and then in the Fondazione San Gennaro, took over the archaeological sites and radically regenerated them. The lighting system, which enhances the chiaroscuro while preserving the pictorial heritage of the place, was also created by Officina dei Talenti, a cooperative formed by young people from the neighbourhood.
Announcing the entrance to the catacombs of San Gennaro is a statue of the saint over four metres high, a modern work by Lello Esposito. They date back to the 2nd century, and the frescoes date back to the 10th century. St Agrippinus was laid to rest there in the 3rd century and St Gennaro in the early 5th century, whose relics (later stolen in 831) made the place a place of devotion.
There are also frescoed arch tombs, including one with the oldest depiction of St Januarius (from the 5th century), representing the martyr between a girl and a woman and with his head surmounted by the inscription 'Sancto Martyri Januario'. And then tunnels, magnificent passages (such as the one with three decorated arches) lead to the underground basilica from the end of the 5th century, a unique example of catacomb architecture, with elements carved into the tuff. Or to the crypt of the bishops, dedicated to the memory of the first fourteen Neapolitan bishops, with tombs adorned with remarkable mosaics depicting the portraits of four fifth-century bishops.
Also, the basilica of St Agrippinus, with its large decorated conical skylight; at the altar, through the fenestella confessionis, the faithful touched the tomb of St Gennaro with cloths that they kept as relics. On the left is the most beautiful room of the catacombs, built as an aristocratic hypogeum and then handed over to the Christian community, with sarcophagi carved out of the tufa on either side, the ceiling embellished with paintings from the 2nd century and a baptismal font from the 8th century.