Suor Serafina di Dio Capri

Antico Monastero - The history

 

The foundation of the monastery

The history of the monastery of San Michele in Anacapri is a piece of local history that is intertwined with the international one. It was 1683 when the Turkish army, came up to the very gates of Vienna, began the siege of the capital of the Empire. In Capri, a nun, Mother Serafina di Dio, descended from an ancient family of the island, prayed the archangel St. Michael, promising that if he supported the imperial army defender of Christianity, she would found a monastery in his honor in Anacapri. On 12 September 1683, the Battle of Kahlenberg saw the final defeat of the Ottomans, so, on 11 October of that year, Mother Serafina came to Anacapri and honored his vow beginning the construction of the Monastery of San Michele.

The battle of Vienna

Józef Brandt (1841-1915), The Battle of Vienna

 
 

The Taking of Capri: "il Quartiere"

For nearly two hundred years the monastery of San Michele prospered and expanded. In 1719, also the construction of the church of San Michele is completed. Nowadays the church is a national monument, rightly called "a masterpiece of art" by the works of great artistic value in it, first of all the floor made with "riggiola", a particular type of ceramic tile, depicting the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, by the Neapolitan master Leonardo Chiaiese, maybe based on drawings of the sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino.
Until 1808. In that year, the French troops of Joachim Murat broke in Anacapri climbing the cliffs below the Forts Trail (Sentiero dei Fortini), then tearing the island of Capri to the British, that governed it as allies of the Borboni. It was the famous Taking of Capri, also commemorated by an inscription on the Arch of Triumph in Paris. Conquered the island, the great monastery of San Michele in Anacapri was suppressed, requisitioned by the State and converted into military barracks. The incident is still so rooted in the historical memory of the town that even today the people of Anacapri define the whole building "il Quartiere" (the quarter).

Joachim Murat and the taking of Capri

Murat presents at the Taking of Capri from Massa Lubrense

 

The renaissance: the Castello San Michele" of Count Papengouth

Eclipsed the Napoleonic era and restored the Borboni to the throne of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the complex of St. Michael continues to belong to the State, lying in the gradual abandonment. The church itself, reduced to a munitions depot, remains closed to worship, until, in 1818, Ferdinand I do not donated to the Brotherhood of the Immaculate Conception, which still takes cares of it (www.chiesa-san-michele.com).
We must wait until the end of the century to see the rest of the building saved from ruin. In 1883, Count Oswald Papengouth buys the whole building from the public domain. Reached Anacapri with his family, and funded by the Baptist Missionary Society, the Count Papengouth transforms the large building in a magnificent hotel which he called Castello San Michele (St. Michael Castle). For the complex, this is the heyday. The Count restructured it completely. Outside, the walls are decorated with sumptuous stucco and all roofs get enriched with battlements; internally, rooms and halls are richly frescoed in Baroque and Pompei style, and are furnished with luxurious furniture. On the arch of the staircase, the Count does affect the auspicious Latin phrase "Hic manebimus Optime" (Here we'll be very fine). The intention of the Count is to plant a Baptist mission on the island: in the hotel, in fact, the guests of Papengouth performed the rites of worship Baptist. These stories are told, though in a very romanticized, in the nice book of Anacapri's Canon Salvatore Farace "La fata della Grotta Azzurra" (The Fairy of the Blue Grotto), and with greater historical accuracy in E. Kawamura, "Alberghi storici dell'isola di Capri" (Historic Hotels of Capri Island) and in T. Fiorani, "L'eretico di Anacapri. Storia e leggenda del Conte Papengouth" (The heretic of Anacapri. History and legend of Count Papengouth).

saint michael church anacapri

The facade on Piazza San Nicola (after the church of St. Michael)

monastery of st. michael anacapri

The main corridor; on the right is shown the door of "il Coretto"

 

Today

Unfortunately, the enormous expenses incurred for the restoration and maintenance of the complex are not compensated by adequate earnings. Count Pepengouth sells an for a few years the building continues to operate as a pension. Then, at the beginning of the '900 it is auctioned and divided into several lots purchased by the lords of the town.

Our family bought one of the most representative part. First, "il coretto", the ancient choir, wonderfully imbued in the church of San Michele, part of the cloister and the study of the abbess. Upstairs, a part of the main corridor, the reception hall and some of those who were once the cells of the nuns, overlooking the sunny terrace. During the last restoration work, partly preserved frescoed ceilings came to light, covered by plaster white. We hope for the near future to be able to proceed with a recovery of this hidden treasure.

For the moment, then as now the motto that the Count Papengouth wanted on the staircase gives you his good wishes as welcome:

HERE YOU'LL BE VERY GOOD!

bed and breakfast in Anacapri
bed and breakfast in Anacapri
bed and breakfast in Anacapri
 
bed and breakfast in Anacapri
bed and breakfast in Anacapri
bed and breakfast in Anacapri