Sorrento is a beautiful town perched on a cliff high above the sea with views of Vesuvius and the islands in the Bay of Naples . Use this website to help you plan a visit to this elegant southern Italian resort and find your way to the best beaches and some lovely villages and towns along the Sorrentine peninsula that are perhaps less well known to tourists.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Santa Maria delle Grazie Sorrento

Church bears testament to fascinating history of Sorrento

Tucked away in a quiet street in the oldest part of Sorrento, the baroque church and adjoining Dominican convent dedicated to Santa Maria delle Grazie is well worth a visit.
The church can be found in Via Santa Maria delle Grazie just off Piazza Sant’Antonino, a street which follows the ancient Greek layout of the town.
Archway leading to historic church

Santa Maria delle Grazie was built in 1567 on the orders of a noble Sorrentine lady, Bernardina Donnorso, who decided to found a convent to accommodate young girls from the area who had chosen to follow the strict rules of life in a nunnery.
You will find the church on your right hand side as you leave Piazza Sant’Antonino after passing through an arcade surmounted by an arch. It was built in typical baroque style with a single nave and still has a beautiful majolica floor, a 17th century wooden choir for the nuns and many works by southern Italian artists painted between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Over the altar is a painting of Santa Maria delle Grazie among the angels with St John the Baptist and Santo Domenico by Neapolitan artist Silvestro Buono Junior. Bernardina Donnorso died and was buried in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in 1597 but the convent she founded has survived.
Doorway of the church

Entry to the convent is still strictly forbidden. The door from the street, which has a beautiful stone pediment bearing the date 1567 above it, leads into a small, plain room and the nuns have to remain behind gratings.
The convent is surrounded by tall walls, which adds to the peaceful atmosphere of the street as you walk along, even though some of the busy bars, restaurants and shops of the resort are close by.