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Art miracles at Vigna San Martino Patron of the arts Peppe Morra lives on the charming hill. His friendship with the Viennese artist Hermann Nitsch has produced, along with the museum of the same name, so many performances and exhibitions that have created a sensation. The affinity binding the Naples of the miracle of the blood of San Gennaro and the carnality of the works of Nitsch by Pietro Marino
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      In Naples, on the hill of San Martino, below the charming mediaeval Charterhouse, almost on the trajectory the crow would fly to the Hermann Nitsch Museum, a piece of farmland stretches out over terraces of vineyards and olive groves with donkeys and even a greenhouse hosting exotic butterflies. It is called Vigna San Martino, and it was recently proclaimed an Italian National Monument. Peppe Morra, the fascinating character who has animated the Southern Italian artistic scene for over half a century lives right there. He has set up a Foundation in his name which organises exhibitions and events in a Baroque palazzo in busy Piazza Dante. It was Morra who in 1974 brought, for the first time to the south of Italy, the artist who in Vienna had become renowned for his perturbing, upsetting Aktionen.

      In the ancient heart of Naples together they organised a kind of procession which concluded with a spectacular sacrificial rite , amidst naked bodies and blood of butchered bulls. It obviously provoked a scandal, so much so that the police came and arrested and detained the artist for a night. But the Neapolitan and the Austrian had forged a rapport that over the years has produced more performances and exhibitions. Culminating in the setting up of the Museum in the former electric power plant , where its founder (now 78)spends the night when he comes down to Naples from the princely castle outside Vienna (Prinzedorf) where he lives, surrounded by an estate where peacocks stroll around. A minimal “second home” in the city steeped in “misery and nobility”( the title of a play by one of the greatest modern bards of Neapolitanism, Eduardo De Filippo).

      The city in which Baroque is exalted, in the palazzos, in the churches, and in the subterranean passages, with wounded crucifixes, parades of skulls and skeletons, penitential habits, of statues of dead noble ladies looking as if they are breathing under marble veils. The only city in the world in which the Miracle of the Blood takes place every year: the dissolving of the blood of San Gennaro in the phial kept in the Cathedral.

      A Mediterranean Baroque, certainly nourished by the prolonged Spanish domination, but which here found its most fertile ground. Naples is “death dressed up in color” wrote Bruno Barilli, a great, if almost forgotten author of the Italian Novecento. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the “cursed painter” had understood this many centuries previously when he took refuge in the city while fleeing from Rome where he had mortally wounded a rival: here the shadows and lights in the works by the young man from Lombardy became immediately more dramatic.

      So, in 2010 – the year in which Italy commemorated the four hundredth anniversary of his death – Hermann Nitsch decided to come back to Naples to stage a ritual performance inside the chapel of Monte di Pietà, where the grandiose altar-piece by Caravaggio stands. “Le sette opera di misericordia”: it resembles a scene from a film shot in the alleys of Naples itself, there’s even a corpse which is carried in someone’s arms. The Austrian artist has thus paid homage to the Italian maestro, taking some of the panels which are normally kept in his Museum into the chapel. Almost as if to recognise, at a distance of centuries, the secret link that joins his theater of the body sacrificed to today’s civilisation to the ancient roots of nature, from which it has been transformed into the cultural anthropology of Catholicism.

      Now, when you enter the Nitsch Museum, before your gaze falls on the shrouds painted with blood and the phials of mysterious liquids, you come across reassuring bowls of fruit and vases of flowers. Almost as if to say that in the light of “Meridian thought” the Gothic agitations on the other side of the Alps have relaxed in the solemn melancholy with which art celebrates in its own way the endless rites of life and death.


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