A Convent in Paradise

In the XVI century, Dominican monks moved from Naples to build a convent high above the sea, on the side of a mountain, with a great view of Positano and Capri

By Giovanni Scala

The Church of Santa Maria a Castro rises on the side of a mountain. From its entrance you have a breathtaking view of the horizon from the Punta Campanella, with the Faraglioni of Capri, to the Li Galli islands.

The origins of the church are unknown, but the area was dedicated to worship from the earliest times for its beauty and solemnity. 

The first documented evidence of its existence dates back to 1430, when the first nave on the left was built.

In 1599 the church was donated to the Dominican monks. A monastery was then built to house the monks and an altar in the church was built to honor St. Dominic.

With the establishment of the Dominican convent, multiple internal and external changes were made to the complex: the two aisles of the early church adjacent to the bell tower were closed to be used for the burial of the dead.

The church was administered by the Dominican monks until Joseph Bonaparte ordered the suppression of the Order.

The five naves of the current church were built in several stages, as was the ceiling with its vaults and barrel.

In the apse of the left nave there is a fresco of “Madonna and child”. The pivot of the composition is made ​​up of the figure of Christ and the Madonna.

The upper part is occupied by the hieratic enthroned God the Creator, flanked by Saints Peter and Paul, and angels. At the bottom, the Virgin is represented with Child, Saints Nicholas and John the Evangelist.

In the apse of the central nave there is a fresco of the "Holy Spirit".

On the left aisle there is a decorated cabinet, or stipo.

The original nave of the primitive church is decorated with three beautiful frescos, all located in the left transept: the fresco of "The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian", a fresco of "St. Bernardino of Siena" and that of "Biblical scene depicting the burial of Jesus."

The convent, built on two levels, is inspired by the architectural forms of the typical Amalfi Coast houses: a refectory and a cistern on the ground floor, and four cells on the first floor. In one of them there are remains of a fresco of a "Crucifixion".

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Amalfi Coasting is a “pet project” of a community organization started in the town of Praiano in 2013. We developed this web site as a tool to invite people from all over the world to get to know our town, discover its "secrets" and embrace it not just as a great tourist destination but also as a community, with its people, its traditions and all of its offerings.

Bringing Back to Life Frescoes from the 15th and 16th centuries

The NaturArte Project included the restoration of the frescoes in the Dominican convent of Santa Maria a Castro, above Praiano

San Gennaro

This church is the only example of baroque architecture on the Coast

San Luca l'Evangelista

This Romanesque-style church is designed on a Latin cross plan with three naves

San Tommaso

A beautifully situated 16th century chapel with a great view

Santa Caterina di Alessandria

The original church probably dates back to the 11th century

S.S. Annunziata a la Praia

The old church survived time and pirate incursions until a massive landslide destroyed it

Santa Maria di Costantinopoli

The small square in front of the church has a great 180-degree view of the coast from Capri and Positano

San Giovanni

As St John once was the saint patron of Praiano this was its main church

San Nicola

Above the front door is a wooden choir with a beautiful XVIII century pipe organ