Cathedral of San Procolo Martire – Temple of Augustus
A fire in May 1964 revealed that the Roman colonnade had always been an integral part of the baroque church, the Cathedral of San Procolo Martire, patron saint of Pozzuoli. The cathedral incorporates the temple of the 1st century AD dedicated to Ottaviano Augusto, built on a former polyhedral tuff temple, dedicated to the Capitoline Triad. It’s a unicum and it is in perfect state of preservation, entirely built in marble.
While the other Augustine temples, including those in Rome, have marble-roman concrete walls, the temple of Rione Terra was built with marble blocks overlaid one on another on which it was drawn the isodomic work of the cell, marked by pilasters inside and half-columns outside. The architect Lucio Cocceio Aucto was the designer of the temple, by the will of Lucio and Caio Carpurnio brothers, rich merchants of the time. The temple was already used as a Christian church around the 4th -5th Century AD, without significant architectonical changements. It will be Monsignor Martin de León y Càrdenas, who became bishop of Pozzuoli around 1630, to commission a large baroque cathedral, demolishing much of the temple, adorning it with beautiful works of artists of the time, including Artemisia Gentileschi, author of three paintings exposed in the cathedral: Saint Gennaro in the amphitheater of Pozzuoli; Saints Procolo and Nicea; Adoration of the Three Wise Men. The cathedral was reopened on May 11th 2014, after a restoration lasted about 10 years and after having been 50 years closed to the public.
Works had already begun four years after the big fire of 1964, but they were blocked several times. In 1998, an international competition for a further restoration plan was won by the team of the Florentine architect Marco Dezzi Bardeschi. In the entrance façade, a glass portal reconstructs the colonnade pronaos of the temple; from here, passing by the cell, in which it is possible to see the cuts made in the columns for building the church, the visitor meets the apse part of the Baroque era; the lights in the ceiling recreate the constellations visible in the sky when Saint Paul the Apostle landed in Pozzuoli in 61 AD. Restoration works have respected the marks of the time, keeping them visible, in order to identify the passages from the Roman era to the Renaissance-Baroque, returning to the city a cathedral a little bit different from how it was, but of great impact and deep in history.