Saint Thomas Aquinas studied and taught at this Domenican monastery more recently noteworthy for its brilliant restoration and stint as a law court where crime bosses met their fates. Virtual photographs outside the Chapter Hall show how the monastery, parts of which date to the 13th century, would have looked before the suppression of monasteries under Napoleon. The hall itself contains a significant fresco of the Crucifixion by the late 17th-century Sicilian painter Michele Ragolia, and the ubiquitous Baroque master Fanzago is responsible for the stuccowork. Note the false windows, a work of optical illusion common to the period.
The standout work in the nearby Grand Refectory is Domenico Vaccaro's Last Supper mural, in which Christ comforts John while Judas, clutching a moneybag, glares at something else. Another mural in Refectory depicts a famous incident from Saint Thomas Aquinas's life here. Christ is shown directing at Thomas the words, "Bravo Tommaso
che parlasti bene di me." ("Well done, Thomas for speaking well of me.") The Refectory's many theatrical flourishes include pink columns as tall as trees; more down to earth are the remains of the stations where the monks would wash their hands before eating. More recently the Refectory served as a law court. Two Camorra bosses—Raffaele Cutolo and Pupetta Maresca—were sentenced here as late as the 1990s.
Also of note are the cloisters, originally for about a hundred monks, only nine of whom remain. It was here that Thomas Aquinas lived and studied and taught from 1272 to 1274. A magnificent doorway by Marco Bottiglieri marks his cell, now a chapel that is, alas, only rarely visitable.