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Translated Jeff Matthews

The height of the rocky spur that dominates the city of Naples is entirely taken up by the great fortification, Castel Sant'Elmo.

If you raise you glance up over the roofs of the houses and buildings or avail yourselves of the ample space in so many of the squares, you'll no doubt notice the yellow color of the limestone rock, Neapolitan tuff, shining in the sunlight.

Apparently there was a church on the height originally, a church dedicated to saint Erasmus, a name was then abbreviated to Ermo and eventually corrupted to Elmo. Later, under the Normans, a tower was built and "in 1170, the Belforte fortress was built. In 1329 Robert of Anjou had a palatium castrum built by architect Francesco de Vico, Attanasio Primario, Balduccio di Bacza and Tino di Camaino; that work was completed in 1343" (I Castelli. Architettura e difesa del territorio tra Medioevo e Rinascimento, Istituto Geografico De Agostini; ed. Paolo Marconi, Novara 1978, p. 480).

In 1456 an earthquake partially destroyed that structure and towards the end of the century, in 1495, Francesco di Giogio Martini "started the construction of two towers as part of a new perimeter; they were finished in 1496" (Marconi, cited above).

Given the strategic importance of the height, the fortress was completely rebuilt over a nine-year period beginning in 1537 under viceroy don Pedro de Toledo.

The Sant'Elmo Castle has counterscarp, moat/trench and part of the upper structure, itself, cut entirely into the rock, while the upper parts of the structure are of tuff ashlar. In appearance the structure is layed out as a flattened star with eight points, four of which form two pincers to the NW and SE, respectively.

The twelve straight facades of the fortress are guarded by as many casemates set into the respective corners, where splayed loopholes are well placed between the rock and masonry. They are almost all double loopholes and some of them outfitted with cannon. The defence was completed by additional casemates and artillery pieces in barbette gun emplacements on the height.

A water supply was guaranteed by the presence of cisterns.

Gianluca Padovan (Ass.ne S.C.A.M. - F.N.C.A.)

Click on images to enlarge

1. Entrance to the Castel Sant'Elmo (photo G. Padovan)

2. Between rock and masonry (photo G. Padovan)

3. West side (photo G. Padovan)

4. Detail, loopholes of a casemate (photo G. Padovan)

5. Arrows mark the casemates at the corners

6. Period artillery piece (photo G. Padovan)

There is additional information om the Castel Sant'Elmo at this link. www.naplesldm.com/smse.html

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