Castles of Naples – The Angevin Fortress
Translated Jeff Matthews
Santa Maria at Palatium once stood at the edge of the sea where between 1279 and 1282, the Castel Nuovo (New Castle) was brought to completion at the very same spot at the behest of Charles I of Anjou. He put the direction of the construction in the hands of Pierre de Chaule and Pierre d'Angicourt.
At first it was called Castrum Novum to distinguish it from both the pre-existing Egg Castle (Castle dell'Ovo) and the Capuano Castle. Today, this new castle is known as Maschio Angioino, the Angevin Fortress.
In order to incorporate the most modern techniques to defend against sieges, which employed artillery and powder, the fortress was rebuilt between 1443 and 1458 by architect Guillem Sagrera. The powerful foundation and the patrol path (chemin de ronde) around the high ramparts and the five towers represented the best military architecture of Spain and southern France of the day.
This is what Paolo Marconi writes: “The lower parts of the chemin de ronde are a sophisticated combination of architecture and sculpture, and show a taste for more enlightened influences of the day, not at all common in coarser architecture and a quite distinct display in the art of building fortifications. The towers stand like Doric columns, tiled with delicate scales and tapered towards the top into a vibrant molding like the top of a fantastic column, recalling the unusual and subtle expressiveness worthy of the refined humanism of the court of the great Alfonso of Aragon” (Paolo Marconi, ed., I Castelli. Architettura e difesa del territorio tra Medioevo e Rinascimento, Istituto Geografico De Agostini, Novara 1978, p. 477).
Bastioned walls were built around the Castle in the 16th century and further changes were added in the 17th century. The latter were unfortunately demolished.
At the beginning of the 20th century the city of Naples undertook a long and extensive project to restore this grand medieval structure.
Video of the restoration: www.comune.napoli.it
The plate showing the Maschio Angioino at the port, dominated by the massive Sant'Elmo Castle, is from: Cosmorama Pittorico, n. 1, Tipografia del Cosmorama, Milano 1835, plate 1.
Enjoy your visit.
Gianluca Padovan (Ass.ne S.C.A.M. - F.N.C.A.)
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