Translated Jeff Matthews
Castles of Naples: the Bastion of Piazza Municipio
In 1494 military architect Francesco di Giogio lay down the first traces of the bastioned wall that was to be the external protection of the Castrum Novum, or the Maschio Amgioino (Angegevin Fortress). Don Pedro de Toledo modernized that plan and architect Antonio Marchesi (Settignano 1451 – Settignano or Firenze 1520), student of Francesco di Giorgio, started the construction.
What did it look like? “The trapezoidal shape of the so-called Citadel, was guarded by ample and low towers at the heights, except for the polygonal bastion of S. Spirito; after the preliminary phases of construction, they were all built between 1510 and 1516. In 1536 one of the new Spanish bulwarks exploded. In 1870 at the request of Neapolitan authorities, the new united Italian state demolished portions of the structure for purposes of modernization, leaving standing only the original parts of the Martini citadel”(Paolo Marconi, ed., Istituto Geografico De Agostini, Novara 1978, pp. 476-478).
Giorgio Vasari said this of Francesco di Giorgio: “Francesco was a great enginner, especially of machinery of war” (Giorgio Vasari, Le vite dei più eccellenti pittori scultori e architetti, Jacopo Recupero, -ed.- Editrice Italiana di Cultura, Roma 1967, p. 346).
During archeological excavations done following construction of the Municipio station of the metropolitana, the Incoronata Tower was brought to light; it had been part of the “Citadel.” Today you can see and marvel at the preserved lower section of the tower by entering the Municipio Station. One on-line article reports that “plans for the Municipio metro station were changed 25 times to accommodate the ever increasing number of Angevin, Aragonese and Medieval ruins that were brought to light in this, the largest urban archaeological site in Europe in the last 50 years.”
The complete article is here:
There is a short item in English plus links to the entire history of Metro construction in Naples here: www.naplesldm.com
Certainly the birth and development of this bastioned work started with the need to provide better protection against firearms and at the same time to spread and dissipate their effect within the fortified perimeter. This is what Amelio Fara had to say: “From 1453, when the west lost Constantinople, until the end of the century, when the Turks were driven from Spain, Filarete, Francesco di Giorgio, Giuliano da Sangallo and Leonardo all formulated innovative theories of fortified architecture. These accomplishments of western engineers in the 1500s all came to pass within the cultural climate of the Turkish threat” (Amelio Fara, Il sistema e la città. Architettura fortificata dell’Europa moderna dai trattati alle realizzazioni 1464-1794, Sagep Editrice, Genova 1989, p. 14).
Projects to build star-shaped fortifications were based on mathematical considerations, taking into account the range of cannon and the need to eliminate so-called “dead spots,” those spots where projectiles could not reach. One of the most important elements of a fortification was the underground system of countermines [trans. note: 'mine,' in the sense of tunnel, not an explosive device]. Between the end of the 16th century and the 18th century such underground galleries became more systematic and were built such as to extend only out to and just beneath the outermost defensive perimeter. In case of a siege their job was to identify and intercept enemy tunnels coming towards them underground and to engage and destroy them directly by underground combat or by explosives.
After all this, get a ticket and take a ride on Line 1 of the Naples Metropolitana; some of the stations are considered architectural works of art unique in the world.
Gianluca Padovan (Ass.ne S.C.A.M. – F.N.C.A.)
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