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The Roman Empire • Naples • 3 • Architecture & Museums

by mythic44

Architecture – Naples’ 2,800-year-history has left it with a wealth of historical buildings and monuments, from medieval castles to classical ruins. The most prominent forms of architecture visible in present-day Naples are the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque styles. The historic centre of Naples is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Naples has a total of 448 historical churches, making it one of the most Catholic cities in the world in terms of the number of places of worship.

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Piazzas, palaces and castles – The main city square or piazza of the city is the Piazza del Plebiscito. Its construction was begun by the Bonapartist king Joachim Murat and finished by the Bourbon king Ferdinand IV. The piazza bounded on the east by the Royal Palace and on the west by the church of San Francesco di Paola, with the colonnades extending on both sides. Nearby is the Teatro di San Carlo, which is the oldest opera house in Italy. Directly across from San Carlo is Galleria Umberto, a shopping centre and social hub.

Naples is well known for its historic castles: the ancient Castel Nuovo, also known as Maschio Angioino, is one of the city’s foremost landmarks; it was built during the time of Charles I, the first king of Naples. Castel Nuovo has seen many notable historical events: for example, in 1294, Pope Celestine V resigned as pope in a hall of the castle, and following this Pope Boniface VIII was elected pope by the cardinal collegium, before moving to Rome. The castle which Nuovo replaced in importance was the Norman-founded Castel dell’Ovo (“Egg Castle”), which was built on the tiny islet of Megarides, where the original Cumaean colonists had founded the city.

Another Neapolitan castle of note is Sant’Elmo, which was completed in 1329 and is built in the shape of a star. During the uprising of Masaniello in 1647, the Spanish took refuge in Sant’Elmo to escape the revolutionaries. The Vigliena Fort, which was built in 1702, was destroyed in 1799 during the royalist war against the Parthenopean Republic, and is now abandoned and in ruin. The Carmine Castle, built in 1392 and highly modified in the 16th century by the Spanish, was demolished in 1906 to make room for the Via Marina, although two of the castle’s towers remain as a monument.

Museums – Naples is widely known for its wealth of historical museums. The Naples National Archaeological Museum is one of the city’s main museums, with one of the most extensive collections of artifacts of the Roman Empire in the world. It also houses many of the antiques unearthed at Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as some artifacts from the Greek and Renaissance periods.

Previously a Bourbon palace, now a museum and art gallery, the Museo di Capodimonte is another museum of note. The gallery features paintings from the 13th to the 18th centuries, including major works by Simone Martini, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, El Greco, Jusepe de Ribera and Luca Giordano. The royal apartments are furnished with antique 18th-century furniture and a collection of porcelain and majolica from the various royal residences: the famous Capodimonte Porcelain Factory once stood just adjacent to the palace.

In front of the Royal Palace of Naples stands the Galleria Umberto I, which contains the Coral Jewellery Museum. Occupying a 19th-century palazzo renovated by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza, the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (MADRE) features an enfilade procession of permanent installations by artists such as Francesco Clemente, Richard Serra, and Rebecca Horn. The 16th-century palace of Roccella hosts the Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, which contains the civic collections of art belonging to the City of Naples, and features temporary exhibits of art and culture. Palazzo Como, which dates from the 15th century, hosts the Museo Filangieri of plastic arts, created in 1883 by Gaetano Filangieri.

Churches and religious structures – Naples is the seat of the Archdiocese of Naples, and the Catholicism is highly important to the populace; there are hundreds of churches in the city. The Cathedral of Naples is the city’s premier place of worship; each year on 19 September, it hosts the longstanding Miracle of Saint Januarius, the city’s patron saint. During the miracle, which thousands of Neapolitans flock to witness, the dried blood of Januarius is said to turn to liquid when brought close to holy relics said to be of his body. Below is a selective list of Naples’ major churches, chapels, monastery complexes and other religious structures:

• Santa Chiara
• San Domenico Maggiore
• Gesù Nuovo
• Sansevero Chapel
• San Lorenzo Maggiore
• Santa Maria Donna Regina Vecchia
• Santa Maria Donna Regina Nuova
• Santa Maria del Carmine
• Girolamini
• Santa Maria di Montesanto
• San Ferdinando
• San Francesco di Paola
• San Giovanni a Carbonara
• Sant’Antonio Abate
• San Gregorio Armeno
• Sant’Anna dei Lombardi
• Sant’Eligio Maggiore
• Santa Caterina a Chiaia
• Santa Maria La Nova
• Santa Restituta
• Spires of Naples
• San Pietro Martire
• San Pietro a Maiella
• San Gennaro extra Moenia
• Hermitage of Camaldoli
• Santissima Annunziata Maggiore
• Santa Caterina a Formiello
• Archbishop’s Palace
• Madre del Buon Consiglio
• Pio Monte della Misericordia
• Fontanelle cemetery

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The Roman Empire  •   Locations & Activities


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