From Famous Castles & Palaces of Italy, Illustrated in Colour from Paintings, by Edmund B. d’Auvergne, London: T. Werner Laurie, [undated, 1911]; pp. 73-102.


Decorated Adorment from the spine of the book, of a gilt berry with leaves in black around it on a burgundy woven ground.




ON the north shore of the bay of Naples, near the decaying Grecian town of Parthenope, the rich Lucullus planted a garden, and for a pleasaunce and bathing place he cut off from the mainland at that point the little promontory called by Pliny Megara and by Statius, Megalia. Others say it should be called Myagra, or the mouse-trap, because of the fountain that bubbled up there and found no escape for its waters.1 Here Cicero talked with Brutus soon after the assassination of Cæsar, and here Romulus Augustulus, the last emperor of the west lived out the years that followed his deposition.

Upon his death, towards the end of the fifth century, the isle which had been the abode of love and luxury became the shrine of a saint, Severinus, whose remains a devout lady named Barbara brought from Noricum to Naples. Conventual buildings rose on the spot, and, with the old Roman villa, made a pile of some strength. When the Saracen fleet of Ibrahim-ibn-Ahmed darkened the horizon, in the year 902, the Neapolitans demolished what was then called the castle of Lucullus, and made the inhabitants seek shelter within the city walls.2 When the Normans took seisin of the land of Naples they found the isle in possession of the nuns of St Sebastian. Perhaps they were told the legend, afterwards 74 current, that it was built on an egg which the magician Virgil had anchored in the sea. This unstable foundation notwithstanding, William the Bad, King of Sicily, ordered a castle to be built on the rock, according to the plans of the architect, Buono. The Normans, on first coming to Italy, threw up, as in England, many “castles” composed simply of mound, stockade and ditch,3 but these, as among us, they quickly replaced by more substantial structures of stone. The Castel dell’ Ovo, as the Luculline castle is now called, perhaps after the magic egg, was no doubt a massive building of irregular outline, with square battlements, narrow loops, and rectangular towers of low projection. The interior was probably a narrow open court, where temporary structures could be raised as convenience suggested. Very like to it was the Castel Capuana built outside the walls by the Norman king to guard the city on the land side.

William’s work was continued and enlarged by that wonderful prince and eminent castle-builder, the Emperor Frederick II. He called in the architect Fuccio, and made the Castel Capuana suitable for a royal residence. He probably added to the Castel dell’ Ovo, which we find him in the year 1239 ordering to be put into a proper state to accommodate his consort.4 The island must have been larger then than now, for upon it were built not only the castle, but a nunnery and two churches. Here Frederick stored his treasures, and here he held a parliament before setting out on his crusade. Within these sea-washed walls, thirty years later, his grandchildren, the sons of Manfred, spent the 75 last years of their life of captivity. Frederick and Enzo died in October 1300; Henry lingered on till 1318.5 Their sister Beatrice, from whom Charles of Anjou had less to fear, fared better and was allowed two golden tari a day for her maintenance. She was released at last by the Aragonese admiral, Roger de Lauria, who appeared before the castle with his victorious fleet. She was the only descendant of Manfred to recover liberty. In the same castle perished one of the numerous imposters who attempted to personate her noble father.

Conradin, too, her cousin, and the last of the Hohenstaufen, tasted after his capture at Tagliacozzo the cold hospitality of the Oval Castle. He was thrown into a den of which his contemporaries spoke with horror. Charles of Anjou on his entry into Naples took up his abode at the Castel Capuana. Thence he proceeded in state one October morning in 1268 to see the last of his young and hated rival. In the market-place where the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine now stands, the condemned men stood by the block on a carpet of scarlet velvet. Then Robert of Bari, the grand protonotary of the kingdom, pronounced sentence of death upon them; and as he finished, Charles’s own son-in-law slew him with his sword on the steps of the throne for daring to sentence such high-born gentlemen. All were silent; not even the king dared to punish the knight who had slain his own minister under his very eyes; and, gladdened by the sight of their judge’s blood, the doomed prince and his companions bent their heads to the block. Before he knelt, Conradin threw his glove among the people, 76 declaring he bequeathed his kingdom to his cousin, Frederick of Aragon; and those who picked up the glove avenged his death.

Firmly seated on the throne, Charles of Anjou found the Norman castles too narrow for his kingly state, and in the year 1279 he decreed the building of that new castle (the Castelnuovo) which to this day looms gaunt and blackened over the teeming quays and queerly rigged shipping of the harbour. The site was obtained by levelling the Franciscan Friary of Santa Maria ad Palatium, whose inmates were compensated with an old tower called La Mastria, now absorbed into the Monastery Santa Maria la Nuova. The building of the Pyramids does not seem to have been a more painful task than was the erection of this castle to the labourers engaged in it. Men from all the provinces of the kingdom were impressed, and the king ordered those who appeared idle or unwilling to be imprisoned on bread and water. Those who escaped the press-gangs had their houses levelled, their vineyards laid waste, their wives and children cast into prison. Towns and districts were laid under heavy contributions to provide building materials. Yet the work proceeded all too slowly for Charles’s impatience. Giovanni Pisano was the architect. The castle was square in plan, with four round towers at the angles, 33½ metres tall and 18¾ metres in diameter.6 The walls rose from a deep ditch into which the waters of the sea were admitted. The sluice was guarded by a tower called San Vicenzo, which was not demolished till 1742. The castle was probably habitable in 1283, for in the November of 77 that year we find an order from the king to complete the bridge and to add the parapets and battlements to the maschio or master tower.

Charles of Anjou died almost before the foundations of his castle could have set. In those varied times, when savagery and saintliness wandered through the world hand in hand, it was not strange to find that the castle’s next distinguished guest was the humble hermit, Pietro da Morrone, whom the cardinals insisted in the year 1294 on making Pope. The people swarmed into the stronghold eager to see and be blessed by the holy man, who hid himself in a remote cellar. He was dragged out and blessed the multitude from a window. The churchmen and the barons watched him scornfully, curiously. Those who were weary of the farce contrived to raise a din by day and night, that rendered the old man’s devotions and meditations impossible. The artifice had the desired effect, and on 13th December Celestine V., as he had chosen to be called, with infinite relief, stepped down from the papal throne, which he had mounted only five months and eight days before. On the same day, in the hall of state of Castelnuovo, Boniface VIII. was elected his successor.

In the spacious days of King Robert the castle was the seat of the most brilliant court in all Europe. Giotto and Petrarch were the king’s honoured guests; troubadours sang in the gardens he laid out between the castle and the sea. Lions and tigers were brought from far-off lands to entertain the court and astonish strangers. Meanwhile everything was done to make the castle worthy of such magnificence. New chambers 78 and baths were constructed, and a treasure-chamber was built on the summit of the Torre Bruna which looked towards the sea. Nor were the things of war forgotten, thanks to the Pope’s admonition to Robert not to lead so soft a life; an order exists, dated 11th May 1319, for the construction of a chamber to receive no fewer than three million six hundred thousand arrows. The castle all the time was thronged with devout religious, the chosen companions of Queen Sancia who, we suppose, was chiefly responsible for the restoration of the private oratory and of the chapel founded on the sea front during the preceding reign.

Every day was a holiday at good King Robert’s court, and there was much marrying and giving in marriage. In 1316 four thousand pounds of gold were spent on the festivities attending the wedding of the king’s son and Catherine of Austria, and eight years later the same prince was married with equal splendour to his second wife, Marie de Valois. In 1333, Giovanna, the eldest daughter of this marriage, was herself married, though but seven years old, to Andrea, the son of Carobert, King of Hungary, her cousin once removed. The wedding was so splendid as to fill all Europe with its fame. But the happiness of the king was soon clouded by the death of his only son, whom he followed to the grave in the year 1343, dying in the castle he had done so much to adorn.

With him passed the halcyons that had brooded over Naples. The estrangement between the girl-queen, Giovanna I., and her half-savage husband, Andrea, grew every day wider. Under Robert’s will he was only the queen’s consort; he appealed to Rome to 79 anoint him king. Meanwhile, the queen’s only sister, who had been promised to his brother, King Louis of Hungary, was wedded in the castle hall to her cousin, Carlo of Durazzo. The storm burst when it was known that a papal legate was on his way from Avignon to crown the Hungarian. The 20th September 1345 was the day fixed for the ceremony. On the night of the 18th Andrea was roused from his bed, strangled in the corridor, and thrown into the garden of the villa of Aversa.

The queen, horrified at the deed but glad to be rid of her husband, threw herself into the Castelnuovo to await the vengeance on the kingdom she knew must follow. Del Balzo, the Grand Justiciary, condemned those guilty of the murder to death, but they could not be seized. A banner was flaunted before the people, showing the Hungarian prince murdered and bleeding. The mob surged up round the walls of the castle, and their furious cries reached the ears of the terrified queen, who had just given birth to her only child. The court was closely besieged. For fuel they had to burn the lance-stems and the engines of war. All day long came the hoarse summons, “Give us the murderers that we may do with them as we will!” The capture and summary hanging to the drawbridge of one of their leaders infuriated the mob still further. At last Giovanna yielded and allowed the wretched culprits to be given up. They were put to death with atrocious torments. Justice has more crimes to answer for than has Liberty.

The next year there was once more a wedding at the castle. Giovanna gave her hand to her cousin, 80 Ludovico of Taranto, without waiting for the dispensation that had been asked for at Avignon. But the new husband was powerless the stay the march of the avenger of the first. Louis of Hungary swept all before him, and the queen, stepping into her galley beneath St Vincent’s tower, sped before the wind to France to plead her cause before the Pope. A few days later the Hungarians flocked into the city and sacked the princely halls of King Robert from end to end. The people, who had been the first to invoke this crusade of vengeance, rose now against the invaders. Louis retreated to Apulia, leaving a garrison in Castelnuovo, which was retaken by the Neapolitans in September 1348 after a long and arduous siege.

A black and white photograph, of the Castel del Ovo, with the ocean washing its base.


With the return of Giovanna and Ludovico of Taranto, the days of good King Robert seemed to dawn once more. Again the gardens were trodden in the dance, again the halls resounded to the notes of the lute and the lyre. Beneath these fair surfaces savage passions only slumbered. In the midst of it all, the queen’s widowed sister profited by her absence one day from the castle to murder the man to whom she had been affianced, and to throw his head into the moat. Then she took refuge with Ludovico’s brother, Filippo, and a few days later announced that she had become his wife.7 They were brave men who wooed the daughters of King Robert. Giovanna’s second husband died in the castle on 26th May 1362, to be succeeded in her fatal affections by James, King of Mallorca, who left her after three months of wedded life. But these domestic afflictions in no way weakened 81 the queen’s capacity for enjoyment. She had no wish to follow her grandmother to a nunnery, but as wife, widow and grass-widow led the ball and swept the lute-strings with as much zest as the lightest-hearted lazzarone.

There were saints on the earth in those days, and some even wore crowns. St Bridget, Queen of Sweden, was on her travels, and came to visit her fellow-sovereign. She brought her sons, and one of these young gentlemen was so overcome by the Neapolitan queen’s beauty that he at once embraced her before all the courtiers and kissed her on the lips. Her Majesty consented to forgive this tribute to her charms, and a promising courtship began, to terminate, as might have been expected, with the gallant Swede’s premature death by fever. Not to be discouraged, the queen married her fourth husband, Otto of Brunswick. Then came sieges of the Castelnuovo by her rebellious cousins of Durazzo, and the beginning of the great schism in the Western Church. The queen sided with the Anti-Pope Clement VI., and invited him to her capital. The Castle of the Egg was selected for his abode, and a bridge was specially constructed from the rock to the mainland. The Pope was welcomed at the gate by Giovanna and a magnificent train of courtiers, one of whom, her niece, Giovanna of Durazzo, was fated to die after many years of captivity in the sea-washed dungeons over which she then stood. It is said that by receiving Clement at this castle, and so defrauding the Neapolitan populace of the sight of a long procession through the streets, the queen undermined her popularity. Her guest, himself, soon thought 82 it prudent to leave his island retreat, and fled to Gaeta and thence to Avignon, which Giovanna had sold to the papacy. In return for her hospitality her Majesty had obtained from him the gift of a cardinal’s hat, which, in the month of November of that year (1378), she placed with much ceremony and rejoicing on the head of Fra Leonardo da Giffone in the gardens of Castelnuovo.

Urban VI., the rival of Clement, in retaliation bestowed Giovanna’s kingdom on Carlo of Durazzo, who besieged her once more in the Castelnuovo. Otto of Brunswick in an attempt to relieve the place was taken prisoner under its walls. His wife surrendered the fortress, and was imprisoned by Carlo in the Castel dell’ Ovo. There it was, four days later, that she beheld the fleet from Provence come too late to her relief. Carlo bade the commanders follow him, under his safe-conduct, to her prison, and left them alone with her, believing that she would, to save her own life, order them to lay down their arms; instead, the dauntless woman proclaimed Louis of Anjou, her heir, and told them to offer him their allegiance. “He will avenge the fate,” she added, “that is in store for me.” Soon after, the unhappy queen was removed to the gloomy fortress of Muro, in the Basilicata, there to meet the fate of her first husband.

Meanwhile the Castel dell’ Ovo echoed to the groans of her partisans, and Castelnuovo to the rejoicings that attended the coronation of her successor. In the little chapel, the barons and syndics swore fealty to his son Ladislaus, and Urban VI. came from Rome to pay a visit to the king of his own making. He soon fell 83 out with Carlo, who found it necessary to seize his nephews as hostages and to hold them in his castle. Castelnuovo also proved a refuge, after his death in Hungary, for the king’s widow Margherita and the little Ladislaus, while the town was occupied by the partisans of Louis of Anjou. The garrison made frequent sorties, burning the shipping and houses adjacent to the walls, but the arrival of Pierre de Montjoie, the Angevin regent, soon changed the aspect of affairs. The Durazzo partisans were driven back, and the tower of St Vincent wrested from them. Queen Margherita with her son in her arms took ship, as Giovanna had done, and fled to Gaeta. The castle held out, though the Angevins had taken Castel Capuana. The besiegers were unable to blockade it on the sea-side, and we read that in 1388 a ship bearing the supplies from Gaeta broke through the boom they had stretched across the entrance to the moat. For three years the siege was continued, to be surrendered only in February 1391, to the French king. Eight years later it was recovered by Ladislaus, then undisputed King of Naples.

The castle was the scene of some of his worst excesses. Here, on the occasion of the marriage of one of his natural sons, he treacherously seized the widow and children of the duke of Serra, and threw them into the dungeons below; here he beheaded the Duke of Venosa and his sons, and gave their bodies to be devoured by dogs on the border of the moat. Hither he was borne on a litter, stricken with a malady then unknown, and crying out that they should bring Paolo Orsini to his bedside that he might kill him with 84 his own hand; and here on 6th August 1414 he died.

Ladislaus was succeeded on the throne by his sister, another Giovanna, whose reign was more disastrous than the first’s. The rivalry between her favourites — Attendolo Sforza and Gianni Carracciolo — resulted in the more serious rivalry of Anjou and Aragon for the reversion of the crown. When Louis of Anjou appeared before the city the queen had to purchase the assistance of Alfonso I. of Aragon by putting the castles of Naples and Ischia in his power. He came in September 1420, and the keys of Castelnuovo were handed to him by Giovanna where the triumphal arch now stands. Alfonso next year found himself shut up in the castle by Sforza, and escaping to Aragon left his brother Pedro in command. Two years after he sent a number of galleys to fetch Giovanna a prisoner to Spain. The castle was now held by Sforza, who defeated this attempt to abduct the queen, but was worsted in all his encounters with the invaders. The affrighted woman fled to Aversa, and declared Louis of Anjou her heir and protector. The Aragonese got possession of Castelnuovo once more, and held it while the city was in the occupation of the French.

Upon the death of Giovanna II. the struggle for the crown went on in deadly earnest. Castelnuovo was taken by the Angevins after a desperate defence, largely thanks to the supply of gabions which enabled them to scale the tower of St Vincent. The King of Aragon gave three ducats to those of his men who had most distinguished themselves in the defence. Two 85 years later (1441) the victory of Réné of Anjou was celebrated at the castle by a play in which the victor was represented as Scipio and Alfonso as Hannibal, both appearing before the tribunal of Minos. The next year the Castel dell’ Ovo was betrayed by the governor of the Aragonese, and on the night of 3rd June Alfonso penetrated into the city. Réné, the father of our Margaret of Anjou, escaped from the Castelnuovo by sea, and the Angevin rule in Naples came to an end after one hundred and seventy-six years.

The castle was as old as the dynasty and all the blows aimed at the one had left their mark on the other. Alfonso went to work to make the place worthy of his royal state. A thorough restoration took place. Levelling the houses which had sprung up on the adjoining squares, he constructed an outer line of fortifications, adapted to resist artillery, the old Angevin castle remaining as the keep or nucleus of the whole. In the course of his excavations he is said to have unearthed a stable for ten horses in a complete state of preservation. He either built or restored the great hall now used as an armoury, in which Celestine V. is said to have abdicated, and will be for ever remembered by the noble triumphal arch through which you still enter the castle. The original designer’s name has not reached us, but the details were executed under the supervision of Pietro di Martino, a Milanese sculptor. The whole was skilfully restored in 1906 by Adolfo Avena. On the spandrel of the arch, which opens between two Corinthian columns on each side, an escutcheon is upheld by a winged lion and a griffin. 86 Above the frieze and cornice is an attic with the main relief by Martino representing the triumphal entry of Alfonso, borne on a car, into Naples. Over this is a second arch and above this, in niches, statues of the four cardinal virtues. The figure of St Michael surmounts the gateway, which is buttressed on each side by a huge round tower. The bronze doors are adorned with representations of the victories of Alfonso’s son, Ferdinando I., by a Frenchman named Guglielmo Monaco. “They are interesting,” says the revered complier of the traveller’s breviary, “solely as early examples of historical compositions in relief.”[8] The cannon ball embedded in the door, that may be turned round but not extracted, belongs to the days of Gonsalvo de Cordova.

All through Alfonso’s reign there are records of purchases of marble, stone of all sorts, and other material for the building and embellishment of Castelnuovo. A hundred ducats were paid to Maestro Leonardo Bicazzo for paintings in the Camera degli Angeli in the tower of Beverello, facing the sea; of sixty ducats to Monneo for a great striking clock; and of a hundred ducats for the lid of a fountain in the garden. In the new hall the king gave a banquet to Cardinal Domenico Capranica, the papal legate, and on New Year’s Day, 1458, entertained with great splendour the Prince of Navarre, the Duke and Duchess of Calabria, and the great ones of his kingdom. Six months later and, in the words of the diarist, all was over. Alfonso died in the Castel dell’ Ovo, and there he ordered his body to be burned, fearing that it might be removed to Spain. 87

Ferdinando I., who succeeded him in the Neapolitan throne, was a prince of Machiavellian type, like his namesake and kinsman of Anjou. We read of his causing to be strangled within the walls of his castle Count Giacomo Piccinino, whom he had lured to Naples and feasted during twenty-seven days; and on 17th August 1486 he suddenly arrested in the Sala del Trionfo the Secretary of State and the Count of Sarno, the authors of the notorious Barons’ Conspiracy. Put on their trial, the accused confessed their guilt and threw themselves on the mercy of their sovereign. On 13th November they tasted that mercy, being beheaded as some say in the castle, and by another account, being quartered in the market-place. One after another the barons implicated in the controversy were enticed to Castelnuovo, and imprisoned in the tower of St Vincent. They were all put to death in a prison called the Cocodrillo, said to have existed under the moat. The name of the dungeon gave rise to a curious legend about a crocodile which the kings of Naples fed with their prisoners. Yet it was Ferdinando who entertained with all honour the holy Francesco di Paolo, on his way to soothe the dying Louis XI. of France. The little chapel still exists which was perhaps constructed for the use of the saint, and was restored and dedicated to him, as an inscription records, in the year 1688.

A drawing exists showing the city and the castle in the year 1479. The stronghold rises on the south side sheer upwards from the sea on a high sloping plinth. At each of the principal angles is a half-round tower, rising from a base splayed outwards and downwards from an embattled gallery, and crowned with a 88 machicolated and crenellated parapet. There appears to be a postern towards the sea set in a recess between two rectangular towers, which rise from precipitously sloping bases. One of these towers is liberally pierced with windows so large that we may suppose they were used for the introduction of supplies. The fortress is divided by a ditch from the outworks of Alfonso I., which present a long crenellated wall flanked by round and square towers. The tower of St Vincent rises in the sea off the western entrance to the moat, like a telescope on end, in four stages, each machicolated; it rises from the midst of embattled walls that keep out the sea as well as human foes.

This was the stronghold that, on 9th February 1495, Ferdinando’s son and successor, Alfonso II., abandoned, on the approach of the French, taking refuge at first in the Castel dell’ Ovo, and thence sailing away. Eleven days later, Charles VIII. at the head of his army entered the city and established himself at the Castel Capuana. He set fire to the houses in the neighbourhood of the citadel and opened the bombardment on 22nd February. The garrison responded with spirit and forced the French to take cover. Then suddenly the fire ceased; the Spaniards and Swiss composing the garrison had quarrelled and come to blows. In consequence the castle was surrendered on 6th March to the invaders. They found therein a prodigious quantity of munitions of war, of which they made good use when, in July, Ferdinando II. returned from Messina and endeavoured to recover his capital. Charles VIII. had gone north and left Gilbert de Montpensier to defend his acquisitions. The castle manned by Frenchmen was a more formidable 89 stronghold than when held by Neapolitans. Assault after assault was repulsed, though the siege was conducted by the Marchese di Pescara, one of the ablest captains of the age. The garrison turned their horses loose on to the Piazza dell’ Incoronata, and when the people, as they had anticipated, rushed to secure them, they opened fire upon them at short range with their great palumbards or mortars, discharging stones of enormous weight. “But,” says Giuliano Passero the chronicler, “thanks to God and the Virgin Mary and the patron saints of Naples this artillery never did any harm to anyone.” On 14th August Pescara captured the outworks of Santa Croce and the plain of Pizzofalcone without the loss of a man; and this feat he accomplished with the aid of Neapolitan troops and certain Lombard infantry, whose pay, we are told, was fifteen ducats a month each man.

On 8th September, under cover of their artillery, the garrison made a vigorous onslaught on the besiegers, which was beaten back with heavy loss. On the 22nd a party from the French fleet in the harbour landed on the breakwater, where a desperate contest took place. The foreigners at last retreated to their ships, leaving seventy killed behind them. This day, says the chronicler, the lord Troiano Caracciolo fought like Cæsar in the service of King Ferdinando and was wounded in the hand.

A week after this brisk sally a truce was agreed to; but on 13th November hostilities were renewed. Pescara ordered forward the scaling parties, but the garrison resisted all attempts to effect a lodgment. The ladders were hurled backwards, and the struggling 90 assailants, grasping them wildly, fell crashing own, with broken limbs and backs, into the ditch and on to the heads of their comrades. But on the 27th a mine was sprung sufficient to effect a breach. The Aragonese rushed in, cleared the counterscarp and ditch, and drove the garrison into the old Angevin towers and walls. Two days later the tower of St Vincent was taken, and on 8th December the castle was surrendered to King Ferdinando, the garrison being allowed to embark for France with all their personal belongings. Nine months after, Ferdinando died, and was succeeded by his uncle, Frederick of Aragon.

That luckless prince sat only five years on the throne of his ancestors. Betrayed by his own kinsman, Fernando of Aragon, he abandoned Naples without a struggle to the armies of Louis XII. and in October 1501 the French flag again waved over Castelnuovo. But not for long. The thieves fell out, and Gonsalvo de Cordova was sent to chase the northerners from the city. He quickly made himself master of the tower of St Vincent and from the heights of San Martino cannonaded the fortress. On 12th June he sprung a mine beneath the seaward bastion, and quickly carried the place by assault. The defenders were for the most part put to the sword. “An immense booty,” says Prescott, “was found in the castle. The Angevin party had made it a place of deposit for their most valuable effects, gold, jewels, plate and other treasures, which, together with its well-stored magazines of grain and ammunition, became the indiscriminate spoil of the victors. As some of these, however, complained of not 91 getting their share of the plunder, Gonsalvo, giving full scope, in the exultation of the moment, to military licence, called out gaily, ‘Make amends for it, then, by what you can find in my quarters.’ The words were not uttered to deaf ears. The mob of soldiers rushed to the splendid palace of the Angevin prince of Salerno, then occupied by the Great Captain, and in a moment its sumptuous furniture, paintings, and other costly decorations, together with the contents of its generous cellar, were seized and appropriated without ceremony by the invaders, who thus indemnified themselves at their general’s expense for the remissness of government.”

The Castel dell’ Ovo still held out. Gonsalvo marched upon Gaeta, leaving Pedro Navarro, the eminent engineer, to prosecute the siege. On 4th July he carried the causeway which now united the islet to the mainland, with the casemate and the landward tower; and on the 11th, by means of a mine, he blew down part of the wall, and compelled the garrison to surrender. Navarro was found, twenty-five years after, suffocated in his own bed in the citadel he had done so much to win for Spain.

Castelnuovo became the seat of the viceroys under the Spanish yoke. It continued to be the scene of state ceremonies and festivals, and in 1555 was fitted up to receive Charles V. on his return from Paris. It was during this visit that the emperor ordered the viceroy, Don Pedro de Toledo, to refortify the height of San Martino, where an Angevin tower called Belforte had been built for King Robert by Francesco di Vico, and converted into a castle by Carlo II. on the 92 model of the Castelnuovo. When imprisoned by King Ladislaus in the fortress, the Count of Terranova made an attempt to gain possession of it by bribing the governor’s daughter. The plot was detected, the girl was hanged and the count beheaded. The importance of the site, commanding the whole city, was strangely overlooked by succeeding kings. Luigi Serina, the engineer employed by the emperor, remodelled the existing fabric to meet the military requirements of his time. The plan was hexagonal, with bastions at the angles, and a ditch half as deep as the walls were high was excavated in the solid rock. The natural strength of the position, the galleries that ran in all directions underground, and the vastness of the water supply, made the castle for a long time one of the very strongest places in Europe. It is now called the Castel Sant’ Elmo, after a hermitage occupied in times past by St Eremo or Ermo. The Angevin tower has long since disappeared and its site is covered by the inner court. The stronghold has undergone repeated restorations and is now a barracks. It is chiefly visited now for its magnificent views over the city and the bay, and because of its proximity to the famous monastery-museum of San Martino. The main entrance bears a Latin inscription, celebrating the foundation of the fortress, by order of the emperor, by Pedro de Toledo.

By that vigorous viceroy all the other fortresses of Naples were renovated and modernised. No great changes were effected in the exterior of Castelnuovo, which is still shown in 1540 as consisting of a central mass, with five flanking towers, between two of which the arch of Alfonso is seen in its actual position; almost 93 in front of it, however, flanking the drawbridge is a low, round tower, similar to those that flank the low outer wall. There is an inner and an outer ditch. The residential part of the castle faced the sea, and a court, as at present, occupied the interior of the central building. It was Toledo who converted the noble throne-room into an armoury, which it remains to this day. The restorations effected in his day did much to impair the pure beauty of the Chapel of St Barbara, on the south side of the court, facing the entrance, which was begun in the year 1305 and adorned with frescoes by Giotto in the reign of King Robert. Adjoining it was the secret oratory dedicated to St Martin. It was in the Chapel of St Barbara that Queen Giovanna I. was assisting at vespers when the lightning injured the building in ten places and played incessantly round her head without doing her injury; here also that the barons did homage to the boy-prince Ladislaus. The work of Giotto disappeared in the reigns of the Aragonese kings, from which date the fine portal by Fortimay and the statue of the Virgin and Child above it, the work of Francesco di Laurana, a Dalmatian. Another notable Madonna, erroneously attributed to Giulano da Maiano, is to be seen in the sacristy; and there is fine ciborium by the Milanese Giacopo della Pila (1481). In a vault below are to be seen four coffins, filled with human bones. In two of these the skeletons are broken up and the skulls placed in the middle; in the third is the mummified corpse of a man in the dress of the fifteenth century, his head placed beside him; in the fourth is a body similarly dressed and preserved, in an attitude of horrible rigidity, and with the face hideously contorted. 94 By the position of the arms the man seems to have been held down while he was suffocated, probably by means of an iron mask. These poor human remains are probably those of the victims of Ferdinando I., who loved to keep his enemies always near him, living in dungeons beneath his feet, or dead and embalmed in the habit in which they lived. The stair that leads from the chapel above communicated with the royal apartments, and down it no doubt the king often went to gloat over the contorted features of his dead foes, and then return to heap praises on the saints and holy men passing through his court.

The Castel Capuana built by William II. outside the walls of the city had now long been included within it, and had ceased, with the building of the new wall in 1484, to have any military value. It had become nominally the residence of the heir-apparent to the throne of Naples. It was given by Charles V. in 1535 to his general, Lannoy, who in return entertained him there with befitting splendour. Four years after, the energetic viceroy acquired the building and made it the seat of the law courts, which it still remains. As restored in 1537 by the architect Maglione, it became a very Spanish-looking Renaissance structure, such as may be seen in all the provincial towns of Spain. Restored many times since, it is now a castle only in name.

The Castel del Carmine, close by, erected by Ferdinando in the same year that the Castel Capuana was cast from the service, also occupied the site of an early Angevin tower. It must have been badly enough constructed for we read that it was nearly destroyed by a heavy rainfall in September 1566; in consequence it was rebuilt by the viceroy, the munificent 95 Duke of Alcala, in quadrangular form and on a larger scale. The Duke of Arcos, viceroy in 1647, had good reason to wish it had never been built. This was the year that, maddened by the crushing imposts which seem to be the perpetual lot of Italians, the people of Naples rose in revolt under the leadership of the young fisherman, Masaniello, and blockaded the duke in the Castelnuovo. At the same time they drove out the slender Spanish garrison from the Carmine, which became their headquarters. The Cardinal Filomarino, like most churchmen on the side of authority, deceived the insurgents by declaring that all their demands had been conceded, and so gained time for the viceroy to take defensive measures. For eight days Masaniello was the dictator of the city, trusted and obeyed without hesitation by the people, tricked and cajoled by the clergy. On 15th July, in a magnificent costume which the archbishop had constrained him to wear, the fisherman assisted at the cathedral at the solemn ratification of the privileges granted by the viceroy. Exhausted by sleepless nights and ceaseless alarms, he was observed even to move his limbs with difficulty. Forced reluctantly to dine with the Duke of Arcos, he returned from the feast insane. The food which he had eaten was highly and strangely seasoned. He gave wild orders, he prayed and wept unceasingly. In the middle of the night he rose, crying “My people want me. I am here!” He rushed to the balcony and was at once shot by the viceroy’s emissaries. His body was covered with a royal robe and buried in the church of the Carmine. Eighty thousand men followed his bier.


A colored plate of a painting by C. E. Dawson, of the Castel Nuovo, in Naples, on the ocean.



They had gained a saint, perhaps, but they had lost a leader. In Masaniello’s stead they elected Gennaro Annese, a commonplace, incapable man, distinguished only by his hatred of the Spaniards. He had, however, the good sense to fortify the Carmine as well as he was able, and to arm it with some old ordinance taken from the Monastery of San Lorenzo. The Duc de Guise has left us an amusing account of his visit to this demagogue who refused to stir from the castle. He describes him as a very ugly little man with a cropped head, big ears and a slit for a mouth. He lived in perpetual fear of his life, and carried six pistols and a blunderbuss. When the duke presented to him a letter from the French ambassador at Rome, he held it upside down and confessed at last that he could not read. The Frenchman, who had come by sea and had been unable to eat a mouthful during the voyage, presently suggested dinner. Gennaro told him he would have to wait some time as, for fear of being poisoned, he would only touch food cooked by his wife. The meal, when it was at last served, was by no means to the liking of his Grace; nor was he better pleased when his host insisted on his sharing his bed, for his better security. De Guise, who had fled from France to save his head, got himself chosen protector and captain-general of the republic of Naples, and hoped to assert certain remote claims of his family to the throne. He was captured by the Spaniards and sent a prisoner to Spain. On 6th April 1649 Don John of Austria and the Count of Oñate, the new viceroy, entered Naples, and, having surrounded the Carmine, summoned Annese to surrender. He appeared 97 at the window in a nightcap and parleyed with them. He capitulated on condition that his life was spared, but being accused of reviving the conspiracy was hanged, six months later, on the spot where Conradin suffered.

The new viceroy, recognising the importance of the fort, held it with a large garrison, part of which had to be quartered, to the intense disgust of the monks, in the adjoining monastery. In 1662, however, the building was renovated and enlarged, and separated from the religious house by a wall, though the means were preserved of occupying the whole group of structures in case of an attack.

When the realm changed hands in 1707 all the four castles surrendered to the Austrians without a blow. But in 1734 Charles of Bourbon, coming to reconquer the land at the head of a Spanish army, was fired upon from all the old strongholds except the Carmine. Sant’ Elmo and the Castel dell’ Ovo were speedily silenced. Castelnuovo offered a vigorous resistance, and its capture earned for the Spanish general, Montemar, the title of duke. The new king put all four castles in order, pulled down St Vincent’s tower, and removed the cannon foundry from the arsenal to the interior of the citadel.

Sixty-five years after, the Bourbons fled from Naples on the approach of the French republicans, and left the defence of the city to the populace. The mob is generally royalist. The lazzaroni swarmed into the castles, stripped the armouries, and first of all turned their weapons against their liberal fellow-countrymen. Nicolo Caracciolo, who was in command of Sant’ Elmo, 98 determined to hand that castle over to the invaders. He connived at the entrance of thirty volunteers, liberals at heart, who were supplied with arms; and having sent most of the reactionary troops out of the castle, on patrols, he doubled the sentries, placing one of the new-comers beside each of the royalists. At a preconcerted signal the reactionaries were disarmed and seized by their supposed comrades. Thirty-one republicans thus seized a fortress held by one hundred and thirty of their opponents. Not till the people, desperately defending the streets inch by inch against the French, were fired upon from the castle did they know that it had been taken. The invaders next carried the Carmine by assault, and the hoary Castelnuovo surrendered to General Kellerman. A few days later (January 1799) the Parthenopean Republic was proclaimed. The following June it was confined to the Castles Nuovo, dell’ Ovo, and Saint’ Elmo, and their immediate neighbourhood. The rest of the city had returned to its old allegiance. The Russians had taken Carmine; English and Turkish ships were in the bay, the royalists closely besieged the Castelnuovo. But a vigorous rally of the garrison soon won for them the respect of their adversaries. Cardinal Ruffo in the name of his kin and Admiral Foote on behalf of England agreed to let the defenders pass out with the honours of war and embark for a neutral port. The next day Nelson arrived, fresh from the battle of the Nile. He tore up the treaty signed by his fellow-admiral, threw the brave defenders of Castelnuovo into prison, and by this infamous breach of faith left a deeper stain on his country’s flag than the red waves of Trafalgar could wash out.

The Bourbons, thanks to force and fraud, came back; refortified Castelnuovo against their own subjects; granted constitutions, and called in Austrian troops to upset them. The Carmine and Castel dell’ Ovo became prisons for Neapolitan patriots. The deeds of Ferdinando I. were recalled by Ferdinando IV. At last, on 6th September 1860, the city was set free by Garibaldi. The royal troops fired a shot from the Carmine alone, and were speedily disarmed; the other castles were evacuated by the royalists, who retired in perfect order and unmolested to the Volturno. No sooner had the Neapolitan states become absorbed in the kingdom of Italy than the demolition of the fortifications was embarked upon. The outer wall of Castelnuovo with its towers and bastions was levelled, and nothing left but the original castle of the Angevins and Alfonso I. The Castel dell’ Ovo was converted into a military prison, and, it must be confessed, robbed of all interest whatever to the archæologist and historian. The Castel del Carmine was put to similar uses, and the Castel Capuana rebuilt to suit the needs of present-day judicial business. The Dark Ages have at last come to an end in Naples.


 1  Grævius.

 2  Ettore Païs.

 3  Muratori.

 4  Grævius.

 5  Del Giudice, “La famiglia di re Manfredi.”

 6  Colonna, “Notizia storiche di Castelnuovo.”

 7  Colonna, “Notizia storiche di Castelnuovo.”

 8  Grævius.

[There is no place on the page with a superscript 8 to match the footnote on the bottom of this page. I put it at what seems to be a likely place for it. — Elf.Ed.]







Decorated Adorment from the spine of the book, of a tree with gilt leaves on a burgundy woven ground.