The center of the third largest city in Italy impressively reflects its long history and its cultural diversity. Romans, Arabs, Normans and Hohenstaufen ruled the city and left their traces here. The most famous buildings include the Cathedral of San Gennaro, Castel Nuovo, the fortress Castel Sant’Elmo, the Palazzo Reale, once the residence of the Spanish viceroys, as well as numerous churches and squares.
|Official title:||Historic center of Naples|
|Cultural monument:||Old town and others with the churches of San Gennaro, the cathedral in French Gothic, SS. Annunziata with Ionic-Corinthian column order of the facade, Santa Anna dei Lombardi in the Gothic style with Renaissance changes, with the Baroque, originally Gothic Santa Chiara, with SS. Apostoli, one of the most beautiful Baroque churches of the city, Gesù Nuovo, a central building in the courtyard of the Palazzo Sanseverino, San Lorenzo Maggiore, the Castel Nuovo, the symbol of the city, the Castel dell’Ovo, the Palazzo Reale, once the residence of the Spanish viceroys, and the National Museum of San Martino in the former Carthusian monastery (14th century)|
|Meaning:||Preservation of centuries-old Mediterranean culture|
|470 BC Chr.||Greek settlement|
|326 BC Chr.||Alliance with Rome|
|12th century||Norman possession|
|13th century||under the Anjou capital of the Kingdom of Sicily|
|1279-84||under Charles I of Anjou construction of the Castel Nuovo|
|1294-1313||Construction of the Cathedral of San Gennaro|
|1484-88||The Porta Capuana, a city gate with two round towers|
|1503-1707||Residence of the Spanish viceroys|
|1600||Start of construction of the Palazzo Reale|
|1748-1860||under the rule of the Bourbons|
|1760-81||New building by SS. Annunziata|
The young renaissance of a very old city
Artisans produce and sell their traditional nativity scenes in Via San Gregorio Armeno. But one looks in vain for rest, contemplation or even piety. On the contrary, in the heart of the seething, nerve-wracking old town you can easily lose yourself in the maze of alleys and also some other belongings. Of course, the holy family, the kings of the Orient and the good shepherds with their cattle are not missing in the cribs. But from time immemorial, Neapolitan street scenes with lush fruit and fish stalls and the mayor in official regalia have also been part of it. The history of salvation mixes with everyday life, the most sacred with the most profane.
The Italian prince poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe noted somewhat shocked about the Neapolitan: “He would be a different person if he didn’t feel trapped between God and Satan.” The stark contrast between “the beautiful and the terrible” is difficult to bear. The deep Catholic (popular) faith does not seem to suffice for this either. The rituals of a dark superstition belong to it inseparably and with flowing boundaries. In addition to the cribs, pagan lucky charms made of red coral are sold.
According to ehealthfacts, Naples did not preserve such landmarks from Greek and Roman times as Rome did, for example, the Colosseum. Remnants of walls, early Christian churches, underground grottos and galleries are spread across the old town, which, with its rectangular, chessboard-like plan, indicates the time of its creation. Under changing rulers, urban planning was obviously not a popular discipline. The hierarchical security of a medieval center, for example, is completely absent. Anyone who wanted to immortalize themselves and their time with a building found their space to be built on. Its instructions, however, were concerned with the natural conditions: the arch of the bank of the Gulf of Naples and the hills already rising in the old town.
While the Romans, Normans and the Lords of Anjou had built the massive fortress of Castel dell’Ovo on an island at the end of the harbor bay, the Spanish viceroys later found an equally ideal location for their Palazzo Reale nearby. From here, too, they could see the gulf and enjoy the panorama with the occasional fire-breathing Vesuvius from a safe distance. The mayor enjoys a similar postcard view from his office in the town hall, who has to toil with herculean toil in order to direct the fate of the city.
Naples sees itself – more than other cities and not just recently – burdened with a few problems. Even Goethe and other travel reporters longing for the South were obviously nervous about the hectic traffic. The city – today with a million residents – spreads like the contents of a burst sack. It is the center of a frighteningly confusing agglomeration of three million people. The long-standing high unemployment feeds crime and vice versa. It is an age-old litany that the interplay of organized crime, speculation and politics negates development opportunities.
When decay and impoverishment threatened to suffocate the city, a miraculous turn came: with a fraction of the funds that had flowed into the wrong pockets for the 1990 soccer World Cup, numerous monuments and squares were carefully restored four years later for the World Economic Summit. Many Neapolitans also resumed the quarters they had long avoided out of disgust and fear. They developed a new sense of citizenship and pride in one of the most beautiful cities not only in Italy. This renaissance is just the beginning. It has not yet been decided whether the vitality of the city and the necessary external support will be sufficient to permanently overcome a state of emergency. Naples has now discovered art and its own cultural heritage as a means against the hopelessness of destruction.