The monumental palace complex of the Bourbons, north of Naples, was built in 1752 for King Charles IV of Naples and Sicily and, with 44,000 m², is one of the largest palaces of European absolutism. The huge baroque park has a 1 km long visual axis with water basins, fountains and cascades. To the northwest is the former hermitage of Ferdinand I, San Leucio.
Royal Castle in Caserta: facts
|Official title:||Royal castle in Caserta with park, aqueduct and San Leucio|
|Cultural monument:||built for King Charles IV of Naples and Sicily; Largest building of the Kings of Naples: 247 m long, 36 m high, area of about 44,000 m², 1970 windows, staircase with the three-ramp staircase with 116 steps, throne room with 44 medallions (representation of the kings of Naples); Castle park of 1.2 km², including Castelluccia and Peschiera Grande, on which King Ferdinand IV’s sea battles were staged for entertainment; northwest of the castle the former hermitage of King Ferdinand IV, San Leucio, with the baroque church of Santa Maria delle Grazie|
|Location:||Royal Castle of Caserta, south of Caserta Vecchia and north of Naples|
|Meaning:||a monumental residence in competition with the Spanish Escorial and the French Palace of Versailles; the successful fusion of landscape and buildings|
Royal Castle in Caserta: history
|1734-1860||Bourbon royal house of Naples|
|1734||the later Spanish King Charles III. (1716-88) becomes King of Naples and Sicily as Charles IV|
|1752-1814||Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples and Sicily|
|1752-54||Construction of the “Villa Reale” in baroque style|
|1759||Karl IV. Is called Karl III. King of Spain|
|1769||Construction of the court theater with five tiers|
|06/24/1995||Issued a postage stamp with the historical park of the Royal Castle of Caserta|
A competitor to Versailles
According to historyaah, “The largest castle for the smallest empire,” scoffed Europe’s court nobility when the regent of Naples-Sicily had a royal residence with over 1200 halls erected at the feet of the medieval Caserta Vecchia. The Bourbon Charles III, a grandson of the French “Sun King”, had a palace in mind that would resemble Versailles and Schönbrunn. He commissioned Luigi Vanvitelli, son of the Dutch vedute painter Gaspard van Wittel, with the construction, and up to this point had hardly stepped out of the shadow of his teacher Filippo Juvarra. The “Reggia” with its spectacular park – the center of a real development plan for a new town – was to become his masterpiece.
In the middle of the 18th century, playful Rococo triumphed in the castles of enlightened absolutism. Vanvitelli rejected this art form and instead became enthusiastic about the recently discovered ruins of ancient Pompeii. He designed a five-story, classicist structure, the compactness of which is loosened up by four rectangular inner courtyards. The plans, which were specially spread out under a red tent, met with approval from the monarch, who was fixated on formal rigor. Only in the octagonal vestibule and the baroque staircase of honor does Vanvitelli indulge in a smell. The musicians hid themselves in the double vault to play their ruler as soon as he stepped off his horse at the foot of the 116 marble steps. Two centuries later, this part of the castle was to be one of the locations in George Lucas’ “Star Wars I” (1999) will go down in film history. In 2008, the film “Illuminati” based on Dan Brown’s bestseller was also shot here.
The Neapolitan master builder let his artistic imagination run free when designing the court theater and green spaces: the temple of the Muses is a jewel shining in gold tones with proud five tiers, a splendid royal box and backdrops that open out into the green. The park, which looks larger than it actually is, and which is only 120 meters wide at its narrowest point, is also effectively designed. In a crescendo of water features and mythological fountain figures, the three-kilometer-long canal culminates in the “Great Cascade”. The English botanist John Andrew Graefer designed the “English Garden” together with Vanvitelli’s son Carlo, no longer Italian-geometric, but romantic-picturesque with artificial ruins and finds from antiquity, according to the taste of the time.
Vanvitelli also solved the problem of enormous water requirements. In six years he had a water pipe run from Monte Taburno to the palace, which still works perfectly today. The Maddaloni valley is bridged by the grandiose Carolino aqueduct with three rows of round arches.
With Karl’s son Ferdinand IV, a season of festivities began in the splendid suites, some of which were decorated by the court painter Jakob Philipp Hackert. Maria Carolina von Habsburg, a daughter of Maria Theresa, wielded the ceremonial baton. In her apartment you can still see the copper-clad marble tub in which the neglected woman is said to have bathed with Lady Hamilton, the young, not quite befitting wife of the English ambassador.
Ferdinand wanted to be remembered by the people not only because of his passion for hunting and therefore founded a colony on the mountain of San Leucio in 1785, which was intended to anticipate the ideas of the French Revolution: he settled a few dozen subjects around the Belvedere Palace and founded a silk factory, The royal houses soon tore their brocades. There was equal rights between weavers, the children were taught free of charge, the sick and the elderly were given generous support. This utopia also ended in 1861 with the fall of the monarchy and the unification of Italy. Today the looms are in the museum, and the restored hamlet is definitely worth a detour as a prime example of proto-industrial settlement forms and as a vantage point.