08 Sep 2017

The Royal Palace of Naples

Switching to Gambrinus for a coffee or getting lost in the history and timeless beauty of the Art Nouveau style and not getting in touch with the Royal Palace of Naples is practically impossible.
It is a place so full of history that analyzing it under every view would be impossible: on its floor walked the most influential and important personalities of Neapolitan history, from the viceregal age on, and there is no corner, an edge , a piece of art that does not speak of Naples.

History, in short

The construction of the Royal Palace of Naples became necessary when, in the viceregal era, as said, Fernando Ruiz de Castro realized that, to welcome guests (in particular he was expecting a visit of the King of Spain, Philip III of Habsburg) it lacked a truly sumptuous, elegant and wide venue. In fact, there had been a Vicereale Palace for fifty years, absolutely not in line with the wishes of the viceroy, of which part of the gardens, therefore, were used precisely for the construction of the large palace which, in short, replaced it ; the Vicereale old Palace, later, was even knocked down (creating what we now call Piazza Trieste e Trento).

The chosen urban location continued the traditional position of the royal residence at the southern edge of the ancient city, having the foresight to remain near the port, if the King needed an escape, even a sudden one.

The first stone of the Palace was placed in 1600 and the project was entrusted to Domenico Fontana, considered, at that time, the most prestigious architect of the West: he came from the papal court and played the role of major engineer of the Kingdom.

Fontana’s inspiration was linked to the late-Renaissance canons, but there were subsequent interventions, also in the 1700s and 1800s, by other important personalities of the Neapolitan panorama, who drew inspiration from other types of conceptions. In 1734, in fact, Naples became the capital of an autonomous kingdom with Charles III of Bourbon and the Palace was expanded on several sides, with the creation of two new courtyards, with a taste that was entirely rebuilt in the late Baroque; at the time of Ferdinand the Bourbon, then, between 1838 and 1858, work was planned to restore the Palace after a fire that devastated it. In that case, the architect Gaetano Genovese was entrusted with a restoration in the neoclassical style.

From 1600 to 1946 the Royal Palace was the seat of monarchical power in Naples and, of course, throughout southern Italy: from the Spanish and Austrian viceroys to the Bourbons and the Savoy, they all dwelt there.

After the Unification of Italy, the Palace was sold to the State Property Office in 1919, becoming the seat of the National Library which, from the time, occupies it in part (hosting a collection of one and a half million volumes, including rare medieval manuscripts and the papyri of Herculaneum); the other wing, the oldest one and rich in history, has been used as a Museum of the Historic Apartment.

The Royal Palace today

When we pass in front of this Palace, the faà§ade that springs to our eyes is that of the Fountain: we can also notice the royal and viceregal  coats of arms, together with that of the Savoy. Apart from the striking clock tower, however, the section that most stands out is the one in which appear a series of arches and niches in which, at the end of 1800, the Savoy placed 8 statues, to pay homage the most illustrious sovereigns of the various dynasties ascended to the throne of Naples: Ruggiero the Norman, Frederick II of Swabia, Charles I of Anjou, Alfonso I of Aragon, Charles V, Charles III of Bourbon, Joachim Murat, Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy .