The Leaning Tower is just one of the buildings forming part of the Cathedral Group situated in the heart of Pisa. The group includes a campanile (bell tower), better known as the Leaning Tower; a cathedral; a baptistery and a cemetery.
The first building to be constructed was the cathedral which was begun in 1063 after the Pisans victory over the Saracens at the naval battle of Palermo. Started in the Romanesque style (Romanesque means in the Roman Manner) of Architecture which can be seen on the lower levels, the upper levels changed to the Gothic style which was replacing Romanesque architecture across Europe at that time; although the alternate red and white bands of marble show Islamic influence. The cathedral was completed in 1272.
Construction on the baptistery began in 1153 in the Romanesque style although - like the cathedral - transformed to the Gothic style in 1277 by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano who are known for their Pulpits in the baptistery and the cathedral. The baptistery was finally completed in 1363. It is Italy’s largest baptistery and is dedicated to John the Baptist. Although it is not as pronounced as the famous tower, it too has a lean.
Situated behind the Cathedral is the cemetery, which consists of a rectangular loggia with Gothic galleries which are paved with 600 tombstones. Built between 1273 and 1283, legend says it was built where the Crusaders placed the soil they had brought from the Holy Land.
The construction of the tower commenced in 1173 following a bequest and a period of prosperity and military success in Pisa, although due to the wars with Genoa, Lucca and Florence work was interrupted on a number of occasions. In 1178 it was halted at the third level when it was noticed that the tower was beginning to sink. This was due to the poor quality soil - which is highly compressible - and the fact that the foundations only went down 3 metres. An attempt was made to straighten the tower by building up on the lower side when work resumed in 1180 which resulted in one side of the floor being higher than the other giving the tower a slight curve. The tower was completed in 1350 although the bell-chamber was added in 1372. The tower contains 7 bells which are musically tuned; the largest was added in 1655 and weighs three and a half tons. The interior of the structure is of stones and mortar with an exterior covering of marble. A spiral staircase of 294 steps, one meter wide, sits between the inner and outer walls.
The lean of the tower has progressively increased over the years from 1.63 metres in 1360 to 5.2 metres in 1997 and without stabilisation the tower was likely to collapse within a couple of decades. The normal method of stabilisation would be to underpin the foundations by inserting new ones below the existing ones or by grouting, these were ruled out as they had been tried in the past and in 1995 work carried out made things worse when it lurched during ground freezing. It was decided, therefore, to remove soil from underneath the higher side and reduce the lean that way. This was done by placing 870 metric tons of lead weights on the north side of the tower to helped stop additional movement. The structure was then braced and supported by steel cables tied to ground anchors to ensure it did not topple during work. Special drills were then used to remove small amounts of soil from under the higher side over several months; this caused the tower to slip back slowly into a more upright position. The final operation was to insert a concrete ring around its base. Work was completed in 2008 and the tower then opened again for visitors.
The Santa Maria del Fiore, in Florence better known simply as the “Duomo”, which means Cathedral. Although renowned for being one of the lasting symbols of the Italian Renaissance (1400 - 1600), the Duomo actually started out as Gothic structure. Florence was the centre of the Renaissance (Rebirth) and led the way in Renaissance architecture until 1490 when it became a Republic and the city fell upon hard times.
The Duomo consists of three buildings, the baptistery, the cathedral and the bell tower. The first of the three to be built was the baptistery which was constructed on the site of a Roman temple. It is known to be one of the oldest buildings in Florence and is thought to date from the 11th century though the exact date is not known. The gilded bronze door facing south was made in 1336 by Andrea Pisano while the doors facing north and east - known with the name of Gate of “Paradise” - were made by Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1427 and in 1452. The baptistery has a magnificent mosaic ceiling depicting the Last Judgment which dates from the 13th century.
The construction of the cathedral began in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio although he died before it was completed leaving it without a dome. It is relatively easy to erect a dome using formwork for support, but Florence was unwilling to pay for this so they wanted it doing without, consequently they held a competition to find a suitable design, this was won by Filippo Brunelleschi who devised a way of doing that by producing a double skin. His dome consisted of two layers, an inner dome and an outer one to protect it from the weather and give it a more pleasing external form. It consisted of circular profiles of the ribs and rings, the spaces between the ribs and rings being spanned by the inner and outer shells. These were constructed of stone for the first 7 metres and brick above this height. The ribs – stone arches - are 7 feet thick at the base and tapering to 5 feet, which meet at an open stone compression ring at the top. The weight is displaced down and across by the use of bricks in a herringbone bond which work like bookends holding books in place. Five chains were placed around the circumference and were built into the brickwork as it progressed upwards to withhold the lateral force of the dome and prevent it from thrusting outwards.
Finished around 1367, the Cathedral was covered by coloured marble like the Baptistery, with the exception of the facade that remained unfinished until 1887 when the 20 year project by Emilio de Fabris completed it in the style of the Gothic Revival.
This bell tower was started in 1334 by Giotto di Bondone. He was succeeded in 1343 by Andrea Pisano - who produced the South Doors of the Baptistery. Pisano continued the construction of the bell tower, following Giotto’s design of a high slender structure with a square base and sides of just over 47ft. Pisano was followed by Francesco Talenti who built the top three levels, completing the bell tower in 1359: Although he did change the original design of Giotto by not building a spire, thus reduced its’ planned height from 400ft to 277ft.
Dating back to the 6th century BC, Pompeii has connections to the Samnites, Etruscans, Greeks and Phoenicians, although it is most famous as a thriving Roman town and harbour destroyed by the volcano Mount Vesuvius when it erupted on the 24th August 79 AD.
Prior to the eruption, the area around Vesuvius had been experiencing minor earth tremors and there had been a significant earth quake about 17 years before so although concerned no one understood the event that was to occur or its significance.
The eruption, which occurred over a number of days, covered Pompeii with over 4 metres of ash and pumice. The roofs of the houses weren’t designed to withstand the weight that was imposed on them resulting in their collapse, although domed buildings such as the baths were able to withstand the weight and remained intact.
Although pumice is a rock it is very light, and would do little damage if some protection is used, people were, therefore, able to escape, something that thousands of people did in fact do. The several hundred people who did stay were to meet an agonising death, something that was shown by the plaster casts moulds taken of those who died when their bodies were covered by ash which solidified. The pouring of plaster into the spaces formed by where their bodies produced a cast showing the position they were in when they died as well as their features and expressions.
The sudden abandonment and covering preserved the town which was to remain lost until it was rediscovered during the excavations for a water channel in 1599. Over the years much of the site has been excavated although a large proportion has still to reveal its secrets. It has, however, provided a time capsule which has provided a detailed insight into Roman life in the 1st century.
Today Pompeii is situated several miles from the sea but in the 1st century it was a thriving trading port. Visitors today enter the site by the Marina Gate one of seven of the town. The road from the gate leads to the forum with Mount Vesuvius in the background.Within the Forum are: the Basilica, Temple of Apollo, Temple of Vespasian, Temple of Jupiter and the arches of Tiberius and Caligula. Through the arches visitors enter the commercial and residential districts and are able to wander around the paved with large blocks of stone. They are bordered by curbs and pedestrian walkways, raised stones were placed at regular intervals in order that pedestrians could cross the streets without getting themselves dirty from any water and Sewage.
Shops and houses as well as the public amenities and temples can all be visited. The graffiti can be seen on the walls and written evidence provides details of the life of its inhabitants. Many artefacts and everyday items can also be seen and the discovery of a number of skeletons of people who sought shelter is providing a lot of information about their lives and diets. A number of bakeries and shops existed throughout the city providing fast food, as generally the rich ate at home while the poor ate out. Shops selling all types of goods have been found, many with traces of those goods which can indicate the agricultural production of the area, the goods imported and the diet of the people.
An important part of Roman life was the baths and it was a Roman custom to visit the baths daily, both for cleanliness and to conduct business or meet friends. Entertainment was also important and Pompeii had theatres, an amphitheatre and gymnasiums. It also had a number of brothels, something that was an accepted part of Roman life.
Pompeii had some very rich residents with their house being lavishly decorated with exquisitely crafted mosaics and painted frescos: Many of the wall paintings still being extremely vibrant. A number of the houses are particularly famous: the House of Faun, so named due the statue of a dancing faun - a figure from Roman Mythology having the body of a man and the horns, ears, tail, and legs of a goat. The Tragic Poet’s House contains a mosaics which is now commonly used as a beware of the dog sign. The House of Vettius belonged to two wealthy merchants. It contains some beautiful paintings (still in their original positions). Much of what is known of Roman painting in the period 300 BC to AD 79 is based on the well-preserved discoveries made in houses at Pompeii.
Pompeii is one of the most popular tourist sites in Italy and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997.
During the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD which covered Pompeii with several metres of ash, the seaside town of Herculaneum was also destroyed, but by the Pyroclastic surge, a mixture of lava, mud, ash and hot gases, (with temperatures of 500oC) which swept down on it at 100 mph. The first surge instantly caused the death of a number of people who sought shelter in the boat houses at the seashore. The high temperature caused their bones and teeth to fracture and skulls to explode.
A succession of surges buried the city's buildings from the bottom up preserving their structure and the objects within. The intense heat extracted water and carbonised the organic material.The depth of the layers (20 metres) protected the town until it was discovered during the course of a well being dug in 1709. Excavations began in 1738, but were curtailed when efforts were moved to Pompeii, which presented an easier task.
Over the years the excavations at Herculaneum were undertaken in stages, with periods during which no work was undertaken. In 1927 work commenced again, and is continuing until the present day.Nevertheless, only about 25% of the town is believed to have been excavated to date.The difficulty of excavation results from the hardness of the layers, (which solidified) and also the fact that the town of Ercolano is situated over the ruins, although some urban clearance is now taking place in the modern town, in order to expose more of the archaeological remains.
Herculaneum was a resort for the wealthy and contained many elegant residences complete with decorations as well as the businesses and facilities to provide for them. These consist of bakeries, wine merchants, baths and temples - all of which provide an insight into the lives of the residents. Part of the forum is visible, although most has still to be excavated.
The area which today is Venice was first settled after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and grew significantly due to the influx of refugees after the invasion of Northern Italy by the Lombards in 568. Although subject to the Byzantine Empire it gradually gained autonomy and in the 7th century the figure of a Doge was introduced to administer the area and who was to become the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice. In 1204 Venice was part of the Fourth Crusade, which seized Constantinople thus enabling them to obtain considerable plunder from the city including the Winged Lion of St. Mark, which was to become the symbol of Venice.A period of prosperity followed leading to the emergence of Venice as a great naval power.
The first building on the site of the Doge’s Palace was a wooden stockade constructed in 814 AD comprising of watch towers, drawbridge and moat. This was destroyed in 976 AD during a civil uprising though was rebuilt. In the early 14th century the fort was no longer required so was replaced with a palace which was to be the Doge’s residence. It was also the venue for its law courts and administration and - until its relocation across the Bridge of Sighs - it was also the city jail. It remained the heart of the Republic of Venice until 1797 and the Napoleonic occupation of the city.
The architectural style of the Doge's Palace is referred to as Venetian Gothic, as it adapts northern Gothic styles to the ground conditions of the area. Tall arches, steeples and towers were prone to subsidence and as buildings needed to have piled foundations sunk into the mud of the Lagoon, buildings tended to be low, squat structures. The palace itself was constructed in two phases. The eastern wing, on the Rio del Palazzo, was constructed between 1301-40, while the western wing, on the Piazetta, was added between 1340 and 1450.
The principal facades of the palace overlook the San Marco Piazetta to the west and the San Marco Basin to the south. The lower section of each consists of a ground floor colonnade beneath an open loggia. The walls of white limestone and pink marble are softened by porticos, loggias and a series of balconies.The arcade columns, which originally stood on a stylobate of three steps, are no longer visible in some places due to subsidence and they now rise from the ground without bases.The northern side of the palace adjoins Saint Mark's Cathedral while the eastern side runs parallel to the Rio del Palazzo, a narrow canal spanned by the Bridge of Sighs which connects the Doge's Palace to the former prison on the opposite bank.
The Porta della Carta (Paper gate), the main entrance, was created in 1438 as a link between the Palace and the Basilica and is an excellent example of Venetian Gothic architecture. It got its’ name from the decrees nailed here for the public to see or from the people who would wait here to hand over petitions or requests. The doorway is surrounded by figures while above it is the Doge Fransesco Foscari kneeling before the Lion of St Mark which symbolizes that the individual bows to the power of the State.The sculptures are 19th century copies of the original which was destroyed in 1797 during Napoleons occupation of the city.
On entry the interior courtyard incorporates a mixture of Gothic and renaissance styles. The eastern façade which was rebuilt following a fire in the middle of the 16thcentury, incorporates a flight of stairs, known as the "Scala dei giganti" (Staircase of the Giants), which lead to the state apartments and the Doge's private quarters on the second floor. The stairway acquired its name because of the two large statues of Mars and Neptune by Jacopo Sansovino erected in 1565 which are symbolic of Venice’s power on land and sea. It was at the top of the staircase that the Doge was crowned.
The palace is preserved as a museum, but unlike most museums the paintings were created especially to decorate the palace and not added later; consequently the palace’s interior walls and ceilings are decorated with magnificent works of art all of which give the palace an aura of magnificence and beauty. Many of the rooms are open to the public although photography is restricted.The Chancellery, naval and censor's offices are located on the ground floor. The Golden Staircase, built in 1549, was reserved for the use of Magistrates and important people and leads to the State and Doge’s Apartments and the Square Entrance Hall: It is decorated with works of many of the great artists of the time.
The Grand Council Chamber, built between 1340-1355, is the largest and most spectacular room and is located on the second floor. The Chamber is 54 metres in length and runs almost the entire length of the southern waterfront façade It was the Grand Council that elected the Doge and appointed the senate. This vast chamber was formerly the meeting place of the one thousand or so nobles who formed the ruling elite of the Venetian Republic. The full width of one wall of the chamber is covered by Tintoretto's "Paradise", the world's largest oil-on-canvass painting (71 feet by 23 feet) which replaced paintings by Bellini and Titan destroyed by fire in 1588. Also on the 2nd floor are the armoury which contains over 2,200 weapons and suits of armour mostly from the 15th – 16th century and the map room.
On the 3rd floor is the Sala del Collegio, where foreign ambassadors were received; The Council of Ten, the government ministers; the Bussola Chamber, the room where citizens could submit complaints against officials; and the Inquisitor's Room.
The eastern wing of the palace is connected by the Bridge of Sighs to the prison on the opposite bank of the Rio del Palazzo. The 11 metre bridge with its two corridors was constructed around 1600, and acquired its name during the late 18th century when Lord Byron recounted the sound of condemned prisoner's sighs as they crossed it and took a last look at Venice out of the window. Over the bridge can be seen the cells. One of the most famous prisoners held in the Doge’s Palace was Giacomo Casanova who escaped from here in 1756.
The Doge’s Palace has something for everyone, it is a beautiful building with beautiful décor, paintings and exhibits, and is a must to visit in Venice.
Located at the eastern side of the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) the Basilica was originally the chapel of the Doge and is connected to the Doge’s palace. It became the city’s cathedral in 1807 when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice.
The first St Mark’s building was constructed in 828-832 to house the relics of Saint Mark obtained by Venetian merchants from Alexandria in 828. In 976 the chapel was destroyed during a rebellion when the Doge Pietro IV Candiano was locked inside his palace which was then set on fire, the fire spreading to the chapel. It was rebuilt in 978 although nothing is known of the architectural design of these buildings. The current Basilica with its Byzantine and Gothic architecture is believed to date from 1080-90’s with completion and consecration occurring in the beginning of the 12th century. During the work in 1094 a body believed to be that of Saint Mark was discovered in a pillar.
In 1106 the building was damaged by a fire which especially affected the mosaics and it is not known if any of the current mosaics in the body of the basilica predate this fire, although some of the mosaics in the porch are known to date prior to the fire.
The first half of the 13th century saw the construction of the narthex, a new façade and the covering of the domes with new timber and lead covered construction in order to blend with the new aspects of the Doge’s Palace and its Gothic architecture. The building has not altered much since that time although its decoration have, although they retained their majestic golden appearance. The exterior brickwork was covered with marble cladding and additional carvings which were brought from other buildings.
It was during the 13th century that its function changed from a private chapel of the Doge to that of being the State Church. It became the place for public ceremonies such as the installation and burial of the Doge and housed the throne of the Doge and the local Bishop.
The façade overlooking St Mark’s square consists at the lower level of five round-arched portals with marble columns, these lead into the narthex through large bronze doors. Above these are a number of ogee aches depicting scene from the life of Christ and the last judgment. Most of the mosaics having been replaced over the years.
Along the roofline is a line of statues, many in their own small pavilions. In the centre is Saint Mark flanked by six angels, located above a large gilded winged lion the symbol of St Mark and of Venice.
In the upper part of the façade above the ogee arches are statues of Theological and Cardinal Virtues, four Warrior Saints, Constantine, Demetrius, George, Theodosius and St Mark.
Situated on the balcony above the portal are the Horses of Saint Mark. These are now bronze replicas with the originals being displayed inside the Basilica. These, it is believed, were originally on the Arch of Trajan but were for many years at the Hippodrome of Constantinople until 1204 when they were looted by the Venetians during the Forth Crusade. In 1797 they were taken to Paris by Napoleon but were returned to Venice in 1815.
In the south-west corner is the statue of the four Tetrarchs, this relates to the government of the Roman Empire during the third century which had four people co-ruling the empire. This too was brought from Constantinople during the Forth Crusade, part of the foot of one of the Tetrarchs is missing; this was found in Istanbul (previously called Constantinople) in the 1960’s and is on display there to show the original location.
The narthex or porch is believed to have been built on the western side of the basilica in the 13th century. The following century part was taken to produce the Baptistery. The ceiling contains mosaics depicting stories from the Old Testament which include Genesis and the life of Noah, Abraham and Moses. Also in the narthex, by the main door are statues of the Four Evangelists. It also contains the 11th century mosaics that decorated the old façade of St Marks before the narthex was constructed.
After the fire of 1419 there was a problem in obtaining a suitably skilled person to organise the restoration work and they had to seek help from Florence, Initially the work was carried out in the style to replicate the existing architecture but this was later changed for something of a more contemporary nature.
The internal decorations consist of numerous mosaic, depicting scenes related to Christ and his life and the saints, unfortunately photography is not permitted in the interior but the author was able to take some in the narthex which will give an indication of what it looks like.
To the eastern side of the interior is a raised presbytery (chancel) separated by an altar screen formed by eight red marble columns topped with statues and a crucifix. Behind this screen is a marble banister with bronze statues of the Evangelists. It is the altar which contains the relics of St Mark, below which is the crypt. The altarpiece is the Pala d’Oro which consists of two parts and contains 1,300 pearls, 300 sapphires, 300 emeralds, and 400 garnets. This is believed to have originated from 1102 but adopted its current form in 1343 when the two parts were joined. Above the altar on columns is a canopy. Behind the presbytery is the sacristy and a 15th century church dedicated to Saint Theodore, the first patron saint of Venice.
The treasury contains a collection of metalwork, enamel and stone carvings, most of which are Byzantine and were looted from Constantinople during the Forth Crusade.
Located on a peninsular near Cagliari, the capital of the island of Sardinia, Nora was established, according to legend, by the mythological hero Norax the son of Hermes the messenger of the gods. It is believed to be the first town founded in Sardinia when it was settled by the ancient Sherden, a sea people who habited the Mediterranean region in the second millennium BC and the Nuraghic people. Later it was colonization by the Phoenicians and then dominated by Carthage (Punic times) until it came under Roman control: In 238 BC it was chosen as the capital of the Roman province of Sardinia.
Throughout its’ history Nora was an important trading town due its three natural protected harbours, which could be used according to the conditions of the wind and sea. It became a major port, also due to its location, in the middle of the routes connecting the major ports of the Mediterranean. The city prospered for about 1500 years, becoming one of the most important cities on the south coast of Sardinia. It went into decline from the 4th century AD and was abandoned during the 7th or 8th century due to the continued incursions of pirates from North Africa and the Vandals.
A significant part of the town of Nora has still to be excavated as some is on land belonging to the Italian military while other parts are now submerged under the sea. The parts of the town that have been excavated are an open-air museum. This includes the remains of four thermal baths (with some beautiful mosaics); a theatre (occasionally used during the summer for concerts) which dates back to the 2nd century AD and still exhibits large amphora used to create sound effects; also excavated is an amphitheatre as well as small houses and villas. Recently the forum, or agora, has been uncovered. The remains of both Punic and Roman fortifications are still evident and the excavated buildings contain the remains from Punic houses and shrines, the temple dedicated to the goddess Tanit and a partially preserved necropolis. Remains from the Roman period include houses, including one with an atrium with a beautiful mosaic. It also contains well preserved paved streets and the systems for the delivery of water and the removal of waste water.
Located in the centre of Livorno is the church of Saint Catherine, also known as the Domenicani after the Domenican friars who commissioned it. Work began in 1720 but progress was slow and interrupted. Designed by the Italian architect and engineer, Giovanni del Fantasia (1670-1743) in the Baroque style and modelled after the Pantheon of Rome, he never finished it, having abandoned the work for another contract and a new design was commissioned in 1729.
The church was consecrated in 1753, but the facade was and still remains unfinished. The lantern tower was completed in 1869
In 1785, the Dominican order was suppressed in Tuscany, and the church was given to the Confraternity of Saints Cosmas and Damian. In 1808, Napoleonic forces used the church as a prison. It was re-consecrated in 1822, and reverted to Dominican control in 1871.
The church is notable for its tall octagonal dome and lantern rising above a rough, unfinished rectangular base. Although unimpressive from the outside the interior contains seven large chapels. It also contains some beautiful wooden choir stalls constructed in 1604 and a large altar piece by Giorgio Vasari from 1571 depicting the Virgin. The church organ dates back to 1837.
Its dome is 63 metres (207 ft) high with Interior decorations and painting of the Evangelists in the cupola, which were produced by the Italian painter Cesare Maffei in 1855. The dome is supported by eight arches and eight pillars.
Located above the main door is a canvas by Giorgio Vasari depicting the Coronation of Mary, this used to be in the Vatican.
To the right on entry is a large chapel dedicated to Santa Caterina da Siena, and houses a wooden statue of the saint carved by Cesare Tarrini, and frescoes depicting the Glory of St Thomas Acquinas by Giuseppe Maria Terreni. Tarrini also completed the nativity scene in the Chapel of the Holy Sacrament on the left of the entrance. Also on the left is the Chapel of Saint Joseph with paintings by Jacopo and Antonio Terreni.
In 1748, the main altar of the church was designed by Bartolommeo Cassarmi, and frescoed by Giulio Traballesi, the main altarpiece is the Holy Family. To the sides are canvases by Lorenzo Grottanelli, depicting St Catherine and Pope Gregory XI. By the altar are frescoes depicting St Pius V praying for Victory in Lepanto and St Dominic receiving a Rosary. It is the Chapel of the Rosary Madonna which contains a wooden nativity crib.
It was in this church that Elizabeth Anna Seton, the first American saint, is said to have converted to the Catholic faith.
Naples Castle (Castel Nuovo)
Castel Nuovo, or New Castle is located in the port area of Naples and is better known locally as Maschio Angioino (Angevin stronghold). Built between 1279 and 1282 by Charles I (1227-1285) of Anjou as a royal residence to replace the old castle.
Prior to Charles accession to the throne in 1266 the capital of the Kingdom of Naples was in Palermo, although Naples had a royal residence at the Castle Capuano this was replaced by Charles with the Castle Nuovo. Due to the War of the Sicilian Vespers (1282-1302) the castle was not inhabited until after Charles death with the accession of Charles II (1285 -1309).
In 1347, during his first campaign against the Kingdom of Naples, Louis I of Hungary (1326-1382), sacked and severely damaged the castle. Extensive restoration was carried out by Queen Joanna I (1328-1382) of Naples, following her return. This work enabled the castle to resist the siege during Louis’ second campaign. The castle was besieged a number of times in the years that followed but due to its’ deep moat and study walls managed to resist.
Most of the existing building was constructed in the 15th century by Alfonso V (1396-1458) King of Aragon. In 1442, it was updated and fortified to resist attack from artillery. After the sack of Naples by Charles VIII of France in 1494, the Kingdom was annexed by Spain, and the castle was downgraded to military fortress. The last restoration of Castel Nuovo occurred in 1823.
In the 18th century buildings started to be constructed around the castle where they remained until the beginning of the 20th century, when work began in removing them and the reclamation of the piazza to its front.
The castle consists of typical medieval architecture with imposing towers and turrets. Entry is by the single-sided white marble triumphal arch integrated into the Gatehouse. This was built between the Torre di Mezzo (Halfway Tower) and the Torre di Guardia (Watch Tower) 2 of the 5 castle towers in 1470, to commemorate Alfonso of Aragon's entry into Naples in 1443, a scene that is depicted in the relief above the entrance as part of the portal. Standing 35 meters tall it has been elongated into two stacked arches flanked by two Corinthian columns. Above the lower arch is a second one surmounted by Lions and four niches with statues depicting the virtues of Alfonso. Above this is a rounded lintel with a statue of Alfonso in military dress. It also contains statues of St Michael, St Anthony the Abbot, and St Sebastian.
Passing under the arch through the Bronze Gates, you enter the internal courtyard. In the far left-hand corner of the enclosure, an area of glass flooring covers the foundations and cemetery areas of a convent that pre-dates the castle itself. It also contains the remains a pool or bath from a suburban villa. This area is known as the Armoury Hall and dates from the end of the 1st century to the second half of the 5th century AD.
The staircase in this corner of the courtyard leads to the Sala dei Baroni, (Barons’ Hall) named after the barons arrested here during a conspiracy against the king in 1486. The hall was once the main Hall of the Angevin Castle and the Barons were invited here by King Ferrante I (1458-1494) for a feast to celebrate his granddaughter’s marriage. Once there, his soldiers’ closed all the hall's doors and the barons were arrested and then later executed. The room is covered by the vaulted star-shaped ceiling 92 feet high with an oeil-de-boeuf at its centre from which radiates sixteen vaulting-ribs. Below the ribs is a gallery with eight square windows. Now containing bare walls the room was once decorated with frescoes depicting many of the famous people from antiquity such as Samson, Hercules, Achilles, Alexandra the Great and Julius Caesar. These were produced in 1330 but were lost when the hall was damaged by fire in 1919. From this hall a portal leads to the apartments of the Aragonese kings. The Barons' Hall was the seat of the Council of the commune of Naples until 2006
Adjacent to the Baron’s Hall overlooking the courtyard is the Palatine or Saint Barbara Chapel, which was constructed in the early part of the 14th century. This consists of a single nave with a wooden tie-beamed vault with a rectangular apse at the end. In the 14th century the chapel was frescoed with stories from the bible although only small fragments of these remain. The chapel contains a tabernacle with Madonna and Child; a rose window, dating from 1470; and a broad selection of sculptures from the 14th and 15th centuries.
Just off the Palatine Chapel is the San Francesco da Paola where San Francesco da Paola stayed in 1481 on his way to Paris. This did have a vaulted dome similar to the one in the Baron’s Hall but the ceiling was destroyed by fire and was rebuilt later.
Close by is the Purgatory Chapel, which was built around 1580. It has an interior decorated in the baroque style with frescos depicting the stories of the saints, and has paintings on panels set in guided stucco frames.
Since 1992 the castle has housed Naples' civic museum. The museum has a number of rooms which are used as showrooms, both on the first and second floors, these include the Charles V Hall, Loggia Hall - which are also used to host cultural events - and the Stoia Patrica Library. The first floor contains paintings from the 15th through to the 18th century; the second 19th and 20th-century works by Neapolitan artists, frescoes, sculptures, silver and bronze. There's also a fine bronze door, commissioned in 1475 by the Aragonese to commemorate their victory over the Angevins and has an embedded cannonball which probably dates from a sea battle off Genoa in 1495, when the door was being shipped to France.
Much of Naples history is connected to the castle so provides a good place to connect with the cities past.
Church of Gesu Nuovo
Originally built as a palace in 1470 for Roberto Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno, the Church of Gesù Nuovo is situated just outside of the historic centre of Naples.
Following its confiscation from the Sanseverino family in the 1580’s the building was acquired by the Jesuits to convert into a church and given the name of the Church of Gesù Nuovo, which in Italian means New Jesus.
Work on the conversion took place between 1584 and 1601 and retained the original facade of the palace with its Bugnato style, which has bulges and protrusions, giving it its’ rustic ashlar diamond projections.
In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from Naples and the church passed to the Franciscan order, although the Jesuits returned in 1821, but were once again expelled in 1848.
Standing in the square in front of the church is a Spire, the Guglia of the Immaculate Virgin which was built to invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary. Although construction on it started in the 17th century it was not completed until 1750. It contains scenes in bas-relief showing scenes from the New Testament.
The architectural style of the interior of the church is renaissance, while the fittings are baroque in style. The plan is that of the Greek cross with the three aisles leading from the three entrance doors. Its large pillars are covered with marble and the altars and balusters are constructed of inlaid marble. It contains 11 chapels and numerous frescos showing scenes from the bible. The dome was replaced in 1688 following an earthquake which caused the original one to collapse.
The High Altar is constructed of rare marble and bronze and precious stones and was extremely expensive when it was made in 1857. At the sides are two choirs constructed in red marble. In the chancels are two organs dating from the 17th century. The one on the left is pre 1646 and is no longer in use but the one on the right, built in 1650, was restored in 1986 and consists of 52 registers and 2,523 pipes.
The chapels on either side of the nave are dedicated to the saints:
Under the altar in the chapel of the Visitation there is a bronze urn containing the remains of St. Joseph Moscati (1880–1927) a local doctor who worked with the city's poor.
Adjacent to the right transept are the Rooms of St Joseph Moscati, the entrance of which is on the left of the chapel of St. Francis Xavier, these contain some mementos of the Saint including a recreation of his study, complete with the armchair in which he died and a number of photographs showing the different stages in his life and his Beatification and Canonization, which took place on 25th October 1997 by Pope John Paul II.
In the chapel of St Francis Xavier (1506-1552).The altar-piece shows St Francis receiving a vision of the Virgin Mary. He is considered to be one of the greatest missionary in the modern age. While the chapel of St. Francis Borgia (1510–1572) contains a large canvas painting.
The Sacred Heart chapel, dedicated to the Holy Trinity is at the end of the right aisle. On the side walls are frescos carried out by Belisario Corenzio (1558–1643) the Greek-Italian painter who moved to Naples in 1590.
In the left aisle, there are five chapels. The first one is the Holy Martyrs chapel. The altar-piece represents the Blessed Virgin with Child Jesus and Three Saint Martyrs. It is attributed to Giovanni Bernardino Azzolino (1560-1610). Next to that the Nativity Chapel has an altarpiece by Girolamo Imparato. (1550–1621) which dominates the altar.
In the chapel of St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) - who was the founder of the Jesuit Order- are statues of David and Jeremiah by Cosimo Fanzago (1591 –1678) the Italian architect and sculptor who also helped complete the decoration of the chapel after the 1688 earthquake. On the upper part, paintings show episodes in the life of the Saint.
The chapel of the Crucifix contains a wooden statue of Christ crucified, with the Blessed Virgin and St. John, this was sculptured in the 17th century.
At the end of the left aisle, is the chapel of the Jesuit saint St. Francis De Geronimo (1642-1716). The statue of the Saint from Naples was sculptured in 1934.
When visiting this church one should also visit the Church of Santa Chiara located on the same square to the front and left of the Church of Gesù Nuovo.
Church of Santa Chiara
Built between 1310 and 1328 the Santa Chiara is a religious complex that includes the Church of Santa Chiara; a monastery which is a community of the Grey Friars; and a convent of the Poor Clares; tombs and an archaeological museum. It also contains a belfry that stands within the grounds at the northeast corner. The complex is surrounded by a citadel-like wall separating it from the outside world.
Located diagonally across from the Church of Gesù Nuovo (See above) the Santa Chiara was constructed in the Gothic style of architecture, it was expanded in the 18th century in the Baroque style. During World War II it was almost entirely destroyed by fire following an air raid but was rebuilt in 1953 in its original Gothic style.
Built in 1313-1340 by Queen Sancha of Majorca and her husband King Robert of Anjou who are buried in the complex as are a number of the Kings and Queens.
Consisting of a large rectangular building 110.5 metres long by 33 metres wide. The nave is 47.5 metres tall and stretches for 82 metres in length. It include nine chapels located either side of the nave. These contain vaulted ceilings which supports a gallery running the whole length of the nave below the clerestory. The integration of the chapels and the fact that the church does not have an apse gives it its distinctive rectangular appearance.
After the chapels there is a section in the centre which contains the high altar. This is flanked by the rectangular friar's choirs on either side. Behind the altar is a wall separating the main body of the church from the nuns' choir. This contains three grill screens which allow the nuns to observe the mass, while preventing anyone in the nave from seeing them, something that was to be a first for the Clarissan order of Churches.
The tomb of King Robert of Anjou is located behind the main altar before the screens of the nuns. Other tombs are placed in the side chapels, these are the tombs of the King of Naples, Francis II and his consort Maria Sophie of Bavaria, as well as those of Queen Maria Christina of Savoy and Salvo d'Acquisto who became a national hero for sacrificing his life to save 22 civilian hostages during the Nazi occupation.
At the rear is the courtyard containing octagonal ceramic tiled columns and the cloister that were renovated in 1730 by the wife of King Charles III. Within the cloisters are frescoes decorated arcades.
Also to be seen is the museum which provides information on the history of the complex and a number of remains salvaged after its destruction in 1943, it also contains a collection of baroque nativity scenes.