Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entries 1 & 2, February 2023, April 2023

Look! - up on that single-cymatium architrave, it's Capt. Archeo,!

Mild-mannered archeologist, Gabriele Zuchtriegel (image) (now just "Gabe") is director of the Pompeii Archaeological Park, an umbrella term that includes Herculaneum, Oplontis, and anything in the area that looks suspiciously ancient and worth digging up. He has quickly earned the reputation as a bit of a Capt. Archeo. This time around he is out to salvage and restore the paleo-Christian grotto of San Biagio
(image below), at the base of the Varano hill in Castellammare at the beginning of the Sorrentine peninsula. The grotto contains a number of Byzantine frescoes; it's a significant discovery —redescovery, really; they have known about it since the end of the 1800s."Gabe" will team up with Antonio Ferrara from the Frederick II University to work on the restoration. The site has never been open to the public! The project gets more interesting and difficult when you consider that the grotto and frescoes they want to get at are beneath Villa Arianna, an ancient Roman piece of property that looks as if it could use some work.

Plausible speculation is that the original grotto, itself, was formed in days of pre-Christian Rome by workers digging more and more tuff blocks out of the cliff face to put up buildings. Then, with the spread of Christianity, that empty space became a place of worship ornamented with the wherewithal of religious ritual. It eventually passed into the hands of the Benedictine monastic order. A number of frescoes in the grotto are identifiable as coming from that period, including San Biagio, the eponym for the grotto, itself. His Roman Catholic feast day is February 3, which is why this latest exploit of Capt. Archeo was spread over all local news media on that day.

Researchers were in there after WWII, but the geologic instability was such that they just decided to leave it alone. Now they have their work cut out for them in no uncertain terms. Beyond the physical restoration of frescoes, there are any number of frescoes that remain unidentified. Clean him up, looks great — but who is he? That won't do at all if you want this place to be a museum that will be part of the Castellammare chain of attractions that will include the museum of Quisisana. But, lovers of antiquity, take heart! While you sleep, Capt. Archeo is out there. Digging!

Feb 12, 2023===============================================

                      The Kingdom's Gone But the Powder Room Lingers On

                    If you are a pacifist, the term "powder" in this item refers to gun powder and not cosmetics.

There are discussions going on about the disposition of the former Royal Bourbon Powder Factory. The Bourbons were put severely out of royal work when the Kingdom of Naples was taken up into united Italy in 1861. So, pray tell, what has our powder factory been doing for the last 150 years.
   The site is in the town of Scafati, right next to both Pompei (new) and Pompeii (old) on the Sarno river in the shadow of Vesuvius. Clever to build a powder factory right next to an active volcano. They'll never think to look for it there.
   The factory was the idea of King Ferdinand II of Bourbon in 1850. It really did produce gun-powder for a few years but it became a tobacco factory. But it all closed in 1980 after the earthquake and for 40 years served as nothing but an illegal garbage dump. It  started to change in 2019 when they first of all emptied 300 tons of refuse as a prelude to "re-qualifying" the premises of 12 hectares (about 8 acres) for some benevolent use.
(The premises extend well below what you see in the image.)
    It has always been seen as a fine piece of architecture shabbily treated by geology, wars, even scum-of-the-earth vandals. It never seemed quite fair. One recent idea was to turn the place into a facility for young persons with cognitive dysfunctions such as autism.

=========Feb 14, 2023 ===text refers to photo, right  ===>
Director Zuchtriegel has announced his plan to set up a "new system of monitoring" the archeological site of Pompeii. It will consolidate the state of conservation of the site and keep track of the maintenance. He hopes to involve volunteer university students to run cameras and catalogue information. Ideally, this will lead to a point where you, the interested researcher or teacher or tourist will be able to stop anywhere in the ancient city and ask, What was this building? When was it built? Who lived here? -- and get an answer thanks to the running stream of new information and tabulations fed into the system. It goes without saying that this a very ambitious project.

But today's paper spoke of talks between the Scafati town admin and Gabriel Zuchtriegel, director of the Pompeii Archeological Park --a slightly deceptive term that covers a lot: everything from Herculaneum to Castellammare. He has been called Captain Archeo due to his enthusiasm in researching antiquity and building museums. Are you thinking what I am? Look where it is. Since the 1950s there has been talk of using the site for what it looks like --a nice  museum. Any final say has to be in the context of accepting that Scafati is on the Sarno river, one of the most polluted rivers in Europe. Calling it a vile "cesspool" used to be accurate. Yes, but it is much better now. Maybe. There is a lot of wiggle room in "much better".

photo credit - la Repubblica       

April 10, 2023

The Antiquarium of  the Quisisana Palace at
Castellammare di Stabia was closed to the public in 1997.That's 25 years during which time 40 frescoes have been sitting there in dusty boxes. Just sitting there. Now, thanks to the director of the Archaeological Park of Pompei, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, they are going to be restored and resume their place in the
                    display of the Roman villas of Stabiae that can be visited and appreciated.

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