Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry Sept. 2011                                   

                                        Palazzo Venezia

     photo © S. Riccio, permission pending 
One feature of Neapolitan nomenclature (beside the fact that street names get changed every two or three days!) is that so many buildings are named for peoples from beyond Naples. There is a church “of the Spanish” and one “of the Genovese,” and there is a theater “of the Florentines.” (There is also a "church of the Italians"—strange story, that one!) Except for that last one, the reason behind the names is quite straightforward. Centuries ago, the kingdom of Naples not only maintained diplomatic relations with the various states in the northern part of the Italian peninsula, but carried on great amounts of trade with them. This resulted in sizable colonies, for example, of Genovese and Florentine businessmen and merchants in Naples. They had their own areas with their own churches and theaters, etc. One of best-known examples of this —but still not very well known, even among Neapolitans— is the building called Palazzo Venezia, located in the heart of the historic section of Naples at via Benedetto Croce 19. (Marked as number 7 on this map.)

The original premises were the property of the Sanseverino family, one of the most powerful feudal families in the Middle Ages in the Kingdom of Naples. They were involved, however, in disputes with central royal authority and the building was confiscated by King Ladislao and given to the Republic of Venice in 1412 as a residence for the Venetian consul in Naples. (The building was, in fact, called Palazzo San Marco for a while in honor of Venice). The premises originally included adjacent property on both sides—that is, on the east towards San Domenico Maggiore as well as on the west, now the Palazzo Filomarino (and Benedetto Croce’s residence for many years).

The premises of the Palazzo Venezia contain a number of plaques that indicate various dates of restoration and provide somewhat of a synthesis of the history of the building. There is one, for example, to indicate work done in 1610 by Geronimo Zono and another telling of work down to the courtyard in 1646 (shown below). After the large earthquake of 1688, extensive reconstruction was undertaken by Antonio Maria Vincenti; as well, there was another restoration of the building in 1737. A plaque from 1756 recalls the beginning of the fragmenting of the property as one bit of it goes to the adjacent Palazzo Filomarino. There are still ample archives extant that cover various periods in the history of the building. There are records of the very first Venetian consul in Naples, one Alvise Bonrizzo; and also documentation from the time of Andrea Rosso, who had to balance between Masaniello’s revolutionaries (who were intent on modeling their new Naples after the Republic of Venice!) and the ruling Spanish viceroys in 1647. Speaking of which, the 1646 plaque fooled me for a second, and even now I'm not sure sure about it:

AN.D.NI. 1646

It says: "Pietro Dolce, for the Most Serene Republic of Naples, on the order of the same, while residing here restored the part of this house that was destroyed. AD 1646." The year 1646 is what I noticed —that in conjunction to the reference to the Most Serene Republic of Naples! In Italian, la Serenissima has always meant Venice, la Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia. I think San Marino also still calls itself Most Serene, but other than that, the only time I have run across the expression is in reference to Naples in conjunction with the very short-lived Republic of 1647 (when it was actually called the Most Serene Royal Republic.) At first I thought I had remembered the Masaniello date of 1647 incorrectly; maybe it was 1646 and Pietro Dolce (Sweet Peter!) had restored some stuff destroyed by cannon-shot and roving rebels; alas, 1647 is the correct date for Masaniello, so I guess the use of Most Serene for Naples was just Pete's way of paying some sort of tribute to his hosts at the Palazzo Venezia. The last dispatches, written by the last Venetian diplomat in Naples, Pietro Busenello, acknowledged in 1797 that the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia had come to an end (the city-state was taken by Napoleon in that year) and thus his services and those of the Palazzo Venezia were no longer needed. After the fall of Bonaparte, an inscription from 1816 records the acquisition of the property by a Neapolitan jurist, Gaspare Capone.

These days the Palazzo Venezia serves as cultural venue for art shows, exhibitions, lectures and musical productions, generally focused on characteristically Neapolitan themes.

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