Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews


  Architecture & Urban Portal

   Entries on architecture and urban planning & expansion.

The graphics page includes maps.
Below this index are entries in a series of
miscellaneous articles about architecture
and urban planning. They are

What's this? Click image.               

abandoned railways
Alifana railway      
anti-seismic architecture (early)
aqueduct (Apulian)   
aqueduct (Carolino)  
Arata, Giulio Ulisse  
architecture (1)   (2) 
Aselmeyer (Castle)    
architecture of Fascism  
aristocratic convents
Bagnoli (consolidated page)       
Baroque (Lecce)
Bianchi, Pietro
Bourbon tunnel
busses and trams (early)
cabin-lift (Posillipo)    
cable-car Montesanto (1)& (2)
Cardarelli hospital  
Carità, Piazza (rebuilding)
Carminiello ai Mannesi 
casa baraccata
Caserta Palace   
Cathedral (Duomo)  
cave-ins & sink-holes  
Cemetery of the 366 Trenches
Centro Direzionale (Civic Center)
Chiaromonte, Ferdinando 
Cirella (Palazzo)
cities & virgins
Coppola (Villaggio)    
Dante (Piazza)       
Echia (Mt.)     
Elena e Maria, villa 
Fanzago, Cosimo
Fermariello (villa)  
Fontana, Domenico
freight village Nola/Naples  
Fuga, Ferdinando
Galleria Umberto  
Galleria ‘Principe di Napoli’  
Gambrinus Caffè       
Genovese, Gaetano

Granili (granary), Royal
hospital (1st Polyclinic)
hospital for the "Incurable"    
hospital (ex-military) 
hospital, US Army 17th General
inverted high-rises
"Liberty" architecture in Naples
lighthouses in Naples
Londres (Hotel)
Maddalena [Magdalene] Bridge
maintenance and upkeep  
Marina (via), new construction  
Martyrs' Square
Mercato (Piazza) (1)    (2) 
Mergellina train station

metropolitana (airport station)
Metropolitan Cities
Mithra (Cavern of)
Molosiglio (port)  

monasteries (1)  (2)  (3)  (4)
Montecalvario metro station
Monte Sant'Angelo (university) 
Mortella, la (gardens on Ischia)
Mostra d'Oltremare (1)   (2)
period postcard series
Piazza grande
Piazza Municipio  
Piazza Plebiscito (1)   (2)
Piazza Plebiscito & S. Francesco di Paola 2013
Poggioreale, Villa
Posillipo (1)  (2)  
Posillipo (Old communities of)
post-office construction (1936)
Regi Lagni, the (cleaning up)
Risanamento (1) & in urbanology
Risan. article from NY Times. 1890
Rossi, Carlo (directly below this index)
Royal Palace
Royal Poorhouse 
Sanfelice, Ferdinando
San Gennaro (Porta)
Sanità (area of Naples)
Sant'Angelo in Formis 
sea front (via Caracciolo) 
sedili (medieval town halls)
sewerage system
sister city (of Naples)
Spanish Quarter
Stabia (Castellammare), marina
statues (confusing)
tangenziale highway
Tasso (via)
Tecchio (Piazzale) 
train station (old)

Underground 'cities' and settlements
Universal Forum of Cultures--2013
Vaccaro, Andrea  
Vaccaro, D. A.  
Vanvitelli, Luigi
Vergini (area of Naples)

Vesuvian Villas  
villa communale (1)  (2)
villa d'Elboeuf
villas of Naples
Vomero (urban expansion of)
Vulcano buono & Renzo Piano
Young, Lamont (1)


Miscellaneous Article about Architecture #1

Carlo Rossi
or Italian architecture and the Siege of Leningrad

Carlo di Giovanni Rossi (1775–1849) (image) was an Italian architect, born in Naples) who worked in Imperial Russia for his entire career. He was the architect of many neo-classical buildings and other architectural works (façades, bridges, churches, galleries, pavilions, etc.) in and near Saint Petersburg, Russia. That city was founded by Czar Peter the Great in 1703 and long served as the capital of the subsequent Russian Empire under the Romanov dynasty until the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 definitively moved the capital of Russia to Moscow.

Romanov Russia was a cultural magnet for artists, musicians, and
the case in point architects from all over Europe. Italy had, as is widely known, artists to well, not to burn, but at least to provide great composers such as Neapolitans Domenico Cimarosa and Giovanni Paisiello, the latter of whom took on the daunting task of teaching the tone-deaf czarina, Catherine the Great, about music. Katy was tone-deaf, so Giovanni lost that one.

Our Carlo Rossi is the last of a string of Italian architects who wound up living much of their lives in St. Petersburg, going back to the very founding of the city. He was preceded in by others, such as Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771), Antonio Rinaldi (c. 1710–1794) (trained by Luigi Vanvitelli, himself!), Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817), and Vincenzo Brenna (1747-1820). Rossi arrived in Russia with his ballerina mother who was invited to perform there. She stayed, and Carlo became as Russian as he had ever been Italian. He studied architecture with immigrant Italian architects. He entered the service of the admiralty board of architecture in St. Petersbug in 1795, and his career was on its way.

Rossi's buildings are characteristic  of the empire style, which combines grandeur with simplicity. Three of them (all in Saint Petersbug), shown here, are (1) the Mikhailovsky Palace (image, above, left) a grand ducal palace. It currently houses the main building of the Russian Museum and displays collections of 18th and 19th century art, (2) the Yelagin Palace with the hothouse and the pavilions (image right, above), and (3) the Alexandrine Theater (image, directly left, above) (now also called the Russian State Pushkin Academy of Drama. Carlo Rossi died of Cholera in 1849 in St. Petersburg. Sources say he died in complete oblivion and poverty. The Czar chipped in for the funeral and Rossi was buried in the Volkov Lutheran cemetery and much later under the Soviet period was moved to the Lazarevskoe Cemetery of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery.

The Siege of Leningrad

A word on what you are looking at when you see the restored architectural beauty of St. Petersburg or Dresden or Warsaw or any one of the many cities in the world that were destroyed in the savagery of WWII. Artists, architects, art historians, and masons have the power to re-give us beauty as it was, but without dwelling on the misery and suffering behind why restoration was necessary in the first place. Forget atomic weapons
conventional warfare has its own unspeakable ferocity and if ever a city teetered on the brink of death, but pulled through, it was St. Petersburg (called Leningrad at the time of WWII).

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. The German army lay siege to Leningrad. The siege lasted 872 days, or almost two and a half years, from 8 September 1941 to 27 January 1944. More than one million civilians died, mostly from starvation. The Siege of Leningrad has been described in many sources as the longest, most destructive, most vicious and lethal siege of a major city ever! (That's right
—ever, in all of human history.) Rebuilding after the war included the task of disposing of the bodies of the victims. Almost uncountable, half a million of them were buried in 186 mass graves at the Piskarevsky Memorial Cemetery, that during the war was an enormous empty pit into which the bodies had been dumped. In the excruciating words of the Leningrad poet, Sergei Davydov: "Here lies half the city."

But it survived, and the survivors were heroes. (
I met one! Viktor, a pen-pal and fellow trombonist who played with the Leningrad Symphony in the 1980s when they came to Naples on tour. He was a little boy during the siege and his mother kept him alive.) Now called Saint Petersburg again, this wonder of strength and resilience, has 221 museums, 2000 libraries, more than 80 theaters, 100 concert organizations, 45 galleries and exhibition halls, 62 cinemas and 80 other cultural establishments. The city is on the UNESCO World Heritage list as an area with 36 historical architectural complexes and around 4000 outstanding individual monuments of history, culture, and architecture (all of it, I repeat, restored).

So if you go, you will indeed be able to see the Amber Room. The original, done in 1756 by the above-mentioned Rastrelli, took 24 years to restore! It's 30 km/20 miles outside of St. Petersburg in the Catherine Palace, a Rococo palace in the town of Tsarskoye Selo (now the city of Pushkin). It was the summer residence of the Russian czars. Delicately crafted amber panels, created during the time of Peter the Great, were stolen during the Siege. The panels you see today were painstakingly recreated from photos and descriptions of the originals. So, yes, thanks go to the restorers of these works of art (including Caro Rossi's buildings), but should we not take an extra moment or two to... I don't know what... let some of that sink in? --and resist the urge to even think that maybe WWII wasn't so bad. I mean, look at all these pretty buildings.

-footnote: I am indebted to Marius Kociejowski, author of the forthcoming book, The Sepent Coiled in Naples, for this bit of infuriating irony:
I have been to that cemetery outside St Petersburg and a moving experience it was, too, with the sound of Bach from tiny speakers in the trees. The most disturbing aspect was that we were taken there by a Russian skinhead. We were settled in and already on the way when I spotted all kinds of Nazi regalia -- the swastika hanging from the ignition key, etc.

note: for an entry on the art and science of sculpting wax anatomical models, and the story of the Italian woman who went to Russia to impart that skill, see this link.

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Miscellaneous Article about Architecture #2

Excerpt from a book chapter on Italian Architects in Imperial Russia,
        -from an unpublished book on Italians Abroad

@ by Luciano Mangiafico

Carlo Rossi (1775-1849) may have been the most gifted among Italian architects practicing in Russia and one of the last neo-classical architectural stylists. Born in Naples in 1775 (or 1777), he arrived in St. Petersburg in 1786 or 1787 with his stepfather Charles Le Picq (1744-1806), a famous French dance master and choreographer, and his mother, the dancer Gertrude Ablecher Rossi of Munich, Germany. Carlo Rossi apparently was the son of his mother’s first marriage to Giovanni Rossi, who died before she married Charles Le Picq in Naples around 1780. While in Russia Le Picq became the Imperial Ballet manager, and his wife became the first ballerina.

Reliable news about Carlo Rossi’s father and Carlo’s birth are scarce. Some sources claim that his real father was an architect from the Swiss Canton Ticino, while other sources place his place of birth in St. Petersburg rather than Naples, and some even claim that Carlo was the illegitimate son of Czar Paul I. Most sources, however, concur that he was born in Naples.

In any case, Carlo had a privileged childhood and lacked for nothing since the parents were well paid and socialized with the best of the Russian intelligentsia. As a teenager Carlo was apprenticed to the older Vincenzo Brenna, who taught him the essential principles of architecture and building.

Brenna noticed that the youngster had talent and made him his assistant in the construction of the Mikhailovsky Palace (image, right). The experience he gained made Carlo eager to learn more, and in 1802-03 he went back to Italy to study the great architectural masterpieces of cities such as Florence, Venice, and Rome.

Back to Russia, full of ideas and projects, Rossi was spurned for a while and went to work in a porcelain factory decorating vases and similar artifacts. He persisted and in 1806 was sent with other architects to Moscow to renovate buildings and construct new ones within the Kremlin. His first major assignment was to plan and reconstruct the Church of St. Catherine in the Ascension Convent, which goes back to 1400 and has been damaged and rebuilt many times. The image (shown left) is from 2019! It is the work of Carlo Rossi. Back in St. Petersburg in 1815,  Rossi established himself by his talent and capacity for hard work. His projects combined Palladian noble simplicity, harmony of form, and integration of landscape, sculpture, and decorations with imperial grandeur.

As he progressed in his career, Rossi further combined the severity of Greek classicism with motifs of the more florid opulence of the Napoleonic Empire style. He put his stamp on individual buildings and entire complexes, including palaces with gardens, servants’ facilities, conservatories, artificial lakes, and the like.

In 1818-22 he built one such complex on Yelagin Island within the city on an island in the middle of the Neva River (image, right). Giacomo Quarenghi had designed the original palace for poet Ivan Yelagin (1725-94), a supporter and friend of Catherine the Great. Incidentally, Yelagin at one time became fascinated with turning base metals into gold and turned for assistance to the adventurer and charlatan Count Alessandro di Cagliostro (1743-95), then in Russia. The two, obviously, had no success and Cagliostro fled an altercation with Yelagin’s secretary. Czar Alexander I bought the island from Yelagin’s heir and tasked Rossi with building on that site a summer residence for his mother. Rossi rebuilt the main palace, added stables and kitchen buildings, and three pavilions in the elaborately landscaped grounds. The palace’s lavish interiors were partly decorated by Giovanni Battista Scotti (1776-1830), an Italian painter from Como who came to Russia with his father and brother in 1786.

    Among Rossi’s many buildings in St. Petersburg is the monumental General Staff Building (1819-29), with two semi-circular wings pierced by a tripartite triumphal arch on Palace Square facing the Winter Palace. Other notable St. Petersburg structures by Rossi include the Russian National Library (1832-35), the Anichkov Palace, the Alexandrine Theater (image, left) and the Grand Duke Mikhail Palace (1817-25), as noted above.
    Rossi's capacity for unceasing activity also led him to redecorate the czar’s summer residence, the Pavlovsk Palace, and in 1826 to add a gallery, and decorate it, to the Winter Palace to celebrate the 1812 victory against the Napoleonic French. The portrait of 332 Russian generals who participated in the war hung in the gallery.

Rossi's last major project in St. Petersburg was the design and construction of Senate Square and the two buildings that face it, the Senate and Synod Buildings (1826-34). The two buildings exteriors, adorned with rows of Corinthian columns, consist of two 300 feet long wings, joined together by a triumphal arch, similar to the one he had placed on the General Staff Building on Palace Square.

Some of the grandiose projects Rossi planned in his younger days were never built. One of these was building a new monumental 2,000 feet long granite abutment along the Neva River from the Winter Palace to the port. The promenade was to be adorned with ten triumphal granite arches and by three enormous Rostral Columns, celebrating Russia’s naval victories. In presenting his project to the czar, Rossi wrote: “The proportions of this project I am presenting surpass anything the [ancient] Romans deemed adequate for their projects. Should we fear competing with them in magnificence? The aim is not the abundance of ornaments, but the grandeur of form, the elegance of proportions, durability! This monument must be eternal… the construction of this promenade should be for the ages, showing that we have equaled the ancients and, with its grandeur, left behind all that has been created by Europeans in our time.” Indeed, another one never built was an almost Piranesi-like* Roman architectural fantasy, a Monument to Great Men.
[editorial note: The reference  is to the Italian artist and engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) famous for his etchings of ancient Rome but also of fictitious and fanciful creations of his own imagination. JM]

Carlo Rossi is entombed at the Tichvin cemetery of
the Alexander Nevsky monastery in St. Petersburg

Rossi’s very success and his relationship with the czar and nobility were the source of envy and sniping by other architects, who never ceased to point out alleged errors in design or construction in his creations. Eventually, such carping took its toll, and Rossi, insulted in his professional competence and taste, appealed to Czar Nicholas I for support. Diplomatically, the czar proclaimed his support for the architect, but the sniping continued and Rossi resigned his official post on October 25, 1832.

Throughout his long career Rossi had been an honest and generous man, living a moderate life and often donating to charities generously. He thus lived his retirement years in very modest circumstances. He died during a cholera epidemic on April 18, 1849. Such were the family’s financial circumstances that to pay for the funeral, they had to appeal to the emperor for funds. Rossi was buried in the Volkov Lutheran Cemetery, but in 1930 his remains were moved to a cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery. An appropriate grey polished granite stele was placed on the tomb.

Although Rossi did not lack for critics, the judgment of those who have considered the totality of his work is overwhelmingly positive. Ettore Lo Gatto (1890-1983), an Italian Slavic specialist, wrote of the Theater Street, which Rossi planned: “… more than any other street in St. Petersburg, for magnificence and solemnity, it recalls the great monumental avenues that [ancient] Roman architecture created in the Hellenized Orient. This comparison finds confirmation in the passionate study of ancient Roman architecture that Rossi undertook and which inspired him.” (my translation, LM)*1

Russian painter and art historian Igor Grabar (1871-1960) agreed and wrote: “This magnificence is still little appreciated but the time will come when we will look at these perfect Rossi creations the same way in we look at the works of Renaissance masters in Italy… What height of architectural conceptions! This man intended with all his soul to build entire complexes of squares and streets. The Romans were his teachers! He wanted to compete with them in his architecture. The grandeur and magnificence of Roman projects at the time of Agrippa, Hadrian, and Caracalla engaged his imagination. He dreamed of making St. Petersburg a second Rome.”*2

The golden age of Italian architects shaping the urban landscape of Russia’s great cities and building of country palaces for its czars and aristocracy ended with Rossi. A few others followed in his footsteps but the inventive greatness that he and some of his predecessors had achieved was never equaled or even approached.


-1.  Lo Gatto, Ettore. Gli Artisti Italiani in Russia. Vanni Scheiwiller, Milan. 1993.

-2.  Grabar, Igor. History of Russian Art. In How St. Petersburg learned to Study Itself: The Russian Idea of Kraevedenie, (Studies of the Harriman Institute: Selected Titles in Russian Literature and History) by Emily D. Johnson. Pp. xiii, 303. University Park, Pennsylvania State University Press. 2006.

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Miscellaneous Article #3 on Architecture and Urban Portal--

1. Metropolitan Cities  (directly below)         2. Quarters of Naples


The weather report in English for Naples now reads "Naples. Metropolitan City of Naples. Italy." The addition of "Metropolitan City" to the Cirque du Soleil-like balance of the Italian administrative hierarchy confuses some people, including me, so I asked Selene, my therapist, who knows lots and lots.

S:      Come in, dear. Oh, my God! You look like hell!
Me:   Thank you. Hi. I just read that the Republic of Italy is now divided into Comuni [towns and cities              with their own city hall]; then Provinces; then Metropolitan Cities; then Regions; and then the              State, itself. So Naples has a Metropolitana
I rode it to get here, right? so we are a Città                  Metropolitana a Metropolitan City, right?"

S:     They don't mean the train, dear. You're tired, you poor thing. Here, jump on the couch. Let me get         my shrink-stuff ... uh, 2 pads, 2 pens, magic marker, clock, anvil, hammer. OK. Shoot.

Me:   Anvil? Hammer?

S:     Don't worry about it. The clock is running.

(Racing through my mind): The idea of juicing the Italian administrative hierarchy with Metropolitan Cities goes back to 1990. There may be local problems that are better handled at a national level. An example: the refugee problem. They often come in at seaports the island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, for example. Should that be done by the state (nation) of Italy? the region of Sicily? the province of Agrigento (now called the Free Municipal Consortium of Agrigento!)? or the comune of Lampedusa/Linosa (the adjacent island)? (A more traditional hierarchy includes the Lampedusa airport baggage handlers.) Maybe that's a bad example, but those toughen you up and, if you're lucky, maybe even kill you.

(Going through her mind): He's mumbling. Delirious.

(Internal monologue still racing!)There are 14 Metropolitan Cities [MC] in Italy: 1.Bari, 2.Bologna, 3.Cagliari (Sardinia), 4.Catania (Sicily), 5.Florence, 6.Genoa, 7.Messina (Sicily), 8.Milano, 9.Napoli, 10.Palermo (Sicily), 11.Reggio Calabria, 12.Rome, 13.Torino, and 14.Venice. By further definition, "the MC shall have a council [consiglio], a board [giunta] and a mayor. Further, these new administrative regulations for the MC shall be put into effect within one year from approval of the law." That was in the 1990's, but in 1993 they put in "wiggle room" on the deadline, changing "shall be put into effect" to "may be put into effect."

Not to worry, Jeff. She will know and she will tell you!

Me:     Have they abolished provinces or simply overlaid another unit on top of them? I think the latter.

She answered with her usual precision:

S:     Good question. Here, a famous line from Il Gattopardo [The Leopard] by Tomasi di                                 Lampedusa: "Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi..." [If we want                 everything to stay the same, everything has to change.] There. It's something like that.

Me:  In English we say The Leopard, but Il Gattopardo really refers to a "serval", a smaller cat                         (Leptailurus serval), native to sub-Saharan Africa. But it still has those nice little spots. I really like         those little spots. You think it's true about them never changing their spots? Would that affect                 climate change?

S:     Oh, dear. Trouble concentrating? Here, let's rest our widdle head on this anvil.


S:     Shhhhhhhhhh. Hush. Breathe, dear. Come on, you're turning blue. Have a mint... better, have some N2O. Huh?                   Nitrous oxide. Lemme  check it. Wow. They don't call it "laughing gas" for nothing, huh? Wow. Double-check. Still                   running. Gotta keep checking that thing. Breathe. Attaboy. Wow! Hey, don't Bogart that mask, my friend. That has to           last us another 23 minutes.

Me:   I asked a postal worker about this Metropolitan City stuff. He said,"You think you're confused?!             Don't worry about it. Problem solved."

S:     Look, provinces still exist, but they don't do much anymore. There are still offices and people who         work in them. They exist, therefore they exist.
   René Descartes.

S:     Kind of. His sister, Shirley. Voters rejected a referendum to eliminate the word "provinces" from the         constitution, so they created Metropolitan Cities, anyway. Now people aren't sure where to go.

Me:  Like me?

S:    Of course, I do, dear. Oh... Yes, like you. Provinces and MC's overlap, so they're sort of the same            but there are no popular elections for MC's. The MC council and board elect themselves.

  They appoint themselves?

S:     You catch on fast. Hey, that's a thousand-€-couch you're clawing to pieces, junior. Hand me the              hammer. Hold still.

Me:  What about Free Municipal Consortiums and Autonomous Regions?

S:     Oops. Saved by the clock. Same time next whenever? Huh? Sure. Visa, Master Charge, whatever.          You got any cash? I didn't think so.

2.                     -------------------------The Quarters of Naples------------------------------------------

If you ask Neapolitans where they live in the city they are likely to reply with an easily identifiable and well-known landmark or geographical feature. If they say "Mergellina," that is the smaller "second port" of the  city in the west (directly below the numeral #1 on the map) (the main port is in #2 -- hint: it's near the water!); or "near the Royal Palace", also in#2 on the map; or name a prominent church, square (Piazza Dante is in #5) or street. They might use modern landmarks (the main train station is in #4). I live near the Chiaia cable-car station on the Corso Vitt. Emanuele, near the goofy-looking and phony castle to the right of the numeral #1). I don't know many who simply use their street address unless they're talking to a cop or a postal worker.

The most recent redistricting changes (the map, above) are from 2005. The city is now divided into 10 "municipalities" as shown in that image. These (municipalità/municipalities) by number on the map are (1)Chiaia, (2)Piazza Dante, (3)San Carlo all'Arena, (4)Poggioreale, (5)Vomero & Industrial section, (6)Ponticelli, San Giovanni a Teduccio, Barra (7)Secondigliano, (8)Piscinola, (9)Soccavo, Pianura, (10)Bagnoli.

No one says "I live in Municipality #1" or understands you if you tell them that you live in "Municipality#3" for example. That is sheer folly. Municipality #1 area now runs from the main port all the way to the end of Posillipo. It includes the entire areas of Chiaia and Posillipo and landmarks such as Mergelina harbor, the Egg Castle, Santa Lucia, The Villa Comuna (the former Royal Gardens), my house, Piazza Vittoria, and many "neighborhoods" that in popular speech are still separate reference points. That municipality#1 is way too big, but no one asked me. We may all be Number 1-ers, but there is great enmity among us and we have fist-fights as often as possible. More importantly, if you are looking to connect these new municipalities to the past, they are not very useful, since most people still use the landmarks — squares, churches, or large structures, and many of those have been around for centuries. It is tempting to think that the new map of 10 municipalities is closer to the "original" 12 enumerated below, but don't let the numbers fool you. The map directly above is from before the 2005 changes; more divisions, yes, but they still carried names, many of which recalled the 12 quarters of Naples that were mandated in 1799, and corresponded to the common points of reference that most people still use.

In 1779 the Bourbon King of Naples, King Ferdinand IV, ordered the city divided into 12 quarters, each with a judge on the Grand Criminal Court, all this in the interest of public safety. Those quarters were: San Ferdinando, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Monte Calvario, San Giuseppe, San Giovanni Maggiore, Portanova, San Lorenzo, Avvocata, Stella, San Carlo all'Arena, Vicaria, and Carmine Maggiore. All of those are in numbers 1-5 on the top map of 10 municipalities.
Then Naples went on an historical roller-coaster: the Kingdom of Naples fell, the French came and the French went, the south was incorporated into a united Italy, and the demographics have changed considerably as new centers of population grew up. etc. etc. Each historical episode changed the bureaucracy of the city. There are today about 30 identifiable "neighborhoods" (not official "quarters", but areas where you might say "I live there" and people will understand you. Those neighborhoods correspond approximately to the map directly above). Yours may not have an administrative little town hall, but somewhere in there you'll find a church or a square that in everyday life and language people use to tell you where they live.

Anachronisms may arise in case you are a sneaky time traveller and think you can wander in from the future to our city with impunity. If you go back to 1779 and ask to go to the National Archeological Museum (image, left) they won't know what you're talking about. Yes, the building existed, but it was called something else, and just for that I'm not going to tell you! Piazza Dante? Yes, the square was there (image, above) but it was called something else. There are a lot of those. Of course, Sant'Elmo is still Sant'Elmo, the port is still the port, on that you can rely, the fundamental things apply
— you might get by.*
(With apologies to the memory of Herman Hupfeld (1894- 1951), composer and lyricist of "As Time Goes By."


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Miscellaneous Article #4, supplemental to the Architecture and Urban Portal--  

                                                                         Romanesque Architecture in the South

The European Council (EC) continues its breathless declarations that we are all one Europe in its paper and on-line publication of Itineraries to Discover the Roots of Europe. You can hike trails that lead you to examples of pre-historic cave art, or trail along with Charlemagne as he goes from Aachen to Rome to found the Holy Roman Empire, or follow the spread of the Phoenicians, the Vikings, Carthage, or Rome. You can do all of that while you try not to think about how violent it has all been. If you think it is now better than it used to be, that's your opinion. So we can talk about something not so brutal
architecture. (I know, it takes of lot slaves to build a pyramid and a lot of serfs to build a medieval castle.)

The EC's map (on the right)  showing where there still remains Romanesque architecture to be found is a bit deceptive. The orange patches are, yes, the major areas, but there some important areas —important and famous ones — in southern Italy.

The Romanesque church of Santa Maria of Siponto,
approx. the year 1100. Siponto is now part of the city of
Manfredonia, on the lower side of the Gargano spur, the
semi-peninsula that juts out into the Adriatic well over
halfway down the eastern coast of Italy. photo, Luigi Ghirri

So, what is Romanesque architecture? Here are some of the terms used to describe a few architectural styles that have existed in Europe: Classical, Byzantine, Romanesque, Norman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. Those are in order chronologically, from the architecture of Hellenic Greece and Imperial Rome to Baroque (the 1600s). We are not concerned with what people built before that (ancient Babylonians had mud-brick architecture and in many places in Europe and, indeed, around the world, a lot of people lived in caves (no assembly required!); nor are we concerned with what came later (repetition of earlier styles plus styles made possible by technical advances of the industrial revolution. Just think steel bridges for the homeless to live under!)

Romanesque architecture emerged in Western Europe in the early 11 century (remember, that is the 1000's —pronounced "ten-hundreds", an important point because Romanesque style didn't last long, maybe 1050 to 1200). As the name implies it was based on the architecture of ancient Rome with later Byzantine elements thrown in (that is, the style of Constantinople —the Eastern Empire from the 4th century, characterized by large domes, round arches, and elaborate columns). Romanesque is what slowly developed after the fall of the Western Empire and the devastation of the wars that followed from invasions of peoples such as the Huns, Vandals, and a dozen kinds of Goths. The style is characterized by massive walls, round arches, sturdy pillars and powerful barrel vaults. It was the "first pan-European" architectural style since the days of ancient Rome and lasted until the advent of Gothic architecture. The Romanesque style is also termed "Norman architecture" in England to refer to the castles and fortifications built by the Normans as they spread out in that period over a vast area, including Sicily; the term also applies to the great abbey churches in England, many of which are still standing.

Castello di Venere, in Erice, about 1200 is
one of many built by the Normans in Sicily,

In southern Italy, including Sicily, the Normans began constructing castles, their trademark, in the middle of the 1000's. After the death of Robert Guiscard in 1085, the Mezzogiorno (southern Italy) had a series of civil wars and fell under the control of increasingly weaker princes. Revolts marked the region until well into the 1100's as minor lords, from within their own castles, resisted distant ducal or royal power. (Feudalism had arrived!) Molise is the area bordering modern Campania, of which Naples is the capital; it extends to the Adriatic: in Molise the Normans started an extensive castle-building program. They introduced the opus gallicum technique to Italy, a technique of construction whereby precise holes were created in stone masonry for the insertion of wooden beams to create a wooden infrastructure. This made Romanesque architectural feats possible that were almost as impressive as those of the ancient Roman structures they tried to emulate.
    Image directly above: the Monforte castle in Campobasso, Molise.

              San Vicenzo al Volturno
The flowering of such architecture in and near Campania has to do largely with the Benedictine monastic movement, primarily their centers at Montecassino and San Vicenzo al Volturno (image, left). The problem with Montecassino is that it has been destroyed numerous times (the last time in WWII), so that the successive reconstructions changed whatever was "Romanesque" about the original. Also, the later Gothic builders tended just to rebuild earlier structures, again greatly reducing the amount of authentic Romanesque work for us to see today, at least externally. In many cases, such as San Vicenzo al Volturno, the outside was changed but frescoes on the inside were left and have been restored and may be viewed.                                                                   San Liberatore a Maiella

San Liberatore a Maiella  (above, right) is one of the best examples of surviving Romanesque architecture in the south. It is an abbey and church in the territory of Serramonacesca, in the province of Pescara in the region of Abruzzo. The origin of the abbey is traditionally linked to Charlemagne, who is portrayed in a fresco fragment within the church. The 9th century edifice was rebuilt a first time in 1007 by the Benedictine monk St. Theobald. The current building, however, is the one rebuilt a bit later, starting from 1080 by Desiderius, abbot of Montecassino. The church remained in a decaying state until it was restored in 1967-1971. The abbey has a white, symmetrical façade, flanked by a square bell tower with three floors, having (starting from the lowest) single, double and triple mullioned windows.
(Aversa Cathedral, left)

Closer to home, in Campania, we find the Aversa Cathedral, another example of Romanesque (Norman) construction.
It has been the seat of the Bishop of Aversa since that bishopric was founded in 1053. It is dedicated to Saint Paul and has a spectacular ambulatory and an octagonal dome. Francesco Solimena's Madonna of the Gonfalone is kept here; the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian by the Quattrocento painter Angiolillo Arcuccio, now in the seminary, was here formerly. The pre-Romanesque sculpture of Saint George and the Dragon is one of the few surviving free-standing sculptures of its date. The Normans built other religious structures in the South that survive a mausoleum to the Hauteville family at Venosa, and they built many new "Latin" monasteries, meaning western (Rome), not eastern (Constantinople).

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