Castel Nuovo

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The Queen's Trap Door and her Secret Lovers

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Joanna II of Naples succeeded her brother Ladislaus and ascended the throne as the last Anjevin dynasty The queen, depicted as a dissolute, lustful, bloody woman, would have hosted in her alcove lovers of all kinds and social backgrounds, even rounded up by her emissaries among young, handsome people To protect her good name, Joanna II would not hesitate to get rid of them as soon as she satisfied her cravings Precisely for this purpose it has been narrated for centuries that the queen had a secret trapdoor inside the castle her lovers, having exhausted their task, were thrown into this well and devoured by sea monsters. According to a legend, it would have been a crocodile from the Africa to the castle's dungeons after crossing the Mediterranean Sea, the perpetrator of the horrendous death of the Joanna's lovers.
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Castel Nuovo (English: 'New Castle'), often called Maschio Angioino (Italian: 'Angevin Keep'), is a medieval castle located in front of Piazza Municipio and the city hall (Palazzo San Giacomo) in central Naples, Campania, Italy. Its scenic location and imposing size makes the castle, first erected in 1279, one of the main architectural landmarks of the city. It was a royal seat for kings of Naples, Aragon and Spain until 1815.

It is the headquarters of Neapolitan Society of Homeland History and of the Naples Committee of the Institute for the History of the Italian Risorgimento. In the complex there is also the civic museum, which includes the Palatine Chapel and the museum paths on the first and second floors.

The construction of its former nucleus -today partly re-emerged following restoration and archaeological exploration work- is due to the initiative of Charles I of Anjou, who in 1266, defeated the Hohenstaufens, ascended to the throne of Sicily and established the transfer of the capital from Palermo to the city of Naples.

The presence of an external monarchy had set the town planning of Naples around the center of the royal power, constituting an alternative urban core, formed by the port and by the two main castles adjacent to it, Castel Capuano and Castel dell'Ovo. This relationship between the royal court and town planning had already manifested itself with Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, who in the 13th century, in the Swabian statute had concentrated greater attention on castles neglecting the city walls. To the two existing castles the Anjevins added the main, Castel Nuovo (Chastiau neuf), which was not just a fortification but above all his magnificent palace.

The royal residence of Naples had been until then the Castel Capuano, but the Norman ancient fortress was judged as inadequate to the function and the king wanted to build a new castle near the sea.

The project was designed by the French architect Pierre de Chaulnes, the construction of the Castrum Novum started in 1279 to finish just three years later, a very short time considering the techniques of construction of the period and the overall size of the work. However, the king never lived there: following the War of the Sicilian Vespers, which cost to the House of Anjou the crown of Sicily, conquered by Peter III of Aragon and other events, the new palace remained unused until 1285, the year of the death of Charles I.

The new king Charles II of Naples moved with his family and the court to the new residence, which he enlarged and embellished. During his reign the Holy See was particularly linked to the House of Anjou, in a turbulent relationship, which also in the following years will be marked by pressure, alliances and continuous ruptures. On December 13 of 1294 the Main Hall of the Castel Nuovo was the scene of the famous abdication of Pope Celestine V (the hermit Pietro da Morrone), from the papal throne, called by Dante Alighieri the great refusal and the following December 24, in the same hall the board of cardinals elected Benedetto Caetani, who assumed the name of Pope Boniface VIII and immediately moved its headquarters to Rome to avoid the interference of the Anjevin family.

With the ascent to the throne of Robert, King of Naples, in 1309, the castle, which he renovated and expanded, became a remarkable center of culture, because to his patronage and his passion for the arts and literature: the Castel Nuovo hosted important personalities of the culture of the time, such as the writers Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio in their Neapolitan stays, while the most famous painters of the time that they were called to paint its walls: Pietro Cavallini, Montano d'Arezzo, and above all Giotto, who in 1332 painted the Palatine Chapel.

From 1343 it was the residence of Joanna I of Naples, who in 1347, fled to France, abandoned it to the assaults of the army of the King Louis I of Hungary. He had come to avenge the death of his brother Andrew, the Giovanna's husband, killed by a palace plot that the queen herself was suspected of instigating it. The castle was looted and on its return the queen was forced to a radical restructuring. During the second expedition of Louis against Naples the castle, where the queen had found refuge, resisted the assaults. In the following years the fortress underwent other attacks: on the occasion of the taking of Naples by Charles III of Naples and then that of Louis II of Naples, who subtracted it from the son of Charles III, Ladislaus of Naples. The latter, regained the throne in 1399, lived there until his death in 1414.

Joanna II of Naples succeeded her brother Ladislaus and ascended the throne as the last Anjevin dynasty. The queen, depicted as a dissolute, lustful, bloody woman, would have hosted in her alcove lovers of all kinds and social backgrounds, even rounded up by her emissaries among young, handsome people. To protect her good name, Joanna II would not hesitate to get rid of them as soon as she satisfied her cravings. Precisely for this purpose it has been narrated for centuries that the queen had a secret trapdoor inside the castle: her lovers, having exhausted their task, were thrown into this well and devoured by sea monsters. According to a legend, it would have been a crocodile from the Africa to the castle's dungeons after crossing the Mediterranean Sea, the perpetrator of the horrendous death of the Joanna's lovers

In 1443 Alfonso V of Aragon, who had conquered the throne of Naples, established a court in the castle, such as to compete with the Florentine court of Lorenzo de' Medici and the fortress was completely rebuilt in its present form, maintaining its function as the center of royal power.

King Alfonso V entrusted the restructuring of the Angevin fortress-palace to the Majorcan architect Guillem Sagrera, who rebuilt it in Catalan-Majorcan-Gothic style. The five round towers, four of which incorporated the previous Anjevin construction with a square plan, suitable to support the blows of the guns of the time, reiterated the defensive role of the castle. The importance of the palace as a center of royal power was instead emphasized by rebuilding the Main Gate in a Triumphal Arc shape, a masterpiece of the Neapolitan Renaissance architecture and work of Dalmatian Francesco Laurana, together with many artists of various origins. The works took place starting from 1453 and only after the king's death was completed in 1479.

In the Hall of the Barons there was the epilogue of the famous Conspiracy of the Barons, war against the King Ferdinand I of Naples, son of Alfonso V, by many nobles, led by Antonello Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno, and Francesco Coppola, Count of Sarno. In 1486 the king invited all the conspirators to this room under the pretext of a wedding party, which marked the overcoming of hostilities and definitive reconciliation. The barons ran, but the king, ordered his soldiers to bar the doors, had them arrested, punishing many of them, including Coppola and his sons, with the death sentence.

The Conspiracy of the Barons was a movement of reaction against the policies of centralization of the State adopted by the new sovereign dynasty of Naples, i.e. the Aragonese. The lawsuits against Ferdinand I of Naples were that these began the recovery of populated areas, taking them away from the Barons' property and supplying them with that of the Aragonese court. In fact, the maneuver was a royal delivery of power.

The internal struggle between barons and dynasty took place in a political and hidden manner and the same culminated definitively in 1487 in the homonymous hall of the Castel Nuovo. Ferdinand I of Naples, during his throne, he found himself facing the barons, beating them in skill and cunning after plots, assassins and double games.

The castle was again looted by Charles VIII of France, during his expedition


Wikipedia Article
  • The castle seen from the north west
  • Particolare del cortile in Castel Nuovo a Napoli
  • Português: Castel Nuovo - Nápoles
  • Português: Castel Nuovo - Nápoles
  • Español: Nápoles. Castel Nuovo. Patio.
  • Facade of the Castle Nuovo
  • Detail of the triumphal arch
  • View of Naples in 1472 by Tavola Strozzi. You can see the Castel Nuovo in the center.
  • View of Naples from the harbor pier in 1777 by Antonio Joli
  • Castel Nuovo in the late-19th century
  • Castel Nuovo seen from the port. The Tower dell'Oro is visible on the left
  • The triumphal arch integrated into the gatehouse.
  • The Palatine chapel
  • Detail of the entrance portal of Andrea dell'Aquila
  • Vault in the Hall of the Barons
  • Tower of the Beverello
  • Courtyard of the Chapel of the Souls in Purgatory
  • A painting housed in the Civic Museum
  • Joanna II
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Italy
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