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Castel Nuovo, Naples - Italy


At the time of Charles I of Anjou's ascension to the throne of Naples in 1266, the Kingdom's capital was already established at Palermo. When the tag of principal city was transferred to Naples, Charles was prompted to order the construction of Castel Nuovo there in 1279. The work took three years and was carried out under the supervision of French architects Pierre de Chaulnes and Pierre d'Agincourt. But Charles I’s attention was diverted to a rebellion in Sicily,and no one occupied the castle until 1285, when Charles II succeeded to the throne. Castel Nuovo became the focus of court life, and during the reign of Charles II's son, Robert the Wise, it emerged as a centre for culture. The library attracted scholars and writers, and during this period, the Florentine painter Giotto added frescoes to the castle - although only fragments now remain.

When Alfonso of Aragon conquered Naples in 1443, he took up residence in the castle and built the five towers seen today. He also commissioned the triumphal arch at the main gate, which depicts his own victorious entrance to the city. After Charles VIII of France's soldiers sacked Naples in 1494, the castle's principal use switched from residence to military fortress, and this usage yo-yoed back and forth through subsequent centuries. The castle was renovated and modified during this period, the most recent of these projects being a meticulous effort prior to World War II. The main body of the castle rises imposingly from unscalable angled stone foundations from a long, deep moat, now dry but which in earlier times would have been covered by the sea. The ornate marble triumphal arch - in effect a pair of superimposed arches – was designed by sculptor Francesco Laurana, and added to the main gate of Nuovo Castle, between the Middle Tower and the Watch Tower, celebrating Alfonso V's entrance in Naples. The whiteness of the arch contrasts starkly with the darkness of the surrounding piperno stone.


Commanding a prominent position overlooking the Bay of Naples, Nuovo Castle is trapezoidal in shape. Three battle towers stand at the front two at the rear, with the five-storey rectangular section between, housing the Palatine Chapel and its collection of frescoes, and a painting reputedly by Giotto. Today the castle, for the most part, displays its 15th century appearance, and is home to the state government and civic museum, while the moat houses the morning flower market. The castle was called Nuovo or 'New" Castle to distinguish it from Naples two other castles of the time, Castel Capuano and Castel dell'Ovo. It is also known as Maschio Angioino after Charles I of Anjou, who was responsible for its construction. Legend has it that prisoners were thrown into the castle's moat, where. King Ferrante's crocodile lurked i ready to devour their bodies.

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