historical centre




| romanesque and medieval | reinaissance | baroque | rococo |

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The city of Naples Tourist Board has always attended, in its institutional activity, the increase in value of the Ancient Centre of Naples and the visit to the marvels of the extraordinary succession of ages and styles that a historical city can have, in a variety that has not equal in the world. The stratified map of the ancient centre, published in 2001, offers to the visitor the instrument to understand and pass through the works of art, making easier the visit across four itineraries, each one corresponding to a style: Romanesque-Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo.

From the examination of the works emerges the aspect of a stratification of 2500 years whose elements live together in a perfect symbiosis. In the town planning distribution of  Rome the Imperial forums are placed to remarkable distance from the baroque town. Paris of Notre-Dame doesn't exist any more. London of Elizabeth was destroyed by a fire.  Of  Vienna of the old Hapsburg empire exist rare testimonies which don’t live together  with the new capital, of 1684,  Madrid, was born yesterday. Among the big European cities,  Naples is the only one which shows to the tourist an agreeable stratification without dissonance as if all had been always prearranged in this way.

Of the Greek and Roman Naples ( VII century B. C. – IV century A. C.) remain  living examples in the current seventeenth century of S. Gaetano square, between the baroque  church of  S. Paolo Maggiore  , with its Corinthian columns and the “opus reticulatum” wall in the temple of  “dioscuri”, and the subsoil of the fourteenth-century  church of  S. Lorenzo Maggiore  where has been discovered the floor of the Palaeo-Christian basilica and, to a below level, the  Remains of Roman curia, the street and the Greek shops, all visible.

Here there was the forum with the centre of the town life and from it spread three decumans which today corresponding to arterial roads of the city: the major Decumanus which now is called via Tribunali (which goes across S. Gaetano square), the superior Decumanus which goes from via Sapienza to piazzetta SS. Apostoli, the inferior Decumanus goes from S. Domenico Maggiore square to the Greek walls in via Forcella. This streets were  connected among them by the “Cardines” ( the present lanes) which formed the "insulae", that is to say the limits of the isolated or gathered houses enclosed by high walls. In these perimeters rose the Byzantine Naples, the Medieval one,  the Renaissance one, and the Baroque until today, with the elimination of part of “cardines”, all gardens and vegetable gardens which gladdened the old houses.

A millenarian stratification which has respected even the old customs: here there was the Forum with the shops, today there are the popular markets under the medieval porches with the spectacular shows of vegetables, of fishes, and other of baroque taste. Further on there is the church of the Purgatorio ad Arco dedicated to the cult of the dead, which derives more from the hell of Greek memory than Catholicism. In via S. Gregorio Armeno you can find a basement where appears the abraded figure of Ceres, the goddess of the fertility; of its temple there is a gash of wall incorporated in the neighbouring church of S. Gregorio Armeno where is venerates S. Patrizia, the virgin martyr to whom  the young brides ask for the grace of a beneficent prolificness!

The stratifications continued in the following centuries: the religious and civil orders, press for the change of taste, noticed the continuum necessity of transformation and superfetations of their works. So the structures of Angevin and Catalan churches with the advent of  Aragons were hidden under a blanket of pictorial and marble decoration created by the artists of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth century.  This is the reason that makes us insert in itineraries far away in the time the same church or monument.

Texts: Gennaro Borrelli

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