Historic Centre of Naples
Historic Centre Of Naples
Cultural Italy Europe And North America City And Province Of Naples, Campania

Naples is one of the most ancient cities in Europe, whose contemporary urban fabric preserves the elements of its long and eventful history. Its street pattern, its wealth of historic buildings from many periods, and its setting on the Bay of Naples give it an outstanding universal value without parallel, and one that has had a profound influence in many parts of Europe and beyond.

Much of the significance of Naples is due to its urban fabric, which represents twenty-five centuries of growth. Little survives above ground of the Greek town, but important archaeological discoveries have been made in excavations since the end of the Second World War. Three sections of the original town walls of this period are visible in the north-west. The surviving Roman remains are more substantial, notably the large theatre, cemeteries and catacombs. The street layout in the earliest parts of the city owes much to its classical origins.

The period that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West saw the beginning of church-building on a substantial scale, and churches such as those of San Gennaro extra moenia, San Giorgio Maggiore, and San Giovanni Maggiore have surviving elements of 4th- and 5th-century architecture. The chapel of Santa Restituta in the 14th-century cathedral is reputed to be the first Christian basilica in Naples. The Castel dell'Ovo is one of the most substantial survivals from the Norman period. Built as a fortress-monastery on the site of the villa of Lucullus, it was subsequently remodelled on several occasions, and given its present form at the end of the 17th century.

During the Norman-Swabian period the city remained largely within its classical walls, but the arrival of the Angevin kings saw it begin to expand and to absorb the suburbs and neighbouring villages. The influence of western art and architecture began to assert itself at this time. French Gothic pervaded both religious and domestic architecture. From the Angevin period date religious structures - the new cathedral, the churches of San Lorenzo Maggiore, San Domenico Maggiore, Santa Chiara and others, and the secular buildings Castel Nuovo, Castel Capuano and Palace of the Prince of Taranto. The strongest influence came from southern France, and there is much fine Provençal Gothic architecture in Naples.

The accession of the Aragonese dynasty saw much building and rebuilding. The town walls were refurbished and rationalized. The Renaissance heritage of Naples is mainly the work of Italian architects, with some from Catalonia. The San Severino Palace, now demolished, was one of the most lavish buildings of its period. A number of major churches date from this period (Santa Caterina a Formiello and the Monteoliveto complex). The early 16th century saw the beginning of two centuries of Spanish rule, and the strengthening once again of the defences, particularly during the twenty years of the viceroyalty of Pedro de Toledo, who initiated a planning policy for the city as part of his efforts to carry out a social reorganization. The Royal Palace was built in 1600 and fills one side of the imposing Piazza del Plebiscito. Church building included such foundations as the Monte dei Poveri Vergognosi charitable institution, the convent of Sant'Agostino degli Scalzi, and the Jesuit College on Capodimonte.

Suburbs continued to grow outside the and these, too, saw the erection of large religious and secular structures. Quarters both inside and outside the walls became specialized according to nationality, social grade, and trade. The port also grew to meet the City's increasing requirements in the 17th and 18th centuries. The 19th century saw more radical changes in the street plan, notably the creation of the Piazza Mercato during the reign of Ferdinand IV after an area of wooden barrack buildings was destroyed by fire.

Following unification in 1860, a great deal of planning and rehabilitation took place. What had become slum quarters were cleared, as a result of which many earlier buildings were swept away and new roads were built, cutting through earlier street patterns.