From the Neapolis founded by Greek settlers in 470 B.C. to the city of today, Naples has retained the imprint of the successive cultures that emerged in Europe and the Mediterranean basin. This makes it a unique site, with a wealth of outstanding monuments such as the Church of Santa Chiara and the Castel Nuovo.
Long Description :
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.
Naples (Neapolis = New City) was founded in 470 BC, close to a Cumaean trading port of the 7th century BC, Partenope (later to become Palepolis or Old City when it merged with Naples), after the battle in which the combined forces of Cumae and Syracuse defeated the Etruscan fleet and ended its ambitions to dominate the Tyrrhenian Sea. The city was enclosed by walls and laid out on a regular grid, with fine public buildings. The city maintained good relations with Athens, which it supplied with grain from its fertile hinterland. It entered the Roman orbit in the late 4th century BC as a loyal ally during the Samnite wars, but retained its close cultural and linguistic links with Greece. Excavations in recent years have revealed a great deal about the history Of the town. In the Imperial period it expanded to the south and the east. The earthquakes of AD 62 and 79 caused considerable damage, but the town was quickly rebuilt and recovered its importance. However, the later 3rd century saw a decline, illustrated by the abandonment of certain areas, followed by repairs to the defences in the 4th and 5th centuries. In the first half of the 6th century Justinian's general, Belisarius, brought Naples back into the Byzantine orbit, where it remained until it came under Norman domination in 1139/40; at first a dependency of Ravenna, the city became autonomous from 763 onwards, when Stephen became Duke. The cultural connections between Naples and Ravenna are manifested by the architecture and decoration of the many churches and monasteries dating from this period. The town itself stayed roughly the same size, but there was considerable rebuilding.
The surrender of the keys of the city to the Norman King Roger II of Sicily saw the initiation of the south Italian kingdom that was to endure, under different names and royal houses, until 1860. A dynastic marriage saw Naples pass to the Swabian Hohenstaufen family in 1189, whose most famous member, Frederick II, founded a university at Naples in 1224 which boasted among its students St Thomas Aquinas. Hohenstaufen threats to the papacy saw Charles of Anjou, brother of St Louis, crowned as King of Sicily in 1265. He moved the capital of his kingdom to Palermo, but Naples prospered and expanded during the two centuries of Angevin rule, as both administrative centre and port, and it was embellished with many artistic and architectural treasures, such as the convents of Santa Chiara and San Lorenzo Maggiore and the churches of Donnaregina and l'lncoronata.
In 1442 the Angevin dynastic crisis led to the accession of the first Aragonese king, Alfonso I, who was responsible for much building in Naples, including the Castelnuovo, largely in the Tuscan style, and considerable remodeling of its street pattern and defences. Following a Short period of French rule (1495-1503), Naples came under the rule of a viceroy as a province of the Spanish empire. This was a period of great misery for most of the south of Italy, including Naples, even though some improvements were carried out in the city, notably by the viceroy Pedro Alvarez de Toledo (1532-33).
The Treaty of Vienna in 1738 recognized Charles II, son of Philip V of Spain, as King of Naples and Sicily, and Naples became once again the capital of an autonomous kingdom. Like the rest of Italy, Naples came under French rule in the Napoleonic period, and benefited from some ambitious urban projects. With the return of the Bourbons in 1815, Ferdinand IV took the name and title Of Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies. The Bourbon dynasty was brought to an end with the entry of Garibaldi's army in 1860.