Praglia Abbey is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1080. The first abbot of Praglia, Iselberto dei Tadi, who had become a monk in the monastery of San Benedetto Polirone in Mantua, is mentioned in a Papal Bull of Calixtus II in 1123. Until 1304 Praglia was under the direction of more powerful abbeys such as that of Polirone, the Abbey of Santa Giustina in Padua, and Cluny.
By the 14th century the abbey had gained more autonomy, funded by donations of various rulers and families. Most of the cloisters and church were rebuilt in the 16th century. Only the belltower retains medieval construction. The basilica church, dedicated to the Assumption of Mary (Santa Maria dell'Assunta), was designed in 1490 by Tullio Lombardo. Construction of the nave was completed in 1548, and of the principal door and the cupola in 1550.
The abbey has works by many prominent late-Renaissance painters of the Veneto. The cupola and large canvases in the library and refectory were painted by Giovanni Battista Zelotti. He also painted the Assumption of Mary in the church and the cupola. The apse was frescoed by Domenico Campagnola. Chapels have altarpieces by Alessandro Varotari, Antonio Badile, and Paolo Veronese.
The 16th-century library has been converted into a repository for the National Monument Library, and currently houses approximately 120,000 volumes. The monumental refectory is decorated with medallions carved by the Lombardo family, depicting the Baptism and Martyrdom of St Giustina, and Christ Pantocrator. Inside, the large fresco of the Crucifixion on the rear wall was painted by Bartolomeo Montagna.
In 1810 the monastery was closed for nearly two decades. The buildings fell into a dilapidated state and were used as barracks and a storage depot. It is remarkable that the artworks and library survived.
Benedictine monks did not return to the abbey until the early 20th century, and still use parts of the buildings. Many structures have been restored, and the monks provide tours. The monastery also accommodates visitors, including those on spiritual retreats. Work continues on book restoration in the library.References:
Royal Palace of Naples was one of the four residences near Naples used by the Bourbon Kings during their rule of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (1734-1860): the others were the palaces of Caserta, Capodimonte overlooking Naples, and the third Portici, on the slopes of Vesuvius.
Construction on the present building was begun in the 17th century by the architect Domenico Fontana. Intended to house the King Philip III of Spain on a visit never fulfilled to this part of his kingdom, instead it initially housed the Viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro, count of Lemos. By 1616, the facade had been completed, and by 1620, the interior was frescoed by Battistello Caracciolo, Giovanni Balducci, and Belisario Corenzio. The decoration of the Royal Chapel of Assumption was not completed until 1644 by Antonio Picchiatti.
In 1734, with the arrival of Charles III of Spain to Naples, the palace became the royal residence of the Bourbons. On the occasion of his marriage to Maria Amalia of Saxony in 1738, Francesco De Mura and Domenico Antonio Vaccaro helped remodel the interior. Further modernization took place under Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. In 1768, on the occasion of his marriage to Maria Carolina of Austria, under the direction of Ferdinando Fuga, the great hall was rebuilt and the court theater added. During the second half of the 18th century, a 'new wing' was added, which in 1927 became the Vittorio Emanuele III National Library. By the 18th century, the royal residence was moved to Reggia of Caserta, as that inland town was more defensible from naval assault, as well as more distant from the often-rebellious populace of Naples.
During the Napoleonic occupation the palace was enriched by Joachim Murat and his wife, Caroline Bonaparte, with Neoclassic decorations and furnishings. However, a fire in 1837 damaged many rooms, and required restoration from 1838 to 1858 under the direction of Gaetano Genovese. Further additions of a Party Wing and a Belvedere were made in this period. At the corner of the palace with San Carlo Theatre, a new facade was created that obscured the viceroyal palace of Pedro de Toledo.
In 1922, it was decided to transfer here the contents of the National Library. The transfer of library collections was made by 1925.
The library suffered from bombing during World War II and the subsequent military occupation of the building caused serious damage. Today, the palace and adjacent grounds house the famous Teatro San Carlo, the smaller Teatrino di Corte (recently restored), the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III, a museum, and offices, including those of the regional tourist board.