Castel Sant'Elmo is a medieval fortress located on a hilltop near the Certosa di San Martino, overlooking Naples. Documents date a structure at the site from 1275, from the era of Charles d'Anjou. Known originally as Belforte, it was likely a fortified residence, surrounded by walls, its entrance gate marked by two turrets. In 1329, using designs by the Sienese architect Tino da Camaino, king Robert of Naples enlarged the fortress.
The Angevin fortress was severely damaged in an earthquake in 1456, which demolished the external walls and the towers. The Aragonese rulers of Naples, and notably Don Pedro de Toledo, the first governor and cousin of the Viceroy, included it in a comprehensive scheme designed to fortify the land perimeter of the city, based on four separate strongholds. Castel Sant'Erasmo acquired its hexagonal star shape between 1537 and 1547 under the designs of Pedro Luis Escrivafrom Valencia, a military architect. The daring hexagonal shape drew fierce criticism from his contemporaries, to such an extent that in 1538 Escriva defended his design in a published Apologia.
The castle served as an autonomous military outpost, with a governor who had absolute authority over both military and civilian matters. Around the parade grounds were situated the officers' quarters, chaplain's house, a church (1547) designed by the Spanish architect Pietro Prato, and the surviving buildings from the Angevin Belforte. Don Pedro de Toledo's funerary monument (1588) is found in the sacristy of the church.
In 1587 the munitions depot of the castle was struck by lightning, and exploded, destroying the church, the chaplain's house and the officers' quarters. Reconstruction was carried out between 1599 and 1601 under the architect Domenico Fontana. Despite successive rebuildings over the centuries, the castle conserves its original structure. Built of volcanic tufa, it overlords over Naples, and ever since the famous Tavola Strozzi incident (late 15th century), for centuries it was a symbol and bastion of government oppression. In 1604 it was used to imprison Tommaso Campanella, branded as a heretic, and in 1799 the patriots of the Neapolitan Revolution, including Gennaro Serra, Mario Pagano and Luigia Sanfelice. With the departure of the Bourbon garrison in 1860, it remained a military prison until 1952, when the prison was transferred to Gaeta.
Today there are several permanent art exhibits in the castle. One of the most unique is the railing featuring an inscription in braille which was installed in 2015. The railing, which is more than 30 feet long and dotted with braille letters, is above the drill grounds on the northernmost wall of the castle near the west corner.References:
Soave castle was built in 934 to protect the area against the Hungarian invasions. It was remodelled by Cansignorio of the Scaliger family in the mid-1300s. in 1365 Cansignorio had the town walls erected and the Town hall was built in the same year.
The castle underwent various vicissitudes until, having lost its strategic importance, it was sold on the private market in 1596. In 1830 it was inherited by Giulio Camuzzoni who restored the manor and in particular the surroundings walls (with is twenty-four towers), the battlements and living-quarters.
Soave castle is a typical medieval military edifice, commanding the neighbourhood of the city from the Tenda Hill. It comprises a mastio (donjon) and three lines of walls forming three courts of different size. The outer line, with a gate and a draw bridge, is the most recent, built by the Venetians in the 15th century. It houses the remains of a small church from the 10th century.
The second and larger court, the first of the original castle, is called della Madonna for a fresco portraying St. Mary (1321). Another fresco is visible after the door leading to the inner court, and portrays a Scaliger soldier. The mastio is the most impressive feature of the castle. Bones found within showed it was used also as prison and place of torture.
The House called del Capitano (the Scaliger commander) houses Roman coins, weapons parts, medals and other ancient remains found during the most recent restoration. Adjacent is a bedroom with a 13th-century fresco with St. Mary and Madeleine and a dining room with medieval kitchenware. Another room houses the portraits of the most famous Scaliger figures: Mastino I, Cangrande, Cansignorio and Taddea da Carrara, wife of Mastino II; the portrait of Dante Alighieri testify an alleged sojourn of the poet in the castle.