Castel Sant'Elmo

Naples, Italy

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.

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Details

Founded: 13th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Italy

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

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User Reviews

Johannes T (11 months ago)
A very special view of the city. A really great place. Already before entering the castle, one has this great view, but when one goes up, it is overwhelming. From the train station you have to walk about 10 minutes, but it is really worth it. You can't really get into the castle, but it doesn't matter, the actual destination is on top.
Frances Roche (11 months ago)
Great spot to check out the views of Naples and Sorrento. Your Arte Card works here or if you're less than 18 it's free! Watch out for the shiny chrome repairs into the brick and walls!
simon hall (12 months ago)
Best views of Naples. Enjoy the steep climb from the first stop of the funicular and run down the other side into town. Very impressive sturdy castle. Definitely a must visit if you are in Naples.
Laura Portik (13 months ago)
One of the greatest Panoramas i have ever seen from up here. Worth going by walking from the city center to the castle. It takes 5 minutes more than by car and the little places you discover on the way are just amazing
Justyna Mądro (13 months ago)
Entrance costs 5 euro and it's definitely worth it! You will see amazing view on Napoli and Vesuvio. City from the highest perspective makes you impressed. I felt excitation and enthusiasm when I had a possibility to took a look for Napoli in that way!
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