building

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A TREASURE NOT VALUED

Published May 11, 2014 by Tony

 

CASERTA ROYAL PALACE

Really true that things we’re accustomed to every day have or see, over time they become usual and uninteresting. Yet, Italy is the only country in the world with the greatest concentration of art, churches, monuments and natural beauty. Some cities, then, like Rome or Naples, become really unique pearls that anyone would envy us. In spite of this, some people do not think twice in staining a monument or a public good, and, worst, to damage it, while administrators (who knows why?) have little interest.
For years, it is has been said that Italy could live off of private income with what the past history and culture have left us as a legacy.
We are tired of hear it again and get angry even more if those who can and should take steps to ensure that such a big and particular artistic/cultural heritage can finally bring well-being and job roles, turn a deaf ear, or even make things worse. I am referring to our government, local administrators, politicians and institutions, of course.
Crisis, lack of employment, but it sounds strange that no one put tourism at the first place or thinking what we could get by it.
Another thing that personally bothers me, is the “continuous” and ” endless ” work in progress that spoil the view and often do not allow tourists and visitors to fully enjoy a site. Then, prohibited areas and premises permanently closed to the public for some kind of incurable reasons, which does not allow us to see works and places that should, however, be in the public domain, and a source of pride for having been put on display. I can’t explain myself this, even if only by chance I made a trip of a few kilometers and took advantage of a weekend, but how can we explain this to a Japanese tourist who came to Italy to visit that place after a long journey and having endured many expenses, and that probably never can come back in Italy!

We were still talking about neglect of Pompeii and now is the turn of the “Realm of Caserta”, as we call it.
Just to show arrogance and abuse of our administrators, it is the case of the Italian Garden in Caserta’s Royal Palace and the politician Nicola Cosentino. Despite this wonderful garden with waterfall shows significant signs of neglect and has long been closed (indefinitely!) to visitors, this has not prevented Cosentino to use it for his morning exercises. In fact, the former undersecretary of “Forza Italia” party had the garden’s key to enter and make jogging, thanks to the Prefect of Caserta.

This sumptuous and historic residence of the Bourbons of Naples, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1997, is a monumental complex which occupies 45,000 square meters, and with its five floors it reaches a height of 36 meters, with 1,200 rooms and 34 staircases.
In the Palace various places are closed indefinitely, as the hall of the Nativity of Neapolitan ‘600 and ‘700, as many portions of the park are inaccessible. Many rooms are not open to the public while others are not ever been open to all.
A recent news that in the west of the Palace a portion of the roof collapsed.
The Ministry of assets and cultural activities and tourism (Mibact) has provided approximately € 22 million of funding for the restoration of the facades of which the first batch from 9 million has already been allocated. Since last year, the four facades of the Palace are cordoned off and pending for the restoration work. The whole Royal Palace and its magnificent garden are in a state of neglect, despite the museum complex can count on 340 committed employees who must or should control 130 acres of parkland and 70 rooms. From 2001 to 2013, the center has recorded almost 50 % fewer visits, which go from 812 811 to 439 813, according to data published by the Mibact. After reading this, I hope that most Italians will be pissed off as I am !

NAPLES ANCIENT BUILDINGS

Published January 13, 2014 by Tony

– MYSTERY AND DECAY OF PALACE PENNE –

Penne's palace

Palazzo Penne is a Renaissance building in Naples, built by Antonio Penne, located in the Piazzetta Teodoro Monticelli, in that narrow blind alley that leads to the long and narrow “Scalea del Pennino” in the Sedile “Porto”.
Antonio Penne, so named because coming from the town of Penne in Abruzzo, belonged to a wealthy bourgeois family, and in 1391 he became secretary and special adviser to the king Ladislaus of Anjou (Naples 1374-1414), son of Margherita of Durres, nephew of the Queen Joanna I. His prestige at court became so high till to obtain permission to erect his own memorial in Santa Clara’s church, exclusive place for Angevin nobility, where today, in a chapel we can still admire his tomb.
Once this property was famous for a legend that hovered over, while in the last centuries a total negligence led it to ruin.

Penne's tomb

HISTORY

Palazzo Penne was built in 1406 and the area where it is located is called “Pennino” (meaning slope), because it was a small hill where the road surface was about 5 meters lower than now, a place that at the time was considered healthy, and safe against flooding landslides.
The year of manufacture can be inferred from the inscription on a plaque above the arch at the entrance of the building: “XX anno regni regis Ladislai sunt domus haec facte nullo sint turbine fracie mille fluunt magni bistres centum quater anni.” The inscription arranges a single block with the Anjou-Durres’ coat of arms. The concession of the sovereign to embellish the building with weapons and symbols of the royal family, as well as the approval of Penne’s blazon, signified the eternal protection to the family Penne.

The facade  is made with ashlar rusticated “piperno” alternated with “soft stone of the mountain”, referred to as “piperino tuff”, which is actually trachyte: a compact yellowish rock. The pediment is formed by arches called “flaming Gothic” with the crown of King Ladislaus in the first order, and below the Cross of Jerusalem, Majorca’s coat of arms (poles), and the stripes of Durres’ lineage. In the ashlar frame you see the “feathers”, symbol of the house in three rows, topped by Angevin lilies in seven rows, in honor of King Ladidslao. In the middle of the arch, a composition represents the religious and superstitious spirit of Antonio Penne: the stylized clouds from which come out some beams (the divine light) with two hands holding a tape containing two engraved lines of Martial (against evil eye) “Avi Ducis Vultu Sinec Auspicis Isca Libenter Omnibus Invideas Tibi Nemo” (you, who do not turn your face and do not look at this building willingly or envious, envy everyone well, no one envies you). The door is oak, although altered over the centuries, is one example of craftsmanship with steel spikes, iron studs called “Peroni”, consisting of the original arches of the Gothic period.
The inner courtyard is decorated with a beautiful five-arched portico with a lovely garden still partly preserved. Originally, in the courtyard there were sixteen stables, while the beautiful porch was adorned with statues of the Roman period, all remodeled in 1740 and then covered up by the construction of the janitor’s home, as well as the “Majestic Arch” which remains only a track in the wall. In the apartment on the first floor there were two rooms, one looking out on the porch and another on a courtyard that led into the park, all with frescoed ceiling. In the courtyard there was a spiral staircase that led to the basement that were below the level of the building. A scale of piperno led to the second floor, where there was a large terrace with a balustrade still made with piperno.

After Antonio Penne’s death, the building passed to his nephew Onofrio, as long as the last heirs sold it to the family Rocco or Rocca, and finally in 1558, to Aloisia Scannapieco Capuano who in turn gave it to her son Giovanni Geronimo, married with Lucretia de Sangro.
In 1685 the house was purchased by the Order of the Somascan Fathers, the nearby church of Saints Demetrius and Bonifacio. The fathers Somascan modified it according to their needs and transforming it in novitiaten and cells for the Fathers. The transformations occupied nearly a century, new houses were built in the garden area, while part of the cellars, adjacent to the Church of Santa Barbara, were transformed into shops and other flats. The final annihilation of the ancient structure happened with the destruction of the top floor’s roof. With the arrival of the French, in the first decade of the nineteenth century, and with the abolition of religious orders in 1806, the building was put up for sale and became the property of the abbot Teodoro Monticelli, noble barons of Cerreto, a volcanologist.
After his death in 1845, the assets were sold to the University of Naples, while the watchman Saverio Monticelli remained, the grandson of Theodore. In memory of Monticelli was a plaque on the first floor of the building, commissioned by the Civic Administration in 1909. In 2002, the Region of Campania bought the building for 10 billion lire, held by a private possession who had transformed the building into a “bed and breakfast” . The palace was then transferred on loan to “University Orientale” in 2004. The project involved the construction of laboratories, rooms for seminars or conferences, and services for students. Work on the renovation of the building that never initiated by the presence of squatters in the building. In 2007, the intellectuals Alda Croce e Marta Herling, daughter and granddaughter of the philosopher Benedetto Croce, obtained the suspension of the squatters works inside the building for the construction of some housing units by the occupants (who resumed work despite the ban). To no avail the appeals of the President of the Republic and UNESCO for the start of restoration work. On 20 May 2008 the investigations requested by UNESCO through the Italian judiciary, were concluded, and among the defendants the governor Antonio Bassolino and the then dean Pasquale Ciriello, for the non-restorative intervention against an artifact of historical and artistic interest. In November 2009, the Prosecutor has requested the dismissal of the process, giving the opportunity to the Public Prosecutor to appeal to the prosecution, if the case. In 2013, all the defendants in the trial, for damage to property of historical interest, were acquitted by the Tribunal of Naples because the crime does not exist. The agreement between the Region and the last two individuals, illegally occupying the building and to which it has been procured an alternative residence, has allowed to finally put the entire building under the supervision of the Region and the University Orientale, which must agree to the restorative intervention and the intended use. In November 2008, work  for the safety of the building has begun, to prevent further deterioration, as a new abusive attack, nipped in the bud by the Superintendent and the City of Naples, took place in the early months of 2009 when an adjoining hotel was taking possession of the garden.
For now, the only certainty is the decay and neglect that still prevail in the building.

THE LEGEND
”Beelzebub’s building”

As soon as the noble Antonio Penne come to Naples with the French entourage, he fell in love with a beautiful Neapolitan young girl.
Having too many offers of marriage and the next day to give an answer to other suitors, the damsel replied that she maybe would agree only if the Penne had built, for the next morning, a building equal to her beauty, as a pledge of love and wedding gift. Sure that he had not been able to fulfill such an absurd request because, alas, she already had chosen the man to marry.
Aware that he could not cope with such an impossible request, it is said that to just to have a change, the nobleman asked for help to the devil, Beelzebub, who accepted in exchange for Penne’s soul. Antonio accepted by signing with his own blood, but reserving the right to insert an irrelevant clause that he would reveal in the end.

At midnight the evil forces began their work, and at dawn and the building was ready. At this point Beelzebub asked him about the last clause and Antonio explained it: he would have sprinkled many grains of wheat in the courtyard, and the devil would have to pick up and count them all, and if he had missed even one of them, the agreement was no longer valid. Said than done, when the devil counted the grains their number wasn’t exact, because Antonio  deliberately had mixed them with pitch, and inevitably some of them stuck under Beelzebub’s nails. This one protested demanding for his soul, but Antonio made the sign of the cross obliging the devil to sink in the courtyard, where today it is said that there is a well.

 

Holy House

Published June 20, 2012 by Tony

The house transported by angels

In Italy, at Loreto (province of Ancona) we have the “Shrine of the Holy House“, one of the holiest in the world, with thousands of worshipers coming on pilgrimage every year. Here, where there was once a dusty country road, in the night between 9 and 10 December 1294, an extraordinary event occurred. In the middle of the road appeared a house made of stones with only three walls and without foundation. The walls were simply endorsed on the ground, perpendicular to the street, with the corners protruding into the road’s ditch and, according to tradition, it was the real house where the Virgin Mary received the Annunciation by the Angel. This house venerated at Loreto just is the house of Nazareth, where Mary, Joseph and Jesus lived for 30 years after their return from Egypt, as evidenced by archaeological and historical research. In fact, the earthly dwelling place of Mary in Nazareth consisted of two parts: a cave dug into the rock, still venerated in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, and a room located in the front, consisting of three stone walls as anteroom of the cave, which is no longer present. According to tradition, in 1291, when the Crusaders were finally expelled from Palestine (during the ninth and last Crusade), the brick walls of Our Lady of Nazareth’s house disappeared and it’s told that it was transported through an “angelic ministry”, first in Illyria at Tersatto (today’s Croatia) and then in the territory of Loreto in 1294. Even today after more than 700 years, the house  continues to emerge without the foundation and the sanctuary was built just to protect the house of the holy family, that here took “Holy House” name. Today, new data, the results of archaeological excavations in Nazareth, and iconographic and philological studies confirm the hypothesis that the stones of the Holy House were transported to Loreto by ship, on the initiative of the noble Angeli family (whose translation means Angels) who reigned in Epirus. In fact, a document of September 1294, recently discovered, Nicephorus testifies that Angeli, despot of Epirus, when gave his daughter in marriage to Philip of Ithamar of Taranto (fourth son of Charles II of Anjou King of Naples), sent to him a number of dowry, among which also is mentioned with strong evidence “the holy stone taken away from the house of Our Lady the Virgin Mother of God”. Between the stones of the Holy House were found five “fabric crosses” walled up, the crusader’s red cross. There were found some remains of an ostrich egg, which immediately recalls the Palestine and symbols referring to the mystery of the Incarnation. Besides, The Santa House for its structure and type of stone – that cannot be found in Italy – is a foreign artifact to the culture and ‘building construction’ of this region. On the other hand, the technical comparisons with the Cave of the Holy House of Nazareth revealed the coexistence and contiguity of two parts . In confirmation of the tradition becomes important a recent study on how stones had been worked, that is the manner of the Nabateans, popular in Galilee in Jesus’ time. Of great interest are also many graffiti carved on the stones, judged by experts of clear Judeo-Christian origin, and very similar to those found in Nazareth. Over time, to make the environment more suitable for worship, was added above the overhanging material, including the vault consisting of local brick, and an altar dedicated to Our Lady. Then, in 1536, the exterior marble structure which surrounds the walls of the Holy House, built by Julius II, on  Bramante’s draft, and carried on by renowned Italian Renaissance artists.