english yellow pages

Three-stage walk:

  • from Port'Alba to the Palace of the Emperor
  • from Piazza San Gaetano to the Gerolamini
  • from via Duomo to Castel Capuano

The ancient decumanus medianus, also called maximus or maior due to its central position in the layout of the Greco-Roman city as well as for the presence of many important civic and, particularly, religious buildings, became "via dei Tribunali" when don Pedro de Toledo moved the five courthouses spread around the city onto the premises of the Castel Capuano, where the street ends. The walk along via dei Tribunali starts--for those coming from the direction of Port'Alba--at piazza Bellini, near the arch of the of old gate, itself, and the open-air cafes and buildings of via Costantinopoli, where an excavated section of the ancient Greek wall of the city from the 4th century b.c. gives an idea of the urban layers that lie beneath. Following that, until the street crosses via Duomo and ends at the tribunale (courthouse), the walk passes through the Middle Ages, Renaissance and even by underground passageways into by-gone centuries.

Piazza Bellini1ST STAGE
From Port'Alba to the Palace of the Emperor
Leaving Port'Alba and piazza Bellini behind, the first part of the walk is along that section of the decumanus named via San Pietro a Majella for the presence of the ancient monastic complex and adjacent church of the same name, built at the beginning of the 1300s and now housing the ancient music conservatory, one of the most illustrious in Italy and still the training ground for fine musicians. From there to piazza Miraglia is but a few steps. There stands the church of the Cross of Luke, once belonging to the Carmelite order; the small truncated building is what is left of the large complex built by Picchiatti in the 16th century. With a lovely in-lay ceiling, the premises house Batistello Caracciolo's Madonna and Saints as well as multi-coloured marble inlay by Pietro Barberiis (second half of the 1600s).

Cappella Pontano A short distance beyond that is the Pontano Chapel, built as a family shrine in 1492 by poet/humanist Giovanni Pontano to a design most likely of Giorgio Martini. The building is easily identifiable from the three fluted pilasters, restored in 1759 by Charles of Bourbon before his departure for Spain. Directly adjacent to the chapel is the highly interesting church of Santa Maria Maggiore, better known as the "Pietrasanta". It was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman structure in the first half of the 6th century at the behest of the bishop of the city of Pomonio. Legend has it that the church was put up because of the need to free the area of a demon that appeared daily in the form of a swine. That legend is recalled by the presence of a bronze pig's head on the top of this, the only architectural remnant of the middle ages in the city. Another legend about the "Pietrasanta" tells of the presence of a particular stone that brings favor to those who kiss it.

At the intersection of the decumanus and the north-south cardine of via Nilo- via Atri, the walk passes the 15th-century Spinelli di Laurino Palace where a plaque recalls the changes made in 1767 by the owner, duke Trojano; in contact with Ferdinando Sanfelice and having done classical studies with the Jesuits in the seminary located on via Nilo, he entrusted the architectural and decorative work to Ferdinand Fuga. Besides the stucco and travertine stone facade, the building is characterized by a splendid elliptical courtyard punctuated by mock loggias and large oval stone reliefs of classical scenes (they are the work of Nicola Massari and represent the birth of Hercules, the forge of Vulcan, a sacrificial altar, the Chariot of Spring, pastoral music in the presence of the gods, life out of doors, rural labour, and Venus assisted by her handmaidens). Along the upper section of the walls are also allegorical terracotta figures from the workshop of Granatello on a design of Jacopo Cestaro as well as a clock made of majolic tile crowning the grand double staircase, wrought with the help of Sanfelice...

On the other side of the street, immediately afterwards, is a somewhat macabre structure--the entrance to the Church of Santa Maria of Souls in Purgatory, named "ad Arco" (arch) from its proximity to a medieval tower no longer standing and which gave that nomenclature to the entire area. The church is also known as the church of "skulls" from the presence of a series of bronze skulls embedded along the external double staircase, which serve to recall the reason the church was built in the 1600s--to serve the needs of a congregation dedicated to the celebration of masses for souls in purgatory. It was a ritual that went on for centuries, particularly in the crypt of the church until that section was closed in the wake of the 1980 earthquake; it was a ritual bordering on the pagan but one which continued in spite of being officially frowned upon by church authorities. Within the church, itself, one should not overlook--besides the rich marble decorations--paintings by Luca Giordano, Massimo Stanzione and Andrea Vaccaro. Crossing the street once again, we find the lively arched portico of the d'Avalos del Vasto palace, a bustling marketplace of foodstuffs and handicraft. The two sections of the structure are joined by an Angevin vaulted portal that provided access to this, the residence of Prince Taranto Phillip of Valois, son of king Charles II. (The building is also known as the Emperor's Palace.) Within the courtyard is an impressive layering of architecture from the high Middle Ages and subsequent periods, including a marble family crest of drake and fluer-de-lis.
next stage - II stage

Photos: Jeff Matthews