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AROUND NAPOLI
Missing Conservatories (conclusion)
by Jeff Matthews
4. Santa Maria di Loreto was built in 1537 and was the original conservatory in Naples, coming at the beginning of the Spanish expansion of Naples under the city's most famous viceroy, don Pedro de Toledo . Old maps show Santa Maria di Loreto to have been a seafront "borgo" --a separate section of town--just beyond the Carmine fortress at Piazza Mercato. (The ruins of that fortress are still prominent (photo, right); Piazza Mercato is still there, as is the church of the Carmine (top photo, right); the modern port road, via Marina, is from 1900.) Thus, the conservatory was beyond the Spanish fortifications that guarded the southeastern approach to Naples: it was an extensive piece of property with monastery, church and a vast garden. It was described as being "in the countryside" beyond the walls.

The original monastery was turned into a hospital in the 19th century; that hospital was destroyed by an Allied air raid on December 15, 1942. (The hospital was virtually next-door to the major Axis port facility in Naples; that entire area was subject to over 100 air raids in the war.) Today, if you turn in from the port road on Corso Garibaldi just past the Mercato, you find after a short distance an enormous chunk of an old Spanish building on the right that they simply haven't bothered to tear down (2nd photo, right). That is part of the original conservatory--and then hospital-- of Santa Maria di Loreto. The area is still a mish-mash of shoddily thrown-up cinder-block walls from the 1950s. Habitable halves of bombed buildings were left standing; they are still lived in. More modern buildings have been put up in the last 20 years in an attempt to resurrect that section of town.

One such newer building is the modern hospital (3rd photo, right), Santa Maria di Loreto a mare, named for the old hospital and standing approximately on the original premises. If the city fathers, in their current, welcome frenzy of tagging buildings with historical markers in four languages decide to save the enormous chunk of Spanish masonry I referred to (above) they can say that once upon a time it was part of a music conservatory renowned as the training grounds for many of the famous Italian castrati singers of the day, including Farinelli .

5. San Sebastiano. The consolidation of the conservatories took place in piecemeal fashion, but quickly. With the closure of the Poveri di Ges Cristo in the 1740s, there remained but three institutions. First, the music teaching function of the Loreto was ceded to Sant' Onofrio in 1797 so the Bourbon army could use part of the Loreto premises as a barracks. The combined facility took on the combined name of Loreto a Capuana. Then, under French rule in 1807, all of that was merged with the conservatory at the Piet dei Turchini (mentioned in part 1), which then officially became the Reale Collegio della Musica. And that institution was then moved--still under the French in the early 1800s--to the premises of the ex-monastery of San Sebastiano. At that point, the musical life of the original conservatories may be said to have ceased.

The church/monastery complex of San Sebastian is ancient and huge; it sits in the middle of Naples on the eastern side of Piazza Dante , but is inconspicuous because it is overlaid with centuries of other construction. The nucleus goes back to the time of Pope Gregory the Great in the 600s. For centuries, the complex grew and housed various combinations of monastic orders. The greatest change to the physical plant of San Sebastiano was the construction in 1760 of a square called Foro Carolina (now Piazza Dante) at the rear of the old monastery; the great architect, Vanvitelli, constructed the new open square and the magnificent semicircular facade (4th photo, right) on the back of the old monastery to face the modern square. He also opened a new entrance to the monastic grounds from that side, essentially turning the back of the building into the front. The old main entrance is on via San Sebastiano--now in back--the street that runs on top of the old Greek and then Roman western wall of the city.

As noted above, under the French in 1807, the entire musical establishment that had settled into Piet dei Turchini was moved into San Sebastiano. A few years later, in 1828, the centuries-old game of musical chairs came to an end when the Bourbons moved the Royal College of Music one block east into the premises of Pietro a Maiella (bottom photo, right) in 1828, where it remains today. At the unification of Italy, the San Sebastiano complex was turned into a high school, the Convitto Vittorio Emanuele. The high school still exists under that name.
16/2/2006