REGGIA DI CASERTA
Commissioned in 1751 by Charles Bourbon from the architect Luigi Vanvitelli, the Palace of Caserta – in Italian Reggia di Caserta – was designed to follow the example of Louis XIV’s Versailles by embodying the authority of royal power, but it was also an opportunity to create a spectacular setting of gardens and water courses, and to design a kind of ideal city, organised according to the most advanced criteria of the period.
Building work began in 1752 and ended long after the death of the King and his architect. Carlo Vanvitelli, Luigi’s son, took over the project first. He made a few changes to his father’s design. Work went on fairly discontinuously under the direction of other architects until 1847, when the Throne Room was completed.
The initial slowness of the work was due not so much to Luigi Vanvitelli’s death as to a drop in interest and a lack of funds following the departure of Charles Bourbon, who succeeded Ferdinand VI to the Spanish throne in 1758 and moved to Madrid, where he reigned under the name of Charles III.
Under Charles’ successor Ferdinand IV (later Ferdinand I, after the unification of Naples and Sicily in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies), the court lived in the Reggia only in spring and summer, during the party, reception and hunting season. It was the favourite residence of Ferdinand II, the last King.
The meticulous Court accounts indicate the cost of the Reggia: 6,133,507 ducats, an ducats, an enormous sum for the period. Its construction required an undefined – but certainly enormous – number of hands, including Muslim slaves and prisoners.
The materials were carefully chosen: the tufa came from San Nicola La Strada, travertine from Bellona (the famous “Bellona stone”), limestone from San Leucio, pozzolana from Bacoli, brick from Capua, iron from Follonica, grey marble from Mondragone and white marble from Carrara.
The Reggia was royal property until 1921, belonging first to the Bourbons (apart from the Napoleonic interregnum), and then to the Savoys, after which it was transferred to the State.
From 1926 until 1943 it housed the Air Force Academy. On 14 December 1943, after the allied forces had landed at Salerno, it was occupied by them. On 27 April 1945 it was the scene of the signing of the German surrender in Italy. The bombardments of the Second World War seriously damaged the building, which was later restored.
Since 1993 it has housed the Local History Museum, a collection of historical/artistic material on the Province of Caserta.
At present the Reggia houses the Division of Architectural, Landscape, Historical, Artistic and Folk Heritage of the Province of Caserta (which has responsibility for the building), the local tourist board, a historical association, a training school for the Civil Service and a school for NCO’s in the Air Force.
The ancient Cathedral of Amalfi built in the IX century on the site of an earlier Paleo-Christian temple. Later adapted to the baroque style, it was returned to the original Romanesque Style in the restoration of 1994
Therefore we can now admire the splendid open-side gallery decorated with twin and single arches, and the majestic columns of the original structure. On the left-hand side probably part of the primitive temple, two small chapels frescoed with scenes of the miracles and the effigies of Saints including Beato Fra Gerardo Sasso, of Amalfi and founder of the order of Malta.
The Crypt of St. Andrew
We are now in the house of St. Andrew, the first Apostle, who died at Patrasso in Greece embracing the cross, as his Master before him.
Built in 1206, to hold the Sacred remains of St. Andrew , that arrived two years later, brought from Constantinople by the Cardinal Pietro Capuano, pontifical legate in the IV crusade. The sacred relics are held in a silver urn under the central altar, work of Domenico Fontana.
Caserta 88 Km from Maiori
Information office tel. 0823-448084 – 0823-277380