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Castel dell'Ovo

Its name derives from an ancient legend according to which the Latin poet Virgil - who in medioevo was also considered a magician - he hid an egg in the dungeon of the building which kept the entire fortress standing. Its breakage would have caused not only the collapse of the castle, but also a series of disastrous catastrophes in the city of Naples.

During the XIV century, at the time of Giovanna I, the castle suffered extensive damage due to the partial collapse of the arch on the which is resting and, to prevent panic from spreading among the population for the alleged future catastrophes that would hit the city, the queen had to swear that she had replaced the egg.

Due to various events that partially destroyed the original Norman appearance and thanks to the subsequent reconstruction works that took place during the Angevin period and Aragonese, the architectural line of the castle changed drastically until it reached the state it is in today .

The castle stands on the islet of tufo of Megaride, natural offshoot of Mount Echia, which was joined to the mainland by a thin isthmus of rock. It is believed that this was the landing point of the first Greeks and of the Cumans then, who, having arrived in the middle of the VII century B.C. , would have founded the first nucleus of Palepoli (old city), the future Naples.

In the 1st century BCLucio Licinio Lucullo acquired a very large fund in the area (which according to some hypotheses ranged from Pizzofalcone up to Pozzuoli< /a>) and on the island he built a splendid villa, Villa di Licinio Lucullo, which was equipped with a very rich library, of moray eels farms and peach imported from Persia, which at the time were a novelty together with cherry trees that the general had sent from Cerasunto to>. The memory of this property lasted in the name of Castrum Lucullanum which the site kept until the late Roman age.

In darker times for the Empire - the middle of the V century - the villa was fortified by Valentiniano III and it had the fate of hosting the deposed last Emperor of Rome, Romulus Augustus, in 476.

Subsequently the death of Romolo Augusto, which definitively marked the fall of Western Roman empire, on the islet of Megaride and on Monte Echia, already at the end of V century, settled Basilian monks called by Pannonia from a matron Barbara with the relics of Abate Severino . Initially allocated in scattered cells (called Basilian hermitages), the monks adopted in the VII century the < a href="">Benedictine rule and created an important scriptorium (probably also having what remained of the Lucullian library).

However, the convent complex was razed to the ground at the beginning of the X century by Dukes of Naples, to prevent the Saracens from being fortified there a> using it as a base for the invasion of the city, while the monks retreated to Pizzofalcone. In a document of 1128, however, a fortification is mentioned again on the site, called Arx Sancti Salvatoris from the church that the monks had built there.

Roger the Norman, conquering Naples in 1140, made Castel dell'Ovo its headquarters. However, the residential use was exploited only on a few occasions since, with the completion of the Castel Capuano, all the landward development and trade routes. With the Normans, a program of systematic fortification of the site began, which had in the Normandy tower the its first bastion, and it was the one on which the flags flew.

With the passage of the kingdom to the Svevi through Costanza d'Altavilla, Castel dell'Ovo was further fortified in 1222 by Federico II, who made it the seat of the royal treasury and had other towers built - Torre di Colleville, Torre Maestra and Torre di Half. In those years, the castle became a palace and a state prison.

The king Charles I of Anjou moved to Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino) the court. However, he kept in Castel dell'Ovo - which in this period began to be called Chateau de l'Oeuf or Castrum Ovi incantati - the goods to be kept in the best fortified place: he then made it the residence of the family, making numerous restorations and modifications for the purpose, and kept the royal treasury there. In this period, as a state prison, Corradino di Svevia was imprisoned in the castle before being beheaded in the piazza del Mercato, and the children of Manfredi< /a> and the queen Elena Ducas.

After a seismic event that in 1370 caused the collapse of the natural arch that made up the isthmus, the Queen Giovanna had it rebuilt in masonry, also restoring the Norman buildings. After having lived in the castle as sovereign, the queen was imprisoned here by her unfaithful niece Charles of Durazzo, before ending up in exile at Muro Lucano.

Alfonso V of Aragona, initiator of the Aragonese domination in Naples (1442 – 1503), brought to the castle further renovations, enriching the royal palace, restoring the pier, strengthening the defensive structures and lowering the towers.

His son Ferrante I succeeded to the throne, received looting by the French militias, he had to bombard it with the artillery.

The castle was further damaged by the French under Louis XII and by the Spanish under Consalvo de Cordova, whom they ousted on behalf of Ferdinand II of Aragon, king of Spain, the last Aragonese king of Naples. In 1503 the siege of Ferdinand the Catholic finally demolished what remained of the towers. The castle was then again and massively restructured, assuming the shape we see today. The weapon systems having changed - from thrown and jet weapons to bombards - the octagonal towers were rebuilt, the walls thickened, and the defensive structures were oriented towards the land, and no longer towards the sea. Defeated the French twice, at Cerignola and on Garigliano, the complete conquest of the entire Kingdom of Naples took place in favor of Spain.

During the reign of the Spanish viceroys the Bourbon fortified the castle even more with batteries and two drawbridges. Subsequently, the structure completely lost its function as a royal residence and from XVIIIth century also the title of "royal factory", and was used as a provision and military outpost - from which the Spaniards bombarded the city during the uprisings of Masaniello - and as a prison, where he was imprisoned between the others the philosopher Tommaso Campanella before being sentenced to death, and later numerous Jacobins, Carbonari and liberals including Carlo Poerio, Luigi Settembrini, Francesco De Sanctis.

During the period of the so-called Risanamento, which changed the face of Naples after the Unification of Italy, a project developed by the Association of Scientists, Writers and Artists in the 1871 foresaw the demolition of the Castle to make way for a new district. However that project was not implemented and, once the danger had escaped, the building remained in the possession of the state and practically in a state of abandonment, until the beginning of the restorations in 1975.

Today it is annexed to the historic district of Santa Lucia and can be visited. Exhibitions, conferences and events are held in the large halls. At its base stands the small tourist port of the Borgo Marinari, enlivened by restaurants and bars, the historical site of some of the most prestigious Neapolitan nautical clubs.

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