Showing posts with label 1751. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1751. Show all posts

8 February 2018

Nicola Salvi – architect

Creator of Rome’s iconic Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain was Nicola Salvi's masterpiece
The Trevi Fountain was Nicola Salvi's masterpiece
The architect Nicola Salvi, famous as the designer of the Fontana di Trevi – known in English as the Trevi Fountain and one of the most famous and most visited monuments in Rome – died on this day in 1751.

He was working on the Trevi when he passed away, having been engaged on the project since 1732. It had to be finished by Giuseppe Pannini and the giant statue of Oceanus – the Titan God of the Sea in Greek mythology – set in the central niche, was completed by Pietro Bracci, yet Salvi takes credit as the lead architect.

Salvi ran a workshop in Rome that he had taken over when his master, Antonio Canevari, left the city in 1727 to take up a position working as architectural consultant to the king of Portugal in Lisbon.

He completed a number of commissions on behalf of Canevari but spent a good deal of his time tutoring others and might have made very little impression on architectural history had he not submitted entries for two design competitions run by Pope Clement XII in 1732.

One was for a new façade for the church of San Giovanni in Laterano, for which his design was commended and in which he did have some input along with Alessandro Galilei – the winner – and Luigi Vanvitelli.

Floodlights illuminate the fountain at night
Floodlights illuminate the fountain at night
The other was to revive a project started and then abandoned by Gian Lorenzo Bernini one hundred years earlier to design a new fountain at the end of the former Aqua Virgo Roman aqueduct, in front of the Palazzo Poli.

Accounts of the outcome vary, but there is agreement that Salvi’s design did not win, with plans submitted by either Galilei or Ferdinando Fuga preferred. However, both of those architects were from Florence and there was a public view that the job should go to a Roman and, after considering this, the pope decided to give it to Salvi.

Salvi imagined a fountain composed of a large central basin, surrounded by a rough-hewn cliff from which the Palazzo Poli appears almost to have been carved, the whole composition dominated by the statue of Oceanus, set into the central arched niche of the palace, standing directly above the point at which the water emerges.

The monumental façade of the Palazzo Poli was designed by Vanvitelli to provide the fountain with a suitably dramatic backdrop.

The end product, which takes its names from its location at the convergence of tre vie – three roads, represented a classic of Roman Baroque, the largest Baroque fountain in the city and the most significant building built in Rome in the 18th century.

The Via Nicola Salvi in Rome skirts the Colosseum
The Via Nicola Salvi in Rome skirts the Colosseum
It defined the career of Salvi, who had been born in Rome in 1697 to a wealthy family thought to have been from Abruzzo originally. Precociously intelligent, he studied mathematics and philosophy before turning to architecture.

Until the Trevi, after a decline in the number of major structures commissioned across the city compared with the previous century, Salvi’s work had been relatively inconsequential, consisting for the most part of small, decorative projects.

He did build a baptistery at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls but that was destroyed in a fire of 1823, while his reconstructed Chiesa di Santa Maria a Gradi in Viterbo was flattened by bombing during the Second World War.

Salvi died at his home in Via della Colonna in Rome at the age of 53, having developed bronchial problems as a result of many hours spent working in the damp tunnels of the aqueduct.

Large crowds flock to the Trevi at all hours of the day
Large crowds flock to the Trevi at all hours of the day
Travel tip:

The ritual of throwing coins over their shoulders into the Trevi Fountain is followed by thousands of visitors each day.  They used to be stolen regularly by gangs of thieves but a law was introduced making it a crime to fish coins out of the basin. Nowadays, the coins are collected by teams of municipal workers every night and given to a charity called Caritas, which converts the money into shopping vouchers for Romans who have fallen on hard times. The coins collected add up to around €3,000 each day.

Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita
Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita
Travel tip:

Part of the Trevi Fountain’s fame around the world is down to the starring role it has played in a number of movies, most notably Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, in which Anita Ekberg jumped into the fountain fully clothed, to be followed by Marcello Mastroianni. The monument also featured in Roman Holiday, Three Coins in the Fountain and Disney comedy The Lizzie McGuire Movie. When the revered Mastroianni died in 1996, the fountain was turned off and draped in black crepe as the city’s tribute.

12 January 2018

Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies

Despotic ruler presided over chaos in southern Italy

Ferdinand IV of Naples as a boy, painted by the German painter Anton Raphel Mengs
Ferdinand IV of Naples as a boy, painted by
the German painter Anton Raphel Mengs
The Bourbon prince who would become the first monarch of a revived Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was born in Naples on this day in 1751.

Ferdinando, third son of King Carlos (Charles) III of Spain, was handed the separate thrones of Naples and Sicily when he was only eight years old after his father’s accession to the Spanish throne required him to abdicate his titles in Spanish-ruled southern Italy.

In a 65-year reign, he would preside over one of the most turbulent periods in the history of a region that was never far from upheaval, which would see Spanish rule repeatedly challenged by France before eventually being handed to Austria.

Too young, obviously, to take charge in his own right when his reign began officially in 1759, he continued to enjoy his privileged upbringing, alternating between the palaces his father had built at Caserta, Portici and Capodimonte.

Government was placed in the hands of Bernardo Tanucci, a Tuscan statesman from Stia, near Arezzo, in whom King Charles had complete trust.  Tanucci, who fully embraced the enlightened ideas that were gaining popularity with the educated classes across Europe, had his own ideas about running the two territories, and did little to prepare the boy for the responsibilities he would eventually inherit as Ferdinand IV of Naples and Ferdinand III of Sicily.

Indeed, Tanucci was more than happy to encourage him to pursue the frivolous activities of youth for as long as he wished while he continued the liberal reforms King Charles had set in motion. Ferdinand reached the age of majority in 1767 but was prepared to allow Tanucci to continue to call the shots.

Bernardo Tanucci, the trusted statesman who governed Naples and Sicily as regent
Bernardo Tanucci, the trusted statesman who
governed Naples and Sicily as regent
It all changed, however, in 1768 when Ferdinand married Archduchess Maria Carolina, daughter of the Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa and sister of the ill-fated French queen Marie Antoinette.

The marriage was part of a treaty between Spain and Austria, by the terms of which Maria Theresa would be given a place on Tanucci’s governing council once she had produced a male heir to her husband’s crowns.

The new Queen considered herself to be enlightened too but did not care for Tanucci and had her own long-term agenda for Austrian rule over the territory.  She had to wait until 1775 to give birth to a son, following two daughters, but by 1777 had found a reason to dismiss Tanucci.

Maria Carolina dominated Ferdinand, but herself was heavily influenced by Sir John Acton, the English former commander of the naval forces of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, whom she hired to reorganise the Neapolitan navy.

Acton, promising to support Maria Carolina’s wish to free Naples from Spanish rule, was soon appointed commander-in-chief of both the army and the navy and eventually prime minister, much to the disapproval of the Spanish monarchy, who were about to go to war against Britain alongside France.

In the meantime, thanks to Ferdinand’s incompetence and Acton’s manoeuvring for power, Naples was so poorly governed it became clear that something similar to the French Revolution, which had famously toppled the French monarchy, could be about to be repeated in Naples.

Ferdinand aged 22 or 23, again painted by Anton Raphael Mengs
Ferdinand aged 22 or 23, again painted by
Anton Raphael Mengs
Not surprisingly, the execution of Marie Antoinette in Paris in 1793 had a profound effect on Maria Carolina. Abandoning all pretence to enlightenment, she persuaded Ferdinand to pledge the Kingdom of Naples to the War of the First Coalition against republican France, while at the same time summarily rounding up anyone in southern Italy suspected of revolutionary intentions.

For the next 23 years, Ferdinand’s forces fought the French in one conflict after another. Obliged the make peace in 1796 when faced with the young commander Napoleon Bonaparte’s march into central Italy, the Bourbon king then enlisted the help of Nelson’s British fleet in the Mediterranean to support a counter march on Rome in 1798.

Driven back rapidly, Ferdinand took flight, leaving Naples in a state of anarchy as he took refuge in Sicily. Bonaparte’s troops soon marched into Naples and in January 1799 established the Parthenopaean Republic.

Ferdinand now turned his attention to rooting out and executing suspected republicans in Palermo, but when Napoleon was forced to send most of his soldiers back to northern Italy, Ferdinand despatched an army led by the ruthless commander Fabrizio Cardinal Ruffo to crush the Parthenopaean Republic and reclaim Naples.

Yet Ferdinand was driven out again six years later when Napoleon’s victories against Austrian and Russian forces in the north allowed him to send another army to Naples, led by his brother Joseph, whom he proclaimed king of Naples and Sicily.

Mengs painted Queen Maria Carolina in 1768, around the time they were married
Mengs painted Queen Maria Carolina in
1768, around the time they were married
In fact, Ferdinand remained ruler of Sicily, with British protection, although protection that came at a price that included granting the island a constitutional government and sending Maria Carolina into exile in Austria, where she died in 1814.

Ferdinand made another triumphant return to Naples in 1815 after Joseph Bonaparte’s successor, Joachim Murat, was defeated by the Austrians and Ferdinand was reinstated as King of Naples and Sicily.

Now completely beholden to the Austrians, he abolished Sicily’s constitutional government and declared himself Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, bringing the two kingdoms together as one, as they had been for a brief period in the 15th century.

But for all Ferdinand’s attempts to eliminate revolutionary elements in Naples and Palermo, the mood for change would not go away, if anything gaining momentum through resentment of the Austrians. After Ferdinand’s death in 1825 the new Kingdom of the Two Sicilies lasted only until 1860, when it was conquered by Giuseppe Garibaldi’s volunteer army to complete Italian Unification.

The facade of the Royal Palace at Portici
The facade of the Royal Palace at Portici
Travel tip:

The vast wealth of King Charles enabled him to build lavish palaces around Naples.  Portici, close to the Roman ruins at Ercolano (Herculaneum), was constructed between 1738 and 1742 as a private residence where he could entertain foreign visitors. Today it has a botanical garden that belongs to the University of Naples Federico II and houses the Accademia Ercolanese museum.  The palace at Capodimonte, in the hills above the city, was originally to be a hunting lodge but turned into a much bigger project when Charles realised the Portici palace would not be big enough to house the Farnese art collection be inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese. Today it is home to the Galleria Nazionale (National Gallery), with paintings by Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, Masaccio, Lotto, Bellini, Vasari and many more.  Charles never actually slept in the spectacular Royal Palace at Caserta, modelled on the French royal family’s Palace of Versailles and containing 1,200 rooms, having abdicated before it was completed.

The Piazza Tanucci in the village of Stia
The Piazza Tanucci in the village of Stia
Travel tip:

Stia, the Tuscan village of Bernardo Tanucci’s birth, is the first large community in the path of the Arno, the source of which is in the nearby Monte Falterona. Florence lies some 40km (25 miles) downstream. Situated in the beautiful Casentino valley area around Arezzo, Stia is a charming village in which the unusual triangular main square, which slopes sharply at one end, is named Piazza Tanucci in honour of the statesman. In the square, which has covered arcades of shops and restaurants along each side, can be found the church of Santa Maria della Assunta, which has a 19th century Baroque façade concealing a well-preserved Romanesque interior that possibly dates back to the late 12th century.

3 June 2017

The Blessed Vincent Romano

Priest who devoted himself to helping the poor

The Blessed Vincent Romano came from a poor family
The Blessed Vincent Romano came
from a poor family
The Blessed Vincent Romano, a priest from Torre del Greco on the Bay of Naples who became known for his tireless devotion to helping the poor, was born on this day in 1751.

Admired for his simple way of life and his efforts in particular to look after the wellbeing of orphaned children, he was nicknamed “the worker priest” by the local community. His commitment to helping poor people extended across the whole Neapolitan region.

He would demonstrate his willingness to roll up his sleeves in a different way in 1794 after his church – now the Basilica of Santa Croce – was all but destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.

Not only did Romano devote many hours to organising the rebuilding he actually cleared a good deal of rubble with his own hands.

He was born Vincenzo Domenico Romano to poor parents in Naples. He developed a strong faith as a child and began to study for the priesthood in Naples at the age of 14.

He was ordained as a priest in 1775 and assigned to Torre del Greco, where he led a simple and austere life.

Camillo de Vito's painting shows Torre del Greco  engulfed by fire after the 1794 eruption
Camillo de Vito's painting shows Torre del Greco
engulfed by fire after the 1794 eruption
The eruption of Vesuvius in June 1794 destroyed most of Torre del Greco as a lava flow swept down to the sea, bringing down and the church and part of the bell tower.

Romano, then assistant pastor and treasurer of the church, promoted its reconstruction. The rebuilding began in 1795 and continued over many years, ending with the consecration of the new structure in 1827.

Miraculous events seemed to accompany the reconstruction, including the arrival of a ship from Libya loaded with timber, which was offered as a gift for the construction of roof trusses. No one could explain this act of generosity nor knew who had commissioned it.

The new church was designed by Ignazio di Nardo, who was also responsible for the urban plan for the reconstructed city.

After the death of the incumbent parish priest in 1799, Romano became the provost of the parish, part of his mission being to promote the better education of children. He welcomed all people into his church.

Pope Paul VI, who beatified Romano in 1963
Pope Paul VI, who beatified Romano in 1963
Romano died in December 1831 after a long period of ill health. His remains are housed in the Basilica.

The beatification process began under Pope Gregory XVI in 1843 when Romano given the title of Servant of God. In 1895 he was declared to be Venerable after Pope Leo XIII recognized that Romano had lived a life of heroic virtue.

He was beatified by Pope Paul VI in November 1963 after the necessary two miracles received papal approval.

The first was the healing of Maria Carmela Restucci in December 1891 from an aggressive breast tumour after she had invoked the patronage of Romano, her recovery confirmed by her doctor as something unexplained by science and medicine.

The second was the healing of Maria Carmela Cozzolino in 1940 from an ailment diagnosed by her doctor as throat cancer but which miraculously disappeared when she appeared to be nearing death after she invoked the intercession of Romano. Again, the cure could not be explained.

Travel tip:

Torre del Greco was once part of Magna Graecia – Great Greece – in the eighth and seventh centuries BC but its name is thought to originated in the 11th century AD when a Greek hermit was said to have occupied an eight-sided costal watch tower called Turris Octava. From the 16th century it became popular with wealthy families and even Italian nobility, who built elaborate summer palaces there. In the 19th century and early 20th century Torre del Greco enjoyed its peak years as a resort to which wealthy Italians flocked, both to enjoy the sea air and as a point from which to scale Vesuvius via a funicular railway. A thriving café scene developed, and the art nouveau Gran Caffè Palumbo became famous across the country.  Since the 17th century it has been a major producer of coral jewellery.

The rebuilt Basilica of Santa Croce in Torre del Greco
Travel tip:

Built originally at the beginning of the 16th century, the Basilica of Santa Croce is the religious heart of Torre del Greco and houses the remains of the Blessed Vincent Romano. It was rebuilt after the Vesuvius eruption in 1794 and now overlooks Piazza Santa Croce in the historic centre of the town. Other buildings of note include the 18th century Palazzo Vallelonga and the Camaldoli alla Torre monastery.