Postcard from Naples, Italy: Glamming up the royal residence

While Pope Sixtus V (1521-1590) kept architect Domenico Fontana (1543-1607) well occupied around the Vatican and Rome, he managed to take on a project for the Viceroy in Naples. The excuse for the construction of the palace was an impending visit by King Philip III of Spain (confusingly known as Philip II in his role as King of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia) (1578-1621). But, alas, when the king did not make it to Naples as planned, rather than let it go to waste, the Viceroy himself move into the grand new quarters.

A new royal arrived in town in 1734, King Charles III of Spain (adding to the confusion, prior to becoming King of Spain in 1759, he was known as Charles VII of Naples and Charles V of Sicily) (1716-1788). By the time King Charles arrived, the palace was empty of residents and devoid of furniture. While waiting for suitable decorating, the new arrivals temporarily were forced to furnish it with contents bought from the pawnshop and private citizens.

King Charles III immediately put architects and artists to work. With his marriage to Maria Amalia of Saxony (1724-1760), decorating assumed a sense of urgency. To take care of royal needs, a porcelain factory was founded, which later became known as Capodimonte porcelain. Receiving an abundant supply of art from his mother, Elizabeth Farnese (1692-1766), the Queen of Spain, Charles was able to transfer it from family palaces in Parma and Rome to Naples. One palace, however, is hardly enough to accommodate royal needs, so two more were built which the blog will visit later.

His son, Ferdinand I as King of the Two Sicilies (Ferdinand IV as King of Naples or Ferdinand III and King of Sicily) (1751-1825), begin to take beautifying the palace to even higher levels. Arranged by his father, King Charles, Ferdinand’s proxy marriage to 16-year-old Maria Carolina of Austria (1752-1814) spurred further gilding and flocking throughout. The grand hall was remodeled to serve as a court theatre.

By the time his grandson, Ferdinand II (1810-1859), became King of the Two Sicilies, the whole palace was viewed as in need of a major renovation. This was partially due to a fire in 1837 and partially to accommodate modern services and systems for lighting, water-delivery, sewage and so forth.

Finally in 1888, King Umberto I of Italy (of the House of Savoy) (1844-1900) altered the façade of the building addressing the grand Piazza del Plebiscito. Large statues of major rulers of Naples were commissioned for the new niches.

Addicted to writing with access to two computer screens displaying a multitude of resources, I was most impressed by an early innovative predecessor – sort of a ferris wheel for books to aid research from multiple tomes at one’s desk.

Postcard from Malaga, Spain: Discovering a church’s “changing tower”

Holy banner of the Virgin Mary paying a call on Santuario de la Victoria

Judging from the silvered coach transporting the banner of the Virgin Mary on a traffic-snarling journey through the streets of Malaga to visit some of city’s other prominent figures of Mary – of which there are many, all elegantly attired and crowned – the banner must be highly regarded by the supporting brotherhood. A team of well-groomed oxen pulled her ahead of a fleet of flatbed tented trailers bearing a host of traditionally costumed followers, refueling themselves periodically from kegs of beer or wine.

We caught up with the procession after its visit to Santuario de la Victoria. The basilica dedicated to Saint Mary of Victory stands on the site of the encampment of King Ferdinand II of Aragon (1452-1516) when he laid siege to recapture Malaga from the Moors in 1487. The original church built soon after was replaced by a grander edifice completed in 1700.

What makes this church one of my favorites in Spain is the most spectacular chamber we almost missed. Up high behind the altar, accessed by a stairway tucked away behind doors off to the side of the altar, is what is referred to as a camarin torre, a changing tower. I am still unsure what that means, but inside a beautifully carved Virgin and Child are held aloft under a most ornate snowy white and gold dome.

The basilica might have risen to be my favorite anywhere if we had been allowed into the crypt down below. Inside are the sculptured tombs of the Counts of Buenavista, accompanied by a host of carved skeletons. Alas, the crypt was closed for restoration, perhaps completed by now.

Including a few final remaining shots of other Malaga churches and Marias in this post as well.