By John Kernan
The Castel Nuovo was a fortified structure constructed in 1281 by a pair of architects, Pierre de Chaule and Pierre d’Agincourt, for Charles I of Anjou, elevating Naples to the status of capital of the Kingdom of Sicily and Naples. The site combined excellent proximity to the city with immediate access to the sea. The original structure must have resembled contemporary French castles characterized by the overwhelming towers and walls topped with crenellations, embrasures, a moat, and other defensive amenities. The resulting imposing structure, with five gigantic round towers, had a defensive and a representative role. Two of the imposing buildings flank the entrance to the courtyard, a gate in the shape of a double-tier triumphal arch considered a masterpiece of the Neapolitan Renaissance. Created by artists of various origins, mostly brought to the city, it probably owes its design to Francesco Laurana, one of the most significant sculptures of the 15ht century. The relief between the two arches represents the entrance of Alfonso of Aragon into the city in 1443, while statues of virtues stand in the four niches on top. The chapels were constructed under Giovanni Caracciolo and Gualtiero Seripando in a Gothic style; it was decorated throughout the frescoes by Giotto and Maso di Branco. Unfortunately, this architectural work had already been destroyed by the mid-15th century. The sculpture of the triumphal arch built in marble to celebrate and immortalize Alfonso’s triumphal entry into Naples was executed by at least nine different artists, including Domenico Gagini, Isaia da Pisa and Paolo Romano, and their numerous assistants. The design of the arch itself has been attributed to Pietro di Martino specifically.
The Triumphal Arch of the Castel Nuovo is a masterpiece of architectural work that provides structural and ornamentation additives to the overall building. The Triumphal Arch includes detailed artistic work displaying multiple scenes in separate sections moving up the arch. The frieze on the lower arch depicts the famous scene of Alfonso of Aragon entering Naples in the guise of an emperor of antiquity. The upper part of the arch, possibly at one point, featured an equestrian statue, and above is the Virtues recall Angevin tomb iconography. Overall, the Triumphal Arch is a monumental structure that incorporates at least one arched passageway and is designed to honor an important person or memorialize a significant event. The Triumphal Arch can be constructed as an isolated element, but generally is constructed to serve as a “triumphal” processional way. My analysis of the Triumphal Arch of the Castel Nuovo will determine the overall purpose of the structural incorporation within the Castel Nuovo, and the detailed ornamentation displayed throughout the different sections and interior of the arch.
The ornamentation of the Triumphal Arch of Castel Nuovo consists of different senses being depicted on various spaces with incredible details honoring specific people and virtues through this artistic work. Although there was a plan to include a triumphal arch at the structure entrance, it was only around 1452-1453 that the work of the triumphal arch, constructed of marble, all’antica started at the entrance of Castel Nuovo. The Triumphal Arch that was constructed commemorates that victorious entry of Alfonso the 1st of Aragoninto Naples in 1443. The purpose of triumphal arches is to serve as a ceremonial processional for victors of war or rulers, as with the Castel Nuovo, the Triumphal Arch acts in the same manner. The Castel Nuovo also acts as a fortified structure, and the Triumphal Arch is the threshold between the exterior and interior of the building. Along with being a monumental entrance to the Castel Nuovo, the detailed ornamentation honors Alfonso of Aragon’s entry into Naples and Four Virtues of Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, and Prudence.
The purpose of the Triumphal Arch of the Castel Nuovo is to serve as a processional entrance into the fortified structure as well as to express the magnificence of the castle. As seen by the ornamentation of the scenes depicted on the arch’s facade, the arch was to honor Alfonso the 1st of Aragoninto, and the four virtues of Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, and Prudence. The Triumphal Arch also acts as an entrance into the Castel Nuovo between two the massive towers surrounding the building. The Castel Nuovo underwent intensive modifications around 1443 and lost a majority of the structures original French elements. The Castel Nuovo in 1279 when construction began originally was a Neapolitan Medieval fortress, and then around 1284 after completion of the construction the structure served more as a cultural center under the reign of Robert of Anjou. Overall, the building purpose of the Triumphal Arch of the Castel Nuovo is to serve as a grand processional entryway and bring about an ornamentation element to the fortified structure.
The Triumphal Arch of the Castel Nuovo was constructed out of marble in order to create the incredible details in each individual section of the arch. With the use of marble in the construction of arch allowed the designers to incorporate intensive details when creating the four virtues at the top of the arch, and specifically the honorary scene depicting Alfonso the 1st of Aragoninto. The only structural element of the Castel Nuovo that consisted of marble material is the Triumphal Arch, the rest of the fortified structure was mainly built using stone materials. The use of stone was due to the purpose of creating a massive fortress along the coast. The use of marble provides a visual contrast from the rest of the structure and accentuated where the entrance of the building was located with bright white marble against brown stone.
The Triumphal Arch in Naples, Italy is an incredible structure serving as an entryway into the massive fortified structure of the Castel Nuovo. The remarkable arch serves a processional entrance into this once wartime fortress near the sea. The Triumphal Arch as well as serving as a processional entrance, is used as an honorary element recognizing Alfonso the 1st of Aragoninto and his successes. Not only is the Triumphal Arch a memorial piece, but an incredibly detailed piece of architecture highlighting the importance of Alfonso, and the four virtues of Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, and Prudence that accompany Alfonso on the façade of the Triumphal Arch. After the intensive modifications that occurred, the Triumphal Arch is one of the few remaining original French elements of were implemented into this marvelous design. The Triumphal Arch of the Castel Nuovo was designed and built as a ceremonial processional way into the fortified structure while honoring Alfonso the 1st of Aragoninto but has evolved to resemble a historic architectural piece being an original building to incorporate sculptural work into the architectural design of a building.
Warr, Cordelia, and Janis Elliott. “Introduction: Reassessing Naples 1266-1713.” Art and Architecture in Naples. 1266-1713, 2010, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781444324389.chl.
Cartwright, Mark. “Triumphal Arch.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, October 23, 2020. https://www.ancient.eu/Triumphal_Arch/.
“Triumphal Arch.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, inc. Accessed October 28, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/topic/triumphal-arch.
“The Triumphal Marble Arch, Located between Two Huge Facade Towers at…” iStock. Accessed December 14, 2020. https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/the-triumphal-arch-of-castel-nuovo-in-naples-gm1160744808-31781636.
Carullo, Valeria. “Naples’ Castel Nuovo, Seat of Kings, Pictured in the 1860s.” RIBAJ. Accessed October 28, 2020. https://www.ribaj.com/culture/castel-nuovo-naples-1900-neapolitan-renaissance.
Vincenz. “Castel Nuovo: History and Secrets of a Medieval Fortress.” Leisure Italy, February 12, 2019. https://www.leisure-italy.com/travel-tips/castel-nuovo/.
Korostyshevskiy, Vladimir. “Fragment Of Castel Nuovo S Triumphal Arch Stock Image – Image of Castel Italy: 59270171.” Accessed December 15, 2020. https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-fragment-castel-nuovo-s-triumphal-arch-white-marble-built0commemorates-alfonso-aragon-entry-to-naples-images59270171.
“Castel Nuovo.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, November 17, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castel_Nuovo.
Ceruti, Matteo. “Napoli, Italy. Landscape At The Triumphal Arch of The Castel Nuovo, Also Called Maschio Angioino Stock Photo – Image of Architecture, Marble: 125793838.” Dreamstime. Accessed December 16, 2020. https://www.dreamstime.com/napoli-italy-landscape-triumphal-arch-castle-castel-nuovo-also-called-maschio-angioino-napoli-italy-landscape-image125793838.
“Castel Nuovo.” StackPath. Accessed December 16, 2020. https://magazine.snav.it/napoli-la-leggenda-delcoccodrillo-di-castel-nuovo/.
“Maschio Angioino, II Castel Nuovo Di Napoli.” Napoli Turistica, December 6, 2020. https://www.napoli-turistica.com/castel-nuovo-maschio-angioino/.