"Through the eyes of..."
Norway in Naples (2)
small promontory and church of
San Leonardo—once upon a time.
Arthur Hamilton Norway (1859-1938) was a British civil servant and
writer. (He was the father of novelist Nevil Shute, who
was born Nevil Shute Norway.) Arthur H. Norway was an
eclectic author who wrote everything from the obscure History of the Post-Office
Packet Service, between the years 1793-1815 to
popular travel books such as Highways and Byways in Devon and Cornwall
to the literary Dante;
the Divine Comedy, its Essential Significance. Of
interest to me is the fact that he was one of those post-Grand Tour grand tourists who
wrote a book about Naples: Naples, past and present (1901. pub.
Methuen & Co., London).
If you click here, you will link to the
"Through the Eyes of..." section of this website and an
excerpt from that book. It is of interest to me because it
speaks of one of the many sites in Naples that used to
exist but which were swept away by the Risanamento, the urban renewal
of Naples at the turn of the twentieth century that tore
down great portions of the city.
Maps of the western
part of the city, Chiaia, from before that period show the
long park, the Royal gardens (now the Villa Comunale) stretching from
Piazza della Vittoria
almost to Mergellina. If the
map is old enough—say, from before the Bourbon rule—even the gardens
are not yet there; there is only the now "inside" street
called the Riviera di
Chiaia running along the sea. In either case, at
about the halfway point, where the Naples Aquarium now
stands, there was a small promontory jutting out into the
sea, upon which stood a small church. Even on the
extremely detailed Laffrey map of 1566, the promontory is
insignificant, but visible.
promontory and church were named San Leonardo. Norway
writes in the excerpt (linked above):
wrote that the church was "the oldest Spanish memory in
Naples," founded in 1028 for a vow sworn by a "Castillian
gentleman," Leonardo d'Orio, to his name saint in gratitude for
being saved from a shipwreck on that point on the
Neapolitan shore. Church and promontory were demolished as
the new "outside" road, via Caracciolo, was laid along the
sea in 1900. San Leonardo, himself, is particularly
obscure, even for Roman Catholic hagiography. The
reference is to St. Leonard of Limousin, who apparently
lived at the time of the Frankish king, Clovis, in the
fifth century. There is no evidence that he was the object
of veneration until around the year 1000, when a number of
churches named for him appeared in Europe, including Italy
and including Naples. He is generally depicted holding
chains, as he associated with the liberation of captives.
I have read that there were three churches of San Leonardo
in Naples at one time. I don't think that the other two
exist any longer, either.
It is useless to seek for the
Church of San Lionardo [sic] now. It was swept away
when the fine roadway was made which skirts the
whole sea-front from the Piazza di Vittoria to the
Torretta. But in old days it must have been a rarely
picturesque addition to the beauty of the bay. It
stood upon a little island rock, jutting out into
the sea about the middle of the curve, near the spot
where the aquarium now stands.
to "Through the Eyes of..."