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Norway in Naples (2)
The 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 Around Naples 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.
The promontory and church were named San Leonardo. Norway writes in the excerpt (linked above):
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.Benedetto Croce 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.