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The Villa Duchesca, Calasanzio, the Pious Schools & Scandal
NorthOne thing leads to another, as they say, and so it is with my attempts to learn things about Naples that I don't know. In this case, I started out to find a villa—an estate—I hadn't heard of before and found a religious order and a scandal of the kind I wish I would stop hearing about.
There is in Naples an area still called la Duchesca, named after the Villa Duchesca (The Villa of the Duchess). It was one of those glorious pieces of royal property with gardens, fountains, trees and footpaths. It was a project of the Aragonese rulers of Naples in the 1490s, similar to another one, Poggioreale, built more or less at the same time; both underwent identical trips to oblivion as the years passed. The Villa Duchesca was in the lower right-hand quadrant of this map from 1566, that is, between the Capuano Castle (#47 on the map), which still exists, and the western end of modern Piazza Garibaldi (just off the extreme lower right-hand corner of this map). By the date of this map, however, only a few buildings and a bit of empty space just inside the city walls remained of the old villa.
We know from sources*1 that the villa was planned to be an adjunct of the Capuano Castle, itself—a place for the royals to stroll. It was built quickly in the area just within the newly expanded city walls (the section below #5 on the map) and deteriorated just as quickly as the Aragonese dynasty came to an end. The French invaded Naples in 1500, enjoyed the villa, praised it and just as quickly sacked it when they were forced to leave as the new Spanish empire moved in. (If that confuses you, it confused them, too! See the above link to the "Aragonese Dynasty" for some clarification.) During the chaos of the violent change of dynasties, further assaults on the villa came from street mobs and those interested in salvaging building materials for their own projects. Such maps as the one above from a mere 50 years later, after the great wave of Spanish expansion of the city, show that the Spanish had largely succeeded in their effort to rid the city within the walls of frivolous things such as gardens as they shored up the walled defences of the city. The buildings on the original premises of the Villa Duchesca were what was left of original structures on the estate or later add-ons by the Spanish.
It is all gone now, fallen victim to a number of things: Spanish neglect of—and scavenging of—earlier structures, more of the same by later Bourbon rulers in the 1700s, the later urban renewal of the Risanamento in the late 1800s, and, finally, the air-raids of WWII. All that is left of the Duchesca are some names such as a street, via Duchesca, and the fact that the entire quarter is still called "la Duchesca". It is now a squalid hive of black-marketeers and pickpockets and you'd better stay out of it if you know what's good for you.
*1. Colombo, Antonio. "Il Palazzo e il Giardino della Duchesca" in Napoli Nobilissima, vol 1, n. 6. (1892) p. 81. The article is an abridgment of his earlier "Il Palazzo e il Giardino della Duchesca dal 1487 al 1760" in the Archivio Storico per le Province Napoletane, 1884, vol. IX. Both are cited in La Città nella Storia d'Italia: Napoli, (first edition 1981) by Cesare De Seta, publisher Laterza, Rome/Bari. p. 85. ^
2. Taturri, Alberto. "I collegi delle scuole pie nel Mezzogiorno" [The Pious Schools in Southern Italy] in Le Forze del Principe, vol II, University of Murcia (Spain), 2004, pp. 823-872. This is the best short source I have found on the history of these schools. ^
3. The scandal is detailed in, Fallen Order: Intrigue, Heresy, and Scandal in the Rome of Galileo and Caravaggio by Karen Liebreich. Atlantic Books, London, 2005. ISBN-10: 1843540746. There is a detailed summary of the book in the Annotated Bibliography of Clergy Sexual Abuse, by J.S. Evinger, J.S. FaithTrust Institute (2010). p. 159. It is on-line here. I have read the book and it is not an anti-Catholic diatribe or "hatchet job" in any sense. The book is meticulously documented. ^
4. Scarangello, Anthony. "Church and State in Italian Education" in Comparative Education Review, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Feb., 1962), pp. 199-207. Published by The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Comparative and International Education Society. The Casati Law was passed in 1859 and applied to the then pre-Unity northern part of Italy, that is, the Kingdom of Sardinia and Piedmont. After unifcation, the law was extended to the former Kingdom of Naples. The Casati Law did allow for religious instruction in the new state schools, but the process was secularized in that the clerics who taught in state schools did so at the pleasure of the government. Also, parents could elect not to have their children participate in religious instruction.^