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Martyrs' Square

Piazza dei Martiri is one block in from Piazza Vittoria, which is the square at the east end of the Villa Comunale. The square was originally dedicated to Santa Maria a Cappella, then to the Virgin of Peace under Ferdinand II of Bourbon, but took on patriotic significance when Italy was united in 1860. A memorial column was moved from a different site in Naples and the lions at the base were added. The column is topped by a bronze "Winged Victory," the work of sculptor, Emanuele Caggiano (1837-1905) (See this link.) The column, in the form we see it today, was completed in 1868.
Each of the four animals represents a different patriotic struggle: the Neapolitan revolution of 1799; the uprisings in 1820 and 1848, and the war of unification in 1860.

[update: Dec. 2010: The square and lions are the subject of the 2010/2011 exhibition of installation art.]


Besides the column in the middle of the square, the site is marked by the presence of three prominent buildings: Palazzo Partanna on the west (on the right in photo, above), Palazzo Calabritto on the south (on the left in photo, above), and Palazzo Sessa on the east (photo, right). The last was originally part of the large church/monastic complex of Santa Maria a Cappella (link above) but after 1788 became the residence of British ambassador, William Hamilton. The street running to the left of Palazzo Sessa provides access to the Jewish synagogue in Naples. Much more recently, the square now hosts the large Feltrinelli book and music shop. Also, in a short while, it will be an unbelievable flurry of street tearings up and down as the new Line 6 of the Naples underground train line snakes its way beneath (!) the square. And I can't believe they are really going to do that.


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