Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry June 2003


The military college Nunziatella is the prominent red building that sits over the bay of Naples and that part of town known as Chiaia. It was founded by Ferdinand IV in 1787 as an academy to train the officer corps for the Kingdom of Naples. Originally, the building was erected in 1588 by Anna Mendozza Marchesana della Valle, a noblewoman who then gave the building to the Jesuit Order. The premises served as a novitiate until the Jesuits were banned from the kingdom in the mid-1700s. 

Shortly after its founding, students and faculty of Nunziatella (so named for the chapel annex on the grounds of the academy—literally, "Little Church of the Annunciation") overwhelmingly supported the fledgling and short-lived Parthenopean Republic. However, the revolution in France had, by that time, already devoured its children and the Neapolitan equivalent fared no better. The monarchy was restored and Nunziatella punished for its revolutionary fervor by a temporary demotion to the role of boarding school.

A far greater —ultimately fatal— danger to the Kingdom arose half a century later when the spirit of Italian unification swept the peninsula. Like all conflicts of this kind —close cousins to civil wars— this one commanded fierce and divided loyalties. In Naples, officer graduates of Nunziatella were torn between fighting for their King and siding with the forces of Giuseppe Garibaldi, inexorably moving up the boot of Italy from their landing in Sicily with the truly revolutionary idea of one nation, united from the Ionian Sea to the Alps. 

With unification came an inevitable decline of the agencies of the former Kingdom of Two Sicilies, now merely the southern half of a single greater nation. This decline took its toll on Nunziatella, which became, and has remained ever since, not the one academy responsible for turning out officers for the Kingdom —later, Republic— of Italy, but, rather, a respected military preparatory school. 

In 1908, amid all the tradition, Nunziatella took the innovative step of permitting, even encouraging, young graduates to pursue careers other than military. The school thus established itself —and today still sees itself— as a well-spring of values important in all walks of life. The most famous student ever to attend Nunziatella was, no doubt, King Victor Emmanuel III. It is, however, the lesser known graduates —the doctors, lawyers and, of course, officers— who remain the great source of pride for Nunziatella.

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