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main index   © Jeff Matthews   entry Sept 2013

The Bourbon Hunting Grounds of Sant'Arcangelo

A "Bourbon Royal Site" was a piece of property considered the personal possession of the king or of some member of the royal family. There were 22 such sites in the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples; some were palaces, others were villas, and some were casine (singular: casina), hunting grounds centered around a lodge, the casina. Some of these hunting grounds were sumptuous (see Persano or Astroni, below); others, such as this one, less so. The complete list:
Royal Palace Naples
Royal Palace Capodimonte
Royal Palace Portici

Royal Palace Caserta
villa d'Elboeuf in Portici
Villa Favorita
Palazzo d'Avalos Procida
Lake Agnano
Astroni
Torcino
Cardito
 
Carditello
Persano
Maddaloni
Caiazzo
Sant'Arcangelo
Licola
San Leucio
Casino del Fusaro
Palace at Quisisana
Falciano
Demanio di Calvi



In the course of their 125-year rule of the Kingdom of Naples (1735-1860) the Bourbon kings developed quite a reputation for opening “hunting lodges”—country estates where they might trot out and shoot a boar or two. Some of these sites were spectacular, but Sant’Arcangelo was not one of them. There is really nothing left of Sant’Arcangelo that would indicate that it was ever any such thing as "regal." The site is in the area of Caivano, near Naples; in modern terms, about 10 km (6 miles) north of the Naples airport to the NE of an anonymous crossing of the A1 autostrada and the 4-lane superstrada that runs between Nola and Villa Literno. If you wander out into that farmland, you will find the building in this image. It is NOT a remnant of the Bourbon hunting lodge, but rather the remains of a castle built in the 10th century.

Recent (1995) archaeology has identified Roman thermal baths and mosaics near the ruins of that single current building. The thinking is that this was the center of an ancient Roman pagus—something like a “county,” a rural administrative area. It might have earlier been an Oscan site, but as a Roman site it seems to have been inhabited until the 5th-6th  century AD—that is, until the fall of the Western Roman Empire, itself. When the Lombards moved into Italy we then find mention of the area as the site of a fortified village, strategic to the Duchy of Benevento. There is a document from the year 964 mentioning a church by the name of Sant’Arcangelo in the village. The Normans then formed the first Kingdom of Sicily/Naples in the 11th century. The village, whatever importance it might have held for them, then became irrelevant under the Angevins when the larger area around it became a feudal fief with the center at nearby Caivano. By the time the Bourbons took over in the 1700s the area had partially swamped up and been more or less abandoned. There is no evidence that the Bourbons really built anything on the site, although they used whatever was already in place—residual buildings from the old village and a less ruined version of the building in the photo. In any event, one account* from the early 1800s describes the S. Arcangleo woods as primarily of ash and oak just north of Caivano. On the property were a tavern, a church and another structure, which the king used as his lodge. It was a favorite haunt of Ferdinand IV as well as of his father, Charles III. There was abundant water from the Clanio river.  


*Giustiniani, Lorenzo. "Caivano" in Dizionario geografico-ragionato del Regno di Napoli, Napoli, 1797-1816.


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