When King Ferdinand and
Queen Caroline were forced to flee the city of
Naples,first by the revolution
of 1799 and then by the forces of Bonaparte in
1805, they managed to hole up and survive quite nicely
on the island of Sicily, well protected by the British
fleet. Yet, in spite of this help from the English, the
Bourbons were intransigent when it came to allowing
members of the Church of England the luxury of a bit of
land on which to build a church. Indeed, the only
non-Roman Catholic church in Naples was the Greek Orthodox church,
which goes back to the mid-1400s.
The Bourbons thus
denied all requests from the Anglican community in
Naples for permission to build a church, both before
those conflicts, as well as afterwards, when the
monarchy was restored by the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
For many years, the British community held church
services on the premises of the British legation, housed
in Palazzo Calabritto
at the beginning of the Riviera di Chiaia.
That all changed in
1860 when Giuseppe Garibaldi,
after the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples by forces
under his command, granted the request and gave them the
land near Piazza San Pasquale one block in from the
sea-side Riviera di Chiaia and the ex-Royal Gardens (now
the Villa Comunale, the large public gardens). The gift
was —in the words of Garibaldi inscribed on a plaque on
the premises of Christ Church in Naples—
...a very small return
for such benefits received from them in support of
the noble Italian cause...
Thus, the gift of the
property was for services rendered by those English who
had raised money for the cause of Italian unity and
by those who had actually fought with Garibaldi's
troops. It may also, according to some, have been one
more way for Garibaldi, anti-clerical and particularly
anti-Papal, to needle the Pope a bit.
bureaucratic quibbling over the fact that there was
already a cavalry barracks on the land, the deed was
finally ratified by the Italian government on August 10,
1861. The church was to be all English: the
architectural firm was Thos. Smith of Hertford and
London; the stone was from Malta; and all the furniture
came from England. The mosaic behind the altar, however,
was by Saviati of Venice. The foundation stone was laid
on December 15, 1862 and the completed church was
consecrated on March 11, 1865 by the Right Reverend Dr.
Sanford, first Bishop of Gibraltar.
Christ Church has
continued ever since—except for a break of three years
during WWII—to serve the needs of the considerable
English community in Naples as well as the less
permanent, but sizable, contingent of British forces
from the NATO community in Naples. It also serves the
American Episcopalian community.
As an interesting
sidelight, Garibaldi had earlier visited Britain to
raise money for his campaign to invade the Kingdom of
Naples. In Coventry, he is said to have planted and
dedicated three oak trees with the words, "May they be
struck down by lightning if ever my country declares war
on this country." The story says that when Mussolini
declared war on Britain some 80 years later, one of the
oaks was struck.
[I have drawn some of this information
from an article by Pamela Payne that appeared in The Lion Magazine
in September, 1992. She, in turn, credited a booklet
by Miss Winifred F. Allen.]
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