Porto Mercantile

Charles II, the second king of Naples (without Sicily), succeeded his father, Charles I, in 1285. Clara Erskine Clement describes in her 1894 book, Naples, the City of Parthenope and its Environs:

Charles II. of Anjou was a worthy successor of his father in the conception and execution of public works. He constructed the original Molo Grande and the Porto Mercantile, or Porto Grande, in 1302; he continued the building of the cathedral, and erected S. Domenico Maggiore, still one of the finest churches in Naples, and founded the less important S. Pietro Martire.

The modern Church of San Domenico Maggiore incorporates an earlier church built on this site in the 10th century, San Michele Arcangelo a Morfisa. The new church was constructed between 1283 and 1324.


Church of San Domenico Maggiore; This photo of Naples is courtesy of TripAdvisor

At Castellammare, about 1300, he built the residence which he called the Casa Sana; later it was known as the Royal Villa Quisisana, which means ” Here is health;” it is now the property of the city, and has been recently fitted up as the Grand Hotel Margherita; the view from its terrace and the walks in its park make it a charming resort. At times Charles II. resided in the Rufolo Palace at Ravello, recently the home of an English gentleman; but the favorite residence of this king and of many of his successors was at Vico Equense, on the road between Castellammare and Sorrento, so famous for its beautiful views. Vico was founded by Charles on the ruins of a city which had been destroyed by the Goths; it has always been celebrated for the excellence of its olive oil, as well as for its charming site on the Bay of Vico, near the rocks known as I Tre Fratelli. The Three Brothers.

real_casina_quisisanaLa Real Casina di Quisisana, painting by Johann Christian Dahl (1820) in the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte.

The Palace of Quisisana opened in 1898 as the Hotel Margherita, but was closed in 1902. Between 1909 and 1910 the property was home to the College of the Annunziata in Naples and was then a military hospital and a military college. It became a hotel again in 1923 under the name of Royal Hotel Qusisiana. Closed in the 1960s, the building was abandoned and allowed to deteriorate. The former palace was then restored between 2002 and 2009. The Rufolo Palace, or Villa Rufolo at Ravello was built for the Rufolo family in the 13th-century. It was acquired in the the 19th century by the wealthy Scottish industrialist Francis Neville Reid, who restored but also altered the villa.

It was during the residence of Charles II. at Vico that Philip [III] the Hardy sent his ambassadors to demand the hand of the Princess Clementia [Margaret, Countess of Anjou] for his third son, Charles of Valois. The Queen of France, who knew that Charles II. had been lame from his birth, desired that the ambassadors should be accompanied by their wives, and that these ladies should take means to assure themselves that the Princess had no personal defects. The Queen of Naples was full of resentment at this suspicious inquiry, and attempted to evade the question, but at length stipulated that her daughter should wear a delicate robe of silk when she permitted the French ladies to examine her person. This not seeming to be entirely satisfactory to her judges, Clementia, with much spirit, threw off her robe, exclaiming, “Non amittam regnum Galliae pro ista interula” “I will not lose the kingdom of France for the sake of this chemise.” She was found worthy to become the queen of France, and was the mother of Philip VI., who opposed the Black Prince at Crecy.

In 1294 Charles II. and his son, Charles Martel, held the bridle of the mule on which Pietro da Morone rode into Aquila for his cpronation as Pope Celestine V. In startling contrast to the sometime pious humility of this monarch, was his brutal destruction of Ischia, with fire and sword, in revenge for the part taken by the Ischians in the revolt of John of Procida, the leader of the Sicilian Vespers. But it was characteristic of the kings of the House of Anjou to build and endow churches, and show great veneration for the pontiffs who pleased them, while they perpetrated revolting crimes within their palaces, and revenged themselves upon their enemies with the utmost cruelty. Few human hearts have been torn by more antagonistic forces than was that of Charles II. of Anjou, now resting in its silver casket in the grand old church of S. Domenico Maggiore.