Ladislaus_King_of_NaplesLadislaus, King of Naples

Charles III was succeeded as king of Naples by his son, Ladislaus, who was named in honor of the Saint Ladislaus I, King of Hungary. Ladislaus was challenged for many years by a rival king, Louis II, son of Louis I who had been husband and co-ruler with Joanna I. Quoting as usual from Clara Erskine Clement’s 1894 book Naples, the City of Parthenope and its Environs:

Ladislaus, the young son and heir of Charles III., was destined to the same stormy life that his predecessors had led. The adherents to the Angevine dynasty regarded him, young as he was, as their sovereign, and faithfully supported his claims; but the French party endeavored to establish Louis II. on the throne of Naples.

The long and bloody struggle which followed resulted in the victory of Ladislaus. As the war proceeded, the young king proved himself a valiant soldier; and in 1389 his army defeated Louis in a battle fought in Ischia, which island the French had occupied.

Later, the great schism in the Church, and the violent contentions in the election of a Pope, which engrossed all parties, gave Ladislaus an opportunity to increase his power in various directions ; and he used all the means at his command to prolong the struggle, as a French Pope, if elected, would have overthrown his government. At length it was thought that the growing strength of the King of Naples threatened the Florentines and other powers in Italy; and Braccio, a famous mercenary soldier who had previously fought for Ladislaus was now lured, by larger pay, to oppose him. In this emergency the young king employed Attendolo Sforza, another celebrated free lance, who from a peasant had risen to be a general of armies and a worthy rival of Braccio.

Muzio_Attendolo_Sforza_(1369-1424)Muzio Attendolo Sforza (Source: Wikimedia)

Genoa had been hitherto the ally of the French, but by some potent influence was now induced to forsake them and join the Neapolitans ; and Louis, fearing lest he should be hemmed in between two hostile armies, retreated while he could. In 1410 the Florentines, with Braccio’s aid, entered Rome, and compelled the Romans to consent to the election of Alexander V., believing that a universally accepted pope would be the most efficient check upon the power of Naples. But Alexander died before accomplishing the desired end, and the French and Florentines united to establish John XXIII. on the papal throne; and in 1411 these allies invaded the territory of Naples with twelve thousand soldiers, among whom were the bravest condottieri and other warriors in all Italy.

Ladislaus was defeated on his own ground. His army, nearly as large as that of the allies, was drawn up at Rocca Secca, awaiting the attack, which Louis led in person with great impetuosity. Nearly all the nobles who served under Ladislaus were captured, but he escaped to San Germano. Had Louis restrained his own desire and that of his men for plunder, and pursued his rival, he would have gained a complete victory ; but so eager were his troops for money that they thought of nothing else, and even sold their arms.

While his enemies were thus engaged in pillage, Ladislaus occupied, with his troops, all possible avenues to Naples ; and Louis of Anjou, although the victor in the famous battle of Rocca Secca, was in reality defeated as to the main object of the war, and, being forced to withdraw his army, left Ladislaus to make the real conquest and become the master of the Papal States. When Ladislaus learned that his enemies were actually in retreat, he said: “The day after my defeat, my kingdom and my person were equally in the power of my enemies; the next day my person was safe, but they were still, if they chose, masters of my kingdom ; the third day all the fruits of their victory were lost.”

John XXIII (Antipope)Anti-Pope John XXIII (Source: Wikimedia)

Ladislaus now employed Sforza to compel Pope John, who had made himself hated by his cruelty, to fly from the sacred city. The Pope appealed to the Empire north of the Alps for aid; and shortly after, Sigismund, the brother of Wenceslaus, who had been deposed, was made King of the Romans. The enemies of Ladislaus looked to this new monarch for revenge on Naples, because Charles of Durazzo had attempted to seize the crown of Hungary, which Sigismund inherited by the right of his wife, Mary, the daughter of Louis the Great, of Hungary.

But Sigismund was more occupied with his desire and determination to end the scandals in the Church than with his private schemes ; and as Ladislaus died in 1414, it is said by poison, he escaped the punishment which Pope John had hoped to see inflicted on him. In the following year, at the Great Council at Constance, Martin V. was elected Pope, and acknowledged by all Christendom; thus ended the great schism.

The stormy reign of Ladislaus afforded but small opportunity for the works of peace. However, he erected a large part of the modern walls around the ancient town of Cora, mentioned by Virgil, Pliny, and Plautus, where the most important and interesting ruins repay the study of the antiquarian.

Tomb of Ladislus of NaplesTomb of King Ladislaus in S. Giovanni a Carbonara

At Naples he restored and enlarged the church of S. Giovanni a Carbonara, where his tomb was erected by his sister, Joanna II., and is called the masterpiece of Andrea Ciccione. It is placed behind the high altar, and, its height being nearly equal to that of the church, it is most imposing in effect. An equestrian statue of Ladislaus, with crown on head and sword in hand, spirited in pose, occupies the summit. Below this is a sarcophagus on which is a recumbent figure of the king; a bishop is pronouncing a benediction over it, thus indicating that the ban of the Church, under which he died, had been removed. Still below this is a niche in which statues of Ladislaus and Joanna are seated on thrones, while four Virtues are sitting near them. Besides these principal figures there are many statues, columns, and other ornaments, all carefully executed, which serve to make this monument notable even in a church which is celebrated for its tombs and sculptures.