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Naples History - Middle Ages

The Middle Ages  

The dukedom of Naples was strong, the Catholic Church had power over the lives of Neapolitans and trade and art were growing. this is a panorama of Naples in the early 11th century. However there were some dangers looming Naples: the Normans were interested in some Lombard strongholds such as Salerno, Benevento, Capua and Amalfi.

The Normans came to the south region of Italy in the 10th century on pilgrimage from Holy Land. They later became mercenaries who served the principalities in their wars and against the Muslims occupying Sicily. Capua, Amalfi, Salerno and Southern Sicily were taken by the Normans throughout the 11th and 12th century. Naples could not repel their invasion and fell in 1139. They established in this way their own kingdom, the Kingdom of the two Sicilies. Its capital was in Sicily and Naples was a bit over shadowed by it; however, its citizens did not reject their new occupiers and when in 1194 the Hohenstaufen house took the throne they turned to hatred.

The Swavian crown was beaten in Benevento by the house of Anjou, a fact which gladden the Neapolitans. The French crown decided to turn Naples into a benchmark of cultural and intellectual life. Castel Nuovo and Castel Sant’Elmo were constructed and the port was made bigger. The last periods of the Anjou family in the crown was stained with blood: a queen blamed for murdering her husband and another queen being supported by the ordinary people against her husband who attempted to take power. These hard times weakened the power of the rulers and the Spanish found the best situation to invade. Alfonso of Aragon was the conqueror and first Aragonese king who seized Naples in 1442. His reign was beneficial to Naples as he encouraged art, science and institutional reforms. However, in 1485 the nobles supporting the Angevians rebelled against his heir, Ferdinand I. By 1486 the rebellion was crushed.

This peace period was short as in 1495 the French crown attacked again. As they seized the town, they were backed up by the nobles and faced the ordinary populations’ opposition, and the region was in their hands for four months. When they fell from power, the Aragonese were welcomed by the Neapolitans again.