In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Naples, 1300–1700

  • Introduction
  • Essential Works
  • Digital Resources

Renaissance and Reformation Naples, 1300–1700
Ronald G. Musto
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 September 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 September 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0458


The history of Naples and its kingdom (Regno) during these four centuries is one of constant change, foreign influence, and internal turmoil and renewal: in short, a major metropolis of early modern Europe. While these centuries have been intensely studied in Italy and Europe, Anglophone scholarship had been slow to follow the lead. The Angevin period (1265–1442) has attracted few Anglophone scholars, mostly in art history and textual study, and their numbers fluctuate regularly. The Aragonese period (1442–1504) has been more fortunate as this coincides with Renaissance studies for humanism, the classical art impulse, and the new sciences. The Spanish period (1504–1707) shares the fate of both the early modern Mediterranean and Iberian studies, both attached to larger European trends. Early modern Naples, like its master Spain, has been the object both of the Black Legend and of subsequent historiographical disdain among Anglophones for the monarchical and supposedly backward nature of its governance, economy, and Catholic culture. This article therefore includes major works in both English and Italian and divides entries according to these dynastic demarcations. One of the major historiographical issues in Neapolitan studies is the destruction of the state archives by the retreating Nazis in September 1943 in which Angevin, Aragonese, and many earlier archives were firebombed. See Riccardo Filangieri, “Report on the Destruction by the Germans, September 30, 1943, of the Depository of Priceless Historical Records of the Naples State Archives”. Given the pan-Mediterranean interests and influence of Neapolitan dynasties, however, we have been fortunate in the survival of copies of many records in Marseilles (Angevin) and Barcelona (Aragonese). These have been meticulously reconstructed since the mid-20th century by a research team first assembled in Filangieri, et al. 1950. Spanish materials are housed largely in Neapolitan private and church archives and in Barcelona, Simancas, and elsewhere. We are more fortunate in narrative sources, which were systematically studied in Bartolommeo Capasso, Le fonti della storia delle provincie napolitane dal 568 al 1500. Important chronicles, diaries, relazioni, and archival materials survive for all these periods and have been published, many with recent editions. Scholars at Naples have also undertaken a comprehensive philological and contextual study of these works to place them within both Latin and vernacular literatures and literacies. Also of major importance has been the topographical study of the city itself, confined to its tufa platform from its ancient foundations into the Spanish period when exponential growth burst beyond the medieval walls to encompass extensive areas to the city’s west and south. This article concentrates on books and series and lists only select fundamental articles. Several of the volumes listed are collections of essays that offer the latest research findings. Earlier works incorporated into current research have not always been included here but can be accessed through these later studies’ bibliographies and notes.

Essential Works

The titles here present the first and foremost works that any scholar of historical Naples should know. They range from art and architecture as discussed in Bruzelius 2004, Warr and Elliott 2010, Hall and Willette 2017; in narrative as in Portieri 1967–1978; in discussions of documentary history, sources, and historiography such as Capasso 1902, Filangieri 1944, Mazzoleni 1957–1990, and A Documentary History of Naples; through the city’s topography and urban history analyzed in de Seta 1991 and Ferraro 2002–2018; and in the city’s status as cultural and political capital examined in Hughes and Buongiovanni 2015.

  • Bruzelius, Caroline Astrid. The Stones of Naples: Church Building in Angevin Italy, 1266–1343. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.

    The fundamental architectural treatment of Angevin Naples brings together both the author’s own research and synthesizes Anglophone and European work. Thoroughly examines the impact of French Gothic on the Regno but also brings to bear considerable knowledge of local styles, materials, and techniques while placing developments in the Regno in larger European contexts.

  • Capasso, Bartolommeo. Le fonti della storia delle provincie napolitane dal 568 al 1500. Bologna, Italy: Arnaldo Forni Editore, 1902.

    Often superseded by more recent research and editions, this remains the best starting point for a thorough overview of the sources: narrative, archival, and private collections with contextual and methodological introductions. Arranged chronologically and well indexed and annotated. Reprinted 1997.

  • de Seta, Cesare. Naples. Bari, Italy: Laterza, 1991.

    This volume in the series Le città nella storia d’Italia remains the best single-volume introduction to the city’s fabric and growth from its origins into the 20th century. Amply illustrated with maps, plans, paintings, drawings, and photos.

  • A Documentary History of Naples. New York: Italica, 2000–2020.

    Edited by Ronald G. Musto, this five-volume series offers the only complete documentary history of the city in any language. The series ranges from the ancient founding of the city through the end of the 20th century. Sources range across all available genres. Individual volumes include Bruzelius and Tronzo 2011 (cited under Angevins, 1300–1442: Arts and Culture), Musto 2013 (cited under Angevins, 1300–1442: Sources), Nichols and McGregor 2019 (cited under Aragonese, 1442–1504: Sources), Porter 2000 (cited under Spanish, 1504–1707: Sources), and Santore 2001. The Ancient Naples volume is forthcoming. The series also includes online bibliographies and collections of images.

  • Ferraro, Italo, ed. Napoli: Atlante della città storica. 9 vols. Naples, Italy: CLEAN, 2002–2018.

    Ferraro’s team of historians, archivists, architects, and architectural and urban historians surveyed every rione of the city. These lavish folio volumes follow a standard format to cover every district, street, and building with maps, plans, elevations, axiometric drawings, historical images, and photographs from the earliest evidence to the early 21st century. Each part of the book contains a wealth of commentary and annotation. With comprehensive bibliography and indexes of places and names.

  • Filangieri, Riccardo. “Report on the Destruction by the Germans, September 30, 1943, of the Depository of Priceless Historical Records of the Naples State Archives.” The American Archivist 7.4 (1944): 252–255.

    The scholarship of late medieval and early modern Naples must account for one of the major recent acts of erasing memory and identity: the firebombing of the state archives by retreating Nazis in 1943 that destroyed the original record of the city and Regno’s history for these periods. Filangieri and colleagues spent decades meticulously reconstructing lost archives from copies in private collections, printed editions, and duplicates made by the Angevins—now in Marseilles—and the Aragonese, now in Barcelona.

  • Hall, Marcia B., and Thomas Willette. Naples. Artistic Centers of the Italian Renaissance. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

    The last in Hall’s five-volume series, Naples presents the most recent consensus in both Anglophone and European research on the state of the Regno’s arts and culture. Essays include a general historical and theoretical review (Ronald G. Musto), essays on Vasari’s critique of Naples (Thomas Willette), urban design (A. Giannetti), ecclesiastical architecture and foundations (Charlotte Nichols), patronage and painting (S. Romano), tombs and chapels (T. Michalsky), and aristocratic residences (Gérard Labrot). Richly illustrated, with complete, comprehensive bibliography.

  • Hughes, Jessica, and Claudio Buongiovanni. Remembering Parthenope: The Reception of Classical Naples from Antiquity to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    Italian and Anglophone scholars cover the interpretation of Naples from Antiquity to the 21st century. Topics include Strabo and other ancient geographers, the temple of the Dioscuri, ancient cultural memory, Greek magistracies, the Gothic War and cultural forgetting, Roman spolia, the legacy of Statius and Virgil, 15th-century archaeology, early modern guidebooks, the Theatines and the temple of the Dioscuri, A. de Jorio, and Neapolitan presepe.

  • Mazzoleni, Jole. Le fonti documentarie e bibliografiche dal sec. 10. al sec. 20. conservate presso l’ Archivio di Stato di Napoli. Naples, Italy: Arte Tipografica, 1957–1990.

    Systematic publishing of sources from the Neapolitan chancellery and other state archives.

  • Portieri, Ernesto, ed. Storia di Napoli. 11 vols. Naples, Italy: Società Editrice Storia di Napoli, 1967–1978.

    The starting point for serious research. Volume 3, Napoli Angioina: the Angevins, the Angevin-Durazzans, religious life; arts, urbanism, architecture. Volume 4, Napoli Aragonese: history, politics; architecture, urbanism; sculpture, painting; decorative arts, costume; humanist and other literary cultures. Volume 5, Il viceregno: history, politics; literature; mannerism; intellectual life; finances; sculpture, painting; majolica. Volume 6, Tra Spagna e Austria: history, politics; intellectual life; economy, finance; religious life and institutions; urbanism; fashion, dress; literature; architecture; ritual, display; figurative arts.

  • Warr, Cordelia, and Janis Elliott, eds. Art and Architecture in Naples, 1266–1713: New Approaches. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

    The most comprehensive introduction to the visual history of Naples for this entire period, offering essays by noted experts on Vasari (Warr and Elliott, A. Loconte), Angevin court artists (C. Fleck), quattrocento tomb sculpture (T. Michalsky), Diomede Carafa (B. de Divitiis), interior design (J. N. Napoli), post-Tridentine spiritual values (H. Hills), and patronage and theoretical frames (N. Bock).

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