The crocodile of the Maschio Angioino: the legend of the Neapolitan alligator

by Roberta Montesano

Naples is the city of the sea, and with it the legends about sea monsters cannot be missing. The legend of the crocodile of the Male Angevin the illustrious tells it to us Benedetto Croce which, between mysteries and curiosities, reveals the most hidden soul of the Neapolitan city.

We are towards the end of the 15th century, the only son of Alfonso, Ferdinand of Aragon, he found himself having a very special encounter.

Il coccodrillo del Maschio Angioino: la leggenda dell'alligatore napoletano
Where does the Maschio Angioino crocodile hide? - Photo by Federico Quagliuolo

The strange disappearance of the prisoners of the castle

The Maschio Angioino, renamed in Castel Nuovo, was rich in tunnels and pits, one of these was used as a extreme punishment, that is: who most angered the sovereign was destined to fall for it and stay there for a long time. But, as the prisoners fell, more and more awareness of the periodic disappearance of these. Suspicions increased and the most common theory was that of an alleged tunnel leading prisoners to freedom.

But one day, while yet another unwary that had angered the sovereign came thrown into the pit, strange noises were heard and a great monster appeared. The theory was so partially correct, there was a secret exit from the pit, but none of the prisoners had ever managed to cross it on their own legs, since the terrible monster, the tender beast, for the most learned: the crocodile, he used to grab the loot and drag it through the secret passage.

A similar creature in Neapolitan waters? How could he have gotten there? Dear Benedict supposes that the animal, clinging to some vessel, arrived from Egypt.

The personal punishment of Joan II

But for the more mischievous it exists another version of the story. The creature is said to have been brought from Egypt by order of the queen Joan II, a woman with hot spirits who were sedated by her many lovers. An army of haunted-hearted men who the woman did not hesitate to feed the crocodile.

But, whether it came by divine will or by the will of wine, what happened to the crocodile?

What happened to the Maschio Angioino crocodile?

Il coccodrillo del Maschio Angioino: la leggenda dell'alligatore napoletano
The stuffed crocodile hanging from one of the doors of the Castel Nuovo

Well, dear Benedict always gives us his version of the story: let's go back to Ferrante of Aragon. Una volta scoperto del coccodrillo ci aveva preso gusto a condemn the prisoners to a quick and certain death, but later he realized that the animal could become a danger to the entire castle, so he organized himself a fishing trip, and using a leg of horse as bait, the crocodile took the bait. Once killed he was stuffed and displayed outside the castle.

During the years, the stuffed crocodile was removed and kept who knows where. The more daring might think that the crocodile exposed to the National Museum is the same devourer of prisoners and lovers, but once again Benedetto Croce is keen to specify that the animal exhibited in the museum is of a completely different origin.

Then the mystery remains, so much so that in the 2004 from the excavations of Piazza Municipio underground They were the remains of an animal were found and immediately the crocodile of the legend was thought of. There is no evidence, however, that leads back to him!

-Roberta Montesano

Il coccodrillo del Maschio Angioino: la leggenda dell'alligatore napoletano
The Maschio Angioino crocodile seen by our designer, Annamaria Docimo

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