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Alfonso d'Aragona: un pozzo per conquistare Napoli

Alfonso d'Aragona: a well and a tailor to conquer Naples

by Roberta Montesano

Benedetto Croce in one of his stories he tells us about the adventures of Alfonso of Aragon and how he managed to conquer the Kingdom of Naples by entering a tailor's house through a well, imitating the General Belisario in the 6th century Siege of Naples.

We are in those years when, in full dynastic chaos, the Aragonese succeeded the Angevin dynasty. Joan II of Anjou had in fact remained without heirs and, in full chaos, he did not know who to entrust the new crown to: i nobles Neapolitans were divided between those who hated the French and those who supported them. And, consequently, the throne hung in the balance for several years. In the end Renato d'Angiò won, nicknamed "the good".

Officially the 2 June 1442 the city of Naples fell to the hands of the Aragonese, following the escape of Renato d'Angiò. Alfonso triumphantly entered the February 26, 1443 after declaring theUnion of the Kingdom of Sicily with the Kingdom of Naples.

Alfonso d'Aragona
Alfonso of Aragon

Alfonso of Aragon conquers Naples in the well of Santa Sofia

Naples fell a wearing siege that lasted months, from 10 November 1441 to 2 June 1442. And it was not defeated with conventional methods. Indeed, the city walls held up very well (at the time of the Romans were considered "impenetrable" and a hundred years later they saved Naples from the Count of Lautrec).

Near Hagia Sophia, within the city walls, there were numerous shops, one of them was that of a humble tailor, "Master Citiello cosetore" who ran the business with his wife Ciccarella, his daughter Elena and his son Leone.

It is said that one night, during the siege, Alfonso's men sneaked into a culvert that just came out in the poor tailor's house e from there they managed to enter the city unnoticed. The discovery of this secret passage, or rather, the blown to Alfonso, it is certified that it took place by two bricklayers, Aniello and Roberto. Even if you source more romance they claim that Ciccarella, the tailor's wife, wanted to help the Aragonese king for take revenge on Renato d'Angiò who had ngave you a favor.

A chapel to commemorate the event

So the story went on with a bloodbath, an assault on the Maschio Angioino and the death of many innocent Neapolitans at the hands of Spanish soldiers. Renato d'Angiò fled and Alfonso of Aragon entered triumphant. The new ruler did not hide the secret of his successon the contrary, he arranged in his will that one should be erected chapel dedicated to San Giorgio in the mouth of the well from which his people came out, and another chapel in the workshop dedicated to San Michele Arcangelo.

Furthermore the accomplices of the Catalan king, the tailor's family and the two masons, were rewarded generously: to each of them in fact it was assigned a pension of thirty-six ducats. And also, at damsels, in May 1443 it is certified that the king gave them a black cloth of perpenna as a further thank you. Alfonso thanked everyone, also the abbess and the nuns of Donnaregina they received numerous gifts, having indicated during the siege, to the Aragonese army, the towers that in the confusion had remained unsupervised.

Alfonso d'Aragona
The statue of Alfonso of Aragon on the Royal Palace

The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies is born

Unfortunately over the centuries the trace of this well has been lost (and of the hypothetical chapels) which was so important for the Aragonese. But in the Naples guide of don Carlo Tito Dalbono it is said that the shop was handed down from tailor to tailor, and that all the artisans of the area competed to take possession of that little house which in one night had changed the fate of the city.

It is said that a tailor, so proud, he covered the well with white marble to give it luster, and that in the seventeenth century the presence of the latter was still visible, together with the ruins of the shop now abandoned. From the eighteenth century onwards all traces were lost, just as this story was forgotten.

Alfonso had a conflictual relationship with Naples and with the Italians in general: it began, just like the Angevins, with a massacre. Even the early days of Alfonso of Aragon's government were complex, with the bourgeoisie and the Neapolitan people doing the shopping. Then, at a later stage, the Aragonese ruler improved the condition of the poorer classes with reforms and surrounded himself with excellent intellectuals and advisers. He was also an excellent strategist and skilled in foreign policy.

He was responsible for the birth of the "Kingdom of the Two Sicilies": when he was crowned, in fact, for the first time this term was coined to indicate the king of Palermo and Naples. An expression that Ferdinand IV then resumed in 1816, when he first unified the crowns.

Eventually Alfonso appreciated Naples. And in a Spanish romance he is described, standing with his army outside the walls of Naples, contemplating longing and melancholy the city, uttering this epic lament:

“¡Oh ciudad, cuánto me cuestas

por la gran desdicha mía!

Cuéstasme duques y condes,

hombres de muy gran valía;

cuéstasme such a hermano

que por hijo le tenía;

d` esotra people menuda

cuento ni par no tenía.

Cuéstasme veinte y dos años,

los mejores de mi vida,

qu` en ti me nacieron barbas,

y en ti las encanecía "

-Roberta Montesano and Federico Quagliuolo

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