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I Sedili di Napoli, la storia di duemila anni di politica napoletana

The seats of Naples, the history of two thousand years of Neapolitan politics

by Federico Quagliuolo

The world never changes. And we find out by following the story of Seats, Linstitution that dominated Neapolitan politics for two thousand years. It was a kind of parliament citizen who was born even inancient Rome and which, of course, was in the interests of few rich and many corrupt.

Even today we find traces of the presence of seats a bit' everywhere, starting from Via Seat of Porto, arriving at the symbols of Colapesce scattered almost everywhere.

In the church of Saint Lawrence, behind Piazza San Gaetano, have come together for centuries i representatives of all districts of the city to decide the good and bad times of local politics. It was about very complex organizations, often managed for centuries by the same families.

To understand the importance of the seats, just think that Charles V, the Spanish emperor who ruled half the world, in Naples he was welcomed by the representatives from the seats for "Receive the keys to the city". Practically the emperor received an investiture by the Neapolitan nobles who, in exchange for the loyalty of the Kingdom of Naples, they would have guaranteed broad political powers.

Indeed, the Neapolitan nobility wished govern Naples autonomously. After all, a good part of the territories of the Kingdom it was divided precisely between the same Neapolitan families. This concentration of power, as easily predictable, did not end well. Especially in the era viceregal, without a powerful king in the city, the life of Naples was marked by feuds between families, wild building speculations e popular uprisings.

The Roman Brothers

To find the ancestors of the Seats we have to knock on the door of even the ancient Romans. In fact, in the Republican era there were the "siblings“, A system of self-government of the city through people elected by the people who were supposed to manage. The term even derives from the Greek.

Then came religion. It was Constantine the Great, the Roman emperor who founded theConstantinian Order, which today has its headquarters in Naples, to found the seats of Naples: he wanted the city to be managed by characters linked to the Christian world, to take care of the public affairs which, incidentally, coincided all too often with the interests of the politicians themselves. Proof of this is the complete dominion that the Benedictines had in town during the ducal era.

Why are they called Seats or Seats?

For the armchairs, literally. I "parliaments”Of the districts where the nobles gathered were in fact built in churches or in buildings built specifically for this role: they were buildings with plant square, open on three sides and covered by one dome. They took up about 15 square meters and had one grand halland, with seats to make gather the participants in a circle. Then, on the side without an entrance, there was a door for the "private meetings". Almost all the palaces were destroyed during the Remediation.

Ferdinando IV and the birth of modern neighborhoods

The experience of Neapolitan Republic was of great teaching for Ferdinand IV who, returned to Naples with the help of the British and Austrians, decided to get it over with with any liberal dialogue. The first to pay bitterly it was precisely the nobles of the seats, which for years had already been considered a useless burden that often held back the king's work with political or legal issues. Times had changed and Ferdinand had the intention of break the bridges with the medieval past, often too heavy, that still tormented the political scenario of Naples. He will only succeed Murat in this enterprise, but, in 1800, Ferdinando declared the seats of Naples closed and merged a large part of the city politics in the management of 12 neighborhoods which, unsurprisingly, they were anyway managed by representatives who were part of the same previous seats. The nobles who instead had supported the French during the Neapolitan Republic they were executed.

THE neighborhoods identified in 1779 by the King of Naples were practically the same ones that still exist in the city today.

Sedili di Napoli
Seats of Naples in a noble palace

What are the seats of Naples?

Originally there were 5, each with its own coat of arms. Then a sixth was added, of the "People", which had only the function of to report the complaints of the bourgeois class to the nobles. Many representatives of the people in the viceregal era were corrupt or politically insignificant and they often ended killed or lynched by the same citizens who had voted for them. Then there were one infinity of minor seats, which in 1266 were even 23, which responded to the major neighborhood seats. Over time the number decreased more and more, until it disappeared underneath Robert of Anjou, which in 1366 he wanted completely reform the administration of Naples. The nobles were particularly fond of the Angevins (also because Charles of Anjou he had taken care of well exterminate any family opposed to the new dominion), while they were almost always hostile to the Spaniards, so much so that in the 16th century they tried to support Odetto di Foix in the French invasion of Naples. And they even managed to chase the Spanish Inquisition out of Naples introduced by Pedro of Toledo to control the nobles.

Sedile di Capuana

Seat of Capuana: it was located in the current Sedile Capuano alley and two arches of the ancient palace survive, incorporated into a modern building. It probably takes its name from the Capuano family which, in the ducal era, was one of the most powerful in Naples.

Sedile di Montagna

Mountain Seat: so called because it stood at the highest point of the city.

Sedile di Forcella

Fork Seat: it was near the famous "cippo a Forcella", as well as having the same symbol of the School of Pythagoras.

Sedile di Nilo

Seat of Nile (or Nest): it stood in Piazzetta Corpo di Napoli, but was transferred in the 16th century to the church of Sant'Angelo a Nilo.

Sedile di Porto

Seat of Porto: its symbol is Colapesce, the legendary character that unites Naples to the rest of the Mediterranean. It was located in Via Sedile di Porto, even though the area was completely razed to the ground during the Renovation. The only evidence is a plaque at the beginning of Via Mezzocannone, with an inscription that explains the ancient presence of the institution: "The filthy houses and the contiguous Angevin support were demolished, which on both sides made narrow and obscure the vichi, and built new and vast streets and comfortable homes to restore and decorate the city. The Town Hall had these surviving tombstones placed here so as to remind posterity of the site and the undertaking of the old seat of Porto which existed in the corner of Vico Mezzocannone until the year 1742 ”.

Sedile di Portanova

Portanova seat: it is found, not surprisingly, in Piazza Portanova, in a point where the walls were enlarged and a new city gate inserted. There is a plaque of the Restoration which recalls the presence of the ancient seat: From ancient times the seat of Portanova was built here. One of the five noble assemblies that formed the ancient municipal administration of Naples with the popular. And it lasted until 1800, when this, blamed for love of freedom, was abolished by Ferdinand IV of Bourbon and the one reduced to private homes in 1898. The town hall of new and free times, reigning Umberto I King of Italy, because of this remembrance remained, this plaque he placed ”.
It should be added that this plaque is a bit partial in the story: Ferdinand IV really abolished the seats in 1800 and certainly he did it with an absolutist spirit.

The "Captains of the Road" and the sixth seat

If today the municipality and in the 19th century there were districts, Naples has been divided into “ottine” for a good part of its history. Even before that they were called "districts" or "regions", but the meaning did not change: each area of the city had to elect 8 people from among the nobles, who in turn elected the "road captain". The King appointed this captain as a "spokesperson" for the interests of the people.

Thus was born the Seat of the People: it was introduced in the sixteenth century after several popular uprisings cagainst the abuses of the Neapolitan nobility, often aided by corrupt courts and not very clear in their decisions (as the events of the Fortification Tribunal also narrate). In reality it was a sop: the representative of the people could only report complaints, without any decision-making power. And the people, ignorant, took it out on the representatives why unable to change things.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Alfredo D'Ambrosio, the streets of ancient Naples in the modern city
Gino Doria, the streets of Naples

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