The Palazzo delle Poste in Naples which replaced the gigantic complex of Monteoliveto

by Federico Quagliuolo

If we could take a time travel ahead of modern lines of the post office building, we would discover an incredible place: a hundred years ago, in the same place, there was a gigantic monastery from the 1400s with seven cloisters, the Complex of Monteoliveto, survived in two sections that are today part of the Carabinieri barracks.

A story that tells us how the face of the modern city manages to hide ancient stories in every detail.

Il Palazzo delle Poste di Napoli che sostituì il gigantesco Complesso di Monteoliveto
The regular and futuristic lines of the building

From the friars to the first parliament: the Monteoliveto Complex

The famous "Monteoliveto complex”Was active for a little less than half a millennium near the church of the same name from the 15th century. It was built at the behest of Gurello Origlia, one of the trusted men of King Ladislaus, and in its long history it hosted very important events for the history of Naples, such as the first parliament in the history of Italy.

Four centuries of history are many: when it was built the Complex of Monteoliveto, i cloisters they were "only" four (the largest one still exists) and the area adjacent to the current Rione Carità e Via Toledo it was a peripheral part of Naples, divided between the great noble buildings that stood on the Roman remains of Spaccanapoli and the intricate alleys of the medieval quarters of the Port. At the time Pedro of Toledo he had yet to be born and with him the entire construction of the “new” part of the city, which today is the main artery of the historic center. The Olivetans were particularly dear to Alfonso of Aragon, who donated various lands to make expand the monastery.

Let's make a new one then historical leap very long: below Ferdinand IV of Bourbon the shape of the city is much more similar to how we know it today and the Monteoliveto complex it has become, after 400 years, a gigantic monastery that extends from the current Piazza Carità to the end of Via Sant'Anna dei Lombardi, reaching the entire Piazza Matteotti. Owns now 7 cloisters and it is a "hortus clausus", a kind of self-sufficient citadel like the monastery of the Santi Severino and Sossio on Colle Monterone.

The Olivetans, however, were a order in slow decline and Ferdinand IV in 1799 found the opportunity to expel the friars, privatizing part of the complex and leaving another part to the congregation of the Lombards, who found a home in the church of Sant'Anna. This was a anomalous fact for the Bourbon dynasty: cases of decisions to the detriment of religious orders, being the Bourbons always loyal to Church of Rome.
Within this monastery we know they were there gardens, fountains, paintings sixteenth century and vegetable gardens probably worthy ofArcadia of Sannazaro.
Unfortunately we have no graphic representations of what was there, but only stories from indirect sources.

Palazzo delle Poste in costruzione
The post office building under construction, 1930s

Regime architecture in the Palazzo delle Poste

Fascist architectures, such as the Mostra d'Oltremare, they were imagined for the purpose of creating immense monuments, luminous, protagonists for their gigantic size, but also looming for theirs colors tending to gray or black.

In short, in times when the words to inculcate in the heads of citizens were "future" And "obedience“, The Palazzo delle Poste certainly managed to return both sensations, with the large spaces and bright windows, but also with the rigor of the black clock in marble that is found at the bottom of each very long and regular row of post offices.

We probably would have had the same feeling, even greater, if the work on the Business Center between the 40s and 50s, as foreseen by the master plan of 1939.

In this case, however, the building was wanted by the minister Costanzo Ciano in person in 1928, during the first "fascism" of the country. In the competition for the demolition of the Rione Carità and the construction of the new political center of Naples the best architects of Italy participated. Each one won a different project and today we inherit not only the post office building, but also the colossus of the INA (National Insurance Institute) in Piazza Carità, in addition to the many buildings that are located in the district below di Via Toledo.

Palazzo delle poste dopo la costruzione
The post office in a photo taken immediately after construction: what impression does the completely empty square make?

A contradictory life

The new construction replaced the monastery of the Olivetan friars in the blink of an eye, forever changing the face of the historic center of Naples. The replacement, however, it was not complete: still today there are many pieces of the ancient cloister of Monteoliveto between the Carabinieri barracks and the Palazzo delle Poste. And intrigues a very small piece of loggia attached behind the immense fascist building, left just to remember the extension of the ancient monastery.

During the Second World War the building was already in danger of disappearing due to a German attack: the Nazis put in fact one bomb inside the building for blow it up but, fortunately, the building did not collapse. There however, several workers resumed their lives who had just reopened the telegraph office.

attentato palazzo delle poste
The attack on the Palazzo delle Poste

Today, in addition to the headquarters of the Italian Post Office, there is also theTucci newspaper library, which is one of the largest Italian archives of periodicals, notices and posters from the fifteenth century to today.

And so the very building that was born with the intention of erase the past inside it houses the association which, on the contrary, has the mission as conservation of all historical evidence. A perfect paradox for Naples.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Chiostro caserma pastrengo
The interior of the surviving cloister is incorporated into the Pastrengo barracks of the Carabinieri

Maria Rosaria Costa, The cloisters of Naples, Newton Compton, 1996

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