Charles V in Naples: the incredible celebrations of the Emperor in 1535

by Leonardo Quagliuolo

Following his recent triumph in Tunis, the Emperor Charles V of Habsburg, the one on whose empire "the sun never sets“, He devoted himself to a ceremonial trip to his European possessions.

His mere presence was a real big event. He spent a long time in the Kingdom of Naples, receiving, in every city he visited, gold coins and precious gifts, as well as a warm welcome and celebrations. Don Pedro of Toledo, viceroy of the Kingdom as well as a loyalist of the Emperor, did not want to be outdone: he organized a memorable event in the capital to ingratiate himself with the sovereign, who decided to stay in the city for a long time.

Among the main testimonies of the event, Antonio Summonte states in his work, that "Therefore, from the day His Majesty entered Naples, the days were clear and bright for more than two and a half continuous months.“.

Carlo V d'Asburgo, Tiziano Vecellio
Emperor Charles V of Habsburg in a portrait by Tiziano Vecellio, at the Capodimonte museum.
Photo by Leonardo Quagliuolo

The arrival in Naples

Charles V arrived in the city on November 22, 1535, but before proceeding with his official entry, he agreed, "to please the citizens“, To stay in Villa Pietra Bianca, near today's Portici, until the preparations for his triumphal entry were completed. He stayed there for three days.

On November 25, the event was best prepared by Don Pedro who, finally, was able to welcome the Emperor as he had planned. Summonte describes that November day, that "joyful day”So beautiful and bright it looks like April.

The Emperor entered Naples, near the Poggioreale Palace on a horse richly adorned with gold and pearls, wearing velvet clothes, with the order of the Golden Fleece around his neck. Upon his entrance, orders were given to the artillery to fire cheerfully.

He was welcomed by a multitude of illustrious figures of the Kingdom, including nobles and ecclesiastics of all ranks, as well as by a crowd of citizens, outside Porta Capuana, the most imposing of the gates of Naples, on which he had the opportunity to notice his coat of arms, carved for the event, next to the relief depicting Saint Gennaro.

Don Pedro di Toledo, vicerè di Carlo V
Don Pedro of Toledo, viceroy of Charles V

The chosen ones of the city, of which six nobles and one belonging to the people, fully dressed, with yellow and crimson colors, to remember the coat of arms of the city of Naples, went, with the mayor, Ferrante Sanseverino, prince of Salerno, to pay their respects to the illustrious guest, "kissing his hand and knee“.

Each of them had twelve goalkeepers and twelve other trumpeters, dressed alike. Thirty-six representatives of the gods followed seats (or seats) of the city. After that, Count Giovanni Antonio Carafa gave him the symbolic keys of the city, made of gold, amid a thousand reverences. But Charles V gave them back immediately, replying, pleased, that they would be well kept in this "Fidelissima ciudad“.

Arriving shortly after, in Piazza San Lorenzo, he was shown statues taken from Greek mythology, such as that of Hercules and Atlas, or allegorical, representing faith and military victory, created for the occasion in front of the city government building, all featuring inscriptions in his honor, as well as marble plaques. The parade continued through the various city seats, each of which had dedicated other statues to the Emperor.

When evening came, Charles V entered Castel Nuovo, where he would have lived during his stay in the city, leaving behind the celebrating crowd and in the meantime, the artillery fired shots at the sky.

Carlo V summonte
Carlo V, from a print of the work of Antonio Summonte

The stay of Charles V

Every day games and parties were organized on the occasion of the visit of Charles V and, during his stay in Naples, he celebrated the marriage of his daughter Margherita of Austria with Alessandro de'Medici of Florence and, at the same time, he participated in the weddings of other members of the nobility of the Kingdom of Naples, celebrated in Castel Capuano, with illustrious guests also from other kingdoms.

To temporarily interrupt the party atmosphere, Carlo received news of the death of the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza. He had to assign a new Duke, among his loyalists and celebrated the funeral at the church of Santa Maria la Nova, also in Naples.

But the festive atmosphere designed specifically for the Emperor's delight did not end there: on the Epiphany of 1536, a bullfight was organized, of typically Spanish tradition, in the square Bacon and egg (today via San Giovanni a Carbonara), in which Charles V himself participated! And, reports Summonte, "showed great dexterity and grace“.

A short time later, Parliament met to determine the amount of money that the Barons and the University of Naples he should have donated to the illustrious guest: an impressive sum for the time as well as today, which amounts to 500,000 ducats. More than any other city he visited previously has donated.

Carlo V a Napoli: gli incredibili festeggiamenti dell'Imperatore nel 1535
In red, today called "via San Giovanni a Carbonara", in a map of the '700. The bullfight for Charles V was probably hosted here.

The banquet of the Treasurer and the wrath of Don Pedro

During the stay of Charles V, numerous banquets were organized by as many Neapolitan nobles, to whom he gladly attended. One of these banquets was organized by the treasurer Sanchez all'Olmo, in his home in San Giovanni Maggiore, where Don Pedro himself was hosted, who had given his residence in Castel Nuovo to the Emperor, to guarantee him maximum comfort and to ingratiate himself with him. as much as possible. Own this banquet brought out the contempt that Don Pedro had towards a Neapolitan noble, Duke Antonio d'Aragona.

At the banquet there were many illustrious names, both local and from other kingdoms, such as Aragona, Colonna, Gonzaga, Carafa, Orsini, including a host of noblewomen, eager to meet and get to know Charles V. Among them was Dianora of Toledo, daughter of the Viceroy. All of them had been gathered in a hall of the residence.

The Marquis del Vasto ordered his brother-in-law, Antonio d'Aragona, to guard the ladies who came for the event. However, Don Pedro, fearing that this could flatter his daughter, towards whom he was very protective, entered, ordering Antonio to leave and that "it is not good for one man to be with many women“. The two began to argue heatedly, until the Marquis also arrived, siding with his brother-in-law. Everyone raised their hand to their daggers.

Charles V suddenly entered the room, perhaps hearing the heated discussion, taking up everyone present, commanding them to calm down. He immediately went out, impatient. Don Pedro and Antonio d'Aragona would continue not to tolerate each other, but not for that evening.

Carlo V in porta Capuana
Tomb of Don Pedro of Toledo, depicting the entry of Charles V into Porta Capuana.

During the Emperor's long stay in Naples, the latter heard of the King of France's intention to take over the Duchy of Milan, part of his vast empire, which is why "he went away angry"Towards Rome on March 22, 1536, after a long, pleasant and festive stay in Naples, which, from a simple celebration for military victories, turned into a much longer vacation.

Curiosity: the entry of Charles V into Naples was depicted in a relief decorating the tomb of don Pedro of Toledo (in which he was not buried), in the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli, in Naples. The work was made by Giovanni da Nola, also known as Giovanni Merliani.

-Leonardo Quagliuolo

For more:

Antonio Summonte, "Of the history of the city and kingdom of Naples“, Volume IV

University of Rome "La Sapienza"

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