Don Pedro of Toledo, the ruthless viceroy who changed the face of Naples

by Federico Quagliuolo

One cannot understand Naples without knowing Don Pedro of Toledo, the viceroy who, rather than governing the city as an administrator, he behaved like a real king.

To the century Pedro Alvarez de Toledo y Zuniga, he was a man from glacial look, come on abrupt and imperious ways and from austere presence. He had the vice of gambling and of women, he loved elegant clothes and it was a lot faithful in friendships how much cruel and vengeful with people he didn't like. He ruled Naples with an iron fist, between riots and big business.

His twenty years of government they completely changed the face of the city: built i Spanish Quarters and the famous Via Toledo and more generally built public works which have lasted to the present day; introduced the Spanish Inquisition; managed to keep nobles and barons at bay with the most ferocious repression; he drove all the Jews out of Naples and won the Saracens in the epic battle of Otranto.

A character complex and fascinating like few in the long run ford that they were the 200 years of viceroyalty for Naples.

Pedro di Toledo Ritratto
The portrait of Pedro of Toledo

One mission: to keep Neapolitan nobles at bay

History teaches us that the city nobility, the Church and the barons of the provincial lands they wielded a power so great that they were often stronger than that of the sovereign of Naples himself. He found out the hard way Ferrante of Aragon, who spent his entire life in war escaping conspiracies and plots, as well as the Angevins understood this well that, to live peacefully, they exterminated the enemy families and left only the faithful noblemen alive, free to do anything in the kingdom. The same Charles V, "The emperor of the world", he was invited to enter Naples for get the keys to the city by the representatives of the city nobility an apparently formal act: it was an agreement.

This ongoing war of divided powers between plots, feuds and struggles for power represented one of the first reasons for the weakness of the Kingdom of Naples, which was perpetually the land of conquest of this or that invader, often invited and financed by the enemies of one or the other faction. Basically one tendency to self-destruct grown up in the mesh of local politics.

Pedro of Toledo understood this complex political system well. And, at the first "no”Said to Seats of Naples after his settlement which took place in 1532, he soon antagonized all the town nobility. It was the first viceroy that, throughout the Kingdom, fought against the privileges of the nobles and barons.

Napoli di Pedro di Toledo
The Naples of Pedro di Toledo: you can clearly see the new Via Toledo on the left side of the city!

An urban revolution

The revolution of Don Pedro of Toledo was however in reconstruction of the city in the form we still know today. He understood that Naples needed a giant remediation in every sense and began by building a very long and wide road, named in his honor Via Toledo, to plan the northern expansion of the city. Then he had the plan of the gods designed and built Spanish Quarters, in 1536, to host the garrisons of soldiers which came in very handy on the occasion of the various riots in the city. The garrisons of soldiers were hated by the Neapolitans and, in 1537 the people in revolt committed a massacre of 1000 soldiers: The viceroy understood that behind those popular uprisings was the work of the Prince of Salerno.
He then commissioned the construction of one new city sewer system, with broad strokes that are still used today and had theSerino Roman aqueduct.

He did not forget: the Vesuvian paving, the one that made Naples famous, began to appear right in the time of Don Pedro: before the streets were paved and at the expense of the government it was completely repaved the city.

The defenses of the Kingdom of Naples they were then greatly strengthened: he had it restored Sant'Elmo Castle in Naples and the Aragonese Castle of Baia as a lookout tower for the Saracens.

Not least, he established one new headquarters for the 10 courts of Naples: Castel Capuano, where they remained until the construction of the Business Center in 1995. The castle also became the tax office, where all citizens could pay taxes in one office. The area was nicknamed "Vicar" (from "vicar of the king"), the name still preserved today by the district.

Castel Capuano
Via dei Tribunali and Castel Capuano have the signature of Pedro di Toledo

A viceroy lover of Pozzuoli

The more Don Pedro worked, the more enemies and revolts increased. To avoid being poisoned or killed, decided to settle in quiet Pozzuoli, in a majestic villa (still existing today), and for the occasion he met in first person the problems of the city: he then became the promoter of the restoration of the Neapolitan Crypta, the ancient Roman cave that connected the Phlegraean area with Naples, and promoted an edict for repopulate the city after the eruption of Monte Nuovo in 1538: anyone who moved to Pozzuoli, he would pay no taxes. He also undertook to restore numerous religious buildings at his expense.

Pedro di Toledo Tiziano
Don Pedro painted by Titian

Via nobles, Jews and universities from Naples

Meanwhile, Naples was a pressure cooker ready to burst. In 1540 an edict was issued for drive all Jews out of the city, because accused of being usurers, thieves and to steal objects from corpses to resell them on the market, an unacceptable sacrilege. The Jews had a year to leave, then the death penalty. And, in terms of death sentences, Pedro of Toledo was a record man: 18,000 heads fell to the ground during his administration. They were then "Temporarily suspended" all academic activities, known for being a meeting place for nobility.

The nobles were not at all happy with the dictatorial management of Pedro of Toledo: through theElected of the People, designated by the viceroy, had removed power from noble representatives of the Seats, bypassing the nobility in the relationship with the sovereign. And that's how the first riots And, when Charles V arrived in Naples, each noble asked the emperor to chase Don Pedro away. The emperor gave spades to the nobles.

The drop that broke the camel's back was the introduction of the Tribunal of the Inquisition in the 1547, which was a declaration of war on the city nobility who continued to plot against the king. The measure was full and the people united in revolt against the tributes imposed for the immense city restructuring expenses. At the head of the revolt there was a fisherman from Sorrento, Tommaso Anello (not to be confused with Tommaso Aniello of Amalfi, the Masaniello of 1647!). The question was resolved with the army and with the excuses from Pedro of Toledo. But the wound was now open. All the government of Pedro of Toledo continued with a ping pong between armed uprisings, the Spanish army, popular mediation and imprisonment. The story ended with the exile and death of the Prince of Salerno, historical opponent of Don Pedro, which sounded like one to public opinion personal revenge

Tomba di Pedro di Toledo
Tomb of Pedro of Toledo

The "dismissal" of Pedro of Toledo

The last revolt, together with the revenge on the Prince of Salerno and the failure of the Spanish Inquisition project in Naples, they had compromise the political presence that Peter of Toledo was no longer able to manage. They were all against him and his guarded nature was not.
It was the year 1552 and the viceroy had 71 years old. Emperor Charles V sent a letter to Naples giving it to the elderly viceroy the task of leading the Spanish army to quell the revolts in the Tuscan city: a mission without any sense for a man who in life was political and not military, but above all who was old and sick.
Pedro of Toledo had understood this well: it was a "letter of dismissal", besides being a veiled one Death penalty. His illness had made him sick. But the Emperor cannot be said no.
On the journey to Tuscany he felt bad, as expected. He was thus taken to Florence, where he died on February 22, 1552.

After death, it was buried in the Duomo of Florence against his last wishes, since he had asked to return to Naples. His tomb was later destroyed during the nineteenth-century refurbishment works.

AND the tomb of Don Pedro of Toledo, which still exists today in the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli, it's just a beautiful empty shell.

-Federico Quagliuolo

The story is dedicated to Giovanna Di Pace for having supported Stories of Naples with a generous donation. Give your contribution and help us keep us alive!

Gio. Antonio Summonte, Historia of the Kingdom of Naples and the city, Antonio Bulifon, 1671
Carlo De Frede, The Spanish Viceroys of Naples, Newton Compton, Naples, 1997
Giovanni Tarcagnota, The city of Naples after the urban revolution by Pedro di Toledo, Gabriele and Mariateresa Benincasa, Rome, 1988
Benedetto Croce, History of the Kingdom of Naples
Domenico Antonio Parrino, Heroic and Political Theater of the Governments of the Viceroys of the Kingdom of Naples, 1730

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