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The throne room.
The Royal Palace of Caserta (Italian: Reggia di Caserta) is a former royal residence in Casertamarker, constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. It was the largest palace and one of the largest buildings erected in Europe in the eighteenth century alongside the royal palace and monastery of Mafra in Portugal. In 1996, the Palace of Caserta was listed among the World Heritage Sites on the grounds that it was "the swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque, from which it adopted all the features needed to create the illusions of multidirectional space".


The construction of the palace was begun in 1752 for Charles VII of Naples, who worked closely with his architect Luigi Vanvitelli. When Charles saw Vanvitelli's grandly-scaled model for Caserta it filled him with emotion "fit to tear his heart from his breast". In the end, he never slept a night at the Reggia, as he resigned from the throne in 1759 to become King of Spain, and the project was carried to completion for his third son and successor, Ferdinand IV of Naples.

The political and social model for Vanvitelli's palace was Versailles, which, though it is strikingly different in its variety and disposition, solves similar problems of assembling and providing for king, court and government in a massive building with the social structure of a small city, confronting a baroque view of a highly subordinated nature, la nature forcée. The Royal Palace of Madridmarker, where Charles had grown up, which had been devised by Filippo Juvarra for Charles' father, Felipe V of Spain, and also Charlottenburgmarker provided models. A spacious octagonal vestibule seems to have been inspired by Basilica di Santa Maria della Salutemarker in Venicemarker, while the palatine chapel is most often compared to Robert de Cotte's royal chapel at Versailles.

The reasons for building the Palace were to have a new magnificent administrative capital of the Kingdom in Caserta and to protect the court from possible attacks from the sea. The King also decided to build a theatre, a large library, and a university. The Palace might have been a splendid place for court ceremonies, too.

Vanvitelli died in 1773: the construction was continued by his son Carlo, until it was ended in 1780.

As finished, the palace has some 1,200 rooms, two dozen state apartments, and a royal theatre modelled after the Teatro San Carlomarker of Naples.

The population of Caserta Vecchia was shifted 10 kilometers to make it available to the new palace. A silk manufactory at San Leucio resortmarker, was disguised as a pavilion in the immense parkland.

A monumental avenue, 20 kilometers in length, which would have connected the Palace to Naples, was never realized.

In 1945 the palace was the site of the signing of terms of the unconditional German surrender of forces in Italy. The first surrender of German forces of the war. The agreement covered between 600,000 and 900,000 soldiers along the Italian Front including troops in sections of Austria.


The palace has a rectangular plan, measuring 247 x 184 m. The four sides are connected by two orthogonal arms, forming four inner courts, each measuring more than 3,800 m².

Behind the facades of its matching segmental ranges of outbuildings that flank the giant forecourt, a jumble of buildings arose to facilitate daily business. In the left hand arc was built as barracks. Here, later, during World War II the soldiers of the US Fifth Army recovered in a "rest centre".

Of all the royal residences inspired by the Palace of Versaillesmarker, the Reggia of Caserta is the one bearing the greatest resemblance to the original model: the unbroken balustraded skyline, the slight break provided by pavilions within the long, somewhat monotonous facade. As at Versailles, a large aqueductmarker was required to bring water for the prodigious water displays. Like its French predecessor, the palace was designed to be the powerhouse of an absolute Bourbon monarchy in the true Baroque fashion. A solecism at Caserta is that above the piano reale, the King's floor, is another floor of equal architectural value and grandeur. The enfilades of Late Baroque saloni were the heart and seat of government, as well as displays of national wealth. The palace also provided suitable housing for the royal family and the court of the Kingdom of Naples, the Palace housed the offices of government bureaucracy a national library, a university, a national theatre, all apart and free from the disorder and squalor of Naples. Thus the King of Naples at Caserta was free from the mob and factions of his capital in the same way as Versailles had freed Louis XIV from Paris. Besides its size and grandeur, it also had the advantage of being inland, and hence more defensible, than the old Royal Palace in Naples, which fronted the Bay of Naples and hence was vulnerable to attack from the sea. To provide the King with extra protection a barracks was also housed within the precincts of the palace.

The wide central entrance carriageway has, today, been incorporated into the city's automobile circulation.
The Actaeon sculptural group at the Cascade.

The park

The garden, a typical example of the baroque extension of formal vistas, stretch for 120 ha, partly on hilly terrain. It is inspired by the park of Versailles, but it is commonly regarded as superior in beauty. The park starts from the back façade of the palace, flanking a long alley with artificial fountains and cascades. There is an English garden in the upper part designed in the 1780s by Carlo Vanvitelli and the London-trained plantsman-designer John Graefer, recommended to Sir William Hamilton by Sir Joseph Banks. It is an early Continental example of an "English garden" in the svelte naturalistic taste of Capability Brown.

The fountains and cascades, each filling a vasca ("basin"), with architecture and hydraulics by Luigi Vanvitelli at intervals along a wide straight canal that runs to the horizon, rivalled those at Peterhofmarker outside St. Petersburgmarker. These include:
  • The Fountain of Diana and Actaeon (sculptures by Paolo Persico, Brunelli, Pietro Solari);
  • The Fountain of Venus and Adonis (1770-80);
  • The Fountain of the Dolphins (1773-80);
  • The Fountain of Aeolus;
  • The Fountain of Ceres.

A large population of figures from classical Antiquity were modelled by Gaetano Salomone for the gardens of the Reggia, and executed by large workshops.

Film locations

Casertamarker was used as the location for Queen Amidala's Royal Palace on Naboo in the 1999 film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and again in the 2002 film Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones as Queen Jamilla's palace. The same room was also used in Mission: Impossible III as Vatican City. In fact, the square where the Lamborghini is blown up is actually the square inside the Palace.The main staircase is also used in Angels & Demons as the Vatican's staircase.


  1. Unesco site evaluation.
  2. Siegfried Giedion, Space, Time and Architecture pp 133ff.
  3. Alice M. Coats, "Forgotten Gardeners, II: John Graefer" The Garden History Society Newsletter No. 16 (February 1972), pp. 4-7.


  • George Hersey, Architecture, Poetry, and Number in the Royal Palace at Caserta, (Cambridge: MIT Press) 1983. Caserta interpreted through the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico

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