June 2, 2015

This Day in History: Alfonso V of Aragon Conquers Naples

Alfonso V, Palazzo Reale, Napoli
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli
When Queen Joanna II of Naples died childless in 1435, war again erupted between the Angevins and Aragonese for control of the Kingdom. After seven years of protracted hostilities, King Alfonso V of Aragon finally triumphed on June 2, 1442, thanks to a little stealth and cunning. 
During the siege of Naples, discovery of a tunnel system in the Bolla aqueduct allowed a group of 200 soldiers commanded by Diomede Carafa to circumvent the city’s defenses and emerge from a well near Porta Santa Sofia. Inspired by the great Byzantine General Belisarius, who used an empty aqueduct to take Naples from the Ostrogoths in 536 A.D., King Alfonso’s forces were able to overcome the guards, open the gate and conquer the city. After 161 years, Sicily and Naples were once again united under one ruler.
The Aragonese Arch, Castel Nuovo, Napoli
Alfonso was formally recognized as King of Naples by the Pope in 1443, taking the title rex Utriusque Siciliae, or King of the Two Sicilies.

Called “The Magnanimous” by his contemporaries, he was an important patron of the arts. He founded the Academy of Naples and attracted many artists, musicians and writers to his court, making it a leading center of Renaissance learning.

Transforming Naples into the capital of his vast western Mediterranean empire (Aragon, Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Valencia, Sardinia and the Two Sicilies) he executed several major building projects to commemorate his victory over the Angevins, including the Chiesa Santa Maria della Pace (destroyed by an earthquake in 1456) and the Triumphal Arch at the Castel Nuovo.
Alfonso V died in the Castel dell’Ovo on June 27, 1458.