Arte e Cultura

Goldsmiths' Borough - Naples


One of the most characteristic places in the city is found in the network of alleys and side-streets of the area between Via Marina and Corso Umberto, between the sea and the southern side of the Ancient Greek-Roman city walls, in today's "MercatoPendino" quarter.
It is the "Goldsmiths' Borough" (Borgo degli Orefici).
Its name derives from the trade that was already established in the area in the Angevin period, and where artistic works f precious metal were created and sold.
From an urban planning perspective, the quarter has never undergone any precise planning over the centuries, and the development of the whole area came about through independent initiatives that have ended up giving the whole complex that characteristic urban disorder that distinguishes it.
Inside the quarter, the only open spaces are the Piazza Orefici, where the goldsmith owners of the workshops met, and Piazza Carlo Troya, where there is the historical "Fish Fountain".
Since medieval times, the area has been a hub of commercial business of all types.
In fact, according to medieval customs, the merchants and tradesmen of various arts distributed themselves over the territory, with similar business huddled together in one street.
In this way, there was a street for leatherworkers, one for weavers, and so on, until the areas became influential and powerful guilds.
In the 14th century, the area was given a precise connotation when Queen Joanna I of Anjou officially recognised the Goldsmiths' Guild.
Initially the Guild was based on the French model, and was made up of the goldsmiths that had followed the Angevin court.
Soon after that the handiwork of the locals, who initially worked together with but later surpassed the artisans from beyond the Alps, brought about a true Neapolitan school, renowned all over Europe until the fall of the Kingdom of Naples.
At the end of the 17th century, the area was definitively assigned to the Goldsmiths' Guild when the Viceroy Marquis of Carpio established that it was the only are where the trade of gold-smithery was permitted.
One of the most noble and important functions of the Guild was to provide social insurance.
This began as a sort of charitable benefit paid according to the discretion of the Guild, and over the course of the 16th century became a proper organisation for social assistance.
The consuls who were at the head of the association, managed a Church, a Hospital for poor priests, and a Conservatory.
The proceeds of the Guild came from the following activities: the embossing of objects, monthly contributions from members, begging and other minor incomes.
Today, visitors of the borough see the perfect union between past and present.
The skills and abilities of master artisans were consolidated through the creation of a consortium which many companies of this prestigious tradition take part.
Founded in March 2000, the consortium aims to plan the enhancement of the area through the re-launching of local businesses and the creation of development of thematic tourist circuits, promoting its artistic handicrafts. (Gianmaria Romano)


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