Barons’ Hall, Castel Nuovo, Naples, Italy

Up a long staircase in the courtyard of the Castel Nuovo in Naples, the Barons’ Hall is a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture – in southern Italy.

With a massive groin vault, the ceiling is unique in that its keystone is actually open in the middle with a small skylight. I have seen many Gothic vaults in the world, but never have seen this.

The room, now the meeting room for the city council of Naples, is now largely unadorned; perhaps originally large tapestries or frescoes covered the walls.

Civic architecture can make the difference between having a boring city, and a city that truly inspires its residents and visitors.


  1. I believe that the skylight may more properly be referred to as an oculus, like the Pantheon in Rome (oddly, Spellcheck doesn't even know there is such a word, and neither does the Webster's Collegiate Dictionary from my freshman year in HS, at SLUH, ca. '78). The iron or steel strapping is a curious thing. I wonder if it is an earthquake resistance/proofing modification, or simply is there to reinforce an extant structural deficiency. I envy you your travels to Italy. On the other hand, I don't think I would truly be satisfied with just a week's tourist stay. I'd rather be one of those architecture students who goes to study in Europe of a summer, and spends his/her free time sketching everything in sight with pencil and charcoal. Thanks for all of the postings of your travels abroad. They have been entertaining.

  2. Yes, that would be an oculus; thanks for pointing that out. It makes me wonder if they were looking at the Pantheon in Rome at this time for inspiration.

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