Castel Sant’Elmo, Naples

Castle in Naples

CC BY-SA 4.0 / Hotepibre

Castel Sant’Elmo, a medieval fortress located on Vomero Hill next to the Certosa di San Martino, is one of the most prominent landmarks overlooking Naples, Italy. Originating from a 10th-century church dedicated to Sant’Erasmo, the site has undergone various transformations since the first documented structure in 1275 under Charles of Anjou.

History of Castel Sant’Elmo, Naples

Originally known as Belforte, it was initially a fortified residence expanded into a palace by King Robert of Naples with designs by the architect Tino da Camaino in the early 14th century. The structure evolved from a palace to a more fortified castle, known as castrum Sancti Erasmi, which included a chapel dedicated to Saint Erasmus.

Severely damaged by an earthquake in 1456, the fortress was later incorporated into a larger defensive strategy by the Aragonese rulers. The castle acquired its distinctive hexagonal star shape in the mid-16th century, redesigned by the military architect Pedro Luis Escriva. His contemporary design was initially criticized, yet it proved well-suited for its strategic and defensive functions with its high walls, embrasures, and moat.

The castle underwent significant rebuilding following a devastating explosion in 1587 caused by lightning striking the munitions depot. Architect Domenico Fontana led the reconstruction efforts, restoring the castle while preserving its original hexagonal structure.

Throughout its history, Castel Sant’Elmo served various military and governance purposes, including a military prison up until 1952. The fortress was restored from 1976 to 1982, removing later additions to reveal and reinforce its original design. Today, it operates under the supervision of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Artistici e Storici of Naples, hosting the Bruno Molajoli Art History Library and various art exhibits.

Castel Sant’Elmo now serves as a museum and cultural venue, offering exhibitions, administrative offices, and the unique addition of a Braille inscription on a railing for inclusive historical engagement. Its historical significance and panoramic views continue to make it a key cultural and tourist destination in Naples.

The Castel Sant’Elmo, Naples appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Naples!

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Visiting Castel Sant’Elmo, Naples


Daily from 8:30 am – 7:30 pm (last entry 6:30 pm)



Address: Castel Sant'Elmo, Via Tito Angelini, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy
Duration: 20 minutes
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