Palazzo d'Avalos: the sad transformation of one fortress (15 photos)

21 June 2024

Just as people in life can play a variety of social roles, so buildings, especially solid ones, can perform different functions during their existence. This majestic palace, built in the 16th century, was turned into a prison in 1830.

In 1560, Cardinal Innico D'Argona commissioned the architects Benvenuto Tortelli and Giovan Batista Cavagna to build the D'Avalos Palace in Procida. This palace was to become his residence, and therefore it had to combine the inaccessibility of a fortress and an elegant Renaissance residence.

At the end of the 18th century, after the proclamation of the Neapolitan Republic, the D'Avalos Palace was closed and abandoned until 1818. After which a military school was opened there.

In 1830, by order of King Ferdinand II, the building was converted into a penal colony: floors, frescoes and stucco were removed to provide a kitchen, cells and common areas. Large passages were walled up. A moat was dug in the courtyard to provide light and air to the underground cells where those considered the most dangerous, including political prisoners, were kept.

The hall on the top floor was used as a prison chapel. Other premises were added to the fortress, including a large factory, a wing to house the guards' families, and the chief's villa.

Since 1946, prominent fascist criminals were also kept in prison. The cells of the Palazzo d'Avalos were occupied by prisoners until the 1970s, and were then converted into a yarn storage facility.

The building was finally closed in 1988 and stood abandoned for more than 30 years.

Today, thanks to the Palazzo D'Avalos association, the complex can still be visited. In the first courtyard there are the remains of classrooms, workshops, warehouses and the room of the barber, whose duties included shaving the heads of prisoners. The 16th-century courtyard has a well and a refectory.

Through the bridge you can enter a building with dormitories, storage rooms for yarn and uniforms, as well as a doctor's office with an operating table. Along the arcade on the top floor is a chapel, which was used by prisoners under the supervision of guards. When leaving the building, you can get into separate cells, the walls of which still remember the suffering of hundreds of people.

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