1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Caserta

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CASERTA, a town and episcopal see of Campania, Italy, the capital of the province of Caserta, situated 21 m. N. by E. of Naples by rail via Accerra, and 23 m. via Aversa. Pop. (1901) town, 19,180; commune, 33,373. The modern town (229 ft.) was a mere village belonging to the Caetani family of Sermoneta, who were counts of Caserta, until its purchase from them by Charles IV. of Naples, and the erection of the royal palace, begun by Luigi Vanvitelli (van Wittel) in 1752, but not completed until 1774 for Charles’s son Ferdinand IV. It forms a rectangle, the south front being 830 ft. long and 134 ft. high, with 37 windows in each storey. The interior is richly decorated with marbles, almost all of which, except the white Carrara marble, are Neapolitan or Sicilian. The staircase, the chapel and the theatre are especially sumptuous. The extensive gardens which occupy the hillside behind the palace are adorned with fountains and cascades; the botanical garden contains many trees from northern climates. Two miles north is S. Leucio, a village founded by Ferdinand IV. in 1789, with a royal casino, and large silk factories which are still active. The old town (Caserta Vecchia) lies high (1310 ft.) about 3 m. to the north-east. It was founded in the 9th century by the Lombards of Capua. The cathedral has not suffered from restoration. It was completed in 1153. It is a copy of that of Sessa Aurunca, and preserves the type of the Latin basilica. The campanile, Sicilian in style, was completed in 1234, while the dome, which betrays similar motives, is even later. Its pulpit is decorated with the richest polychrome mosaic that can be found anywhere in Sicily or south Italy, and is quite Moslem in its brilliance. It is indeed remarkable to find these motives in a church so far inland (Bertaux, L’Art dans l’Italie méridionale, Paris, 1904, i. 353, &c.). There are also the ruins of the old walls.