The city of Naples has always been known for its cultural richness but also for its memorable stories.
The history we are about to tell was also reported by Benedetto Croce in “Storie e leggende napoletane” .
It is also mentioned by Loise de Rosa, who at that time was one of the most informed chroniclers, he served for many noble houses, and finally collected all her memories in a book.
It is about the love story between Lucrezia d’Alagno and Alfonso V of Aragon, a love born in the Naples of ‘400.
The meeting of Lucrezia and Alfonso
Among legends, mysteries, and fascinating events, this love story is certainly noteworthy.
On June 23, 1448, the feast of Giovanni Battista was celebrated, a pagan festival that fell on the day of the summer solstice.
In this occasion young women gave a plant of barley to their beloved, and in case the interest was corresponded, the latter had to reciprocate with a gift. It is said that young women used special herbs to make their lovers fall in love with them.
According to the legend, the meeting between Lucrezia and King Alfonso, also known as “the Magnanimous“, took place in this magical night.
While King Alfonso was walking in the procession in Naples, the young Lucrezia offered him a barley plant. The King, in return, gave her a handful of “alfonsini”, golden coins called so for the engraved figure of the king.
Lucrezia took only one and while smiling, she said that one Alfonso was enough for her. It was love at first sight.
The love story
Amazed by the beauty of the girl, on the evening of the feast, King Alfonso persuaded Lucrezia to stand beside him throughout the royal procession, which was headed towards the Church of San Giovanni a Mare, near the port, and during the journey they discussed poetry, philosophy, but also literature and history.
The following day, the king, who was visiting Torre del Greco, saw her again looking out of the window of her father’s garden and invited her to the sumptuous party he had organized at the Aragonese Castle of Torre del Greco.
Lucrezia d’Alagno, had recently moved to Torre del Greco, since her father had inherited a piece of land.
Born in 1430 from Cola d’Alagno and Covella Toraldo, Lucrezia d’Alagno had noble Amalfi origins. Her father was the first feudatory of the Casale of Torre dell’Annunciata (Torre Annunziata), lord of Roccarainola, as well as Captain of Justice of Torre del Greco.
In order to stay closer to the girl, King Alfonso V moved his court to Torre del Greco for a while and he also renovated the Aragonese Castle, where he stayed.
Today the Aragonese Castle is known as Palazzo Baronale and is the seat of the municipality of Torre del Greco.
Although they had been separated for years, King Alfonso V was the spouse of Maria of Castile, at that time located in Spain, but despite this he continued his relationship with Lucrezia, who also attended the court parties.
Lucrezia however used the love of king Alfonso also to obtain riches and favors.
She managed to help her family members, who obtained privileges, noble titles and lands. Lucrezia herself obtained the landed estates of Somma Vesuviana, San Marzano, Caiazzo and later also the Aragonese Castle of Ischia, and the island itself.
Even if she could not become a queen, Alfonso made her respected by both the people and the court, as if she were one.
The 18-year-old Lucrezia and the 53-year-old Alfonso V of Aragon became inseparable over the course of time, and their love story lasted for 10 years.
The king was so in love with the girl that he dedicated an entire garden to her, today known as Orto della Contessa (Garden of the Countess).
Complications and Lucrezia’s tragic end
Lucrezia d’Alagno had conquered Alfonso, but legitimately she was not his wife, so he thought of a stratagem to separate himself from his spouse.
In 1457, with a procession of knights, ladies and 500 horses, Lucrezia was sent by King Alfonso to Rome, to ask Pope Callisto III for the annulment of the marriage.
The pontiff, however, despite having welcomed Lucrezia with kindness, was extremely strict and refused the request.
In 1458, after this event, King Alfonso died at the age of 64. Thus began the decline of Lucrezia, so protected by her beloved king.
At court she was envied but above all hated, especially by Ferrante, the illegitimate son of King Alfonso V of Aragon and Gueraldona Carlino, a woman who in 1423 had accompanied King Alfonso on his return to Spain.
The latter in fact, organized a crusade against Lucrezia, who was forced to take refuge first in Puglia, helped by the protection of Giovanni d’Angiò.
In 1459, she went instead to Dalmatia, after his brother-in-law Giovanni Torrella revealed his alliance with the Angevins.
In 1477 she then arrived in Ravenna, asking for the protection of the Pope and finally, she lived the last years of her life with her sister in Rome, where she died on September 23, 1479.
She was buried in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Rome, above Minerva, but today apparently there are no traces either of the tomb or of the tombstone.
Today there are few testimonies about Lucrezia.
In Rome, there is a bust of Lucrezia d’Alagno, about three meters high, and also known as “Talking Statue of Madama Lucrezia“.
In Naples, a street has been dedicated to her, the homonymous via Lucrezia d’Alagno, near via Duomo, and she is also represented in a bas-relief of Maschio Angioino.
Strongly wanted by the king, it represents the triumphal entrance of King Alfonso V of Aragon in the city. The only female figure represented is the beloved Lucrezia.