Living with the Volcano. The Culture and History of Naples reflected in Natural Disasters
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft | Elisabetta Scirocco
Eruptions and earthquakes have left their mark on the city of Naples. How have these disasters shaped the city’s art and architecture and the mindset of people living with natural threats?
Max Planck Lecture with Dr. Elisabetta Scirocco, Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max Planck Institute for Art History, Rome
A consistent part of Neapolitan culture as we know it was shaped by the city’s peculiar relationship with natural disasters, which have affected the lives of Neapolitans for millennia. The volcanic cone of Vesuvius looms over Naples – as both a landmark and a fateful reminder for the southern Italian metropolis. For centuries, its eruptions have left their mark here. Like most of the Italian territory, Naples and its surroundings are additionally prone to earthquakes. Over the centuries, no other Italian city of this size and cultural relevance has experienced catastrophic natural events as regularly as Naples, which in the 17th century was the most densely populated city in Europe.
Elisabetta Scirocco examines how these phenomena have shaped the city’s art and architecture from the Middle Ages until very recent times, especially from the point of view of resilience after catastrophic events. She is focusing not only on the destruction and reconstruction of buildings and urban structures, but also on the creation of landmarks and rituals related to disasters. The study of natural disasters as an essential factor in shaping identities thus marks a new approach in art historical research on cultural memories and identities.
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Elisabetta Scirocco has been a Senior Researcher at the Bibliotheca Hertziana, the Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome since 2015, where she is Scientific Assistant to the Director Prof. Dr. Tanja Michalsky. After studying Italian Philology and Art History at the University of Naples “Federico II”, she joined the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut (2010-2015). There she developed, together with the Director Prof. Dr. Gerhard Wolf and Dr. Carmen Belmonte, the transdisciplinary research project Storia dell’arte e catastrofi. L’Italia sismica (2014-present). Her research and publications focus on two main areas: on the virtual reconstruction of medieval and early modern sacred spaces, and on the role of natural disasters in (re)shaping cultural heritage.