Situated in the centre of the old town, only just outside the Greek walls, our Liceo was the first nondenominational school founded in the South of Italy. It has always been an expression of Naples’ history by embodying the most important historical and cultural aspects of our city.
The building recalls glorious memories of Naples’ monastic history. Those memories bring us back to the past of our city, to the first ecclesiastical settlements in the 6th century. In ancient times our school was a monastery that was built by Costantine the Great and it was situated out of the city, beyond the Roman and Greek walls. Two different cultures survived in Naples until the 11th century: the Roman and Greek cultures. The monastery in the 7th century was inhabited by the Basilic Monks. Extended by the monks, it was called “S. Sebastiano in viridario”, because it was situated in the gardens outside of the walls.
In 1301, Queen Maria, wife of Carlo D’Angiò, obtained the transfer of the S. Pietro monks to the S. Sebastiano monastery from Pope Bonifacio VII. All the area was included into the city. In the tower of S. Sebastiano, Portalba was opened by Antonio Alvares, the duke of Alba. In 1427, the nuns of S. Pietro were also transferred to S. Sebastiano, while from this transfer derived only one insignia with two keys and two darts. In 1527-28, the nuns lived in the monastery because of the attacks of Lautrec’s army. Later the nuns committed the restoration of the area to the most important artists, such as Giuseppe Donzelli, called Fra Nuvolo, who drew the plant in the elliptic form.
In 1647, the monastery and the garden were the theatre of the revolt against Spanish rule. In 1821, the Austrian army inhabited the area with the musicians of “Real Collegio”. In 1825, Francesco I of Borbone liberated the area from the army, giving it to the “Company of Jesus”. The Fathers then decided to open a public school. In 1860, Garibaldi abolished the order of the “Company of Jesus” and the buildings were given to the future Liceo which was inaugurated in 1861.
In that period, Naples was a big city and there was a development of the new upper-classes with a great interest for the humanistic traditions of Neapolitan culture.
The success of the Liceo “Vittorio Emanuele” (situated in via San Sebastiano), in those years and in the following decades, was enormous and encouraged a progressive increase of the school population that came not only from Naples but also from other southern provinces and regions. The need of new classrooms led to the existence of some parts of the Liceo in other locations, which aterwards became independent, such as the Liceo “Umberto”, “Genovesi”, “Vico”, “Garibaldi” and “Sannazaro”.
At the beginning of the 20th century, about 2500 students attended our Liceo and its “branches”. During the 20th century, the school has been a faithful mirror of the city and of its history. In the sixties the process of “democratisation” of the Italian school came to a peak so that, in the following years, the Liceo completely abandoned the prerogatives of an elitist and selective school.
Among the teachers and the students of the past we remember great personalities such as Francesco Torraca, Luigi Miraglia, Giuseppe Mercalli, Giovanni Gentile, Francesco Albergamo, Pietro Fedele, Francesco D’Ovidio, Nicola Zingarelli, Antonio Sogliano, le sorelle Croce, the Holy doctor Giuseppe Moscati, the poets Salvatore Di Giacomo, Eduardo Nicolardi and Ernesto Murolo and Roberto De Simone and the conductor of orchestra Riccardo Muti.