Arsenal of the Republic of Amalfi

Immersed in the breathtaking scenery of the Amalfi Coast (about 10 kilometers from our boutique hotel), the Arsenal of the Republic of Amalfi is the symbolic monument of the city’s glorious past. It presents itself as a site with a very strong identity value, with its imposing stone and mortar architecture. Today it is an exhibition space that hosts international events.

The Arsenal was the shipyard where in the Middle Ages the shipwrights brought to life the ships and galleys of the merchant and war navy. Its history merges with that of the Republic itself. The building is attested for the first time in a document from 1059 with the Arabic term “àrsena” or “arsìna”. From the 13th century it was defined with the Latinized term “tarsienàtus”, which in the Renaissance period became “tarsinàle”. In its heyday, it was a place of frenetic activity. With the decline of the Maritime Republic of Amalfi, it lost its original function and was subsequently used for various purposes, becoming a convent, a warehouse and even a garage for buses. Only in 1934 was it reopened to the public after extensive renovation work, which was followed by a more recent and definitive restoration operation, which brought it back to its former glory.

The building, which has no equal in the whole of the West, is a rare example of medieval architecture that has survived to the present day. The architectural layout recalls buildings of Islamic taste. In particular, the system of pointed arches, cross vaults and pillars is the same as that highlighted in the remains of the Amalfi Hospital in Jerusalem, dating back to the 11th century. Its size was about double what we see today. Only two lanes remain of the original construction compared to the original three. Part of the building was destroyed due to violent sea storms that occurred over time.

Although it is no longer used for the construction and maintenance of ships, this place continues to play an important role in the city’s cultural life. It hosts exhibitions, events, conferences and civil weddings, and since 2010 it has hosted part of the collection of the Museum of the Compass and the Maritime Duchy, dedicated to the golden period of the ancient Maritime Republic and, more generally, to the great contribution that Amalfi has been able to offer over the centuries to the history of Italy.

The collection includes Roman and medieval artefacts, parchments, codes, manuscripts, coins, nautical instruments and historical costumes. The highlight is the Tabula de Amalpha, the maritime trade code in force in the Mediterranean until the sixteenth century. The text, made up of 66 chapters (part of which was written in medieval Latin and part in the vernacular), undoubtedly represented a milestone in the history of maritime law. Also noteworthy are the examples of Tarì, the current Amalfi currency, used for commercial exchanges throughout southern Italy. The collection is completed by some pictorial works by local artists, the original sketches of the Cathedral pediment made by Domenico Morelli and objects relating to the history of the city (banners, historical relics, sacred objects).

Photo © Arsenale della Repubblica di Amalfi