“From one thing, know ten thousand things”
The purpose of this article is to show that nothing is as it seems. Drop your assumptions, then even this random building in Italy, becomes an adventure. While my last article only took 15 minutes to write, this one took about 20 hours of research, wading through hundreds of old photographs, maps and historical archives. At times it felt like I was on a wild goose chase, at other times I knew I was on to something. If you like detective-work and mystery as much as I do, you’ll enjoy this article.
There is a French website of old photography from the 1800s, from private and public collections. On one of its pages, we find the following image of “the shopping mall Galleria Umberto” in Naples, Italy:
The photograph is said to be from around the year 1900, from a private collection. There is a horse carriage and a tram. Trams were introduced to Italy in the 1870s.
This is what the structure looks like today:
The photo from 1900 says Anno DCCCXC, which means the “Year 890”.
But today it says “Anno MDCCCXC, which means the “Year 1890”.
By all appearances, 1000 years were added to the building. Or someone wants us to believe there were.
I took a screenshot of the original page, because sometimes such anomalies disappear more quickly than you can say “Fake History”.
If the photo is genuine, it would mean this: Our great-grandparents were told that this building was built in 890. But we are told that it was built in 1890. Why were a thousand years added? And were they added to the building or to the photo? Finding that out is the purpose of this article.
Perhaps the makers mislabeled the building by mistake, then corrected their mistake later? That’s unlikely for such a grand and expensive project and even less likely in the home-country of Latin, but not out of the question. I spent some time wading through old newspaper-clippings about the structure and found no mention of such an error. If anything, the 1000 years were added quietly.
But I didn’t find any other photo showing the 890 either. The old photo above was added to the French website in 2013, donated from a private collection of someone named M. Wiedemann. Not finding a second source of the same info, is normally a strong indication that the it’s fake. On the other hand: It wouldn’t be the first time photos from private collections expose strange anomalies.
Wikipedia says this:
Galleria Umberto I is a public shopping gallery in Naples, southern Italy. It is located directly across from the San Carlo opera house. It was built between 1887–1891, and was the cornerstone in the decades-long rebuilding of Naples—called the risanamento (lit. “making healthy again”)—that lasted until World War I. It was designed by Emanuele Rocco, who employed modern architectural elements reminiscent of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. The Galleria was named for Umberto I, King of Italy at the time of construction. It was meant to combine businesses, shops, cafes and social life—public space—with private space in the apartments on the third floor.
The Missing Architect
If it was really built in 1891, as Wikipedia says, surely we easily could find evidence of that. I looked up the architect Emanuele Rocco – and found absolutely nothing on him. No background, education, history or family. Even more bizarrely, he appears to have made only one structure – the Galleria Umberto. Right then and there, I realize something is off. Would a completely unknown architect come out of nowhere and suddenly build one of the greatest buildings in all of Italy? And would he then disappear, never to build another structure again?
A few minutes after asking that, I found that Emanuele Rocco isn’t even an architect:
Looking at Roccos Italian Wikipedia entry, linked on the Wikipedia page for the Galleria, we learn that he is a philologist. The page lists his linguistic works but there is no mention of architecture nor any mention of him designing the Galleria (at the time of this writing). Surely such an enormous undertaking would have deserved even just a small mention?
So a guy who is not an architect and has never designed any structure before or after, comes out of the blue and expertly crafts a vast and stylish architectural delight? Possible, I guess, but very unlikely.
On the Italian entry for the Galleria, I read that Roccos architectural work was later “taken up” by another architect by the name of Antonio Curri. “Oh OK, there was a proper architect involved” I think. But then I learn that Antonio was merely in charge of adding decoration to the Galleria. Why does Wikipedia list him as one of the architects, when he merely added a final decorative touch?
This article says in its title that Curri was indeed “the architect of the Umberto Galleria” in Naples. But in the article, he is no longer named as the architect, but rather,
“in collaboration with Ernesto di Mauro and designed by Emanuele Rocco, he took care of the decorations of the Galleria Umberto I”
Alright then. If Emanuele Rocco designed it, where are the designs? Where are the building plans? I searched diligently, but have not found. Nor have I found any interview of Rocco or any public statement of his that takes credit for the building. I realize that, just because I haven’t found it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. But it’s odd. Maybe it wasn’t built in 1890 after all.
The detective in me went searching for places of similar architecture in Naples. I found one and it’s also a shopping mall! It’s called “Galleria Principe Napoli“, only two kilometers distance from Galleria Umberto. There are very similar arched entrances. It is claimed to have been completed in 1883, 8 years before Galleria Umberto but it is said to have been built using a previously existing structure that was already standing in 1586 – 300 years prior! See images below.
The arched entrances of Principe Napoli look awfully familiar:
So here is a structure using the precisely same architecture and design, but claimed to be much older.
Certainly if Galleria Umberto was indeed built in 1891, then we’d find evidence of its construction. I did not find any newspaper clippings that announced the completion of these grand structures. Maybe that’s because Naples first big newspaper Il Mattino, started publication one year later, in 1892.
I did find one picture that is claimed to be of the construction of the Galleria:
The source of this picture is “Wikimedia Commons”. There, the source of it is given as some private persons Facebook page. And I did not find the image on that page. I also found no records of who took the photo or when it was taken. Nor did I find any historical website that might have verified the image. Unfortunately, no surrounding landmarks are visible, so this could be a photo of just about any building site. The structure we see does have curved windows similar to the Galleria, but here it looks like it’s already built.
In 1890, photography was a big undertaking. Anyone willing to bring all their photo equipment to a construction site, would have likely shot more than just one photo and from different angles. But we have only one alleged photo of the construction and that photo is of obscure origins.
And here’s the one and only drawing of the alleged construction that I could find:
It is said to be from 1887, a few years before the alleged completion date of the Galleria. It has little resemblance to the photo above, but at least there is a known landmark to the left: It’s the San Carlo Theater. The drawing looks like the area was under some kind of attack or fire. The adjacent buildings to the right look damaged and hollowed out. I found no mention of fires, wars or natural disasters around that time in Naples, except for a Cholera epidemic. But a cholera epidemic doesn’t destroy buildings.
A single drawing and a single photograph and no known architect – the evidence that this building was in fact built in 1890 is sparse, so far.
The Old Photos
The following is an aerial picture of Naples in 1887. I was excited to find it. In 1887 the Galleria wasn’t even built yet, according to official History. Instead, the place was supposed to have been a pile of rubble and damage as in the drawing above.
If the Galleria was already standing, we should expect to see large structure where the Galleria today stands. This is what the area looks like today. The Galleria is now topped by a gigantic glass Dome:
Obviously, the glass dome is nowhere to be found in 1887. So it would have been added later.
In the close-up of the old image, we can see a large structure beside a smaller dome. The smaller dome is of the San Ferdinando Church which exists today as it did in 1887. The larger building beside it is the roof of the San Carlo theater, which is right across from the Galleria entrance on which we saw the “Anno 890” inscription. Pay attention to what you see across from that building.
Here’s another close up of what the scene looks like today:
Notice the statues across from San Carlo theater. These statues stand atop the Galleria entrances.
And another close up:
Sorry that 1887 didn’t have more high-res photography. But if you look closely, you can see an erect building (not rubble) and the statue that tops the Galleria right where it is supposed to be!
There are two entrances on this side – one has the inscription “Anno 890”, the other says “Galleria Umberto”. Both have three statues at their top. Judging from their shape, I’d say these are the figures atop the “Galleria Umberto” entrance. I cannot make out the figures of the other entrance in the image. Perhaps the other entrance was transported there from elsewhere later on, or the angle of the photo does not allow for a clear view.
A Google Maps view of the area below. For now, I’d like you to notice the location of the Castel Nuovo, an 11th Century castle in relation to the Galleria Umberto, it will become relevant soon.
So what is going on here? Why is there an old photo saying that the building was built in 890? Why can we see its top in an 1887 photo, when it wasn’t supposed to have been built yet? And why does it appear as if Emanuele Rocco as the architect is a fabrication?
My guess is that Umberto Galleria was not built in 1890 but merely renovated and decorated, having the glass Dome added among other things. Just as was done with the Galleria Principe Napoli. The photo below is from around 1900. This is an image made from the perspective of Piazza San Ferdinando (today called Piazza Trieste e Trento). On the left you see the San Ferdinando church. Right beside it you see a building that seamlessly becomes the Umberto Galleria.
Strange but true: I could not find a single photograph, painting or drawing from this angle that was dated pre-1890. I spent hours in search. I found hundreds of images pre-1980 from other angles. And I found hundreds of this angle post-1890. But the one I was looking for appears to have been erased from existence.
Does that mean that nobody ever took a photo or made a painting showing the Piazza pre-1890? Unlikely. Most images of the Piazza today, feature both the church and San Carlo theater. Notice, for example here, how the old 19th Century image is cut off in the middle. If it weren’t, we’d see the Galleria.
All pre-1890 images showed an angle that didn’t include where the Galleria would be. For example:
The photo above is from 1880. I’d have needed the photographer to point his camera just slightly to the right to see whether there is a Galleria or not. How frustrating!
You can see the church dome and also the building to the right of the church, which becomes the Galleria. If you have a close look at it, you realize that the 1880 version of it looks different from the 1900 version above. We can see that between 1880 and 1900, the building has indeed seen some renovation work.
Looking from the other side, I did not find a single pre-1890 photo that showed the theater and what is across from it simultaneously.
Again, had the photographer of this pre-1890 photo of the theater, tilted just ever so slightly to the right, this whole mystery would be solved. Here’s what the theater across from the Galleria look like today:
Normally I’d dismiss the “Year 890” photo as the result of some kind of photo-manipulation. But it would only take one single photo of San Ferdinando Plaza or San Carlo theater alongside what is now the Galleria, to disprove this whole thing. Do you realize how unlikely it is that nobody bothered to photograph it and yet we find hundreds of photographs of everything else? This is as if someone deliberately made all the relevant photos disappear.
Instead, we have mysterious images such as this :
What’s so mysterious about it? If genuine, it looks like from a time when neither the Dome nor the theater across from it, existed, nor a building continuing on its right side. In this image from 1890, for example, there is a building to its right, in the same angle as the Galleria:.
The theater is just a few meters across from the arched entrances. The artist of the drawing would have to be inside its walls (if the painting is true to life). The image says that the Galleria was inaugurated by the architect Ernesto de Mauro. If Rocco was the main architect, why didn’t Rocco inaugurate it? Was it not written that de Mauro was not the architect but merely a decorator?
The picture below was taken by Giacomo Brogi, who lived between 1821 and 1881. He died a decade before the Galleria was allegedly built. And yet here we see the structures outermost tip, beside the domed church and again we see it in a state of disrepair, compared to the later version. The photo is evidence that the San Carlo street (the street the Galleria and Theater are on), underwent renovation.
I found a lot of websites that showed Piazza San Ferdinando in a side by side comparison, earlier and later. But every single one omitted an important detail. An example showing the piazza in 1870 vs. 1890:
The theater San Carlo, by the way, is said to house the oldest horseshoe-shaped auditorium in the world.
This is a painting of how the theater supposedly looked in 1830, quite similar to today:
Notice anything? This painting would seem to debunk my notion that the Galleria existed across from the theater before 1890. We find normal apartments. Of course a painting doesn’t prove anything. This appears to be the only painting clearly showing both sides and I was unable to find out who painted it and when. The painting exists in several variations and also a black/white version.
Luckily, there is also a drawing, said to be from between 1860 and 1870, that refutes the one above. It is by the artist Antonio Bonamore, but it appears to be depicting an earlier time than the 1860s, rather, some time in the 1700s, judging by the style of carriages and the fact that Ferdinando square looks much different.
Across from the theater see Galleria-style Arched Portals, three of them in fact. And one of them has the statue at its top. What to make of this? Again, drawings can’t be relied on. This artist, however, Antonio Bonamore, was said to have done drawings that are “true to life”. In that case, it lends credence to the idea that the “Galleria” entrances were already standing long before 1890.
There is also this strange painting, that purports to show the theater after the fire in 1816:
It is not entirely clear which part of the theater we are seeing here. The photo appears to show an object across the street that more resembles the entrance of the Galleria than the theater. The soldiers are also oddly small compared to the structures.
Let’s take another look at this photo. It is San Carlo street from the other side, with the theater on the left and the Galleria on the right in the background, is said to have been taken in 1890:
The problem? The Galleria was said to have been completed in 1891, one year later. In these photos there is no sign of any construction work. The building looks finished and like it has been around for a while. Notice on the upper right you see a small piece of the Dome. Where are the builders? Where is the brick? Where are the carriages? Where are the tools? There is no construction work going on here. By the fact that sunroofs are drawn, you can tell that the shops are already running – one year before the alleged completion and inauguration.
The following photo seems interesting. The Galleria building looks like it’s in a state of disrepair, as we would expect from it in a pre-1890, pre-decoration time. Even though it’s only barely visible, the building does not look brand, sparkling new here.
Finally here is a photograph of San Carlo street in 1846. The problem? For some inexplicable and mysterious reason, no photographer would simply turn around and take a picture of the other side of the street. Why? I found hundreds of photos of the area, but none of the spot in question.
The photo is by a Richard Calvert Jones. You can bet I searched every single photo this individual ever made. And I found several of Naples and even the right street, but alas, none that would show the Galleria.
Let’s look at medieval maps. If the building is much older than we are told, it would have to be on old drawings.
The first map I found was on the Wikipedia page Timeline of Naples. The map is dated 1572, more than 300 years before the Galleria was said to have been made.
Sensationally, the map shows the curved street and heightened buildings where we’d expect to find the Galleria! A close-up will make it more clear. The Galleria is a diagonal line to the upper left of the prominent Castela Nuovo (see previous photo from Google maps for clarity). The theater San Carlo is not yet built, but there is a larger structure at the Piazza San Ferdinando (where you see the number 41 on the left), that is still there today. Nor is the church San Ferdinando built – which means that the artist Antonio Bonamore appears to have gotten it almost right! The only difference to today is that there appears to be a street between the two arched entrances.
In my view, these two taller buildings with the arched entrances are our Galleria Umberto:
They are precisely at the location Bonamore said they were, and approximately where they are today.
Another view from the Castel Nuovo:
This is a medieval gem of a painting. If you look closely – very closely – you can see just a slight hint of an arched entrance on San Carlo street.
If the arched portals were indeed built in 890, then we’d expect to find them depicted in old art and maps. And, we in fact do, even if vaguely. When I looked at paintings and drawings of Napoli that contained great detail, I always found them.
This is a map from 1815, where you see that San Carlo street is slightly curved, just like it was in the 16th Century and is today. Paintings depicting a straight road are not true to life.
A close up:
Not all old maps and images confirm my theory. This is a drawing of Naples from 1522.
You see the Castel Nuovo, but there is no sign of any Galleria. Unless the towers surrounding the city were the archways. A closer look reveals that the tower just above the Castle does have an arched entrance. This 1493 painting of Naples seems to hint at such:
But they look nothing like Galleria Umberto. These pre-15th Century drawings are inconclusive.
Taking a closer look at the interior design of the structure, I was surprised to find them lined with the star of David.
That’s an odd choice to make for a building that was supposedly made as a shopping mall. The Naples of 1890 didn’t have more than 900 Jews, according to demographic stats of the time. Or perhaps these stars are not related to Jews but to some mystery school involved in the building? I don’t know. But I doubt that Italians of the 19th Century were likely to decorate one of their main buildings with it. I found no explanation.
The statues and the architectural style itself, appears to be classical Roman. But the year 890 would be approximately 500 years after the Roman Empire had fallen.
I will now show you Castel Nuovo close up. It was said to have been built in 1228. Maybe you notice something peculiar about it:
That’s right. The Galleria Umberto, the Galleria Principe and the Castel Nuovo all share the same arched portal and pillars style of architecture. And yet, they are claimed to have been built at vastly different times (1220s, 1520s, 1860s and 1890s) by entirely different people. That’s not impossible of course. It’s common to copy previous architectural styles. But where is the proof that a guy named Emanuele Rocco built Galleria Umberto in 1890? Where are photos of the construction? Where are the building plans of the architect? I couldn’t even find a picture of this architect.
All in all, the evidence for the Galleria being older than 1890 is sparse. But the evidence for it being built in 1890 is even more sparse!
Why would anyone bother going to these lengths to make a building look a thousand years newer than it is? It’s not that easy to fathom the motives. And I don’t really want to, because then I’ll spend another 20 hours on this article. In 1890, Naples is said to have had a lot of corruption and organized crime. It was also a time where “the great restoration of Naples” was proclaimed. In the hustle and bustle of all these restorations, it’s conceivable that someone may have used already existing structures to take credit for stuff built earlier.
In short: Take nothing for granted. Nothing is as it seems.