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Calabria, Italy and its Genealogy, History, Culture and Language

The Bourbon Era (1734-1860) - Page 1

Cerenzia During the First Bourbon Period (1734-1799)

The seating on the throne of the "Two Sicilies" of Charles III (1734), son of Philip IV, signaled the end of the Spanish vice-regency and the beginning of the Bourbon dynasty (in Calabria) and the true autonomy of the Kingdom of Naples. He ruled until 1759 when he was then called to occupy the throne of Spain occasioned by the death of his brother Ferdinand II who left no heirs.

He (Charles III) was succeeded by his youngest son (born Dec. 01, 1751) by the name of Ferdinand IV (1759-1806). Charles III had begun a series of reforms that awoke the enthusiasm of men of culture and ignited hopes of a better life among the "have-not" class. A foundation was laid for the renewal of the South, an attempt to lessen the baronial prerogatives and new relationships with the Holy See in which many ancient ecclesiastic privileges in use since the time of Charles of Anjou were abolished; (a diminished right of asylum which was restricted to churches for less serious crimes as an example), gave impulse to industry, commerce and agriculture.

In Calabria, however, these improvements were limited for the most part, to marine commerce in so much as roads were non-existent and industry was reduced exclusively to the production of silk at that time in crisis. For some years the reforms were continued by Ferdinand IV who ruled through the regency of Bernardo Tanucci, minister of his father Charles III and inspiration of the reform.

In 1768, Ferdinand IV married Maria Carolina of Austria who coerced her husband to enter into the orbit of Austria. This marriage was the cause of dire consequences for the kingdom and for Calabria.

In 1777, Tanucci was relieved of his duties and the reform was arrested. The feudal power was again restored. The Barons, hurt by the reforms, seized on the opportunity to set up excessive exploitation of the agricultural class. They amassed riches that did not favor an economic development but served merely to enlarge their estates at the expense of the small property owners who had to sell their properties to pay the excessive taxes. The devastating «Jus baronali» (the rights of the barons) were exaggerated; for Cerenzia (and nearby towns), taxes were added upon taxes, e.g. the right to live in the realm was taxed, the right to own animals was taxed, non-animal owners were taxed and taxes were invented for every imaginable reason. The taxes, licit and illicit, became so heavy that it affected the every day activities of the citizens.1

Nevertheless, these feudal barons deepened the resentment and rancor of the working class as they were mitigated by the King, incapable of ruling them and fearing reactions, called them to Court and received tribute and formal homage.

But even the feudal barons werre subject to losing property to the central powers. Property was confiscated from the Nicola Cortese family of Verzino for evasion of fiscal responsibility. The Princess of Cerenzia, Ippolita Rota, was in dispute with the monarch over what she considered incorrect entries by Muzio Antonio Oliverio (her Royal agent) -Working class and barony alike were resentful of the monarchy23 The terrible famine of 1763, the feudal abuses, poor crops, caused popular uprisings in the Kingdom. The socio-economic situation was worsened by the terrible earthquakes of 1783 which represented for Calabria an unprecedented catastophe. These occasioned everywhere death and destruction even of the geography of the region. The population stunned by the calamity, could not overcome the terror that possessed them to begin an immediate reconstruction. The uheavals even modified the climate and created 215 lakes which were subsequently drained by the Bourbons but in whose wake an epidemic of malaria broke out killing another 18,000 people.4 [a description of malaria followed]

At the end of the 18th century Calabria had 780,000 inhabitants.5 The government believing that the goods of the church were better destined for social function, suppressed religious orders and instituted in Calabria a "Cassa Sacra" (1784) into which were supposed to flow monies from church properties for distribution among those affected by the earthquakes. General Pignatelli was sent to the region for this purpose but in effect acted as a vampire so much so that in the ruins ot the towns, instead of giving aid to the afflicted, the cadets (of Pignatelli) gathered for themselves the money and riches and abandoned the victims to the tents and lean-tos all the while abusing and taking liberties of the worst kind with them. Pignatelli took possession of the silver, oil, silks and industry of the churches.6 The institute of the Cassa Sacra became a total failure and had a deleterious effect on the already miserable conditions of the poor, forcing them to abandon their lands, causing the further spread of malaria and the rise of subversive forces against the feudal lords. "The situation is so bad among the subjects of Calabria, that if a reform is not made of the plan proposed by Pignatelli, it is inevitable that the desperation will result in dangerous solutions."7

While this was happening in the Kingdom of Naples, new events were occurring in Europe with the French revolution (1789) which showed the people the road to liberty and equality, destroying the old feudal state and instituting in France, first, a democratic state which eventually spread to the rest of Europe.

The new revolutionary ideas were contested by Austria, England, Russia who created various coalitions of European states against France who relied upon the young General Napoleon Bonaparte to fight them. He, in meeting with the various coalitions obtained victory, glory, defeat and humiliation depending on the campaign. The war that Napoleon made against the first coalition, included the Italian Campaign, March 27, 1796 which forced Austria to sign the Treaty of Campoformio Oct. 1798. As a consequence, various Republics were declared. La Cisalpina July 1797, Liguria 1797, the Roman 1798, all under the protection of France either tacitly or manifestly.

Our King, Ferdinand the IV, preoccupied with the events in Rome (and in his kingdom by the Jacobine forces), instigated by Admiral Nelson of England marched on Rome in November of 1798 and occupied it. The French General Championnet counterattacked. He expelled the Neopolitan army from Rome and chased them back to Naples. He occupied the city and declared the Republic of Partenopea on January 1799.

The King left Naples on the night of the 22nd of December 1798 under the protection of the English fleet and ran to Sicily. The revolutionary Jacobine princes of the regions of Crotone et al. took the opportunity to declare various "republics." They were shortlived however, lacking a middle class and fueled only by an elite class not supported by the masses as in France. It took, therefore, a small counterrevolutionary force to suppress it but not destroy it as the ideals of freedom and unity spread throughout Italy. The King was joined in a few days by Fabricio Cardinal Ruffo in Palermo. He had occupied a position of superintendent at the palace in Caserta. He was born in San Lucido in Calabria 16 Nov 1744, the son of Letterio, the Duke of Baranello and Giustina, princess of Colonna.

He informed the King of the conditions in Campania and that the uprisings were spreading to the Calabrias, Upper and Lower. Calabria was considered a barrier against Sicily and if the Jacobines found a foothold in Calabria they would unite with the Jacobines of Sicily and an invasion the of the Island would be inevitable. So he urged an immediate attack upon Calabria in order to reconquer Naples. With the push of the allied English and Russians present, Nelson and Hamilton, Mussin-Punskin and Italinskij, the King, having no other choice, gave assent. He allowed the Cardinal to bring the matter forward.

Even if he lacked military experience he "...was resolute and ponderous and possessed above all a native sense of limits and opportunities. Besides, he was born in Calabria, he knew the customs and possibly a little about the problems of the Calabrese, in the end, a man of the cloth, he could depend on the help of the prelates and more, the lower clerics to whom he knew how to appeal and who had lost many privileges in the uprisings...accompanied by the Marchese Malaspina, abbot Lorenzo Sparziani, valet Carlo Cuccaro, and three domestics; the Roman emigre Annibale Caporossi and Domenico Petromassi of Augusta all meeting in Messina, the Cardinal left for Calabria with a resolute spirit, but with an uncertain outcome."8
Ruffo landed at Pezzo, near Villa San Giovanni (RC) on February 7, 1799 with seven men, after 15 days on the 23rd. he was in Rosarno with 2500 men and two cannons.9 Arriving at Mileto the same day, he writes to Acton, the Prime Minister of the King, "I am in Mileto as planned. I have met with the indicated population, all armed and between 8-10,000 people." He remained here until the 28th of February and one can say the Sanfedisti were established in a victory against the revolutionary forces. 10

The army of the Cardinal was composed for the most part thieves, brigands. assassins, with few Bourbon troops. They wore a white cross and their password was "Santa Fede" 11 (hence Sanfedisti). It is sad to say that the Christian Army profaned the very principles of the religion to whom it had allied.

The Jacobeans retreated before the Sanfedisti. In every town they conquered they were guilty of horrible destruction and executed every Jacobine they came across. Liberty trees were replaced by funeral Crosses. The majority of the towns were Jacobine (republican). Cerenzia and surrounding towns as well. Ruffo wrote from Catanzaro Marina 14 March 1799

"In fact, Cutro is ours, San Giovanni in Fiore is fiercely royalist to my surprise. Strongoli, San Severina and Cariati are ours. I have learned that Rossano has fallen, Luzzi, Corigliano as well. The small villages that surround Crotone are all ours without exception. There are few towns under Cerenzia that still show the so-called tree of Liberty. Umbriatico is republican, as is Bisignano, Cassano I am unsure of. Cosenza and surroundings is republican."12

Crotone at that time had a population of 6000 inhabitants. Therefore it was not a large city but because of the port and the Castle occupied a strategic and psychological position in the area. Considering itself a Republic on February 3, 1799, in the face of the advancing army of Ruffo, the Barons Lucifero and Oliverio, the Prince of Cerenzia and Giuseppe Soriano organized the defense of the city. It was composed of 200 citizens, 32 Frenchmen recently seeking shelter on their way home from Egypt, 3 cannons, with Captain Ducarne now elevated as colonel in charge.13 The patriots, however, were expecting help from Championet who was supposed to be in Catanzaro and Crotone14 to encounter Ruffo. This never happened and was the cause of the dramatic defeat of the republican cause in Calabria. The Cardinal to occupy Crotone, from the Marina of Catanzaro, sent three thousand Sanfedisti under the command of the bandit Angelo Paonessa (Panzanera) and Lieutenant Colonel Perez de Vera.15

Among the armed bands were the criminals, Arcangelo Scozzafava called Galano, Lorenzo Benincasa, Paolo Mancuso called Parafante ready to pounce on Crotone and to profit from sacking the city.16
The main troop which was supposed to occupy Crotone remained blocked at Cutro because of a great tempest. Perez sent Capt. Dardano to Crotone as an envoy but Crotone retused to surrender. Dardano made contact with royalist forces that had tried to recapture the city unsuccessfully. Perez attacked Crotone when Dardano did not return to Cutro. From the hillside called Madonna Della Scala, he began to bombard the city lightly and return fire from Ducarne from the Castle was encountered. The republicans disillusioned and tired of waiting for French help trying to avoid the capture of the city, planned a sortie. They encountered the Sanfedisti on the open plain and many were massacred. Some attempted to return to the city and were met by the bandit forces of Panzanera. They were unable to shut the gates and the bandit forces sacked the city. Only those loyal to the Bourbons were spared, the families of Morelli, Farina, De Mayda. The Castle remained in republican hands.17 Two days later on the 20th of March Perez proposed a cease fire with the following conditions: 1) give up arms, munitions and castle 2) assurance of freedom for those in the Castle together with their followers. 3) amnesty after capitulation. The pact was not honored.18 When the occupants of the Castle surrendered, they were arrested and detained within the same walls.

The citizens of Crotone who were loyal to the King imposed a cease and desist on those who were not revolutionaries and they were treated with regard and not harmed. Donna Mariantona Lucifero, sister of the Marchese Francesco Savedo, 13 years old (later became the first Marchesa of De Mayda) and then the Princess of Cerenzia would recount when she was older of the treatment she received as prisoner in the Castle.

A bandit tried to rob a silk handkerchief that she wore around her neck. She slapped him across the face and they just walked away.19 On the 22 of March Crotone was entirely conquered. On the parapets the Castle the Bourbon flag flew again. The Cardinal Ruffo arrived on the 25 of March to face two facts of which he was unaware. 1) the horrible sacking of Crotone by the Sanfedisti and 2) and the desertion of the same soldiers together with the spoils. Many returned to their own villages and some formed bands around Crotone and would terrorize the surrounding villages. At the hand of the local bands were, the noted brigands, Angelo Paonessa (Panzanera) Arcangelo Scozzafava (Galano), Lorenzo Benincasa, Paolo Mancuso, Francesco Muscato (Bizzarro) Antonio Santoro (Re Corenne).

Ruffo remained in Crotone to conduct a tribunal with the following results; On March 31, the following were condemned to death: Captain D. Giuseppe Ducarne from Alicata in Sicily, cavelier D. Giuseppe Suriano from Crotone, Baron D. Francesco Lucifero of Crotone, Bartolorrico Villaroja of Crotone. The sentences were carried out on 3 of April 1799. Other repubicans shot were, Luigi Savelli prince of Cerenzia 20 and others. Many republicans were spared but sent to prisons around Calabria.

Cardinal Ruffo was undaunted by the many desertions but continued on with regulars and volunteers from Rossano, Santa Severina, and Cerenzia-Cariati aided by the Bishops. From Crotone on 3 April Ruffo wrote to Acton, "The Calabrians are completely reduced to obedience to the King. Few rebels remain in the villages (Corigliano and Rossano). Cosenza fell on the 15 of March." The cardinal wanted to occupy Rossano but he didn't want a repeat of the Carnage at Crotone. He contunues..."I have invited the bishops of Cariati and Cerenzia, Santa Severina, Umbriatico, Rossano (Cardamone)21 to let my intentions know to those cities. I must have the leaders of the rebellion, 7 or 8 hostages from the principle families, 20,000 ducats (half within 24 hours) the rest within three days, 100 horse, 100 calvary uniforms, and arms for at least 50 men." The Bishops relayed this to the populace during his a homily and on the 30 of March. The Cardinal arrived on the 10th of April and the towns surrendered peacefully. He left for Cosenza on the 13th and from there to Basilicata, Policorio, Matera, Puglia, Altamura and finally Naples.22

[The next two pages are ecclesiastic letters of interest to Dr. Aragona]

He goes on to say:23-30

Ruffo, from his arrival in Calabria, enacted some measures of unprecedented weight: the confiscation of all Jacobine wealth, the sequestration of those feudal territories abandoned during the struggle, and the exchange of money for any jail time given to Jacobines, also some reduction in taxes to one half what they were. Lands confiscated in our area (Crotone-Cerenzia) the feudal lands of Duke Giuseppe Cortese of Verzino which included, Verzino, Savelli, San Morello; the Abbey of San Giovanni in Fiore, the feudal lands of the Prince Tommaso Giannuzzi Savelli of Cerenzia which consisted of Cerenzia, Casino (Castelsilano) Montespinello (Spinello) Belvedere Malapezza, and Zinga.31

G. Giuranna (a local) has in his possession the documents dated 26 March 1799 signed by the King Ferdinand IV, Cardinal Ruffo giving all the property of Prince Savelli to D. Francesco Benincasa. Benincasa then assigns Dr. Salvatore Ferrari of San Giovanni as administrator of his properties. Dated Cerenzia, 29 March 1799.32 This only included the property of Tommaso and not his brother Emilio.33

From the victorious reconquerng of Calabria for the Bourbons, Calabria was left with profound open wounds caused by the difficult conditions and expressed violently against the dominating "galantuomini" (The gentlemen).

Also, with the lack of adequate military force, numerous bands of thieves, murderers, who had served the Cardinal, fled to the Sila ravaging our region for the next fifty years.

Submitted and translated by Dr. Tom Lucente