Forty years prior to the French Revolution

Torricella as Described in the "Catasto Onciario1" of Naples in 1743

Religious and Social Organization

By Domenico Pettinella

During the Bourbon2 reign, life in the Southern Provinces (of Italy) was characterized by a complicated network, a mixture of organizations, ecclesiastic (bishoprics, dioceses, parishes, etc.), collateral organizations (brotherhoods, pious lay orders, etc.), secular orders and society.

From this we can deduce that in the South church history and social history are very closely linked. G. De Rosa3, in outlining religious history, says that ecclesiastic institutions, the social classes and society cannot be separated.

In the pre-unitary4 South piety and economy revolved around the life of the Church. The Catasto Onciario(see1) compiled the 28th July 1743 was drawn up to calculate what taxes were to be paid by ecclesiastics, citizens whether resident or not, landowners, or people who worked there; it was called just for Torricella with all its properties, the 14 ecclesiastic chapels, the hospital, the abbey refectory and 211 nuclear families (note: I believe this is the term used) totalling about 1,200 citizens - who were engaged in many diverse professions (labourer, farmer, a literary man, a doctor, two men at arms, vegetable grower, shoemaker, wool carder, innkeeper, builder, an industry-man, etc.) some of whom had physical defects, "infirm", "cripple", "prevented by podagra"5.

Most of the citizens lived in houses which they owned, together with their wives. Most knew neither how to read nor to write which is deduced from the fact that of the fifteen citizens belonging to the three social classes that formed the delegation preparing this document, seven made their mark with a cross instead of signing their names.

Since the Kingdom6 of Naples7 had been taxing the ecclesiasts and the ecclesiasts’ organizations under the dispatch of 1740, there is a description of the vast land holdings of the 14 ecclesiastic chapels erected both within and outside Torricella’s walls (S. Rocco, Monte dei morti, Santa Maria del Roseto, SS. Sacramento, S. Antonio da Padova, S. Giuseppe, cappella degli afflitti, cappella del Carmine, cappella dello Spirito Santo, di S. Gennaro, del Rosario, della Concezione e di S. Carlo). Also described are the goods belonging to the Hospital, the Abbey Refectory and the Ducal Chamber.

The Chapel of Saint Rocco, to whose Rectory the Hospital was subject, was under the administrative patronage of the Università (Town Council), which nominated the rectors of both the Chapel and the Hospital.

Other Chapels were under the administrative patronage of families: Carmine and Holy Spirit (Santo Spirito) were under the Mancini’s; Saint Januarius (S. Gennaro) under the De Santis family, their son was Archpriest (prelate) of the Chapel in 1743; The Conception (la Concezione) under the Macchioli family; Saint Charles (S. Carlo) was under the Marquis of Introdacqua’s family.

The land office registry (catasto) describes the localities where the citizens, the Chapels and everyone else kept their goods. It also recorded what expenses the Chapels had, such as for example for purchasing wax, oil, tributes to the royal court, offerings to priests, purchase of gunpowder for fireworks on the feast-days of Saint Mary of the Roseto, for restoration work, etc. The copy of the registry which is held at the State Archive in Naples, does not have the preliminary acts (disclosures, opinions, etc.) which are full of information. This lack limits our knowledge about the life and organization of the citizens of the Università8 of Torricella.

In concluding this first part it is opportune to make some reflections. Even at Torricella it is possible to split the history of popular devotion from the history of society. G. De Rosa says that until the 18th Century the priest and the pious always had a firm relationship with the earth, which seldom reached beyond the realm of interest linked to survival. In interesting ourselves in the life and organization of the society of our villages in those times, we need to overcome parochialism9, in order to discover instead the relationship linking local history to general history; in the knowledge that, according to the scholar cited several times, "almost every aspect of our life nowadays can be referred, like the needle of a compass, to phenomena of a universal character …." (Other articles will follow about various historical aspects such as how the name Peligna was acquired, the hypothetical feudal origin, about Dukes and Marquises and about the land registry).

……Why not organize a conference this summer by Mario Pettinella on medieval Torricella? (Editor’s Note).

Translator's notes:

1Catasto Onciario of Naples - a sort of census of all the population of Southern Italy, with all their ages, professions and property, including animals. A kind of Domesday book, that each Università (Municipality) had to make out in two copies, one to be kept at the Università for further updates, the other to be sent to Naples to the Royal Summary Chamber, the central tax authority of the Kingdom. Since then, many of the copies that were held locally have been destroyed or delivered to provincial archives. The copies that were sent to Naples are now kept in a special section containing thousands and thousands of books, most of them still have not been studied. The books can be requested in the Archive of Naples and studied there, or photocopies of whole books can be ordered. For a thorough family and demographic study, it is necessary to have a very good knowledge of handwritten Italian, and an acquaintance with land use regulations, measures and names of places of the mid 18th century.

2Bourbon reign - from 1734 until 1860.

The Bourbons, descended from the royal houses of France and Spain, reigned in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the unified kingdom of Naples and Sicily, from 1734 until 1861.

The first Bourbon to reign in the South of Italy was King Charles, son of Philip V of Spain and great-grandson of the Sun King. He established the autonomy of the South in 1734, following centuries of Vice Regency. At the end of a successful reign in Naples, he ascended the Spanish Throne as Carlos III, subsequent Spanish sovereigns are descended from him. The Bourbon reign in the South of Italy came to an end in February 1861 following the lengthy Siege of Gaeta, the Royal Family was illegally exiled for more than eighty years.

The Savoys, whose forebear, Humbert, Count of Savoy, held Alpine territories in the ninth century, reigned over the Kingdom of Sicily from 1713 until 1720, and over the unified Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until 1946.

Most European royal families are related to each other in some way, and the same is true of the Bourbons and Savoys; their complex coats of arms reflect various dynastic connections. Both families knew southern Italy long before the eighteenth century. Humbert of Savoy and his immediate descendants were vassals of the Ghibelline (Hohenstaufen) emperors, the most famous of whom was Frederick II, who as King of Sicily ruled his widespread dominions from Palermo, while the Bourbons are kin to King Charles I of Naples, whose Angevin dynasty succeeded the Hohenstaufens as rulers of southern Italy.

The unification of Italy in 1861 brought about the end of the Bourbons' reign in Italy; the Savoys' reign ended with the establishment of the Italian Republic.

3G. De Rosa - Contemporary historian

4pre-unitary – refers to Italy before the Union in 1861, when the Kingdom of Italy was formed, encompassing the entire peninsula except for Rome, Venice, and San Marino. King Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia became king of Italy; Venice was added in 1866 and Rome joined in 1870. (San Marino is still an independent republic.)

5Podagra means gout - in the foot or other parts of the body.

Gout, otherwise known as podagra or "uric acid arthropathy" is a rheumatic complaint, that usually attacks a single joint at a time. The disease has a preference for the big toe of middle-aged men - it swells, turns red and becomes sore. The soreness is such that just walking through a room can cause severe pain. It is more common in men than women by a factor of 10 to 1.

The disease is caused by the deposition of sodium urate (uric acid) crystals in the joints. Uric acid is a by-product of the body's metabolism. Normally the uric acid is removed when urinating, but among patients with a predisposition for gout, the uric acid accumulates in the blood. Among some of these patients, the concentration in the blood is so high that the uric acid 'overflows' and settles in the joints and possibly in the skin.

6The Kingdom - Under the Normans, the South of Italy became the most powerful medieval Italian realm, referred to by chroniclers simply as "Lo Regno" The Kingdom.

7Kingdom of Naples - former state, occupying the Italian peninsula south of the former Papal States. It comprised roughly the present regions of Campania, Abruzzo, Molise, Basilicata. Naples was the capital.

In 1816 Ferdinand IV of Naples (Ferdinand III of Sicily) officially merged the two kingdoms of Sicily and Naples and called himself Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies. The reactionary regimes of his successors Francis I, FerdinandII and Francis II finally ended when Sicily and Naples fell to the forces of Garibaldi in 1860. Naples was annexed to Sardinia in 1860.

In 1861, Gaeta, Francis's last fortress, surrendered to Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia, and the Two Sicilies became part of the kingdom of Italy.

8Università (Town Council)

9parochialism – excessive attachment to your own locality/church tower

© Amici di Torricella

Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca

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