Italiano English San Leo Official Facebook page San Leo Official Twitter profile San Leo Official Flickr page San Leo Official YouTube channel San Leo Official Instagram profile
  • San Leo official website
  • The Bandiera Arancione award
  • Borghi più belli d'Italia
  • The most beautiful villages in Italy association (I Borghi più belli d'Italia)
Storia: Famous People

Cagliostro

Cagliostro´s story is shrouded in mystery, its life and adventures are a puzzle that has never been solved, fuelling interest in this enigmatic character.
Cagliostro was born in Palermo, in 1743, and lived by his wits for most of his teen hood, later becoming one of the most famous freemasons of all times.


Cagliostro

Cagliostro’s story is shrouded in mystery, its life and adventures are a puzzle that has never been solved, fuelling interest in this enigmatic character.
Cagliostro was born in Palermo, in 1743, and lived by his wits for most of his teen hood, later becoming one of the most famous freemasons of the time.

Cagliostro’s reputation as an alchemist and healer knew no boundaries: he visited the most important courts in Europe, from London to Saint Petersburg, making friends with illustrious men like Schiller and Goethe.

At the court of Versailles, he met cardinal Roha, who was very powerful at the time and got involved in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, a scheme aimed at discrediting Marie Antoniette that paved the way for the French Revolution. He later founded in London his own Egyptian Rite Freemasonry lodge, taking up the title of “Great Master”.
When word spread the Holy Office lost no time: On 27 December 1789, Cagliostro was arrested and imprisoned in Castel Sant'Angelo. Soon afterwards, on 7 April 1790, he was sentenced to death on the charge of being a Freemason and a heretic, and his books and freemason tools were publicly destroyed.  When Cagliostro repented and gave up his freemason beliefs, Pope Pius VI changed his sentence to life imprisonment to be served in a creepy and dark prison in the Fortress of San Leo.  The castle’s cells had been carefully described by Bishop Gianmaria Lancisi, archiater for the Papal States, in an unpublished letter he wrote during one of his travels from Urbino to Montefeltro and the Republic of San Marino. Here is a short excerpt from the letter, included in a manuscript held in Palazzo Albani in Rome. The manuscript dates back to 1841 and, at pages 33-34, the archiater states: “Right beneath the huge towers are cells dug in the rock. They are not real cells, rather tomb-like caves, where the only sound is that of constantly leaking water” […].
In Rome no one knew what the prisons of San Leo looked like, for the Castle owner never wrote a word about the bad state of his caves. That is the reason why were considered a secure and suitable destination for many a prisoner.
Before being moved to what will become his permanent cell, called “Cella del Pozzetto”, this  illustrious prisoner was kept in a cell dubbed “Treasury cell” as, according to the legend, it was expressly conceived to keep safe the treasure of the Dukes of Urbino when enemy armies attacked the fortress.  The cell was built when the fortress was widened and restored by Francesco di Giorgio Martini in the XV Century, incorporating the old Malatesta-style tower in a new triangular ravelin. On the outer wall of the cell, although quite hard to read, the writing stands out: it surely alludes to the impossibility to break away from the fortress of San Leo. Soldiers kept a close watch on Cagliostro night and day but were forbidden to talk to him. He was not allowed to write nor have visitors. Worried that either demons or followers could rescue him, Count Semproni, who was responsible for the prisoner before the Holy Seat, had him transferred to a safer cell, the “Cella del Pozzetto”.  Pesaro’s State Archive contain documents telling us more about Cagliostro’s four-year long imprisonment. We can read his criminal record as well as accounts on the way the prisoner was treated by the guards, sopposedly respecting humanitarian principles. Cagliostro’s last cell is quite small (3x3 meters), right at the hearth of one of the two main towers. The only opening is a tiny window equipped with three orders of bars from which, one can only see the Parish Church and the town’s Cathedral.
The cell’s door is quite recent as, at the time, it had no doors and Cagliostro had to climb down through a trap in the ceiling. Through that same trap, he was served his food ration and was kept under constant watch by the guards.
On August 26, 1795 the famous adventurer, who was by then seriously ill, died of a stroke. His death, just as his life, is also shrouded in mystery and many a legend has been told on that very specific day. Perhaps his supporters are only trying to make the life and adventures of this fascinating character last forever.
There is, however, a death certificate, held in the archive of San Leo’s Parish Church, and written in Latin by Archpriest Luigi Marini. It reads: "Giuseppe Balsamo, the so-called Count of Cagliostro, born in Palermo, Baptized as a Christian but sadly famous as a heretic and pagan, whose bad reputation is famous everywhere in Europe, spread the evil doctrine of Egyptian Freemasonry. He lured many a follower and went through very unfortunate experiences always managing to get away with it, thanks to his wits and his cheating. He was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment by the Holy Inquisition, to be served in the cells of the Fortress of San Leo, with the hope that one day he would convert. With strong determination, he nevertheless withstood for four years, four months and five days and finally died of a stroke when he was 52 years, 2 months and 18 days old. He did not show any penance and died as a mean and evil man, without leaving anyone in sorrow, devoid of the Communion by the Church. He was born unhappy, lived unhappily and died in utter unhappiness on August 26 of the above-mentioned year at 22.45 pm.  Those who were there prayed for him, in the remote possibility that our merciful God will be willing to forgive him. As a heretic who never repented, excommunicated by the Catholic Church, he will not be buried in the Episcopal rite. His corpse is buried on the outer stretch of the mountain facing the West, at the same distance that runs between the two guard towers, called Palazzetto and Casino, on deconsecrated ground belonging to the Catholic Church, on the 28th of the above mentioned month, at 18.15 PM.

 



Attachments


Gallery
Photogallery La Fortezza Rinascimentale Photogallery La Fortezza Rinascimentale Photogallery La Fortezza Rinascimentale Photogallery La Fortezza Rinascimentale Photogallery La Fortezza Rinascimentale Photogallery La Fortezza Rinascimentale La fortezza vista dal centro Il forte di notte (Ph. L. Ciucci) Photogallery La Fortezza Rinascimentale la cella di Cagliostro il terzo piazzale Le celle di punizione La torre Sala armi La cella del tesoro Photogallery La Fortezza Rinascimentale
Search for Storia:


  • Temperatura: 0°C
  • How to reach San Leo, in Italy Getting here

    San Leo lies in Rimini's hinterland, in southern Emilia Romagna, on the border of Tuscany, Le Marche Region and the Republic of San Marino.
    Look at the map »