Regional History Part 3 1700 to 1880 A.D.
BY: TOM FRASCELLA JAN. 2011
Basilicata’s regional history was marked in 1700 by the passing of two important European leaders. The first was Pope Innocent XII and the second was King Charles II of Spain.
As we noted in the preceding Chapter of the history of San Fele, Father Giovanni Leone a native of San Fele had held the important post as personal counsel to Pope Innocent XII for the decade and a half before the Pope’s demise in 1700. Upon Pope Innocent’s death his successor Pope Clement the XI, so highly regarded the integrity, humility and devotion to faith exhibited by Fr. Leone that he chose him to continue in the role as his personal counsel. Father Leone would continue in that role until his own death in 1715. At the time of his death this remarkable Franciscan priest had spent over sixty years in the service of the Church almost half of which as personal confidant and counselor to two Popes.
On the political side the Death of King Charles II of Spain was destined to set in motion a power struggle that would last off and on for the better part of a century and a half. Charles II himself was a less than remarkable ruler. Critics have gone so far as to suggest that he had limited mental capacity. The vast Spanish Empire which in fact also included holdings in Northern Italy and all of Southern Italy depended on a system of Royal appointments of Viceroys or Governors who stood in the place of the Crown in the various territories. When Charles II died “childless” the problem of non direct linear succession arose. His two closest relatives were both foreign born and stood in line of succession in their on native countries. In Charles’ Will he named Philip, Duke of Anjou, as his heir who stood second in succession to his father as heir to the French Crown. However, it appears that that during his lifetime Charles had also made certain representations to Leopold I, the Holy Roman Emperor and King Austria that he would be his heir. Obviously, whichever man succeeded Charles’ there was the potential combining of two European super powers and a shift in the colonial power bases of Europe as well. England and the Netherlands viewed the combining of Austria and Spain as less threatening to their commercial and colonial territorial interests than the combination of Spain with France. What resulted was a European War of global consequence known as the “War of Spanish Succession”. The war lasted from 1701-1714 before being resolved by peace treaty known as the “The Treaty of Utrect”. Philip was affirmed as King of Spain however, among other losses Spain had to give up its holdings in Northern Italy and the Kingdom of Naples.
The loss of the Italian territories did not sit well with King Philip. This loss was probably made more personal as Philip was married to Elizabeth Farnese a Northern Italian noblewoman and heir to Duchy of Parma. The Farnese family had for centuries been powerful merchants, politicians and high ranking religious. AS such the Farnese were among the richest families in Europe.
Seeking an avenue to reacquire the lost Italian territory King Philip went to war with Austria in 1717 in what is known as the “War of Quadruple Alliance”. During the pendency of the war which lasted from 1717-1734 the Duke of Parma died without issue in 1731 and Elizabeth as heir abdicated the title and wealth in favor of he third oldest son Charles who was 15 making him Duke of Parma and placing the vast Farnese resources behind his father’s war effort.
In 1734 King Philip succeeded in breaking Austria’s control over Southern Italy. King Philip declared the Southern Italian territory the nation of the two Sicilies and installed his now 18 year old son as King Charles I.
It was during this period in 1726 that Gerard Majella was born in Muro Lucano. As an eight year old boy Gerard was sent to San Fele to live with his mother’s family and learn the trade of a tailor.
King Charles I took his role as King of Southern Italy very seriously, moving his Capitol and taking up residency in the City of Naples. He is the first of the “Bourbon” Kings of Southern Italy and would reign from 1734-1759. During his 25 years as King of Southern Italy he is credited with initiating massive public works projects and infrastructure developments. He built up the country’s navy and negotiated trading treaties with several countries in the region including Greece and Turkey. He also built three impressive palaces, the Palace of Caserta, the Palace of Portici and the Palace of Capodimonte. He and his wife had a porcelain factory built near the Palace at Capodimonte which still operates to this day.
Charles also supported the arts constructing the Tretro di San Carlo, founding the Ercolanesi Academy as well as the Naples National Archeological Museum.
As part of the Duchy of Parma inheritance Charles acquired a vast collection of ancient and contemporary art which he brought to Naples and decorated his Palaces. While King the ruins of Pompeii, Stabia and Herculaneum were located and excavations begun. Thus Charles was able to add the ancient treasures unearthed through the excavations to his collections bringing them to light after two thousand years.
In 1756 Gerard Majella died of TB at the age of 29 having spent his entire life in Basilicata. In 1759 Charles abdicated the Crown of Italy to assume the Crown of Spain, installing his infant son Ferdinand as the next Bourbon King.
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