The Orphan Marianna - Nunziata DiRenzo's Godmother
Marianna BRICCA of Jelsi, Molise, was godmother to Nunziata DiRENZO (1897-1983). Marianna was later to marry a boy named Fiorangelo FIORAVANTI who was also legally an orphan, although his natural mother was known and even attended his wedding.
Ricordo della tua Patina, Marianna ("Keepsake of your godmother") is written on the back of the photograph above. The picture was taken in 1958. When Marianna came to Gambatesa in 1960 to see her godchild's daughter Esther Valente, she rode over from Jelsi on a donkey.
Below is the birth record of the foundling Marianna Bricca of Campobasso who was sent as an infant to live in Jelsi.
Registro degli Atti di nascita
REGISTER OF BIRTHS
Ufficio dello Stato Civile
OFFICE OF THE CIVIL REGISTER
Comune di Campobasso
MUNICIPALITY OF CAMPOBASSO
Provincia di Campobasso
PROVINCE OF CAMPOBASSO
L'anno mille ottocentosettantasei a di tre maggio ad
THE YEAR ONE-THOUSAND-EIGHTEEN-HUNDRED-SEVENTY-SIX ON
ore antimeridiane otto e minuti venti nella Casa
DAY 3 OF MAY AT 8 HOURS ANTEMERIDIAN AND TWENTY MINUTES IN THE
Avanti di me Frangipani Duca Francesco Sindaco ed
BEFORE ME DUKE FRANCESCO FRANGIPANI MAYOR AND
Uffiziale dello Stato Civile del Comune di Campobasso
OFFICIAL OF THE CIVIL REGISTER OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF CAMPOBASSO
è comparsa Maria Vittoria Villani di anni quaranta
IS PRESENT MARIA VITTORIA VILLANI OF YEARS FORTY
ricevitrice provvisaria dei proietti qui domiciliata la
PROVISIONAL RECEIVER OF [THE] PROIETTI HERE DOMICILED
quale me ha prestato un bambino di sesso feminile
WHO HAS PRESENTED TO ME A BABY OF THE FEMININE SEX
dell'apparente età di poche ore avvolto in pannolini
OF AN APPARENT AGE OF FEW HOURS WRAPPED IN SWADDLING
senza cifra od altra contrassegno e mi ha dichiarato
WITHOUT ANY LABEL OR OTHER IDENTIFYING MARKS AND HAS TO ME DECLARED
che questa mattina alle ore antimeridiane quattro e
THAT THIS MORNING AT THE HOUR ANTEMERIDIAN FOUR AND
minuti venti ha trovato questo bambino esposta nella
MINUTES FORTY [SHE] FOUND THIS BABY ABANDONED IN THE
ruota dei proietti
RUOTA DEI PROIETTI.
Al detto bambino ho dato il nome di Marianna ed il
TO THE SAID CHILD I HAVE GIVEN THE NAME MARIANNA AND THE
cognome Bricca ed ho ordinato che il bambino istesso
SURNAME BRICCA AND HAVE ORDERED THAT THE CHILD
fosse consegnnato alla balia Filomena Ciaccia moglie di
BE CONSIGNED TO THE WET-NURSE FILOMENA CIACCIA WIFE OF
Michele Paparella del Comune di Jelsi
MICHELE PAPARELLA OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF JELSI
A quanto sopra ed a questo atto sono stati presenti
TO THE ABOVE AND TO THIS DOCUMENT ARE PRESENT AS
quali testimoni Felice di Zinno di anni quarantatre
WITNESSES FELICE DI ZINNO OF YEARS FORTY-THREE
contadino ed Antonio di Zinno di anni cinquantotto
PEASANT AND ANTONIO DI ZINNO OF YEARS FIFTY-EIGHT
contadino entrambi residenti in questo Comune
PEASANT BOTH RESIDENT IN THIS MUNICIPALITY
Letto il presente atto a tutti gl'intervenuti si è da
HAVING READ THE PRESENT ACT TO ALL THOSE PRESENT IT IS BY
me sottoscritto essendo gli altri analfabeti
ME UNDERSIGNED THE OTHERS BEING ILLITERATE
[SIGNATURE] Duca Frangipani
Source: Campobasso Nascita 1876 Part II #26, microfilm copy of the original Civil Register in the State Archive of Campobasso (CB), Italy.
Proietti - What does it mean?
The present day Italian word proietti (sing. proietto) means "projectiles" or "missiles". This suggests something thrown outwards, an outcast. But, considered as a metaphor, that expression would be very unjust if it suggests an infant who has been recklessly cast away (There is a record from Gambatesa of a newborn left on a doorstep with many baby clothes loving prepared [Pasqualina Valenzani, Atti di nascita 1902, Parte 2 no. 1]).
However, if in the past that was a meaning of the word proietto -- a meaning that dictionaries no longer mention -- then proietti could be translated as "foundlings" or "infants given up for adoption". And the meaning of la ruota dei proietti would be "the foundlings' house" or "the foundlings' cabinet [revolving turntable]".
The surname "Proietti" is very common in the area of the former Papal States, but it is very rare in the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In Molise it seems to have been the practice to name foundlings after noble families (Bricca, Fioravanti, Masucci, for example). [More history: from reports by news services (below).]
La ruota and proietti - Part II
by Angelo Abiuso (Geneva)
According to my parents from Gambatesa, Molise, "proietti" was the name of one of "la ruota". What does it mean?
La ruota (in dialect, a rot') was a kind of house where orphans where left by their mothers. "The name comes from the fact that some comes in while some goes out (the babies, that is)." It (a rot' / la ruota) was the name given to this place. "Proietti" would be (according to my parents) the name of that particular ruota. It is like the proper name of a school or hospital.
Ruota : ....../ specie di armadietto girevole sopra un perno usato nei monasteri di clausura, per dare o ricevere roba dall'esterno/
This definition which Angelo sent from Il Piccolo Palazzi - moderno dizionario della lingua italiana could be translated: "Ruota: type of [pass-through] cabinet revolving on a pivot, used in cloistered convents to give or to receive things from the outside." Maybe this was a turntable in a wall, constructed so that one could not see where the things that were passed through it either came from or went.
Maybe, by identification of the whole with its part [metonymy], the word ruota came to be the name applied to any building where infants were left anonymously, to be received either by the Church, or later by the Italian state, for adoption.... But this idea may be incorrect.
Births in the City of Campobasso in 1876
In 1876 in the city of Campobasso, the provincial capital of Molise, 568 children were reported born, of whom 59 -- or 10% -- were abandoned at birth in a place where such newborn babies (proietti) were taken in by public charity, the ruota. Except for the date and time, the name, the village and the wet-nurse assigned, all these children were registered in exactly the same way -- in the same words -- in Part II of the Register, although each entry was entirely written out in long-hand.
The population of the City of Campobasso in 1881 was 14,586. Francesco Frangipani was sindaco from 1868 to 1879. (Il Molise dalle origini ai nostri giorni ("Molise - From its Origins to Our Own Day") by Giambattista Masciotta, Volume II (Napoli, 1915), pages 51, 72.)
The population of the village of Jelsi in 1881 was 3,179. (La monografia di Jelsi (in Italian only) from Il Molise dalle origini ai nostri giorni, Volume II, page 191.)
Summary of the Wedding of Marianna Bricca
Married in the Casa comunale of Jelsi, open to the public, 21 February 1895 at 10 AM, by Giovanni Severius de Nigris, official of the Civil Register:
1. Fiorangelo FIORAVANTI, never married (celibe), 22, contadino, born and resident in Jelsi, son of unknown father (padre ignoto), and of Teresa Valiante, resident in Jelsi;
2. Marianna BRICCA, never married (nubile), 18, contadina, born in Campobasso, resident in Jelsi, daughter of unknown father, and of unknown mother (madre ignota).
The witnesses were Emilio Conte, 54, possidente and Domenico Ciaccia, 54, possidente
Banns: 7 and 17 February 1895
To this marriage (formal) consent was given by the Council of Guardianship (Consiglio di tutela) to which the bride was subject, but not by the natural mother of the groom on account of her never having legally recognized him (as her son).
Signed by the witnesses and the official of Civil Registration only, the others being illiterate.
Source: Jelsi Matrimonio 1895 #7, microfilm copy of the original Civil Register in the State Archive of Campobasso (CB), Italy.
- The marriage record of Maria Giuseppa MASUCCI states: contadina, nata in, esposta in Tufara, residente in Gambatesa, figlia di genitori ignoti (also figlia di ignoti genitori). Nata in, esposta in Tufara should mean "born in and anonymously given up for adoption in Tufara". But no further information is available. The villages of Tufara and Gambatesa are on the road map showing Jelsi, just to the east of Jelsi.
- An example of a Consiglio di tutela, or something like one, is this 1844 family council's permission for the orphaned minor Biagio Martone to marry; it is from Sant'Angelo d'Alife in Campania. In this case the proceeding was a legal substitute "to avoid the expense of a ritual" Consiglio di famiglia. (This document has not be translated into English.)
The Birth Record of Fiorangelo Fioravanti
Born 16 August 1871 at 7 hours in the morning, to Teresa VALIANTE [daughter] of Giuseppe, age 30, contadina, domiciled at a residence in this town in the Church district, and to father uncertain (padre incerto).
Presented 17 August 1871 at 14 hours in the Casa Comunale of Jelsi to Nicola JANIGRO Regio Delegato Straordinario, ed Ufficiale dello Stato Civile del Comune di Jelsi, Circondario di Campobasso, Provincia di Molise, by Michele VALIANTE [figlio] di Giuseppe, age 40, contadino, domiciled in Jelsi, il quale mi ha presentato un bambino che ho riconosciuto maschio ("who has to me presented a child which I have recognized as male"), e dichiara di essere nato alle ore 7 di mattina 16 Agosto da Teresa VALIANTE di Giuseppe, 30, contadina, domiciliata nella casa di abitazione posta in questo Comune alla contrada Chiesa, e da padre incerto, al quale bambino si è dato il nome di ("and to this child has been given the name") Fiorangelo FIORAVANTI.
The witnesses were Filippo VASILE fu Giuseppe, 61, calzolajo and Pasquale VENA fu Gennaro, 48, vetturale
The dichiarante signed with the Segno di croce, and the witnesses and the official of Civil Registration wrote their signatures.
Source: Jelsi Nati 1871 #86 (of 114), microfilm copy of the original Civil Register in the State Archive of Campobasso (CB), Italy.
Notes: there is no Part I and Part II in the Register of Births for Jelsi for 1871, that is, the register is not divided into parts. Every entry for this year is entirely written out in long hand.
No explanation is given in the document for the surname "Fioravanti". It was written over the end-of-paragraph line that cancellieri ("notaries") drew from the last word of a paragraph to the end of the right margin, but in the same hand as the rest of the document.
La ruota - Part III
From reports by the news services ...
In the Middle Ages in Rome mothers could abandon their unwanted, newborn babies in a "foundling wheel", which was "a revolving wooden barrel lodged in a wall, often in a convent". [NYT]
The "Medieval foundling wheels were wooden cylinders set in the wall of a convent or church. The baby was placed in the cylinder from the outside and the cylinder was turned towards the inside, where nuns would care for the baby and seek new parents." [R]
In ancient Roman times babies were sometimes abandoned next to a column in a forum where they might be taken home by others as slaves or left to die. [NYT]
Pope Innocent III ordered the first foundling wheels (Maybe the first was in Rome in 1198), because he was disturbed that many newborns were being "found caught in the nets of fishermen on the River Tiber". [R]
Many common Italian family names can be traced to foundlings. For example, "Esposito": from "exposed" on the steps of a convent; "Proietti": from the Latin proicio meaning "to throw away"; and Innocenti: "innocent" of the father's sin. [NYT]
From Rome foundling wheels were adopted in other parts of Europe and were in use until the late 19th Century. [NYT]
In Italy Mussolini abolished them in 1923 [R] and imposed some way of allowing mothers of unwanted children to give birth anonymously [NYT].
There is now a museum about foundlings in a 14th Century home, attached to a church, for abandoned children in Naples. [NYT]
Sources: NYT = Elisabetta Povoledo, New York Times, 28 February 2007. R = Reuters, 27 February 2007. Much of these reports has been paraphrased above, but some is direct quote.
I have also seen the "foundling wheel" (Ruota dei Proietti) referred to as "the ignoti [unknowns] wheel at church" and as "wheel of the castoffs".
The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/valente/bricbirt.html
Last revised: 23 December 2007 : 2007-12-23 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.