Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I have in front of me a little book of 58 pages, 33 of which are filled with reproductions of historical documents.  Yet the story told on these pages is none the less interesting for that.  

In Concetta e Francesca Grimaldi - due donne modicane nel XV111 secolo, Teresa Spadaccino recounts the extraordinary tale of two young Modican noblewomen who, destined to be dowryless, were sent by their father to live out their lives in a convent in 1785.  This was not an uncommon fate for women of their class and circumstances but these two rebelled, first in small ways and later by making a formal request for their freedom, which was granted in 1793 by the Ecclesiastical Court of Siracusa.  The Court found that the ladies had no religious vocation and had been secluded against their will.

As I read the tale, I came to like these two sisters and the ways in which they asserted their independence:  on the night before they were to take their final vows, rather than pretending to enjoy a firework display organised by their father to celebrate the occasion, they hid in their dark room and sobbed.  Afterwards they were more fastidious about their appearance than the other nuns and wore, we are told, cleaner shoes.

Once "released", Concetta and Francesca were the talk of the town for a while.  Later they both married but neither had children;  instead, they became benefactors for their city.

Many women, of course,  were sent to convents "against their will", both before and after the Grimaldi sisters, but few had the courage or determination to contest their fate.  And even if they had, what kind of life would have awaited them outside their convents?  As Teresa Spadaccino points out, it is possible that, by Concetta and Francesca's time, rumours of some of the ideals of the Enlightenment had penetrated even convent walls and it may have been this that encouraged them.

I salute you, brave sisters in every sense, from the twenty-first century and I would like to thank Teresa Spadaccino for telling this tale.

Concetta e Francesca Grimaldi - due donne modicane nel XV111 secolo by Teresa Spadaccino is published by Editore Video Mediterraneo.


Whispering Walls said...

Get thee to a nunnery!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, WW. Poor Ophelia - she might have been better off if she had!

saturn_88 said...

How do you get the book?! I know it was published in 1996 and I have several difficulties in finding it. I need this book because of my thesis. Please if you know more about this book (how can I have it or other infos) let me know. Thanks a lot

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

The book was lent to me by a friend so I'm afraid I can't tell you where to get it. It was published in 2006 by the Video Mediterraneo TV channel so I should think your best bet would be to contact them.


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