Showing posts with label Clergymen/Women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clergymen/Women. Show all posts

21 April 2024

Pietro Della Valle – composer and travel writer

Adventurous Roman wrote unique accounts of 17th century Persia and India 

Della Valle's journey expanded knowledge of Indian history
Della Valle's journey expanded
knowledge of Indian history
Composer, musicologist, and writer Pietro Della Valle, who travelled to the Holy Land, Persia and India during the Renaissance and wrote about his experiences in letters to a friend, died on this day in 1652 in Rome.

Della Valle was born in Rome into a wealthy and noble family and grew up to study Latin, Greek, classical mythology and the Bible. Another member of his family was Cardinal Andrea della Valle, after whom the Basilica Sant’Andrea della Valle in Rome was named.

Having been disappointed in love, Pietro Della Valle vowed to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He sailed from Venice to Istanbul, where he lived for more than a year learning Turkish and Arabic.

He then travelled to Jerusalem, by way of Alexandria, Cairo, and Mount Sinai, where he visited the holy sites. He wrote regular letters about his travels to Mario Schipano, a professor of medicine in Naples, who later published them in three volumes.

Della Valle moved on to Damascus, went to Baghdad, where he married a Christian woman, Sitti Maani Gioenida, and then to Persia, now known as Iran. While in the Middle East, Della Valle created one of the first modern records of the location of ancient Babylon. 

A 17th century representation of Della Valle's visit to India
A 17th century representation
of Della Valle's visit to India
His wife died after delivering a stillborn child in Persepolis, but Della Valle continued his journey, taking her embalmed body with him so that it could eventually be buried in his family vault in Rome. 

Reaching Surat in north western India in 1623, he was introduced to the king of Kaladi in south India. Della Valle’s memoirs about his experiences provide the best contemporary account of society in that area in the 17th century and are one of the most important sources of history about that period for the region.

The traveller continued southward along the coast to Calicut for the next year and returned to Italy by way of Basra in southern Mesopotamia - now Iraq - and through the desert to Aleppo in Syria, finally reaching Cyprus and then Rome in 1626. 

He was appointed a gentleman of the bedchamber - an honorary ceremonial position in the papal court - by Pope Urban VIII to reward him for his exploits. 

From his 36 letters to Schipano, which contained more than a million words, three volumes were eventually published: Turkey (1650), Persia (1658) and India (1663). Part of his accounts of his time in India have been translated into English.

Della Valle was also a keen book collector and purchased rare manuscripts while he was in Syria that he brought back to Italy with him.

Once living back in Rome, Della Valle concentrated on music, composing religious music and writing treatises about musical theory, which praised the music of the time countering the criticisms of other contemporary writers. He also wrote libretti for musical spectacles that were performed in Rome.

After his death in 1652, Pietro Della Valle was buried alongside his wife in the family vault in Santa Maria Ara Coeli in Rome.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Ara Coeli on the Campidoglio Hill, where Della Valle is buried
The Basilica of Santa Maria Ara Coeli on the
Campidoglio Hill, where Della Valle is buried
Travel tip

Santa Maria Ara Coeli, the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Altar in Heaven, where Pietro Della Valle is buried in his family’s vault, is on the highest summit of the Campidoglio, one of the seven hills of Rome. It houses relics belonging to Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. It is claimed the church was built on the site where the Tiburtine Sibyl prophesied the coming of Christ to the Emperor Augustus. In the Middle Ages, condemned criminals used to be publicly executed at the foot of the steps. It is now the designated church of Rome City Council.

The beautiful Basilica of Sant'Andrea della Valle, in the Sant'Eustachio district of Rome
The beautiful Basilica of Sant'Andrea della Valle,
in the Sant'Eustachio district of Rome

Travel tip

The Basilica of Sant'Andrea della Valle, named after Cardinal Andrea della Valle, and dedicated to St Andrew the Apostle, is a minor basilica in the rione of Sant’Eustachio in Rome. The dome of the church is the third largest in Rome, behind St Peter’s and the Pantheon. Building work started on the church in 1590 following the designs of Giacomo della Porta and Pier Paolo Olivieri. The church was used as a setting by the composer Puccini for his opera, Tosca.

Also on this day:

753BC: The founding of Rome

1574: The death of Tuscan ruler Cosimo I de’ Medici

1922: The death of castrato singer Alessandro Moreschi

1930: The birth of actress Silvana Mangano

1948: The birth of surgeon and charity founder Gino Strada



25 November 2015

Pope John XXIII

Farmer’s son went on to become ‘the Good Pope’

Pope John XXIII was born on this day in 1881 at Sotto il Monte near Bergamo.

He was originally named Angelo Roncalli and was part of a large farming family but he went on to become a much loved Pope and respected world leader.

Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII links Bergamo's railway station with Porta Nuova
Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII is one
of Bergamo's main streets

Angelo was tutored by a local priest before entering the Seminary in Bergamo at the age of 12. He went on to study theology in Rome and rose to become Cardinal Patriarch of Venice before being elected Pope in 1958.

His religious studies had been interrupted by a spell in the Italian army, but he was ordained in 1904. He served as secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo for nine years before becoming an army chaplain in World War One.

After the war he worked in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece on behalf of the church helping to locate and repatriate prisoners of war.

In 1944 he was appointed nuncio to Paris to help with the post war effort in France. He became a Cardinal in 1953 and expected to spend his last years serving the church in Venice.

But when he was elected Pope by his fellow cardinals in the conclave of 20 October 1958, it was a turning point in the church’s history.

Although he was Pope for less than five years, John XXIII enlarged the College of Cardinals to make it more representative, consecrated 14 new bishops for Asia and Africa, advanced ecumenical relations and worked for world peace.

He is known to the Italians as ‘il Papa Buono’, ‘the Good Pope’, and, since his death on 3 June 1963, his birthplace, and the museum set up to commemorate his life, have become popular destinations for pilgrims.

Travel Tip:
The Biblioteca Civica houses works by Pope Giovanni XIII
The Biblioteca Civica in Bergamo's Piazza Vecchia

There is a permanent reminder of Pope John in Bergamo’s lower town where the main thoroughfare from the railway station to Porta Nuova has been renamed Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII. In the upper town there are works by Pope John XXIII in the Biblioteca Civica, the white marble Civic Library, in Piazza Vecchia and you can see the Seminary he attended at the end of Via Arena.

Travel Tip:

Now renamed Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, Pope John’s birthplace is a short bus or car journey to the west of Bergamo . You can visit the house where he was born in the hamlet of Brusicco and the summer residence at Camaitino that he used when he was a cardinal is now a history museum dedicated to him.
Opening hours: Casa Natale (birthplace) at Brusicco 8.30 am to 5.30 pm; Museo di Papa Giovanni (Pope John Museum) at Camaitino 8.30 am to 11.30 and 2.30 pm to 6.30.