Monday, 10 February 2014

Beatrice Cenci, a witness

Guido Reni, Beatrice Cenci in her prison.

Beatrice Cenci born in Rome, on 6th Febrary 1577. Her life was able to impress generations over the centuries. She was remembered, investigated by the most known writer ever such as Stendhal, Dumas, Shelley.

The noblewoman Beatrice is the symbol of violence,of her father first, of politics later. She is a symbolic figure who tells us a story in papal Rome. Beatrice has become, in spite of herself, the symbol of the violence to which one are trying to subtract and are sentencing instead.

The first family violence victim in recorded history whose redemption was betrayed by personal ambitions assets. 

Beatrice was born in Rome by Francesco Cenci and, after the death of his mother probably due to the new romantic ambitions of his father, Beatrice spends years in a convent with her sister, coming home only in 1592 after the father has remarried  with the widow Lucrezia Petroni, whose daughter, it is said, was killed by Francesco.

The older sister Antonina, probably alarmed and frightened addressed directly to the Pope to find her a husband or let her become a nun, rather not to stay at home.Luckily for her, the Pope married her but the dowry that her father, always in short of money, was forced to pay was exorbitant and even indirectly Beatrice paid the consequences. In fact, to avoid having to pay another dowry, Beatrice,  now fifteen and full of beauty, was locked up, with his stepmother, in the small castle, called La Rocca in Petrella Salto in the then Kingdom of Naples.

In the meanwhile, her father continued to stay in Rome with the older sons, two of whom died in fights while the Count Francesco was accused of sodomy, violence, debts and of the worst atrocities and pressed by creditors.
Of violent and cruel instinct, Count Francesco decidet to escape from the pressing demands of creditors and took refuge in the fortress along with his two sons Giacomo and Bernardo who repeatedly Beatrice had tried to send letters and messages to solicit them to help her but they  never arrived at their destination, rather intercepted by her father were the cause of a violent reaction that was unleashed against Beatrice, who was severely beaten. 

Always lived in a climate of violence and poverty in which his father kept them, now living all toghether, tired and tested about this situation, Beatrice, her brothers Giacomo and Bernardo as well as the stepmother, premeditating the murder of an abusive and usurping father.   

At the third attempt managed to kill the Count Francesco, finally they did and then tried to cover up the patricide as an accident, throwing down his body as if it fell from the Castle. And their plan initially seemed to work. 
The Cenci family returned to Rome free from abuse and violence but there were heavy suspicion and conjecture since the fame that followed the name of the count Francesco.
So two investigations were opened at the end of which the Pope Clement VIII in person wished to get light opening a new inquiry.

Witnesses were heard and , collecting evidence, the family was accused of murder. Under torture all, Beatrice too could not resist the torture of the rope, and even the household involved, confessed the plot: Beatrice and her stepmother were then sentenced to death for beheading and her older brother Giacomo for quartering. 
Only Bernardo, the youngest, was saved by the Pope himself  who however did not granted any other member of the family and not just for love of justice.

After the death of the conspirators the inheritance of the Cenci was requisitioned by the papacy that sold it subsequently at a price significantly lower than the estimate of its value and was purchased right from the Pope's nephew Gian Francesco Aldobrandini. In part, however, the assets and property were then claimed and recovered by the sole survivor of the conspiracy, Bernardo.

Beatrice waited for death locked in the prison of Corte Savella, which no longer exists, however, this is reminded by a commemorative plaque in Via Monserrato, in the Center of Rome.

Achille Leonardi, Beatrice Cenci in her prison.

Artemisia Gentileschi, "Judith slaying Holofernes", 1620.
Beatrice was finally executed on the morning of September 11th, in 1599 in front of Castel Sant'Angelo, where  were recorded deaths due to the crushing, and where in the crowd massed there were also Caravaggio and Gentileschi with his little daughter Artemisia , who, it is said , for her painting "Judith Slaying Olofene" drew from her own memories of this gruesome and violent day that saw a young girl losing her life only because wanted to be free after having long been the victim of beatings, sexual harassment by her own family and a more subtle politics and interest violence, but equally ruthless, that took her life in an infamous and definitive way.

However Romans, after her death, gave her a floral tribute: the remains of Beatrice lying in the altar of San Pietro in Montorio, at Gianicolo, was covered with white rose petals and her head was buried leaning on a silver tray.
Only during the Italian Risorgimento her grave was desecrated by French soldiers who carried off the skull, which is still missing.
The new grave of Beatrice was rebuilt in a corner of the Church without written or headers, as required by the custom for those condemned to death yes, but also to give her, finally the proper rest and peace, after so much suffering.

Even today, every September 11th, the heir of the family: Prince Cenci Bolognetti  want a memorial Worship to be celebrated at Via del Corso in the Church of Jesus and Mary. 

And even today Beatrice still remains a testimony of that kind of family violence that doesn't annihilate but cries out for revenge, unfair and unjustifiable, yes but that testifies  a subjugated status of women by a patriarchal social attribute which does not allow any replay. 

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