Sixty Years Ago

Written by  Redazione
The celebrations on the occasion of the first centenary of the foundation of the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara.
On the 16th of June 1938, senator Pietro Niccolini, then Chairman of the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara, chose for the bank's centenary celebrations the renovated boardroom in corso Giovecca in preference to the Este castle, palazzo dei Diamanti, palazzo Schifanoia or the palace of Ludovico il Moro. In Niccolini's view, these places would certainly have been solemn and evocative venues, but they were nonetheless unsuitable because they suggested «wealth, opulence, art and splendour».

Instead it was necessary to speak of saving in a place where the savings of the folk of Ferrara had been guarded for a century, a place that also kept the documents that proved «how for a hundred years those savings have been administered with great scrupulousness», where scrupulousness meant «conscientious control, not mere utilitarian calculation».

Those present included the most important dignitaries of the day, including the government representative Edmondo Rossoni, to whom Niccolini expressed his particular gratitude for «what he has done and is still doing for the province of Ferrara», and Italo Balbo.

In the hall packed with VIPs, Senator Niccolini stressed with pride, first of all, the merits of the Cassa di Risparmio, which included the disbursal of «about eight millions for works of public utility and charity», while other notable sums had been paid that same day to the Duce and the local Fascist Governor for «charitable purposes».
With equal pride, he recalled the fact that the Ferrara-based savings bank (founded in 1838) was the third oldest in Italy after the bank founded by the Papal State in 1836 and the one founded in Bologna in 1837, in a particular political environment, «when power was about to pass from the hands of the priests and friars to those of the lay community, and [when] some important events were coming to maturity amid an obscure and stormy political climate».

Moved, he recalled the «exceptional qualities» of the first Chairman, count Alessandro Masi, Gonfaloniere of Ferrara, «a reformer and a patriot, not a revolutionary», but an «ardent supporter of a complex of reforms from which progress and the happiness of people was expected to result». He also recalled Masi's dynamism and initiatives such as the laying out of viale dei Giardini, the commencement of the task of filling in the Panfilo canal (the modern via Cavour), the creation of public and infant schools and the Old Folks' Home, as well as the reform of the health service.

His meritorious innovations also included the promotion of the Cassa di Risparmio. The Gonfaloniere «sensed all the beauty and strength of the fundamental principle of this Institution», but he was certainly misled regarding the promptness and ease of the results.
However he was never to see the fruits of his efforts because the development of the Cassa di Risparmio was a long and arduous task, not out of any fault on the part of its promoters and administrators, but not even on account of the Papal Government, which had been defined as "reactionary AND obscurantist" by the anti-clerical writers of the early Twentieth century".
In his speech, Niccolini attached particular importance to Gaetano Recchi, the first councillor-secretary, «who should be considered the first manager», a man of national rather than local importance. He recalled Recchi's patriotic and political actions, which brought him to the «apex of renown and political authority».

After his historical re-evocation of the two great personalities who had advocated and founded the Cassa di Risparmio, the senator wound up his speech by returning to the theme of savings and charitable works, recalling the sums destined in the past to works of public utility (hospices and sanatoria, the Athenaeum, the contribution made to the construction of the hospital), but above all by stressing with pride the two major philanthropic initiatives about to be fulfilled: the delivery to Sant'Anna's Civic Hospital, on the occasion of the centenary, of two hundred milligrams of radium «to save the poor from the scourge of cancer», and the celebration of the restoration of Palazzina Marfisa, «donated to the city and to the artists of the whole world».

At the end of senator Niccolini's speech, the Podestà took the floor to bring the city's greetings and to stress the presence of Edmondo Rossoni and Italo Balbo. He also extolled the political, cultural and administrative merits of the Chairman and the Manager, Professor Calzolari. He was followed by Edmondo Rossoni, who brought greetings from the Government to tumultuous applause.
Finally all the dignitaries were conducted to Palazzina Marfisa, where they admired the results of a successful restoration job, and thence to the Sant'Anna hospital where, after «a simple and austere ceremony» they handed over the radium for the cancer cure.