The Knigts of Malta in Ferrara

Written by  G. L. Masetti Zannini

The Order honors the city that welcomed it with a philatelic emission.

Which are the historical reasons that determined the choice of Ferrara, decided by pope Leone XII, to protect the Order from the greed of those who aimed to confiscate its assets, as the French and English did after the occupation of the island of Malta? The government of Naples from which Catania depended, had declared, without any authority, the abolition of the Order, while the empire of Austria had assumed the protection of the Order. Therefore, Rome favored a center that, although belonging to the Papal State, accommodated an Austrian garrison and moreover was not too distant from the Hasbugical border. Therefore, protected and welcomed with the deserved dignity in the city of Ferrara, the jerusolimitan knights gave the start, as Ostoja wrote, “to a singular mirabile spiritual sovereignty and an organization that would have allowed the continuation of those superb activities in hospitality that the Order had begun since the XI century in Jerusalem.”

Lost the island of Malta, the knights were compelled to migrare, at first to Catania, then to Ferrara where they remained for eight years until 1834. In the 1826 the Liutenant of the Order, Frà Antonio Busca, Marquis of Lamagna (1767-1834) reached Ferrara with the knights Angelo Ghislieri from Jesi and Alessandro Borgia from Velletri. Welcomed by Cardinal Tommaso Arezzo, Legacy of Ferrara and already Nunzio near the Zar of Russia (we remember that Czar Paul I had been made Great Master of the Order, although of orthodox religion), the knights took lodging in the Palazzo Bevilacqua (later Massari) where they implanted the papal chancery and they carried out their action with the spirit who had animated them for centuries in the defense of the Christian faith. Cardinal Arezzo offered the knights the church and the ancient Canonical convent of the Lateranensi: a temple in the form of Greek cross, dedicated to San Giovanni Battista, rich with works of art. The honor made to Ferrara for the residence of the Order that, after the Napoleonic storm was being reconstituted, was not forgotten after that the Priore di Capua Carlo Candida, successor to Busca, obtained from Gregorio XVI the transport of the center to Rome, where the new Liutenant was plenipotentiary minister at the Holy See.

But there is also more a recently asserted reason that consolidates this memory in Ferrara. In 2004 and 2005 a recent purchase of the Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara, has been loaned to an exhibition in Mantova: the work “ of a painter whose tie with our city has been of exceptional importance: Tiziano Vecellio direct heir of Giorgione” (as V. Lapierre wrote here in December 2004). It is the Portrait of Gabriele Tadino general

commander of the artillery of Carl V, knight and expert in the art of war, portraied with a golden necklace and the Jerolsolimitan cross Today in the series of twenty thousand stamps emitted from the Poste Magistrali del Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta, the noble figure of that knight camps in a gallery the best and the more illustrious among its members.



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