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  • Child Sacrifice in Nineteenth-Century Italy October 15, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    Sorry but a busy day today and still fighting the good fight against dishonest architects so just a strange report from 1858. Beach has not the slightest idea what to make of it. Really, it should all be pure fantasy and yet there is a lot circumstantial information: also the fact the child was English. This doesn’t sound the kind of thing a journalist would make up. If Italian newspapers were searchable… any extra info> drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    The correspondent of the Daily News at Rome gives an account of a most extraordinary occurrence. A lady, of some property, residing generally at Aqua Santa, in the Papal Dominions, but bordering on the Neapolitan territory, became possessed with the strongest conviction that, in some part of her estates there is a hidden treasure of enormous value; but that all her attempts at its discovery are systematically opposed by evil spirits. An old woman who bears the reputation of being a strega, or witch, informed her that nothing could allay the spite of these hostile spirits except sacrificing to them a male child, of good parentage, and under six years of age. About a month ago she cast her evil eye upon a fine little boy belonging to an English lady, residing at Porto di Fermo, and skilfully watching her opportunity, contrived to entice the child away, whilst rambling with its mother, and playing about on the sea-shore. The consternation of the mother at the child’s disappearance may be easily imagined. Her husband being absent from home at the time, she sent a young man, her son in-law, in quest of the child. The young man succeeded in tracing the fugitive to a solitary house at a considerable distance, into which he endeavoured to obtain an admittance, but was repulsed by the hostile demonstrations of a body of armed retainers. He then proceeded to the neighbouring town of Ascoli, to procure the assistance of the police, with a sufficient force of whom he returned to the solitary house, but too late to arrest the kidnappers, who had decamped with their victim. Meanwhile the father of the child returned to his home, and, having learnt the catastrophe, came out like wise in hot pursuit, which resulted, after several days’ research, in the discovery of the lady and child, at a curate’s house, in the Neapolitan dominions. During the interval the lady’s house at Aqua Santa was subjected to a judicial search, and evidence was obtained that the child was to have been sacrified there on Christmas day. An altar had been prepared, with wax torches and all kinds of accessories, to immolate the boy to Satan. An ambuscade was established around the dwelling in consequence of this horrible revelation, and party kept constantly on the watch, in case the lady should return to her habitual residence. In the meantime, the father, having come up with the fugitives, demanded his child from the curate who harboured them; but the priest refused to comply, excepton on condition of full pardon to the lady. The infuriated father appealed without delay to the bishop of the diocese, who took instant measures to resuce the child, and to arrest the lady, who is now undergoing a trial for stregoneria, or witchcraft, and will most likely be punished accordingly.

    25 Oct 2013: The Count writes, ‘Although I don’t speak Italian and therefore haven’t wasted my time attempting to search Italian newspapers, it would appear that the same report, with slight variations, appeared around the world. Here it is in the London Illustrated News (on a website containing much else that might also be of interest you). And here it is from New Zealand – whatever the truth of the matter may be, it does seem that the story genuinely did originate in Italy, and a lot of people took it seriously. Possibly the detail that the Pope took a personal interest in the matter and followed the case might be useful, if the Vatican archives are searchable?’ Thanks Count!