Until 1778 (year of opening of the Real Capizzi College schools) illiteracy
was diffused across Bronte's people, deprived, as
many small tows, of schools. To study was possible only for the
clergy and the children of the wealthy (the so called
For centuries Bronte had gone through periods of grave financial
difficulties: owned very little having been dispossessed of
everything when, in 1494 (the
pope Innocenzo VIII gave the Abbey
of Maniace and all its possessions to the Palermo Great and New
Hospital) and again in 1798 (with
Bourbon sovereign of the time king Ferdinando I, that gave in
donation to Horatio
Nelson the land and the city of Bronte).
With no means, very little could realize the brontese "Universitas"
in the field of young people formation; the school wasn't important
Fortunately, what the Council could not do was done by the priests. The blessed ignorance in which the people
lived was alleviated somewhat by the lessons to read and write
given by the parish priests.
On the other hand, during those centuries, elementary and
secondary schools were exclusively in the hands of religious
corporations: Filippini, Teatini. Minoriti, Scolopi and,
above all, Jesuits that, since 1548, had founded may
colleges in Sicily.
Even in Bronte this way: only the clergy and the sons of the wealthy
(the "civili") could get a decent education. For the others,
the common people (the "popolani"), only the parish school was available and
whatever little could be learned in the S. Filippo Neri Oratory,
risen alongside the church of Maria
SS. della Catena in the XVI century, or in the Friars Minori
Osservanti arrived in Bronte towards 1585 and in the Capuchin
fathers arrived towards 1627. Naturally was not sufficient to the needs of the population
also because there was absolutely
nothing for educating girls.
Besides the oratory schools were not adequate, could be
learned there only the first elements of Italian and Latin
grammar. To continue the studies the families had
to send their sons to Monreale Seminary or elsewhere.
And going to Monreale wasn't easy both for the distance and for the
difficulty and the dangers of the road (through the mountains
from Bronte to Palermo took four days) that is why was felt the need
to open schools in the own town.
finally the Ignazio Eustachio Capizzi came on the scene.
The daring project wanted in 1774
by the humble priest (he also had started his
studies at the S. Filippo Neri Oratory and had been forced to leave
Bronte to continue them), gave a radical solution to the
education and formation problem of the brontese young men.
The Capizzi conceived for them a majestic College that "could
be useful for the instruction of poor country people; that would
contain primary and secondary schools of Italian and Latin
literature, philosophy, theology, canon law and mathematics; with
two separate classes, external students, and internal boarding
schools whit large dormitories..." (G.
De Luca, History of the City of Bronte) for centuries was a forge of knowledge and put the town in a
preeminent position over other Sicilian centers.
But the girls of Bronte were excluded: It was unthinkable
in that time that some girls could frequent the school rooms of the
The male scholastic organization was
complete (elementary schools for boys in the convents of the
Capuchin and Minori Osservanti,
and superior schools in the Capizzi College), were missing only the
schools for girls.
"House nuns, and honest women, or very honest widows of
grave age were doing this. Their duty was to teach the little girls
the fear of God and the first needle and knitting work. the
"civili" let in their own home some e3xpert persons
teach their daughters in drawing, embroidery, reading and
writing. There were not public, free schools for girls" (Gesualdo
The opening of the Collegio
di Maria, wanted by Maria Scafiti and approved with royal
decree of 1780 did not have an easy start because of
long lawsuits with the heirs of the generous founders (only
in 1875 the statute was approved) and then, yet another priest, Pietro
Graziano Calanna, returned to Bronte after 40 years spent
in Monreale, Rome and Naples, strong of his roman experience
conceives and projects in favor of young women the scholastic female
formation in Bronte.
To continue his studies he too had been forced to leave
his country town.
The 31 October 1823 he began
the institution of the girls school in his native town.
After the law in 1816 by which the elementary school for males
and females became obligatory in every town, Pietro Calanna
overcomes such law by projecting the opening
of four girls schools in the principal neighbourhoods
(Soccorso, S. Giovanni, Annunziata and Catena; in 1865 was
added the one of S. Vito).
Open the first one with the contribution of well to do people
and the Council, the flow of the girls resulted so
numerous that the opening of a second school became necessary, and for
this he obtained a contribution by king Francesco II (400 onzes).
He dictated personally, on the model of the Colleges of Maria
and of what Ignazio Capizzi had done, the instructions and
regulations approved by the Palermo Commission of P.I.
(a compendium of religious education, etiquette and
teaching of literary principles, drawing, cutting and sewing and
everything is needed to form good, religious mothers of family).
For the Calanna the school was diffusion of literary skills and
education, convinced that is impossible “to value how much a
good mother of family could contribute to welfare and, in consequence,
how important the girls education could be".
Rises therefore an urgent problem: the preparation of valid
teachers, as he points out in the regulations.
Appears also clear that the culture of the time pointed more on
social. ethical factors, that is education rather than
Pietro Calanna ("man of holy life, of talent, devout, formed in all
the studies", so defines him Benedetto Radice) succeeded in his
work before his death (1832) the schools were functioning in three
neighborhoods (the fourth was open in 1867, after his death, by
the school director
father Giuseppe Di Bella, the one of S. Vito
The school teachers were first lay teachers or tertiary subsequently
the teachers were tertiary nuns in the school there were also a
confessor priest, the catechist, the celebrant etc..