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Pietro Graziano Calanna

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Man of holy life, talented, devoted, trained in all studies

Pietro Graziano Calanna

In the nineteenth century he created the first sacelles for Bronte's girls

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 "civili").

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 then.

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.

Then 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 College.

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 De Luca).

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".


Pietro Graziano Calanna "foun­der of the public schools for girls in Bronte": was born in Bronte the 14 April 1755 from Philip and Maria Lombardo; and died in Bronte the 16 Octo­ber 1832. Studied in the Monreale Seminary and at twenty years of age was already teaching metaphysics and geometry.
Before founding his schools he lived in Neaples and Rome (with the Oratory di S. Filippo Neri fathers'). The picture, pain­ted by Nunziato Petralia in 1923, is preserved at the Capiz­zi College.

"Regulation of the Royal Public Schools of the maidens of Bronte" institute by the Reverent Sac D.  Pietro Calanna and directed by sac. D. Gaetano Rizzo", print, Catania 1835.

Pietro Graziano Calanna painted by Agostino Attinà in the picture  Uomini illustri di Bronte (1874)

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  secularisation.

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 afterwards).

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..

"The  Calanna, like the Colleges of Maria, widens his visual: the girls have to learn non  only the religious sen­se of life but also that of the work, suitable to women, together with general knowledge (history, geo­graphy, drawing) as object of teaching to read.

Writes clearly that "it was not intended to open simple schools, but found charity, for which not in religious houses, but inside their own neighbourhood, the girls can receive this education, an  operation that points principally to form the custom and the spirit of the young girls, without having to spend a lot, as many haven't got the means". Insists: the fruit of this foundation shall fall over all the population.

Nominating the four deputies and the major responsible foe the schools, the Calanna puts them to the servi­ce of the Commission of the Palermo P.I, and here is the novelty  not of ecclesiastic or lay nature, but free private schools State dependent.

Matters of the teaching: reading, writing, abacus and womanly work, according to the girls capacity (as in the Colleges of Maria); lessons time table: three and a half hours in the morning and as much in the after­noon, in winter only three hours in the morning, Thursday afternoon off;  piety exercise only half an hour in the morning and rosary at night, without other devotions.

The Calanna pedagogy  is based on few fundamental principles: get the girls used to do things for convi­ction, so to form their character; their obedience is proportional to the respect they receive; the teachers are not permitted to  beat them or put their hands on them. Teachers salary: 12 onzes per year and free lodging in the same school."

(Salvatore Cucinotta, Sicily e Sicilians, Edition Sicilian Messina, 1996).

         Translated by Sam Di BellaITALIAN VERSION

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