In his more important work "Dei
diritti dell’uomo" (About the rights of man) (1791), the Spedalieri, moving from the thesis of the contract as
origin of society, claimed that the Christian religion is "the
safest keeper of man's rights" a guarantee against the
abuse of despotism justifying the rebellion to the authority, when this
does not respect "the natural rights"
which had been somewhat dispensed with by the French revolution.
His ideas (against the absolutism, on the sovereignty and on
the right of the people to knock down the tyranny), very advanced
for the time, in a moment of transition and of grave ideological tensions,
sowed dismay in the absolutist courts and in the curial circles.
The pontiff Pius VI allowed
the publication of the book in Rome, even if with the false
indication of Assisi and the frontispiece deprived of the ritual
ecclesiastical approvals, replaced by the hastiest formula "with
license of the superiors".
The work had an extraordinary book success: in a brief while was
reprinted four times and in various towns, as the first numerous exemplary
were not sufficient to satisfy the requests coming from theologians,
jurists, politicians and Italian and European men of culture.
It provoked also much hatred and ferocious
criticisms and a crusade of books and brochures tried, with
poisonous insults, to confute and demolish the philosopher advanced theses.
Spedalieri had again to fight against the moderate lay, the religious and
also the progressist thinkers (Rosmini, Taparelli-D’Azeglio, Cantù).
Among the many detractors, also a fellow villager
of his, the friar Capuchin Gesualdo
De Luca: for him the Spedalieri was "a
very miserable typist of the most impious theories that the raving ("Rousseau
and similar mad people") had written about
the origin and the natural qualities of rights and duties of men ..."
and So "wrapped in many contradictions, he became
target of bitterest derisions and censures from Catholic writers Magni
nominis ... ".
The doctrine "Of the rights of man", that was
teaching the popular sovereignty and the recognition of the fundamental
rights of man was considered dangerous and subversive; the Savoy House
forbade in 1792 the spreading of the book in Italy.
The work was
also forbidden up to 1860 in all the kingdoms and the European courts
of the epoch.
The last book of the Spedalieri, "Storia delle paludi
pontine" (History of the pontine marshes),
written in Latino by wish of Pius VI, was translated into Italian, and
published in 1800 after the death of the great philosopher.
Nicola Spedalieri died suddenly in Rome on November 26th 1795.
this was born the legend of having been poisoned by one of his many
He was buried in the San Michele Magno oratory property of the Vatican
The papal state coined in his honor a medal and had a mosaic built in
front of his grave (the epigraph says "Memoriae Nicolai Spedalieri presbiteri nazione
siculi domo Bronte..." (Memoriae Nicolai Spedalieri
siculi nation presbyteries subdue Bronte ...).
In his twenty-one years of residence in Rome he established
friendly relationships with the most illustrious prelates, scholars and
artists of the time (the Cardinal Borromeo, Vincenzo Monti, Winckelmam,
Milizia, Canova, Mengs and others).
Nicola Spedalieri was interested also in music (he was an excellent harp
player) and of painting that he loved and studied since the first years
spent in Montreal.
The Vatican library preserves the originals of a few of his musical works;
his harpsichord (of 1679, attributable to Petrus Todinus),
recently restored and his self-portrait (painted when he was
thirty-three years old, in 1773) are preserved in the premises of the
Capizzi College, together with other writings and objects of his (the