Marquesa: A symbol of charity
By KATIE CLAYTON
CAMERANO, Italy -- Every morning,
the Marquesa Mancinforte walks to Mass at 7:30. She carries with
her a small shopping bag that holds Bibles with photos tucked
inside. Some of the photos have inscriptions on them recognizing
and thanking her for her kindness. After 30 minutes of prayer,
songs and Communion, she walks back toward her house and garden.
Sometimes, she buys a newspaper in a store on the ground floor
of what had been the family mansion or palazzo of her late husband,
Marchese Giancarlo Mancinforte.
Life of the Marquesa in Camerano, Italy
Click on photo to view Video
The Marquesa opens her window to the garden,
All' Italiano. Photo by Melissa Masar |
Fausta Maria Gaggiotti was born
Nov. 20, 1927, in Ancona, the major city near Camerano.
She met her husband, a descendant of a noble family, at
her aunt’s house. They married a year later in 1951.
She realized she had a great role to fill after the marriage,
when she assumed the honorary title of Marquesa, honorary
because Italy had abolished royalty, and nobility, after
World War II.
Her husband’s family, the Manciforte, came from Ancona
but moved to Camerano in the 19th century and owned much
of the land and wielded great influence in the town. Her
husband died earlier this year of Parkinson’s disease.
When asked about the Marquesa’s
role in the community today, Camerano’s mayor, Carmine Di
Giacomo, called her “a symbol of charity.” Informed
of his comment, she replied, “With power comes responsibility.”
When she committed to her husband in marriage, she said, she also
took on a commitment to the community.
Inside the family mansion is an open and lush garden, surrounded
by four buildings. The garden is All’ Italiano, reflecting
the Italian Renaissance style. A statue of a woman stands in the
center with paths leading to it from four sides. Sometimes concerts
are held in the garden. Couples who are marrying often have wedding
photos taken there, and the Marquesa sometimes takes advantage of
the opportunity to speak to them about the importance of marriage.
The two buildings that run perpendicular to the main street of
the piazza are older than the one in which the Marquesa now lives.
While these buildings are beautiful, she noted that the property
taxes on buildings are high, so she rents out some of the space.
The garden, All' Italiano, is closed in by four
buildings including the home of the Marquesa. Photo by Melissa
of the family mansion where she lives overlooks the piazza. Furniture
and decorations from the 18th and 19th centuries, collected by her
mother-in-law, adorn the rooms. The color scheme is dark and rich
in gold, navy and dark red. The floor is elaborately designed and
covered in white strips of material that act as a walkway. Inside
the bedrooms are large beds with crucifixes hanging on the wall
above. Everything remains in the same place her mother-in-law left
it, she says.
The house also has two kitchens, one for summer and one for winter.
In summer, the Marquesa makes lemonade from the lemon tree in the
garden and graciously offers a glass to visitors. A coat of arms
hangs in the stairwell. It is divided into four parts, one of which
shows the dolphin, which represents her husband’s family.
Below, on the ground floor, is the office where she worked with
her husband, who was a dentist. As they had no children, she specifically
helped in the office to calm the fears of children.
Underneath the mansion are the caves and tunnels, or Le Grotte,
of Camerano. When asked if she had been in them, the Marquesa says
laughingly, that she’s claustrophobic and would go only once
she’d died. She has her wedding ring on her right hand. Her
father’s watch is wrapped around her left wrist. She wears
only these two pieces of jewelry, reflecting her simplicity and
attachment to her departed husband and father.
As the Marquesa sits in the garden,
she talks about life with her late husband, charity and church.
Photo by Melissa Masar
Throughout the home of the Marquesa,
there are several doors that offer an entrance into the Italian
Renaissance style garden. Photo by Melissa Masar
The Marquesa's 18th and
furniture and decorations have been
untouched since her mother-in-law's
decorating. Photo by Melissa Masar
The Marquesa heads out
to the lush garden towards then end of the evening. Photo
by Melissa Masar
The Marquesa talks about
who passed away in February of
Photo by Melissa Masar
Katie Clayton, Photos by: Melissa Masar, Video
by: Caroline Powers, Web Design by: Melissa
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