Monday, January 4, 2010


I need to add some photos and edit the spacing but I am having a difficult time doing so... I will polish this essay as soon as my computer or Blogger will let me!
  In honor of my,  4th on the Luca ancestral line and 5th on the Calabrese line, great grandmother Francesca Colloraffi

                                                               The Collurafi Connection

 Antonio Collurafi, "Celebre letterato e filosofo"

My mother Fortunata De Luca died in 2002.  Soon after her death I decided to honor her memory by researching her genealogical roots.  I started to look at genealogies posted on the web in order to get ideas for my research.  I found a site where a Janice Colloraffi had posted her genealogy and to my surprise I discovered that Jan’s ancestors came from a town in Sicily called Librizzi.  Librizzi the town where I and my ancestors were born! I stayed up all night to read the whole genealogy and quickly I discovered that I was familiar with most of the surnames mentioned in Jan’s genealogy. 

For a whole month I thought about this stranger who had a connection to the town of Librizzi and finally I decided to email her  To my surprise Jan answered me right away and was most gracious about sharing her family information with me and in addition she guided me on how to gather information for my genealogy.  I know that historically Librizzi has had many “illustrious sons” such as my ancestor Don Andrea Muscarà and an Antonio Collurafi.  Jan never mentioned this famous Antonio and so one day I asked her if she was aware of her illustrious ancestor and gave her a little information about him. With the information that I gave her Jan proceeded to research the story of AC (the initials became our loving name for Antonio Collurafi) at the same time I continued to research my genealogy. Slowly a wonderful story unfolded for me and Jan.     

Antonio Collurafi, historical background                                  

Antonio Collura, son of Sebastiano, was born in 1585 in Librizzi and died in Palermo on May 27, 1655. The surname Collura was later changed to Collurafi.  Antonio was born in a poor but honest family who did not have sufficient economic resources to educate him.  The young lad went to work as a domestic for a priest in Librizzi, a priest who was very charitable and of great character. One day Antonio told the priest that he wanted to learn to read and write and eventually to become a sacristan.  The priest encouraged him and personally taught Antonio to read and write.  Impressed with Antonio’s intelligence and a love for learning the priest decided to sacrifice his own comfort and used his resources to send the intelligent young man to a public school. Once again impressed by Antonio’s educational progress the priest decided to send the young man to Theology School and to this end he left Antonio a sizable inheritance. After the Priest’s death Antonio pursued his studies at a Seminary in the nearby town of Patti where he was ordained and also he obtained his degrees in Theology and Philosophy. Antonio’s real interest was the study of literature and philosophy and in order to better study and understand these subjects he studied Latin, Greek, French, and Spanish   Soon after obtaining his degrees Antonio went to Messina and from there he made his way to Venice where he cultivated the friendships of scholars. These friends introduced Antonio to Venetian patricians who hired him as a tutor for their children. His erudition and eloquence became so legendary that he was received by the Doge families and became the instructor for the Doge children and for the Senators’ children as well.  By public decree the Senate assigned Antonio a professorship at the school of the Senato Veneto.

Antonio wrote a textbook in order to better teach his students.  He wrote the textbook in Latin and called it “Perspicuam totius dicendi artis in tres compendiarios libros distinctam explicationem, in qua quidquid ad perfectum spectat Oratorem, ex summis probisque Rhetoribus decerptum, singulari ordine, mira brevitate, et facili methodo continetur”.  The book was printed in Venice in 1619, the publisher was il Sarzino.  This first book written by Antonio, which included excerpts from Greek and Latin literary sources, was praised in the newspapers of those times. Many of his students became famous on their own merits as well as on the great instruction that they received from Antonio.  Several became writers and scholars and even dedicated their work to him including the illustrious writers Giovan Francesco Lauritano (who dedicated his book Scherzi Geniali to Antonio), Pietro Michele, Ferdinando Pallavicino, the brothers Donato,  Vittore Contarini, Alvise da Mosto. Recognizing Antonio’s talents the Senato Veneto made him a noble and inscribed his name in the White Book of San Marco, thus he became a Knight of San Marco. The reputation of this worthy Librizzese , spread all over Europe.  The Emperor Ferdinando III from Vienna invited Antonio to his Court but Antonio refused the honor because he did not want to appear ungrateful to the Venetians who esteemed him so much.

In order to thank the Emperor Ferdinando for his gracious offer Antonio wrote a panegerico to praise him.  It was published in Venice in 1637, the title was “L’Aquila coronata, ovvero la felicità sospirata dall’Universo; alla Maestà sempre augusta di Cesare il grande Ferdinando III. Imperatore”.  In turn Emperor Ferdinando III made Antonio a Conte Palatino, he also sent Antonio his portrait adorned with diamonds.  Not to be upstaged by the Venetian Senate and Emperor Ferdinando III, the King of Spain Antonio Filippo IV (III of Sicily) decided to bring back to Sicily Antonio Collurafi and made him Canonico della Palatina Cappella of Palermo, a huge honor in those times.  King Filippo IV also made Antonio the Royal Chronographer of Spain, and Cantor of the Chapel of S.Pietro located in the Palazzo Regio of Palermo (Royal Palace).  Antonio Collurafi died in Palermo and as a last honor accorded him he was buried in the Tempio Regio (Royal Temple).

In his last work “Il racquisto di Porto Longone e di Piombino.......”,  Palermo, 1641, Antonio Collurafi identified himself as D.D. Antonino Collurafi, Cavalier di San Marco, Conte del Sagro Imperio, Historiografo di Sua Maestà, e Ciantro della Cappella Reale di San Pietro del Palazzo di Palermo.

The books mentioned which were published in 1619 and in 1637 were followed by other books.  The following are some of the titles:

“L’effigie divina, ovvero S. Domenico di Suriano”, Venezia presso Giacomo Balione 1630 et 1638, e presso Giacomo Sarzina 1638

“Lettere parte prima, e seconda.”, 1627, 1628,  1629

“L’amicitia incomparabile de gli illustrissimi Nicolo’ Barbarigo, e Marco Trivisano, Panegirigo.”

“La Piacenza dell’Illustrissimo Signor Aluise Donato, Panegirigo.”

“I trionfi della virtù nella Coronazione del Ser. Francesco Prizzo Principe di Venezia.”

“I disinganni politici.  Risposta ai felici progressi delle armi del re Cristianissimo nelle provincie di Spagna, Fiandra, Borgogna, el Alsatia”. Palermo, 1641.  Also translated into Spanish.

“L’occhio sopra lo scettro, ovvero la provvidenza regia delineata nella idea della Maestà del Re nostro signore Filippo IV , il Grande”.  Madrid, 1643.  In Italian and also in Spanish. 

Two of the most important works by Antonio Collurafi are: 

a.   “L’Idea Del Gentilhuomo Di Republica Nel Governo Politico, Ethico ed Economico: overo Il Nobile Veneto”,  del Cavalier Collurafi, published in 1823 and 1833. 
b.   “La Tumultazione della Plebe in Palermo”, del Conte Collurafi, published in 1651.

    “Il Nobile Veneto” is divided into two parts and gives advice on how to properly educate the children of the Venetian aristocracy who will become the future leaders of Venice.  Antonio was his students’ mentor as well as the ideologist for the future and as such he delineated every aspect of their life.  I found interesting Antonio’s vision for a proper wife for these future leaders who in turn would become the mothers of other future leaders.  According to Antonio the good wife for an aristocrat is one who possesses the qualities of chastity, faithfulness, modesty, obedience, ….. 

To be posted
 Book cover of  “Il Nobile Veneto 

“La Tumultazione della Plebe in Palermo” details the events of a major revolt that occurred in Palermo in May of 1647.  At this time Sicily, which was controlled by Spain, suffered great famines due to the lack of the normally abundant harvests.  The bread prices soared and food riots broke out in Palermo.  The Spanish Viceroy suppressed the rebellion using extreme force resulting in a vile bloodbath.  In “La Tumultazione…” Antonio gives an account of the events leading up to the revolt and details all that happened during the revolt of Palermo.  The book became famous and even today it is used as a textbook to study that historical period. In order to commemorate the 4th centennial anniversary of the Antonio’s birth the town of Librizzi in 1985 promoted the reprinting of   “La Tumultazione…”.  The work was prefaced with an essay written by another illustrious son of Librizzi, the Commendadore Tindaro Gatani. 

But back to the story of Maria and Jan whose roots go back to the early history of the town of Librizzi.  Soon after our “internet meeting” we became friends and made plans to meet at the airport in Detroit while I and my husband were waiting for a flight home to Virginia.  Before we met Jan was able to find and purchase an original copy of “Il Nobile Veneto”!  When the book arrived she reverently opened the book to a certain page and miracles of miracles the page contained a poem by one of my ancestors il Dott. Francesco Muscarà!  The poem lauds Antonio Collurafi as well as the town of LibrizziThe poem begins with the verse “Questa, ch’è un picciol Mondo eccelsa , e prima Città…..”  Yes indeed, we do live in a small world, not only geographically but also in the memory of centuries.  Jan brought the book to the airport and as I touched the tangent gift from our ancestors, in a cosmic unforgettable moment, the memory of our ancestors merged with their present descendants. A new eternal moment was created just as Francesco said in his poem "perchè in eterno, per i secoli futuri vivrà" The date of our meeting was September 11, 2002.


                  Maria Muscarà and Jan Colloraffi September 11, 2002

 Poem by il dottor Francesco Muscarà found in the book “Il Nobile Veneto
 Photo of the copy of the original page to be posted

Del Signor
Francesco Muscarà

Questa, ch'è un picciol Mondo eccelsa, e prima
Città, d'Illustri Heroi famosa altrice,
Sposa del gran Nettuno, e vera autrice,
Di Sante leggi, e d'ogni vitio lima;

Qual'erta pianta, inalza la sua cima
Da la risorta Libera radice
Frà l'onde d'Adria; e come genitrice
Di gloria, splende in ogni stranio clima.

Non sia giamai, che fosca nube oscuri
Il chiaro lume, o tempo, che prescriva
La gloria dè suoi prischi Semidei;

Perche in eterno à i secoli futuri
Viurà per la tua penna illustre, e viva,
Dando à te fama, e nobil grido à Lei.

  The above poem written to honor Antonio Collurafi and the town of Librizzi was translated into modern Italian by my cousin Salvatore Taranto, a Muscarà descendant. 

  Del Signor Francesco Muscarà

 Questa cittadina, che è un piccolo mondo,
 è splendida e primeggia
 è nutrice famosa di illustri eroi,
 sposa del grande Nettuno
 e vera autrice di sante leggi,
 è castigatrice di ogni vizio.

 Come la pianta alta, innalza la sua cima 
dalle libere radici che risorgono
fra le onde d'Adria,
e come madre della gloria
risplende in ogni clima straniero.

Oh tempo, non avvenga giammai
che una nera nube
oscuri il chiaro lume
e cancelli la gloria dei suoi antichi semidei;

perchè in eterno, per i secoli futuri
 vivrà grazie alla tua illustre penna 
perche, viva, darà te fama 
e a lei una novile voce.

                                                   Photo by Carmelo Rifici 
                                                   A Collurafi descendant

  But our story does not end with our meeting.  Soon after that September day I made another discovery, I too am descended from a Librizzi Collurafi!  My 4th great grandparents were Mastro Filippo Luca (born in 1775 in Montagnareale) and Francesca Collorafi (born in 1779).  Their son Mastro Rosario Luca continued my mother’s paternal ancestral line; and the other son, Mastro Carmelo Luca, was the father of Francesca Luca who married Mastro Angelo Calabrese.  Angelo and Francesca were direct ancestors of my mother’s maternal Calabrese line. "Questa, ch’è un picciol Mondo eccelsa, e prima Città"  Librizzi, prima Città, the font of my ancestral roots and the font of my dear friend Janice Collorafi’s roots.  Just as the two Librizzesi of four centuries ago were friends their descendants are new friends in a new century and in a new country. 

                               The name Collura or Collurà:     

                                                 Coat of Arms

Today there are many variations of the original surname Collura such as Collorafi, Colloraffi, Collurafi, Colluraffi, etc. The suffix fi comes from the Latin meaning “son of”.

According to books which list the Famiglie Nobile di Sicilia, Collura is a surname of a very noble and ancient family from Messina.  Some of the illustrious Collura men listed are:  Bonafede Collura senatore of Massina 1552; Federico Collura, his son, stratigoto `295 and later he was a senatore; Salvo Collura who distinguished himself under the reign of King Alfonso in the acquisition of the Kingdom of Napoli; and the count Antonio Collurafi from Librizzi.

The Collura Coat of Arms is blue, with two coluri (colure in English) of the armillary sphere loaded by two gold stars one placed at the top and the other at the bottom; at the top there is a gold band which includes a two headed crowned eagle with black wings. 

The English word colure is a word that deals with Astronomy.  Armillary sphere is an old astronomical device.  The word colure is derived from the Greek ‘kolos’ (docked) and ‘oura’ (tail), in ordinary latitudes a part of the tail is always beneath the horizon.  The definition in the dictionary is  “Either of two circles of the celestial spheres intersecting at the poles, one passing through the equinoctial points, and the other at right angles to it.”  The Collura Coat of Arms depicts the meaning of the word “colure”.


 1.”Biografia Degli Uomini Illustri Della Sicilia: ornate di loro rispettivi ritratti”.  Compilata di Giuseppe Emmanuele Ortolani e da altri letterati.  1817, 1819

2. L’Idea Del Gentiluomo Di Republica Nel Governo Politico, Ethico, Ed Economico: Overo Il Nobile Veneto.  Del Cavalier Collurafi alla Serenissima Republica di Venetia.

3. “Le Tumultuazioni Della Plebe Di Palermo”, Antonino Collurafi.  Saggio introduttivo di: Tindaro Gatani.

4. “Librizzi” Documenti , uomini e fatti prima e dopo il mille”  Antonino D’Amico, 1996

5.  "Dizionario topografico della Sicilia, tr. ed annotato da G. Marzo"  Vito Maria Amico e Statella.