CHARACTERS AND TALES
“In the Name of the Father. Amen. This is the corporal punishment and the awarded and ratified corporal sentence made public by the Magnificent and Powerful Signor Lorenzo di Surdis, of Roman birth, honourable Captain and Keeper of the Peace in the City of Todi and its surrounding district for the Holy Roman Church and the Holy Father in the Name of Jesus Christ and our Holy Father by Divine Providence, Pope Martin V. We hereby accuse Matteuccia di Francesco, of Castello di Ripabianca in the district of Todi, universally acknowledged in accordance with the spirit of the Todi Comune Statutes as a woman of evil vice and prostitution, public enchantress, sorceress, author of magic, witch, against whom, by way of interrogation and information we formally prosecute.”
These are the words with which the formal prosecution against Matteuccia di Francesco on 20th March 1428 condemned her to be burnt at the stake, accused of witchcraft. The trial against the “witch” of Ripabianca is one of the first to be documented in Umbria where the “Witchcraft Tribunal” pronounced the death sentence. Mateccia was tried at Todi because, at the time, the little village of Ripabainca belonged to the Todi Comune. The women, influenced by the devil, according to the judges, had repeatedly practiced sacrilegious acts and spells against the local town-folk. The above-mentioned sorcery had been practiced, according to her accusers, since 1426 up to her arrest and her condemnation by the court of Lorenzo de Surdis, Captain and Keeper of the Peace in the city of Todi was ordered by the Holy Church of Rome.
This is one of the many events which one can find in trial records and which reflects upon Medieval culture, such a rich medly of sacredness, magical and ritual practices and the mythic pre-Christian world.
Matteuccia didn’t just prepare magic potions, but she prescribed prayers and the consumption of magic waters to those who wanted to conquer their loved ones. Many young lovers asked her for the “magic” herb for their lovers so to eat.
"Unguent Spell, Unguent Spell, send me to Benivento’s Dwell, May Water and Wind and Bad Weather Swell”.
This was the spell that Witch Matteuccia di Ripabianca used for flying and which cost her the death penalty,
Matteuccia’s tale is one of the many which characterizes the 15th Century as one of the darkest periods during which witches were sought after.
Andrea Giovannelli was born on 13th February 1696 at Ripabianca, son of an illustrious family, an important scholar and archaeologist. He was, firstly master of Human Literature and, later, at Todi and Rome a librarian for Filippo Antonio Gualterio (1660-1728); in 1708 he became Archbishop of Todi. During his time in Todi, 1716 to 1717, he met and became a good friend of the Scholar, Gianbattista Passeri from Pesaro (1694-1780).
Up until 1748 he collected together in his manuscript, news on archaeological findings, studies on general ancient cultures and strange happenings in the Todi territory.
Divided into seven volumes by Gianbattista Passeri who added an introduction, the Diario Todino, so called Report of the findings of many antiquities in the city of Todi and its territory and in the nearby and confining places of Gio Andrea Giovanelli, which is preserved in the Oliveriana Library of Pesaro.
The sketches of the ancient craft-ware which accompanies the text and the precise circumstances of their findings make up one of the first modern archaeological reports.
The Giovanelli manuscript holds records of illustrious men of Ripabianca:
- Bernardino Angelucci, grammatist and Seminar Master of Todi, confessor of the beatified Caterina da Morlupo
- Sebastiano Giovannelli, doctor of theology at the Assisi Seminar, scholar of Greek and Latin Literature, Parochial of Todi.