Here’s to you all the great Citizens that a little City like Bene Vagienna had the honour to count as its.
Famous Bene Vagienna Citizens
Giuseppe Assandria and Giuseppe Vacchetta
Two enlightened people
Giuseppe Assandria was born in Bene Vagienna on July 22, 1840, he graduated in Chemistry at the University of Turin. Faithful husband, loving father of three children, grandfather able to entertain the grandchildren. Excellent student in different fields of knowledge: archeology, history, numismatics, library science, botany, genealogy; subjects in which he could give an ever new and original contribution, binding himself to the historical events of his land.
Giovanni Vacchetta, born in Cuneo in 1863, from an ancient Benese family, after studying at the Technical Insititute of Cuneo and Accademia Albertina in Turin, he got well known for his skill in technical drawing. Teacher at the Industrial Museum and the Polytechnic of Turin, Art Nouveau artist, designer, Vacchetta was also an art expert and an historian particularly attentive to knowledge and cultural heritage of the ‘Granda’. He died in the house of fossanese Italo Mario Sacco in 1940.
Early in the century the two historicians from Bene devoted successfully to Augusta’s research, often cited by Latin writers. The studies were conducted on the territory between 1892 and 1908 with now largely overcome archaeological techniques. The two, having large sums of money, could pay out of their pocket laborers, mostly enrolled in the areas of Podio and Roncaglia, to dig on those lands that intuitively believed to guard the remains of the Roman world. The explorations of the subsoil were made in the periods of fallow, not to cause damages to crops. The fields were in fact hired in the fall, dug in the months to follow and leveled again in the spring and returned to their owners for the new crop year.
The operations gave great results exceeding all expectations. Imagine the excitement of Assandria and Vacchetta when they unearthed the stone paved surface of the Decumanus Maximus, and when they saw emerging the foundations of the theater, amphitheater and even the temple dedicated to Jupiter. It was definitely a great joy because the many efforts made had paid off and the Augusta Bagiennorum, so much sought in previous centuries, was finally discovered. With objects unearthed from the underground they prepared the Civic Museum and the town plant that still uses the Superintendence is to patiently traced throughout the excavation campaign lasting 16 years.
The building was re-modeled on an existing structure at the turn of the ‘600 -‘ 700 by Oreglia Marquis of Novello, Castino and Farigliano accounts and barons of Island, then go in the first half of the Marquis Emanuele Lucerna di Rora. The building, also remembered because it hosted Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796 and then purchased in the mid nineteenth century by the city of Bene Vagienna, now houses the Museo Civico, constituted at the beginning of the ‘900 by Assandria and Vacchetta. Now it has three museum rooms on the first floor.
One of these is dedicated to the most ancient findings. There are in fact fragments of marble with inscriptions from the Roman period, shards of pottery, capitals, amphorae, antefixes and Roman aqueduct segments in lead and brick. Huddled at the entrance to the original strains of the Roman theater discovered in Roncaglia region. In the central case: bronzes, ampoules, lachrymatories, oil lamps, slides, small furnishings and a statuette of Mercury. In the second room there is a fine display of the collection of coats of arms of the families that have lived in Bene Vagienna and the numismatic series of medals reproducing all of the Savoy characters. In one corner you notice some keystones carved and belonging to the ancient Pieve.
The theorist of the Reasons of State
The theorist of the reason of state Giovanni Botero was born in bene Vagienna around 1540 (the exact date is unknown), and his existence got immediately busy. Witty, lively personality and difficult character, Botero, despite the countless health problems, shifted between Rome, Milan, Turin, Italy, France and Spain.
He joined the Jesuits, then left the order and then became secretary of Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, first, and tutor to the sons of the Duke of Savoy, then. His scholarly activity is related mainly to the treatise “Of the reason of state” where you find an association between morality and politics. The text acquired such a wide reputation at his time to get quoted, together with its author, by Alessandro Manzoni in Chapter XXVII of “The Betrothed”.
Beata Paola Gambara Costa
The Saint Paola
Paola Gambara, born in 1473 in Verola Alghisi (now Verolanuova) in low Brescia, was betrothed to Count Costa, Sir of bene Vagienna, when she was just 12 years old. She endured the harassment and the betrayals of her husband, who brought in the Castle the lover who became the undisputed master of the house.
Despite the hardships suffered, Paola was the only one who treated the concubine when she was hit by an abhorrent evil and forgave her, preparing a Christian funeral.
She also converted her husband and went on in her apostolate. She died on January 24, 1515 and from then people started speaking of special graces and miracles occurred at her tomb originally placed on the now demolished Church of the Rocchetta.
The figure of Paola Gambara is also remembered for the “miracle of the roses”. It is said that during a cold winter the Countess was distributing bread to the poors of the city, when suddenly the husband came, strongly opposing the works of his wife’s assistance to the needy. In an authoritarian way, he asked her what she was doing. Paola said she was handing out roses and opening the apron showed the flowers. The apocryphal writings tell that the Count took a rose, stuck it in his hat and then continued the walk for the village lands. As he passed, however, the people were laughing and the man could not understand why so much fun, until, he set a hand on his head and he found a loaf of bread: it was the rose transformed back into bread.
The veneration of the Lady of Bene Vagienna continued over the centuries and Pope Gregory XVI by decree of August 14, 1845 proclaimed her Saint. Her body is now kept in the family chapel of the Count Costa inside the Church of San Francesco. The relic, visible to the faithful, is protected by a glass case placed in a marble altar from 1725, designed by Filippo Juvarra. In 1990, the face of the Saint has been rebuilt by prof. Pier Luigi Baima Bollone of the University of Turin on the basis of the most modern and sophisticated scientific techniques and today we are allowed to venerate the Saint Paola with the features that she had at the time of death.
Giuseppe Oreglia di Santo Stefano
Jesuit, literary man and scholar
The Civilta Cattolica: someone will remember that this is the famous and prestigious magazine of the Italian Jesuits, founded in Naples in 1850, but hardly any will think that one of the founders, together with his father Curci, was father Giuseppe, born in Bene Vagienna March 27, 1823, brother of Cardinal Luigi
Smart and cultured literary man, he wrote for forty years on the magazine, of which he was for a few years director, dedicating themselves to contemporary news, books and periodicals to argue with liberal ideas and anticlerical. Living up to the fourth wov of the Company of Jesus, loyalty and direct service to the Pope, he identified in Freemasonry the true enemy of the Church.
Based on these convictions, gained after the transfer (1871) in Rome after Porta Pia breach, he began a series of studies on the Freemasons, their rituals and statutes, on their relations with the Jewish Kabbalah, analyzing the figure of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola .
Other projects interested him, but with the insistence of his doctors, he abandoned Rome and moved in search of a better air for his health, in Chieri.
On the evening of October 29, 1895 the erudite father Joseph quietly died in the city of Turin, where, in the far away August 10, 1842, as a nineteen year old who abandoned the world to follow Christ, he was received as a novice in the Companty of Jesus.
Luigi Oreglia di Santo Stefano
An irreprensible Cardinal
Cardinal Luigi Oreglia of Santo Stefano was among the fifty prelates voters, in 1878, of Pope Leo XIII, the pope who gave a big boost to the Catholic cooperation, from which the Rural Banks were born.
This illustrious son of the town of Bene Vagienna today gives its name to a street and even a cake … but that’s another story.
“Blameless Cardinal” as he was described by Don Bosco (who was a friend of Oreglia and attended his house), younger brother of Giuseppe, Luigi was born in Bene Vagienna on 9 July 1828. After his theological studies in Turin, he finished his religious training in Rome. Particularly inclined to study, he learned German and other languages, came into the prelature and began his diplomatic career as Internuncio: he was sent to the Hague in Holland, and then in Portugal. Back in Rome, he was made a cardinal by Pope Pio IX in December 22, 1873, before being appointed prefect of the Sacred Congregation of indulgences and sacred relics.
Man of noble manners, “he – as Don Bosco remembered – goes slow to adventure in any business, but when he says a word, he does not mind spending all his effort to make it turn out well.” A flattering opinion, given by a biographer of exception, for this Benese citizen able to honor his land even when the faith and service to the Church had taken him away.