Civic Institutions: Community Library

THE “ARCHPRIEST NUNZIO CARONNA” COMMUNITY LIBRARY

The “Archpriest Nunzio Carorma” Community Library, located in Poggioreale on Via Umberto, in a large ground floor of the new school building; it was planned for in the original building plans, provided for by council resolution of October 20, 1934, approved by the Trapani Prefect on August 19, 1938, with approval number 19629.

The Library was actually founded by Archpriest N. Caronna in 1920 and presented to the public under the name: “Archpriest Nunzio Caronna Public Library,” duly recorded in the Community records of September 1919 and April 18, 1920, and approved by the Trapani Prefect on July 15, 1920 with document number 8967-342.

The initial endowment consisted of the volumes belonging to the former Capuchin Father’s Library, which were first ceded to the Community by the ministerial decree of September 4, 1867, communicated by the Prefect with Note number 1781 of January 25, 1868, with the precise obligation required of the Community to move and to maintain the books in a decent and commodious location and to establish, with annual community funding, a dedicated budgetary expense for purchases and conservation. Clearly, the obligation required was to establish a library.

In fact, on January 25, 1868, 50 Lire were allocated in the budget for purchases and 100 Lire for conservation, the latter amount was increased to 200 Lire on December 27, 1868. The Community’s enthusiasm cooled, however, and the Library was not moved, and the plans were not carried out.

After several years, the plans were reopened and stipulated definitively with the Registrar of the Records of Gibellina, on the date of May 27, 1889, by order of the Minister, the cession of the former Convent of the Capuchin Fathers urns made to the Community, including: the Church, sacristy, sepulcher, surrounding property, in its entirety and as it was, and according to the following terms and conditions:

“The cession is made with all the rights, obligations, actions, active and passive domestic staff of all types, as well as all the church ornaments and vestments belonging to the church including all of the volumes that constitute the Library, with all the rights concerning the abolished Establishment and of the Religious Property.”

The cession was already provided for by the community resolution of May 30, 1867, in conformity with article 20 of Law number 3036 of July 7, 1866.

This cession was ordered by the Revenue Office of Trapani, with document number 13077-1945, section A-4 or May 14, 1889. In order to carry out the orders of the Revenue Office as efficiently as possible, the Community ceded to Canonico Doctor Nunzio Caronna, Archpriest, the books that were to serve as a first endowment of the Library which he was going to found.

The collection of texts was installed in a room owned by the Matrice Church, on the south east corner of the property, on the site of the ancient sepulcher, which was fully restored by the Founder of the Library. The Library remained there until June 30, 1938. Periodically, Archpriest Caronna met with an elect group of youths to engage them with educational lectures and discussions.

Caronna, as the Archpriest, installed the library in that place because he planned to make the Matrice Church its proprietor; in fact with his note of March 12, 1924, he revealed this intention to the President of the Board of the Diocese of Mazara del Vallo, specifying all that he had done to create the Library, asking for official approval and recognition so that it may remain as it was, and in the place where he had installed it. In the meeting held on March 25, 1924, the board while praising the initiative, denied this concession, communicating same to the petitioner Archpriest with document 543 of the same date.

Disillusioned, but firm in his desire to leave the charitable institution to the Parish, he turned to the General Treasury Office (GPO) of Palermo, requesting a legally dispensation in order to insure that his bequest remain in the Parish. The GPO, according to document number 1385 of March 16, 1925, suggested that he resolve the issue with a public deed stating that the endowment would be made only on condition that the Library be located in perpetuity on the Matrice property indicated above. Thus, his will and testament, in effect, constituted an official document.

In fact, the holographic testament of June 30, 1928 (He died August 23, 1928 at 12:00), left the Library to the Matrice, and left his nephew Canonico Doctor Francesco Aloisio as the director and custodian. Here is the text of his testament, number 63, volume 65, registered in Gibellina on September 5,1928:

“I leave to my dear Parish the Library founded by me in the first-floor room in the rectory and that I completely restored, moving it from a dreadful hovel to a beautiful room, a Library consisting of approximately 3000 volumes for the purpose of the cultural development of the Reverend Priests and also of the citizenry and, and bearing the name as it is registered in the town records: Archpriest N. Caronna Public Library, and that included certain reliquaries of the ancient library of the Capuchins, a gift from Town Hall, along with all my books, both collected and purchased. However, in giving this Library to the Parish I want and I require that the librarian be independent and free from any interference from the archpriest, as the custodian, my sole heir Canonico Aloisio Francesco will assume the care and the entire control with that solicitude and intelligent industriousness of his, secure that “in his honor mid on behalf of his Uncle, will promote the appropriate development. If the acting parish priest or others want to impeded him in any way, and especially under the pretext of the rights of the church as owner of the property on which the Library is located, either by claiming ownership or by demanding rent payment (given that any pretext of a similar type, in so far as it could materially claim these rights, this would be morally unjust since the house was entirely restored and furnished by me, and besides that, this truly a treasure of books, museum objects, whose value, in itself would compensate for any possible right to charge rent), my said Sole Heir, faced with such a disagreeable situation, ipso facto, as the custodian, I would want him to become absolute owner and have the full right to remove the Library and put it, as a single collection, to any use he deems fit: to sell it; donate it to the Schools, to the Pious Works, or better, to the Town Hall, or however he wants. If instead, relations are good, and the parish priest continues to he honest and morally tolerant in his dealings, Canonico Aloisio will carry out his activities as librarian and full custodial proprietor, and the Library certainly will become a center of culture and most noble decorum of our town. Upon the death of Canonico Aloisio Francesco, the Parish Priest will enter into the management, personally or through an ecclesiastic he designates, who must determine the best way to care for and enrich it with new books.”

Upon the death of the founder Archpriest Caronna in consigning his estate to the Parish (in the presence of the church’s Treasury Officer), on page 19 of the voluminous document of October 15, 1928, the assistant Treasury officer wrote:

“In addition, I take possession of the library existing in the large ground floor room annexed to the building of the church; the Matrice is the single proprietor the Library, according to the testament of the deceased Archpriest, while its custodian is Canonico Aloisio. It consists of two thousand four hundred volumes and six hundred pamphlets and magazines. The entire collection is arranged on special shelves, and furnished with the corresponding alphabetical lists of works, and is in a good state of conservation. The library will have to be administered by the executor named in the testament.”

Said document, consisting of 24 pages, was countersigned by the church’s Treasury Officer, by the sole heir Aloisio, by the witnesses and by the assistant Treasury officer Notary Giovanni Mattana who dosed it with the following note: All has been consigned by Canonico Francesco Aloisio who with great work and good will has prepared the consignment of all the assets described, with admirable orderliness and scrupulousness.

The Parish did not make any moves to obtain the legal authority to accept the bequest that, according to the law and the instructions imparted by R. General Treasurer with his note of March 16, 1925, was in compliance with Royal Decree number 278 of February 8, 1923. Having established the acquiescence of the Parish, the matter was then carried out by the Custodial Heir Canonico Aloisio in agreement with the assistant Treasury officer Notary Mattana, of Mazara del Vallo.

With the document of January 25, 1929, formulated on the instructions of the General Treasury Officer cited above, and through the assistant Treasury officer Mattana, Canonico Aloisio was substituted for the Parish, consequently, the authorization request number 711 c dated March 11, 1929, was furnished with titles ordered by the Royal General Treasury Officer with document number 633, pos. 1311, File 14 of February 19, 1929. Aloisio further provided a deposition to the General Procurator at the Palermo Court of Appeals, sent on August 28, 1929, receipt number 3273.

The Community, whose opinion was requested by the R. General Treasury Agent with note number 2130 of April 19, 1929, responded favorably with its own note number 857 of April 29, 1929. However, perhaps in the supposition that in the absence of the Matrice, the Library would have become the property of the Community, with note number 1848 of September 3, 1929, it claimed the key for the Sole Heir; these, in their turn, by justifying their own right with a note of September 6, 1929, responded negatively.

This unexpected news was brought about a difference of opinion between the Community Council and the Heir, so that the latter felt the need to take the problem up directly with the General Treasury Officer and with the General Attorney at the Palermo Court of Appeals, by asking categorically: the unconditional respect of the will of the testator for the recognition of the bequest in favor of the Parish. Subsequently, with a statement issued on June 17, 1929, the Assistant Treasury Officer Signor D’Angelo wrote to the heir Aloisio: the beneficent parochial contribution, not being able for any reason and at all times responsible with its own income and with its own property for the maintenance of the expense of the Library.

In an incongruent note he a took a determined position and, more surprisingly, agreed with the answer given by the Diocese Board dated March 25, 1924, mentioned above, and it served again to explain the missing request of acceptance of the legacy on the part of the interested agency. In the meantime, the Procurer General again placed the issue before the Ministry of Grace Justice and Culture, and the Honorable Minister, not finding any exception against the authorization that was not conceded on the part of the Procurer General, sanctioned the against it and, recognized the entrance of the Library as being subject to state power, invited the Minister of Public Instruction to proceed with the final creation of the Library as an Entity. Inspector Cavaliere Dr. Camillo Pecorella of the Library Control Board of Palermo, called a meeting on March 7, 1930, at the location of the Library, with the Mayor of the town, the Heir Canonico Aloisio, and the Secretary Doctor Antonino Aloisio.

The esteemed Library official, having heard from the interested parties, proposed in the name of the aforementioned Minister the following formula:

  1. the Library become the property of the Community that had supplied the initial endowment, with books taken from the cloisters;
  2. the registration of the official name as “Archpriest Nunzio Caronna Library,” since homage was owed to the meritorious founder;
  3. that the Library Director and Custodian will be designated as Canonico Doctor Francesco Aloisio, sole heir of the Founder. The proposal was unanimously agreed to and accepted. Since then it has remained at its current address.

In the years 1931 and 1932, still under the auspices of the Ministry of Grace and Justice, the case was assumed by Cavaliere Passigli of the Library Control Board of Palermo, who was in Poggioreale March 7, 1931. He explained with exhaustive detail the ministerial procedure already proposed by Cavaliere Camillo Pecorella and, while advising the necessity of establishing the Library as an Entity affirmed the need to proceed with the matter as the Minister of Grace and Justice sustained by’ the named superintendent Cavaliere Pecorella.

Later, along the same lines, from Palermo, with statement number 259 of December 5, 1931, he notified:

“To be able to hold account of the rights of Aloisio in the constitution of the Library,” and in the successive statement number 8 of January’ 14, 1932, he wrote to the Community: “The minister must take into consideration the proprietary rights invoked by Aloisio, Carolina’s heir.”

It happened that the Revenue Office of Trapani, with statement number 17715 of August 11, 1933, pointed out the transfer of the Community Library of Castelvetrano. Since the heir Aloisio and the Community rejected the rightful respect to their intangible rights with statement number 69 of August 31, 1933, subsequently the same Treasury Officer with statement number 18 of January 18, 1934, communicated:

“The Honorable Cultural Foundation would not be opposed to suspending the provision of transfer in case the Community’ Administration of Poggioreale emits a resolution with which it assumes the honor of instituting a Community Library.”

Having arrived at this rather concrete and honorable conclusion, the sole heir Canonico Aloisio, in favoring the success of the Library, on January 20, 1932, made the following resignation:

“To the Mayor of Poggioreale.

“In order to cooperate in an expedient manner with the authoritative intervention of the Honorable Minister of National Education, as well as in the interests of Your Illustriousness for the definitive arrangement of the Archpriest Nunzio Caronna Public Library as property of the Community, the undersigned renounces those proprietary rights that he is able to claim on the same as heir of the Founder, according to the holographic testament of Archpriest N. Caronna, of June 30, 1928, on condition that the undersigned continues in the capacity of librarian which is expressed in the testament cited (that is: full custodian and director of the Library), and that the Library, having become a community library, continues to be called ‘Archpriest Nunzio Caronna,’ as it has been called up to now, also in accordance with the expressed agreement of the Community (resolutions dated September 21, 1919 and January 18, 1920, cited above).

The undersigned is honored to declare that the present renunciation is coherent with conduct held in all his own acts, having culminated in the last statement to the Honorable Minister of Grace, Justice and Culture on October 27, 1931, with complete assuredness that as the Community’s property the Library will find its greatest guarantee. The transfer into being the property of the Community responds in addition to a desire expressed by the Founder in the testament cited above.

I affirm my happiness in being able to put at the disposition of the Community my own disinterested activity in favor of the Library:

“Poggioreale Trapani January, 20, 1932‚ F.to Canonico Francesco Aloisio”

The definitive arrangement is epilogued in the following community resolution of October 20, 1934.

THE MAYOR

“Having considered the Community as proprietor of the books composing the library of the former convent of the Capuchin Fathers, according to the record of May 27, 1889, stipulated by the community of Poggioreale and the Registrar of the Registry of Gibelina.

“Having considered that the Honorable Foundation of Culture, as found in document number 17715, of the Revenue Office of Trapani, dated August 11, 1933, presented the transfer of said books to the Library of Castelvetrano.

“Having considered that the Community has never accepted the loss of the books as its own property, destined, with the council resolution of September 21, 1919 and April 18, 1920, duly approved, to form the first endowment of this Archpriest N. Caronna Public Library;

“Having seen statement number 18 of the Revenue Officer dated January 18, 1934, in which gathering the reasons put forward by this Office with statement number 69 of August 31, he wrote: the honorable Foundation of Culture would not be opposed to suspending the provision of transfer if this Administration emits a resolution with which it assumes to institute a Community Library;

“Having considered that the disagreements have ended between the Community, the Parish and Canonico Aloisio the sole heir of the Founder, concerning the location of said Caronna Library, the Community would benefit from the entire collection of which is formed the name Library and in which are conserved the said books from the cloisters;

“Having considered also that Archpriest Caronna, a learned man with admirable enthusiasm, with his endowment has given the town an important center of culture which in accordance with public interest, his Name continues to grace, while substituting the word Public with the word Community,”

“Having considered also that Canonico Doctor F. Aloisio, with statement of January 20, 1932, with the goal of assuring the future of the endowment, has renounced in favor of the Community all of his rights while reserving only the duty as lifelong librarian and custodian which was conferred to him by the testament of the Founder, for whose generous gesture he had the right to see himself recognized and carried out his duty in instituting the Community Library.

HAS DECIDED

  1. To institute in the Community a Library with the books of the former Capuchins, as well as with the addition of ah the collections forming the Caronna endowment.
  2. To name the Institution “Archpriest N. Caronna Community Library.
  3. To name Canonico Doctor Francesco Aloisio as librarian for life.
  4. To assume the financial responsibility for the installation, the continuance and the development of said Community Library.

“Read, approved and undersigned

The Mayor: F.to G. Navarra.

The Secretary Com. F.to: A. Aloisio

“Prefect Approval number 19629, Div. I, August 19,1938.

“The Prefect: F.to Carattoli.”

On July 1, 1938, the Library was installed in a room of the Elementary School, following the requests dated 1 and 7 of June from the Parish, which was required by the Pontifical Office to ready their property for the imminent construction of the parochial house and therefore had to rid itself of the hindrance of the books and shelves, as well as the consignment of the key, so as to avoid every obstacle to the immediate construction of the parochial house. And again according to the communication of the Mayor dated June 20, 1938, with which he put at the disposition of the Library a room owned by the Community, was able to permanently establish the Library on Communal property.

It is thus that the Institution, after an age-old controversy, has finally found a decidedly and assuredly fixed home. In the hands of the state, on behalf of the interests of the community, and under the vigilant and sure direction of the Library Board, an era of tranquillity and progress was ushered in. It is true that the bad always has some good in it.

To provide the accommodations in the new locale, which was destined to be in the new Elementary School Building, the Superintendent and the Region committed a subsidy of 200,000 Lire to be used for the construction of new shelves. The same Board more than once gave various and important publications to the “Archpriest N. Caronna” Library. In October of 1943, the Mayor Professor Doctor Gaspare Tamburello and vice-mayor library Director Canonico Aloisio obtained from the Allied Command a subsidy for the library. Our library has been honored by the presence of: Cavaliere Doctor Ferrante December 4, 1934, Vice Superintendent of the National library of Palermo; Cavaliere Doctor Tano Basile, Royal Superintendent of studies of Trapani (June 5, 1939) who enthusiastically added a gift of one book with his signature.

On October 5, 1940, Cavaliere Doctor Giraldi, Superintendent of the National Library of Palermo, who, to show his approval, obtained ministerial subsidies in the years 1941, 1942, and 1943, and in addition sent to the Community of Poggioreale the following letter dated October 14, 1940, pr. 4254, to be communicated to the Library Director Canonico Aloisio:

“ To the Prefect Commissioner of Poggioreale.

I am happy to declare to you that in my recent visit to Poggioreale I had to admit that this Community, even though small, is an example to all other Municipalities for the enthusiasm with which was embraced the labor of furnishing, in a very short period of time, a small attractive and well-ordered Library, and of that, in addition that to You, Mister Mayor, the Library Director Canonico Aloisio should be praised for his unpaid, and therefore even more appreciated work.

“I hope you will communicate my congratulations to the Librarian mentioned above.”

The Superintendent F.to Giraldi

As requested and on the recommendation of the Director Canonico Aloisio, the Community named as acting librarian Teacher Vincenzo Caronna.

With the reconstruction of the Elementary School Building, a large room on the ground floor was designated (measuring 10.5 by 3.6 meters), with a convenient entryway from Via Umberto I, and with a large window looking out on the same street.

The front of the Library has a marble plaque with the name: Archpriest Nunzio Caronna Community Library.”

On today’s date the Library possesses 3600 volumes, of which 961 come from the former library of the Capuchin Fathers and more than 1000 which were donated by Director Canonico Aloisio.

All the volumes are appropriately described in two separate catalogues: one by author and the other by subject.

WISE COUNSEL

The Community will certainly benefit by watching over and developing its Library while recognizing it as a precious spark of life for the progress of Poggioreale. A library in a town center is not a dead institution, it is rather a stimulus and a guiding light to improve culture, life and customs, as it instructs and enriches minds, successfully educating the souls, so that the mind and heart find there the necessary and efficacious spiritual nutrition.

Frederick II, the Great, with mature thought, had inscribed on his Royal Library of Berlin the following phrase: “Nutrimentum Spirting” A long line of great men enlighten us and help us to understand, and their words serve as admonitions:

Solomon-Proverbs, VIII, 10, admonishes: Love the Word more than gold.

Ecclesiastes, XI, 4: The Word is a golden ornament.

Bacon-med.: Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est (science, power and virtue are equal)

Fedro, fable IV, 22,1: Hanno doctus semper in se divitias habet (the educated man possesses riches within).

Cicero: Through study we become familiar with an infinity of things and of nature.

Seneca-chapter LXXVII: A single day of life for erudite men is worth more than a very long life for the ignorant.

Descartes: Reading a good book is like having a conversation with the most honored men of past centuries and of our century, who were the authors, and together comprise a studied conversation in which they communicate their best thoughts.

Giacomo Leopardi – memorable sayings.

Socrates affirmed that being in the world has a single good thing, which is Science, and a single bad thing, which is ignorance.

Giuseppe Giusti – Letter M. Tabarrini: The meditation on ancient books seems to me a delightful walk through a land full of every grace of God.

Alessandro Manzoni: The great writers are given by providence in order to help our intellects, not to bind them, in order to teach us to reason better than before, not to impose silence on us.

Nicolo Tommaseo: Part of education as well as teaching is the select reading of great Writers.

Cesare Cantu: Knowing is a good more real than power, than riches, because it is not limited by space or by time, and continues from conquest to conquest of the forces of nature.

Aristide Gabelli – Thoughts: Knowledge is for the genius what glasses are for the eyes.

Ugo Foscolo: This is the precious truth, the only advantage of study: to forget the troubles of life.

Ruggero Bonghi: Cultivating the mind, if it does not have value, at least renders less tedious life, multiplies interests and increases valor and sentiment.

Francesco Rapisardi – Mirror of Virtue, chapter XXXIII, 1, III: A good book enriches the intellect, purifies the heart, exalts the soul of the reader and redeems the virtue of the unjust oversight.

Edmondo De Amicis -Scattered Pages: The destiny of many men was dependent upon their being or not being a library in their paternal home.

Dante admonishes: Don’t you realize, that we are worms Bom to become the angelic butterfly That flies to Divine justice without impediments?80

Hence: One does not arrive without the knowledge of God and the just formation of the heart to possess of the supreme goal. Good books serve this purpose: they bring us Science, Wisdom, that is, they give consciousness of the complexity, as well as the perfect order of laws, effects and ends that interest the human spirit, giving us the awareness of proper path in life, without which we are obstructed from going towards justice.

We close with Fogazzaro:

“There are among the roots of human knowledge and the roots of the idea of God a natural and hidden connection as the human spirit strives to ascend through science, it must also ascend and ascend willingly, almost as a physical law of communicating vessels, into the idea of God.”

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]