Civic Institutions: Gaetano Cangialosi Girls Orphanage


The first building one sees when entering Poggioreale, coming from Salaparuta, located on the left side, with southern exposure, having an adjacent small garden, is the Girl’s Orphanage. The building was built in 1936 by Ingegnere A. Stillone, a Poggiorealese. With his last will and testament of August 8, 1881, found at the office of Notary Giuseppe Scardino in Poggioreale, Signor Don Gaetano Cangialosi (son of Calogero) provided for the basis of the beneficent institution with the important bequeath and with these words: “I bequeath to the poor and orphaned female children, who have no father or mother, my estate of the former feudal land Cautali, that of the mills with the adjacent lands and that of the former feudal estate Pietra, but on tire following conditions: that first be established an administration composed of the Archpriest of the Matrice Church, of the Vicar Foraneo and the Mayor of this Community, this administration will take the necessary measures to establish an Orphanage within Which will be received the maximum number of orphans possible according to the funds available.

“After the death of my sole heirs, the institution will take precedence.

“The girls housed, according to this testament, will be of the age of 9 or 10 years, living there until the age of 21…”

With public testament of May 6, 1885, the following joined forces to provide for the institution of the girl’s orphanage: Signorina Donna Grazia Cangialosi (daughter of Calogero), unmarried sister of the above-mentioned Don Gaetano, who consecrated these words: “I give and bequeath to the poor orphans of Poggioreale, who lack mothers and fathers, mv lands and property from the former feudal estate Cutali or Grottanera, which came to me from my brothers Salvatore and Gaetano.

The institution was established in 1936 and is still in full operation. Staffing was originally entrusted to the Orsoline Nuns.

Today, however, through the passing of laws, the administration is no longer that described in the testament, but a Charitable Institution composed of 5 members, of whom one is the president; and with Royal Decree of November 14, 1929, number 305, was consigned to the Congregation of Charitable Works.

Don Gaetano Cangialosi

In the year of 1914, land was divided and sold in lots to the farmers of Poggioreale, obtaining from this action a double benefit a guaranteed and substantial revenue of 250,000 Lire per year, thus retaining a considerable revenue for this Charity, now known for being perhaps the richest in the province, and the administration was simplified with the single movement of semiannual payments. The other benefit was that farming peasants had been elevated to being landowners.

This was a very large project, drafted in the maximum of good faith on the part of the administration, and supported and praised by their Community, resulting from the council resolutions of January 25, 1914, and February 21, 1915 that they brought to fulfillment. This Charitable institution was given the name of the Archpriest N. Caronna who, as Vice President, took part in all of the deliberations that are referred to here, and who previously had published a long account explaining the social importance of the provisions, becoming the pioneer of charity as well as bringing an economic elevation the class of farmers.

It is true that today the project, given the tremendous decline in the value of the Italian Lira, may seem less useful to the Charitable Institution for the maxim: charta volat, terra autem stat; but who could have expected this new state of things? It is a fact that the idea was then received with enthusiasm by the town and even today, in favor of the farmers, it has been rather the great economic benefit for them. Don Gaetano Cangialosi died on September 21, 1881. According to the will and testament, there is a daily mass celebrated in the chapel annexed to the Orphanage.

This work is highly philanthropic and beneficial to the town that has always looked at him with admiration and sympathy, recognizing the charitable institutions as the honor of this Community.

[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: ]