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Cagliostro: wizard, Freemason or just a crook?

Count Alessandro di Cagliostro

According to Giacomo Casanova, who knew him in France, Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, born in Palermo on June 2, 1743 and died in the fortress of San Leo, where he was imprisoned for life to serve a sentence for heresy, August 26th 1795, was “a slacker genius who prefer a vagabond life to hard-working life”.

Cagliostro, a slacker genius

Yet Cagliostro is certainly among the most mysterious and controversial figures of the period that preceded the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era.

Son, according to the official history, a cloth vendor (Pietro Balsamo) and baptized with the names Giuseppe, Giovanni Battista, Vincenzo, Pietro, Antonio and Matteo, the future adventurer, freemason and alchemist left Sicily when was a boy and moved to Rome where, in 1768, married the younger Lorenza Feliciani Serafina (born 8 April 1751), daughter of a bronze foundry, as it still attests to the original marriage certificate, stored.

Forgerer and adventurer

Giuseppe dedicated himself to the forger, must often change the city and ends up arrested. From Italy then starts spinning with his wife (driven by her husband to become the lover of nobles and bankers) across Europe staying with mixed success in France, Spain and England at least until 1772.

Then Lorenza seemed to want to change their lives, preferring to become the “official” lover of French lawyer Duplessis (administrator of the goods of the Marquise de Prie) and denounced her husband for pimping.

Giuseppe sued against his wife for desertion: so Lorenza served four years in prison as well and at the end of which withdrew the complaint and returned to live with her husband, starting to travel again.

The couple lived for some time in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Malta, Spain and again in England, where Balsamo allegedly met the Comte de Saint-Germain: it is in this period that began to appear on stage Count Alessandro di Cagliostro (and his wife Serafina, Countess di Cagliostro), initiated the London Freemasonry at the lodge “L’Espérance”, belonging to the Rite of the Strict Observance, the first in a long series of initiations.

Count Alessandro di Cagliostro

Cagliostro Grand Master of Freemasonry

Cagliostro and Balsamo, according to history, are the same person but he has always denied and some experts today believe that Balsamo was a Palermitan cheater, used in 1789 by the Inquisition, which in the meantime had arrested the real Cagliostro accusing him of being a Freemason (and therefore heretical) and magician, as well as a blasphemer, in any case a dangerous subversive too skilled in weaving high-level relationships, as hardly could have done a crook of humble origins.

Before his arrest in Rome and the consequent condemnation, Cagliostro had become a friend of the Cardinal and former ambassador of France in Vienna, Louis René Édouard de Rohan, and had founded, between 1781 and 1784, his Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry of which proclaimed himself Grand Cofto (ie Grand Master), electing his wife to Grand Master of the Rite of Adoption (ie the lodge reserved for women).

Cagliostro hoped that this lodge could be recognized by the Catholic Church, but that never happened. In short, brilliant trickster or really mysterious character? Maybe we will never not know, given that the Vatican has never allowed to review the documents seized in 1789 to the Count of Cagliostro, genuine or sham that they were.

Tags: Unsolved mysteries, Magic