Salvatore Bottari – The Accademia della Fucina: culture and politics in 17th-century Messina



Event Date: 17 – 18 September 2011
British Library Conference Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

The Italian Academies 1525–1700 Project presents:


This major international conference is being hosted as part of the AHRC funded research project The Italian Academies 1525-1700: the first intellectual networks of early modern Europe.

Academies represent a vital and characteristic dimension of early modern culture.
There were ca. 600 Academies in Italy in the period 1525-1700. Frequently international in membership, and in correspondence with scholars across Europe, they were fundamental to the development of the intellectual networks later defined as the ‘République des Lettres’, and to the dissemination of ideas in early modern Europe. Their membership included pioneering scientists, writers, artists, political thinkers, and representatives of both sexes and all social classes. The interests of the Academies ranged from the humanities, to the figurative and performance arts, natural sciences and medicine; many were interdisciplinary in their outlook and activities.

However, the social and cultural phenomenon of the Italian Academies has hitherto attracted relatively little research due in part to the wide range of their interests and difficulties in accessing relevant information.

The conference aims to explore research questions raised by the activities of Academies in this period.

Salvatore BottariThe Accademia della Fucina: culture and politics in 17th-century Messina

The effort made by the city of Messina to rise to dominance in Sicily under Spanish rule reached its climax and ultimately ebbed away in the 17th century. Messina, which had become rich thanks to silk production, luxury crafts and trade activities centered on its port, claimed a position of supremacy in Sicily and broad autonomy from the Spanish state apparatus. The Accademia della Fucina, established on October 23, 1639, took on a unique feature that the other Sicilian academies of the time did not have, as it discussed not only literary, philosophical and scientific topics, but also political issues. Even the cult of the patron of Messina, the Madonna della Lettera, was the topic of a publication by the Academy and became the part of a wider political and cultural strategy aimed not only at involving the entire population of the city in affirming its own identity, but also at affirming Messina’s hegemony over most of Sicily. The members of the Accademia della Fucina included not only scientists like Giovanni Alfonso Borelli and writers like Scipione Errico, but also most of the city’s political class. Among other things, the Academy benefited from considerable financial backing from the Senate, the city’s body of self-government. It was no coincidence that after the 1674-1678 uprising the anti-Spanish repression hit especially the Accademia della Fucina, which vanished from the city’s cultural scene, while many of its members had to flee in exile. This paper intends to offer a reconstruction of the history of the Accademia della Fucina within the broader framework of Sicilian culture and of Italian academies in the 17th century, while underscoring its most innovative elements in cultural and political thought.



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