Dr. Karl Kempkes
Feminis’ alleged endowments
The following text will rebut the claim that Giovanni Paolo Feminis (date of birth unknown, died 1736 in Cologne) possessed a prodigious fortune. This belief is based on an alleged donations he is said to have paid towards the repairs of his hometown church in Santa Maria Maggiore. According to Maurizi and many other authors, Feminis donated 60,000 lira to support the rebuilding of the parish church in Santa Maria Maggiore. The authenticity of the source is blurred as Maurizi refers to Scaciga, who, in turn, refers to Cavalli. In “Cenni statistico e storici de la valle Vigezzo” (1845) the latter writes about Feminis’ supposed endowment, without quoting any kind of source or evidence. It is, moreover, impossible to consult any original documents relative to Feminis’ financial situation or funds, as they no longer exist. An inquiry involving several correspondence books from the period which are housed in Cologne in the archive of the company Johann Maria Farina gegenüber dem Jülichs-Platz, confirms Mönckmeier-Schaefers’ following conclusion: Feminis’ contribution to the charitable cause, which was set up by Johann Maria Farina and other figures from Santa Maria Maggiore, consisted of only 100 Dopien (about 2.500 lira). Furthermore, he promises an additional 100 Dopien, but to everyone’s great disappointment neither he nor his widow kept their word. The information mentioned above can be verified in several of Johann Maria Farina’s letters, in which Farina writes about his many but unavailing attempts to engage Feminis to a more generous contribution.
1. According to the information which we dispose of, what can we say to Feminis’ fortune?
2. If Feminis’ fortune is to be question, is it really possible he might have played a role in the production of Eau de Cologne?
The endowments which Feminis is said to have made to the benefit of his hometown are the only arguments which point to the possibility of Feminis having been a wealthy man. There moreover exists a source which could be used to prove this assertion. It’s a document written by Maurizi called « Santa Maria Maggiore e Crana, 1928 ». In it Maurizi writes: “ “Concorse con 60.000 lires imperiali all’erezione dell’attuale chiesa di Santa Maria“, only he himself has this information from Antjoer, from Scaciga who writes: „Vite di Ossolani illustri“. This version however doesn’t come from an official source either. It’s based on Cavalli’s text who relates: „Cenni statistico e storici de la valle Vigezzo“. The authenticity of the donation is thus doubtable as no official document can be used to support the donation.
Where are all the documents as well as all the letters in relation to Feminis?
Shouldn’t we consider that they might have been destroyed?
How did Maurizi and Cavalli come to know about the existence of 60 000 lira? They don’t happen to be contemporary writers! Feminis died in 1736 and Cavalli’s book was published in 1845!
In addition, one has to add that the information from Mönckmeier-Schaefer, who asserts that Feminis donated the modest sum of 100 dopien (2500 lira) for the reconstruction of the church in Santa Maria Maggiore is existent and can still be consulted.
In the paragraph “Feminis and the other 19th century Italian authors ”, some more information is given about Cavalli’s work, as well as his detailed version in relation to Feminis. It is mentioned that Cavalli carried out his research in relation to Feminis at Jean Marie Farina’s address in Paris, that his research is by no means founded on historical facts, but rather on a selection of rumours which in fact mention the donation of money for the construction of a hospital destined to needy in Santa Maria Maggiore!
It isn’t possible to say that the original documents have disappeared or that they were mislaid. It is however possible to imagine that someone may have wanted them to disappear in order to replace them with another story. It appears that even the original documents in Italy have disappeared. Some explanations are however to be found in the archives of Jean Marie Farina opposite the Julich square (Cologne). Amongst the documents which were preciously conserved there is sufficient information as to these endowments enabling us to come to a number of conclusions.
On 12 May 1733, Jean Marie Farina (Cologne), who had decided to participate generously in the funding of the reconstruction of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, sent his cousin a letter who in those days lived in Aix-la-Chapelle. He told him about having met Feminis who himself had planned on donating 100 dopien for the reconstruction.
(… „avanti Jeri o fato incontro del sig.feminis aueme parlato insieme fra altro atorno sa bona volonta che a di munurare la nostra chiesa si e datto dintendere astengers p sine alla soma die 100 dopie“)
This however doesn’t seem to satisfy Farina who asks his cousin Guilielmo to pay him a visit in Cologne as fast as possible so as to convince Feminis to raise his offer.
(„seconda la parenza se ne va al grangalopo piliate gesta cosa al vore e non perdete tempo quando douersi uenire qui a posta”)
On the same occasion, he encourages his cousin to not loose hope and to by no means stop his donations.
(„non ni deue rinchresere in mentre muerete agualmente merito auanti.“)
On 27 May 1733, Farina writes to Barbieri in Brussels explaining how he, his cousin Guilielmo and himself had paid Feminis a visit so as to attempt to persuade him of the seriousness of the situation. He made it clear that unless help were to arrive rapidly, the church of their hometown would most probably cave in very rapidly.
(„..a poi ui losapere dire intra me et il cogine Guilelmo auemo dato a conosere a questo sig. Feminis che la nostra chiesa parochiale di sta matiene necesita desere riperata fra altro che in un corto loge come mi pose spiegare e degia crapata e se non si porta rimedio che in poco tempo cuore rischio di caschare.“)
Farina also wrote that Feminis promissed a 100 dopien should collective funding be set up.
(„auanti jieri o fatto incontro del sudeto oue che mia promeso che p.una opera similie a risolto p.sua parte di astengersi p.sine a 100 dopie.“)
As Feminis decided only to join under the condition that it should be a collective effort, Farina decided to instantly write to „Corati and Sindici“ to inform them of the situation and to ask them to please contact a maximum number of acquaintances who themselves could participate in the funding.
(„p.auer da questo sudeta soma bisogna scriuere di subito alla patria a nostri SS.Corati e sindici di sud chiesa che ui mandano a voi e a altri gelantomini patrioti che in questo paesi si ritrovano una spezie di suplica che si richie de agiuto da questi nos patrioti abitanti in questo paesi p far sudeto opera.“)
On 25 January 1736, Farina wrote to Barbieri in Brussels to inform him of the situation of the parish church. He explained that to carry out the repairs, the sum of 25 000 lira was necessary and that only 15 000 had been raised. This is said to have surprised Feminis who in turn offered an extra 100 dopien.
(„.. ui hano scrito dalla patria atorno la nostra chiesa anche ame mi hanno scrito il med. et ne o fato il riporto a questo sg.feminis con dirgli che nesta acordata p uinti cinque miglia lires e si come non auemo in cassa che li 15000 siami imbarasati mi a promeso che fara pr anche cosa, mi soponge che sara p. anco 100 dopie.“)
On 3rd July 1736, Farina wrote to Barbieri to point out that he had still not received confirmation on behalf of Feminis relating to the endowment he had promised.
(„atorno la nostra chiesa ancho noi aueme auisa che ua auanzando poi a questo Sig.feminis p.sine al presente non posio da luy cauarne una certutuda.“)
On 24 August 1736, Farina notes that he will, from that point on, not disturb Feminis regarding the reconstruction of the church.
(„atorno lafara p la nostra chiesa lascio questo sig.feminis di riposo“)
On 26 November 1736, Feminis died. After his death, the fund raising for the church in Santa Maria Maggiore didn’t however cease!
On 10 October 1737, Farina wrote to Barbieri to tell him that his brother, Carl Hieronymus, had got in contact with Feminis’ widow in the aim of seeking her financial help in the reconstruction of the church.
(„mio fratt degia Mercordi scorso di ne e ritornato p dusseldorf senza abia con questa uechia p ancho podato optenire fra altro per la nostra chiesa“)
In a following correspondence, he once again pointed out his having spoken to Feminis’ widow, in order to ask her to make a donation to the church in her will.
(„mio fratt e stato di nouo qui le scorse Ste feste e in aparenza comincia auer disposto la uechia a far qualche cosa per la nostra chiesa che si fera col suo Tastamento.”)
The widow died 24 Febuary 1739 and 7 March 1739, Farina writes to Barbieri so as to express his disappointment regarding the widow’s testament in which no mention of the church or of any donation is made.
(„la uedoua feminis a lasiato p testamento tuto il fato suo a y poueri…..la grande pena che si a dato mio fratello el il Guilielmi pensando di tirare qualche cosa….per la nostra chiesa sono stato tuto inuane“)
These various excerpts allow the following conclusions: Feminis is repeatedly encouraged to participate in the donations towards the his hometown church. The various attempts are however all in vain.
Feminis isn’t responsible for getting together a group of volunteers willing to raise the funds for the reconstruction of the church.
Feminis promised to donate 100 dopiens (2500 lira) should the project be successful and find enough interest.
It’s Farina in fact who happened to ask the Italians in Germany for their help.
Before making a donation, the fund raisers had already managed to get 15 000 lira together.
Feminis promised to pay an extra 100 lira, which he, however, never did.
When Feminis died, the fund raising was pursued.
Unsuccessfully did one try to get some money out Feminis’ widow.
In 1739, three week after the death of Feminis, it’s with regret that one notes that she didn’t leave anything in her will.
These remarks plainly point to the impossibility for Feminis to be at the source of the financing of the church.
This here isn’t a plain correspondence dating back to 1733. The quoted extracts are witnesses from a contemporary who not only was interested in the affair, but who also happened to be implicated in it. It moreover has to be pointed out that the witnesses of the past, date back to the years between 1733 and 1739. They are contemporary witnesses to the analysed events, thus making them all the more precious. It’s important to know that some expatriates had a very specific relation to their hometown and that some regularly visited. Carl Hieronymus Farina and Guglielmi did take particular care of Santa Maria Maggiore which meant that had Feminis indeed donated a particularly large sum of money to the town, they would without a doubt have been informed about it. Moreover, had he already proved to be very generous, one could only scarcely imagine that Farina would have asked him for yet some more. As shown previously, the alleged donations mentioned by the Italian author can’t really be taken seriously. The same goes for the pictures of Feminis which one can see in the church, making him out to be the main donator. The rumour that Feminis should have donated 60000 lira is not to be taken seriously. Such a sum of would in those days never have gone unnoticed. Had that been the case, an extra inquiry would have never been necessary as the money would have been paid when Feminis was alive.
To tell the truth, all the versions are inspired of what Maurizi wrote. Cavalli and Scaciga relate that Feminis was responsible for the reconstruction of the parish house as well as the oratorio of Crana, however, their arguments are based on Maurizi.
(„fece del proprio riedificare la casa del comune ed il bell Oratorio di Crana“)
Cavalli restricts his comments to the information given in the paintings of Feminis which he uses as follows:„…e del proprio riedificatore dell‘ Oratorio e casa del Comune di Crana.“
The historic value of these inscriptions will be closely dealt with in a forthcoming chapter. Striking, is that Cavalli at no point mentions the sum of money paid towards the oratorio of Crana. Maurizi only mentions the sum of 1000 lira (see S. Maria Maggiore e Crana, 1928, p.119/20), information which he relates to a „convenzione stipulata tra Carlo Gerolamo Farina e Carlo Giglielmi“ described as beeing a „procuratori del Feminis“ –„e i terrieri di Crana“. This is how Maurizi exposes it:
„ 1743, all‘ 8 di settembre, nelle casa nuova della Communita di Crana, essendosi ivi congreati li uomini della terra di Crana, il sig. Carlo Gerolamo Farina, anche a nome del signor Carlo Guglielmi, ha proposto che vi sono lires dieci mille di Milano, d’oblazione fatta a dai medesimi procurata per riedificare l’Oratorio di Crana e fare un campanile; quale oblazione e stata fatta ed e pronta con questo che li terrieri di Crana si obblighino di fare le oure per bisognevoli per portare i sassi, sabbia e legnami ed altre oure per transportare materiali bisognevoli per fare detto Oratorio e campanile; che pero detto signor Farina anche a nome del sig. Guglielmi ha interpellato li detti di Crana si intendono di fare le dette oure si o no, accio si possa venire alla riedificazione di detto Oratorio e far il campanile.- Pero, attesta questa oblazione, si obbligano di fare le suddette oure: Pietro Francesco Mattei, Giorgio de Giorgis…“
Maurizi described this endowment (oblazione) as coming from Johann Paul Feminis and being administrated (procuratori) by Karl Hieronymus Farina and Karl Guglelmi. If so, how come those representing Feminis didn’t at any time mention the names of their noble client? It is mentioned twice that Charles Hieronymus Farina acts in his own name and in the name of Charles Gugielmi (a anche del signor Carlo Guglielmi nome) but Feminis is at no point mentioned.
It is a fact that when Feminis made a donation to the school of Santa Maria Maggiore, Charles Hieronymus Farina and Chales Gugliemi did represent him. This however doesn’t mean that his name is to be associated to all donations featuring the names of these two men.
This is how the donation to the school is formulated:
„Per Tennore della presente procuram, Jo sotto scrito Costituisco a mio nome li SS. Carlo Guiglielmi e Carlo Gerol. Farina di dimandare et essigere da SS. Gio Batt. Barbieri e compagnie di Bruxelles pag’to della due centi copie prestatoli contra il di luoro biglieto ossia conffeso del 10 8bre 1731 con obligo alli miei sud’e due constituent procurano di rimpiazarle oue gli parera bene ad interreso e con li mad’e interresi di instituire in St’a Maria una scuola a benefitio de poueri Figlij di dela cura di St’a Maria…“
According to Utescher, the carrying out of this task led to the following entry in the registers of Santa Maria Maggiore:
„Crana, the 08.09.1743.
We the undersigned, Carl Hieronymus Farina and Carl Guglielmi have planned to contribute the sum of 5000 lira which Johann Paul Feminis entrusted us with after his death 26.11.1736. This money was destined to … „
It is thus clearly quoted :“ the money Johann Paul Feminis entrusted us with … „!
It’s only when one considers the position occupied by Charles Hieronymus Farina and Charles Guglielmi in relation to the fund raising project started in Germany and aiming at getting a maximum of Italians to save their home church, is it possible to understand the meaning of this. Because of the content of certain inscriptions to be found on Feminis‘ portraits, Cavalli associates the reconstruction of the oratorio of Crana to Feminis‘ name and Maurizi uses that information as a source to attribute the 10 000 lira donation to Feminis. How previously noted, however, these paintings don’t have any historic value and can by no means be used as proof.
What is known for a fact, is that Feminis travelled penniless from Mainz to Cologne.
In the registries of the town Mainz, it appears that in 1687, Feminis happened to owe the town quite some tax money which amounted to 2 and 3 florin in the year 1689/90. In the French register one finds that in the year 1689 he owes the sum of 6 florins followed by the remark: „he has withdrawn“. It thus appears that Feminis‘ wealth wasn’t at it’s highest whilst he lived in Mainz.
His children’s baptism registry also points to quite a number of details and in particular to Feminis’ frequent moving. Three different parishes are mentioned: « St. à Quintin » , 1690 « Dompfarrei » 1692 « St. Ignatius » en 1689.