The Noble Families

'Maiolica' fine ware (16th-17th century) Click here to enlarge

The Protonobilissimo family, originally from the Amalfi area, moved to Naples from Sorrento at the time of Manfredi of Swabia (1250-1266). Also known as "Faccipecora" the Protonobilissimo family, became lords of the feud of Muro in 1438, with Florimonte, thanks to Giovanni Antonio del Balzo gli Orsini, Prince of Taranto. Florimonte's political strategy was ambiguous, he favoured the Aragonese and took part in the conspiracy they plotted against the Orsini family, allies of the Angevins. It was probably his kind and noble wife, Isabella Acquaviva who mitigated her husband's despotic conduct, for this and for her magnanimous ways she was very popular with her subjects. Giovanni Francesco I, succeeded his father Florimonte in 1463, and remained faithful to the cause of Ferdinando d'Aragona, however, he died young fighting the Medici in Florence in 1478. His firstborn, Giovanni Francesco II succeeded him and led the inhabitants of Muro to the defence of Otranto, besieged by the Turks in 1480. During military operations along the Idruntina coast the Prince of Muro, at the head of a small army of faithful townsmen, was captured by the Turks and taken as a hostage to the city of Valona. Here he shared his imprisonment with his fellow man of arms and friend Francesco de' Monti, Marquis of Corigliano, member of a family which would later form stronger blood ties and alliances with the Protonobilissimo family.

'Maiolica' fine ware (17th century) Click here to enlarge

At the time of the vice kingdom, the fiefdom of Muro, of which the Protonobilissimo were still lords, passed to Giovanni Francesco III, man of arms, and then to Giovanni Battista I, who was married to Cornelia de' Monti of Corigliano. Battista I was a tyrant who was always ready to demand personal privilege "at home and away, licit and illicit", it was he, however, who helped the Preaching Friars to enter and settle in the town: in fact it was he who founded the Convent of Dominican Friars in Muro, with donations and privileges for this new religious community. His son and heir Giovanni Francesco IV, who history has it was a wise and honest man, promoted, again in Muro, the foundation of a "monte di pietÓ" together with other civic institutions. Thanks to his interest and devotion the work on the Dominican Convent was finished and the impressive church next to it was built. The ties between the Protonobilissimo family and the Dominican convent were not dissolved on his death; his son, who fell at Casalmonferrato in 1630, while fighting the French, left stipulations in his will for the construction of a shrine or tabernacle "in which the Holiest Holy Spirit could reside" and also orders regarding his wish to be buried in the convent's church in an "honoured grave" with a marble statue of himself clad in armour. His feudal subjects were not forgotten, he left a bequest in ducats for the marriage of a poor orphan of the town. After Francesco, who was sincerely attached to the inhabitants of Muro, came his brother Desiderio, who was instead responsible for "infinite vexations, extortions, immoral levies and taxes", so much so that he provoked a popular uprising, when, in 1647, the Palazzo del Principe was attacked and devastated. Giovanni Battista II, the mild son of Desiderio, supported by his wife Caterina Pignatelli, for his part aimed politically to dissolve popular rancour. However, after the death of his successor, Alfonso Protonobilissimo (1734), the "Faccipecora" family found itself divided into two opposing factions, on one side those who supported Giovanni Battista IV, on the other those for Domenico, his brother. After various vicissitudes, the last of the Protonobilissimo family, lords of Muro, was Giovanni Battista IV who died, perhaps of a heart attack, without leaving an heir, in Naples in 1774, while the population of Muro, afflicted by taxes and tired of the abuses of power, reacted by appealing to King Ferdinando IV.