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Bill Thayer

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Durastante Natalucci

Trevi's First Historian

[image ALT: The cover of the sole edition of the History Universale.]
Durastante Tommaso Francesco Emiliano Natalucci was a local historian of Trevi, known to us today for his one book, Historia Universale dello stato temporale ed eclesiasticoº di Trevi.

He was born on Sept. 17, 1687 at Picciche, a hamlet in the plain of Trevi, into one of the prominent families of the area, and came by his churchly interests honestly, or at least naturally within the terms of the society of his time: when he was only 7 years old, an uncle of his died who had been priest of SS. Crocifisso, and Durastante received the tonsure of minor orders with the benefice of that church from Pope Innocent XII. He studied with the Jesuits in nearby Spoleto from 1704 to 1709, when he moved to Rome to study law. His father had died in 1705, so when his mother fell ill around 1710, he returned to Trevi to take care of his family's affairs, in which task he succeeded well enough that other local families entrusted him with similar work for them — and at this point the pattern of his life was set: a background in religion, training in law, a gift for gathering and organizing facts, especially having to do with land and property.

For ten or twelve years he accompanied the bishop of Spoleto, Carlo Giacinto Lascaris, on his pastoral rounds; why exactly, I don't know, and quite possibly nobody else does either: maybe as part of his duties as an administrative consultant, or, as I believe more likely, as a reliable secretary versed in the affairs of Trevi whenever the bishop needed to visit the northern area of his large diocese. This experience deepened his interest in the history of his hometown and its dependencies. He started to consign to a series of notebooks the historical information he collected, and gradually formed them into what would become the Historia Universale. On the death of bishop Lascaris in 1726 he was elected attorney for the comune of Trevi, and later became magistrate for the town council; all of which no doubt opened up even more archives to him.

In 1747, however, he was suddenly stricken with total blindness; in that same year, having been a lifelong bachelor, he decided to marry Elena di Francesco Ridolfi, a noblewoman from Spoleto. The timeline, unfortunately, isn't as clear as it could be: so the misogynist may choose to think of cause and effect, while cynics of a different stripe will be free to find his marriage on November 21 of that year too convenient — though they had three children, Giuseppe, Maria, and a baby who lived only a few days. Unlike Milton, however, Natalucci found no amanuensis to compensate for the loss of his sight, which thus put him out of commission for scholarly pursuits: though he lived another twenty-five years, dying in Trevi on May 22, 1772, his work was arrested in the state it had reached in 1745. Fortunately it was well advanced, and although for two hundred years it remained unpublished in a single manuscript in the possession of his descendants, in 1985, Giuseppe Natalucci made it available to Carlo Zenobi, Trevi's 20c historian, who produced a masterly, careful edition of it.

Natalucci's history of Trevi, though still essentially a draft, exhaustively documents the history of the Trevi area based on many hundreds of meticulously noted sources. For the most part, as reading, it's deadly dull, focusing primarily on land parcels and the families and church entities that controlled them: but it provides a minute picture of rural Umbria in the Middle Ages thru the first half of the 18c, to my knowledge unparalleled. It is of particular value in that many of his sources — cartularies, cadastral documents, and so on — no longer exist; and Natalucci showed himself a true scholar in scrupulously sourcing his facts.

The Historia Universale runs to over 800 pages in the Zenobi edition; I will almost certainly not put the whole work online, despite the extraordinarily kind permission of Pro Trevi to do just that: but a few useful excerpts will make their way onsite from time to time.

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Site updated: 26 Jun 05