Sisto V

Sistus V and justice

In Montalto in 1586 Sistus V established the Presidato, that is a territory of 17 municipalities and lands headed by a ruling Governor with full powers in the administration of justice, including theius sanguinis*. Following this institution, it was necessary to provide a prison facility suitable to cope with the new and wider territory. The conditions for the prisoners were very strict: the testimony of those who died there testify to this. The exception was Fortunato Sante, born within the prison walls by Felice of Porchia, with the assistance of the jailer’s wife.

At the end of the century, the scourge of banditry – which Sistus V fought with iron determination – caused great difficulties for the Papal State. The Pope showed his iron fist against the outlaws and with the Bull “Hoc nostri” promulgated a real declaration of war against “the murderers, robbers, shifting vagabonds, rapists, arsonists, killers and other similar notorious human offenders and criminals”. The justice of Sistus V did not exclude anyone, even condemning his long-time acquaintances to hanging for banditry.
Banditry was so widespread that the first Bishop of Montalto, Monsignor Paolo Emilio Giovannini was himself a victim of kidnapping, released on payment of a large ransom. Among his kidnappers, in addition to two of his nephews, there was also Brandimarte of the Vagnozzi house, a native of Porchia and one of the best-known bandits of the Piceno area.

Having joined the company of Battista Amici, who was involved in the atrocious crimes committed by the infamous Marco and Luca Sciarra, he was detained in the prisons of Montalto and tortured. He redeemed himself, not because of a guilty conscience but by turning on his fellow criminals. In fact, by virtue of a papal decree that allowed a bandit not to be prosecuted if he killed another bandit, Brandimarte killed the gang leader Marco Sciarra and obtained acquittal!

* ius sanguinis – (‘right of blood’) is a principle of nationality law by which citizenship is determined or acquired by the nationality or ethnicity of one or both parents.