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Seminar: The Alchemical Prince: Enlightenment, Freemasonry, and Cultural Nationalism In Eighteenth-Century Naples

February 19 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


February 19
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Hardiman Research Building Room G011


Prof. Paolo Bartoloni

In this paper, Prof. Enrico Dal Lago, NUI Galway will focus on the life and achievements of Raimondo Di Sangro, Prince of San Severo (1710-1771). A high profile member of the court nobility in the eighteenth-century Kingdom of Naples, San Severo was a polymath, with interests that spanned the entire spectrum of human knowledge, from the sciences to the arts and to the ancient civilisations and languages. However, he is best remembered for his unorthodox interest in Alchemy and his affiliation to Freemasonry, of which the San Severo Chapel in Naples is a clear proof, since – I argue – it is really a disguised representation of a Masonic temple. As a result of San Severo’s connection with esoteric thought and practices, his popular image remains that of a magician, famously immortalised by Benedetto Croce. However, I argue that, behind this image lay a profoundly inquisitive mind, representative, together with Pietro Giannone and Giambattista Vico, among others, of the extraordinary period of the Neapolitan Enlightenment. Each in their own field, these prolific and innovative intellectuals, supported by the Bourbon Kings, created the backbone of a distinctive eighteenth-century cultural tradition, which became the foundation of the idea of a Neapolitan nation.

Enrico Dal Lago is Professor of American History at NUI Galway. He has written extensively on comparative slavery, on the United States in the era of the American Civil War, on Italy in the age of Risorgimento, and on the U.S. South and the Italian Mezzogiorno. His research interests focus particularly on nation-building in social, political, and cultural terms and in comparative perspective. His latest publication is Civil War and Agrarian Unrest: The Confederate South and Southern Italy (Cambridge University Press, 2018).