Sunday, February 05, 2012

Inside MichElle's Bedroom

My bedroom here in Rome is far more interesting than meets the eye. Sure, its beautiful and rustic. The walls are painted a gentle shade of cream with a pale green door and hardwood flooring. I have old wooden beams stretching across my 15 foot high ceilings with a bronze and crystal chandelier hanging proudly in the centre. I have a bookshelf, a cozy bed, and a double-white wood closet with my own little snack cupboard. I have a desk with a chair and a lamp where I can read and write comfortably while having a view of the family courtyard. Its a nice room.
But one thing that really intrigued me about the room were the five drawings and paintings of Rome that featured parts of the city that I've never seen before. I asked the mom because I have a curious mind, but also because I know she loves it when I show interest in history. If I hadn't mentioned before, she's a professor in the history of architecture, so she knows a lot about Rome. I asked her this on a car ride the other day, and I got a very interesting lesson 
Beatrice Cenci
on my house and bedroom. She told me that our house was built in at least the 14th century, if not older. The house sits on top of the old Roman markets which is now where the ping pong table and wine is kept. The cobblestone in the courtyard is original and so on and so on. 
And then she introduced me to a woman named Beatrice Cenci. Figuratively speaking - she didn't actually introduce me to the real Beatrice Cenci, because she died in 1599. She was a famous Italian noblewoman who was executed for murdering her father in Rome. My bedroom and the parents bedroom (which are side by side and used to be connected to each other) is where she was imprisoned while awaiting her punishment. 
Beatrice was born to Francesco Cenci who was an aristocrat. He was known throughout Italy for his violent temper and extreme behaviour. The Cenci family lived in Rome in the Rione Regola, which was then called Palazzo Cenci. These are now the ruins built under the modern day Jewish ghetto. The residents of Palazzo Cenci included Francesco, Beatrice, her younger brother Giacomo, Francesco's second wife, Lucrezia Petroni, and a young boy named Bernardo who was the child born between Francesco and Lucrezia. The Cenci family possesses a castle called La Rocca, in a small village north of Rome.
Francesco abused his wife and sons on a daily basis, and of course Beatrice, whom he had even committed incest with. Previous to this, he was punished for other crimes, but due to 
his noble title, was released early. Although Beatrice had attempted to speak to the authorities about the situation on several occasions, nothing had happened, even though all of Rome knew what a cruel person her father was. When he found out that she had spoken out against him, he sent his family to live in the country castle. There, they all plotted to murder Francesco.
In 1558, during one of Francesco's rare visits to the castle, two vassals (one of which eventually became Beatrice's secret lover) helped the Cenci family to drug him, although this failed in killing him. Upon this, they all took turns sledging his body with a hammer and tossed his body over the balcony to make his death look like an accident. Eventually, police noticed he was missing and investigated. Beatrice's lover was held captive and died from 
One of the many retellings
of Beatrice's tragic story.
torture without ever revealing the truth. Somehow the police were able to figure out that Beatrice, the two sons and Lucrezia were guilty, and were all sentenced to death. Because the citizens of Rome knew how vial the father was, they protested against the decision of execution. However, the current pope at the time (Pope Clement VIII) showed no mercy for their lives. At dawn on September 11th of 1599, the four were taken to Sant'Angelo Bridge to be killed.
On the way to Sant'Angelo, Giacomo was tortured inside of the cart where his skull was smashed with a mallet, and afterwards, his corpse was quartered. Then both Lucrezia and Beatrice were sent to the block where they were beheaded with a sword. Only the 12 year old son shared between Francesco and Lucrezia was given mercy, although he was forced to watch the execution of his family. The belongings of the Cenci's were then possessed by the pope's own family, and Bernardo was sentenced to work as a slave for the rest of his life, although he was actually released the following year. Beatrice became a symbol of resistance against the crudeness of aristocracy to the people of Rome, and a legend began in which every year on the night before her death, she visits the bridge while carrying her bloody head.
So Beatrice Cenci, symbol of resistance, once slept in the same room as I. Which might seem creepy and unsettling to some, but interesting to me. Because how many bedrooms will one have in their life in which a famous Italian noblewoman/murder was once imprisoned? Probably not many. Anyway, that's the history of my bedroom. What about yours?

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