Lay summary

Music in Neapolitan female religious institutions (1650-1750)


The present project aims to reconstruct the weight and the role of music in the lives of female religious institutions in Naples between 1650 and 1750. Detailed studies about the real role that these institutions has played in Viceregal Naples are still missing. Difficult identification of the sources and the inaccessibility of some archives prevented the studies of monastic institutions in Naples.This research will be conducted through the unpublished public and private archival sources.

 In the social and religious history of Naples, monasteries and convents were centers of culture and social exchanges: they were chosen by the nobility to accommodate young single women. The religious houses were often responsible for producing and commissioning sacred music, and archive material has provided information on such institutions with many references to an important musical “tradition” concerning both the public and private spheres. From age to age Nunneries and Convents invited the most representative musicians of Naples, many coming from the Cappella Reale, as composers of the music which sounded during their ceremonies and as teachers of young women and nuns living there.

From a historiographical perspective it is interesting to note that the sources often don’t provide a clear distinction between different types of institutions, but generally identify all of them with the term "nunnery". Probably it happened because the convents and charitable institutions, withouth seclusion duty,  adopted the monastic rules and schemes for the education of the housed daughters.

 The main sources of reference will be the fund Monasteri Soppressi of the State Archive of Naples, the documents concerning the pastoral visitations kept at the Diocesan Archive of Naples and  the records of the Archivio Storico del Banco of Naples; in addition, the project will focus on the  music sources existing in the Archives of the Nunnery of San Gregorio Armeno, in the library of the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella and  in the Archives of the Oratory of the Filippini of Naples.

 The project aims to fill several fundamental gaps of the musical and cultural view of Naples for its global reconstruction. Because of the key role that Napoli had in the european musical culture, the knowledge obtained  with this project will allow a more balanced historiographic view on the whole social history of music from the XVIII century in catholic countries. The working hypothesis also provides a comparison between the different types of musical education in the institutions of Venice and Naples. Moreover, it will be possibile to achieve a more rich perspective on the role of the female life in the musical dimension of a society of the Ancien Régime.