The Abela Patricanate.



The Roman Patricanship of Abela  The (joint) dignity of Patrician of Rome (L. Abela, P. Abela, A. Abela, di Ferro, Surdo and Testaferrata, 1590)

Footnote: The “Dignity of Roman Patrician” was granted jointly to Monsignor Don Leonardo Abela, Bishop of Sidonia, Placido and Alessandro Abela his brothers, and upon his three nephews ex sorore Pietro di Ferro, Ascanio Surdo and Paolo Testaferrata on the 11 June 1590 by the Roman Senate. 

In 1878, this dignity was claimed by Pietro Paolo Testaferrata-Abela-Moroni, Augusto Testaferrata Abela, Monsignor Salvatore Grech-Delicata-Testaferrata Cassia-De Piro, Lorenzo Antonio Cassar-Desain, ne” Testaferrata, Saverio De Piro and Felicissimo Apap-Pace-Bologna.

However, in this case, although it appears that the claimants presented various documents in proof of their claim, the Royal Commissioners  dismissed all the claims because, the same Commissioners decided not only that the claimants did not provide proof of the dignity ever being registered or recognized by the local sovereign BUT ALSO because the same Commissioners held that this dignity was a mere municipal honour and not one emanating from a foreign sovereign, or fons honorum. (“Correspondence and Report of the Commission appointed to enquire into the claims and grievances of the Maltese Nobility”, May 1878, presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty (C.-2033.) (See Report Para. 239)).

Thus, as far as the Commissioners were concerned, once they regarded this dignity as a municipal honour, it did not fall within the remit of the Commission because the Commissioners were of the opinion that once it is a municipal honour it does not qualify to be registered in accordance with the rules of 1739 and 1795 as enacted by Grand Masters Despuig and Rohan. 

The actual report says the following:

“This diploma was entered in the Civil Acts of the Inquisition in Malta on the 26th August 1689, but was never registered in the Government offices according to the enactments of Grand Masters Despuig and De Rohan. 

“The foregoing remarks (the said instruments were never registered in the Court of the Castellania, or in the Cancelleria of the Order; nor have the claimants produced any proof of its having ever been recognized by the local sovereigns) apply also to another Privilegium, obtained on the 11th day of the calends of June of the year 1590, from the Roman senate, by which the honour of Roman citizenship and the dignity of Roman Patrician were conferred upon Monsignor Don Leonardo Abela, Bishop of Sidonia, Placido and Alessandro Abela his brothers, and upon his three nephews ex sorore Pietro di Ferro, Ascanio Surdo and Paolo Testaferrata, and their children and grandchildren. “..This distinction is claimed by the following gentlemen referred to in the committee list, who contend that they are the lineal descendants of some of the original grantees, viz. Dr. P.P. Testaferrata Abela, Augusto Testaferrata Abela, Monsignor Don Salvatore Grech Delicata, Lorenzo Casar Desain, and the Marchesi Saverio De Piro and Felicissimo Apap. For the reasons already stated we refrain from making any inquiry in order to ascertain whether the claimants descend or not from the said grantees.”

However, upon a more detailed analysis about the nature of this dignity, it appears that contrary to what was held by the Commissioners, that the 1590 dignity is in fact a conferral of nobility because the city of Rome acted as a fons honorum (fountain of honour). See also

From a reading of the Report, it appears that of the six persons asserting a claim in 1878 to this dignity, not all were descended in the agnatial line of the (joint) grantee from whom they were claiming. Whilst it is clear that the Testaferrata claimants were claiming by virtue of their agnatial descent from Paolo Testaferrata, it is unclear whether the basis of the other claimants was also being made in virtue of a female descent from Paolo Testaferrata or from another (female) descent from one of the other original (joint) grantees.


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