The Barons Testaferrata (1710 and 1737)
This gateway in Gzira, Malta, marks the primogenial lands of the Baron Testaferrata. Another gate in the vicinity was demolished in the last quarter of the 20thcentury.
On the 1 May 1737, Grand Master Despuig invested Ercole Martino Testaferrata in the honorific barony of Gomerino originally created in favour of his parents Paolo and Beatrice Testaferrata, jointly, by Grand Master Perellos on the 24 December 1710. The investiture took place after Ercole Martino received the lands of Gzira and Ta’ Xbiex. (See National Library of Malta Collections – Archives of the Order Volume 541, f. 184r).
The investiture was made with reference to a private deed dated 1734 between Beatrice and Ercole Martino, which in turn refers to a primogenitura established in 1714.
However, many publications state that Ercole Martino only succeeded the title of Gomerino seven years later in 1744, following the death of his elder brother Fabrizio who died without any male issue. It appears that the reason why other publications show Fabrizio as having succeeded the aforesaid title in 1713 is because he did receive the property of Gomerino in that year and subsequently passed that property on to his younger brother in 1744.
In the 19th century the Gomerino property was passed on to the junior line of the family.
There are therefore two lines of succession of this honorific title: The primogenial male line (the “Barons Testaferrata”) which holds the primogenial property and claims succession from Paolo and Beatrice to Ercole Martino; and the junior line (the “Barons of Gomerino”) which holds the property of Gomerino and claims succession from Paolo and Beatrice to Fabrizio to Ercole Martino.
The Testaferrata family, which claims descent from the Longobard Prince Pandulph the Iron Head (Capodiferro) of Benevento, received foreign grants of untitled nobility (patriciates) in Messina and Rome in 1553 and 1590, long before other Maltese families first received any patents or “recognitions”. Most of the Maltese nobility who descend through female lines from the Testaferratas have claimed these Testaferrata patriciates.
In addition, Beatrice had also brought into this family the foreign barony of Castel Cicciano (Naples) which she had relinquished, by Royal Assent, in favour of her son Fabrizio in 1695.
In 1725, Beatrice and her son Fabrizio and their descendants were granted by Grand Master Vilhena the right of “Most Illustrious and Noble”. In that grant, Beatrice is described as the Baroness of Gomerino whilst Fabrizio was only referred to as the Baron of Castel Cicciano. There are no contemporary records of Fabrizio ever succeeding the title of Baron of Gomerino.
Ercole Martino’s other brother Pier Giacomo Testaferrata was a member of the Order of Saint John and held a Commandery within the German Langue. In 1739, he also received the untitled nobility of Citta’ del Castello.
Another line of the Testaferrata family received the foreign titles of Marchese di San Vincenzo Ferreri in 1716 (Kingdom of Naples) and Marchese Testaferrata in 1717 (Kingdom of Sicily). And in 1637, the untitled nobility of the Holy Roman Empire