The first detailed records of any Callus persons appear in Malta towards the end of the 15th century. Hyeronimus Callus, was an apothecary (an early type of pharmacist), who had a shop in the capital of Mdina around 1491. Another account refers to someone called Glormu Callus but this appears to be the same person.
Hyeronimus had 3 sons:-
- Antonio – also an apothecary, who succeeded his father’s practice in 1519.
- James (Giacomo)
- Joseph (Giuseppe) – born c. 1505 in Zurrieq. Became a physician. (He will be the topic of my next post).
The Universitá Notabile
It is interesting to note that Hyeronimus worked for, or was a member of, the Universitá Notabile in Mdina. This was a form of local government, whose role needs some describing.
From the end of the Norman period until the coming of the Knights of St John in 1530, Malta and its islands were ruled as part of the Kingdom of Sicily. During this period Malta was handed out as a fiefdom to various Sicilian nobles and barons in return for services rendered to the crown. These nobles had little interest in governing other than as a means of raising taxation on the population to serve their own interest. The day to day running of the island, which included its economic administration and the judiciary, was delegated by the Capitano della Verga (governor) to the Maltese nobility. They formed a governing body called the Universitá, which was based in Mdina and was made up of electors chosen from amongst the nobility, honoured citizens and professional classes. The Capitano did not interfere with this administration, having more of an ambassadorial role.
However in 1530, the emperor Charles V agreed to give the Maltese islands to the Knights of the Order of St John. The Order had been expelled from their base on the island of Rhodes by the Turks in 1522. The Knights displaced the universitá by making the Capitano della Verga the Lieutenant Governor over the whole island, with his own court and jurisdiction over all criminal and civil proceedings. So although the general population accepted the rule of the Knights, it did not go down so well with the Maltese nobility! Even so, the universitá as a form of civic administration was not dismantled and persisted in Malta until the 19th century. However its wings were certainly clipped.