Ragusa, Sicily. © V.A. Leeming
My maternal ancestry from Marie Ann Callus nee Griscti goes back to a Sicilian baron from Ragusa known as Vincenzo Lo Iacono (the deacon) or Diacono. He moved to Malta c. 1600. It is this pedigree that possibly gave rise to the notion that my Griscti ancestors believed they were descended from the Maltese nobility as the Baron was unlikely to have married into an untitled family.
For more information please visit my new page for Diacono/Lo Iacono which includes the family pedigree from Marie-Ann back to this Sicilian baron.
As an aside, fans of ‘Inspector Montalbano’ will recognise Ragusa as one of the settings for the TV series!
An Apothecary of 15 Century. Source: Wikimedia Commons
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.
Interior of a 15th Century Apothecary’s Shop. Source: Wikimedia Commons
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.
Welcome to my first post on this new website about my family history. For information about the aim of this site and the families I am researching, please see the ‘About’ page. I am currently building introductory pages for the surname strands I plan to write about, but it will be a little while before these are all ready to go, so if the surname you are interested in is looking a little thin, please be patient but watch this space.
My first posts however, are going to be on the CALLUS family from Malta, starting from all the way back in the 15th century! Look out for a piece on Dr Joseph Callus (aka Matteo), one of Malta’s national heroes and a post about some of the places where we came from.
I hope you find some things to interest you. Please contact me using the form below if there are any topics you would particularly like me to cover, or if you have any information to add to this research. I would also welcome any comments or suggestions about the site.