Offida - The 1700s-1800s

Offida - The 1700s-1800s

The papal power in the Marches would continue up to nearly the1700s.

The cities of Ascoli, Ancona, Camerino, Fermo, Fabriano, Fano, Jesi, Loreto, Macerata, Montalto, S.Severino and Urbino were first rate government centres, also called prelate’s seats (a cardinal’s or a bishop’s province).

Today’s Province of Ascoli included the State of Ascoli by the Presidato of Montalto and the State of Fermo. Offida was definitely included into the Diocese of Ascoli.

This Administrative division of the Marches and the Province, however, did not bring to an administrative homogeneity in the territory.

Offida Statute of 1524

Meanwhile, during the 17th and the 18th centuries, the General Council (see the Offida Statute of 1524) worked less and less, while the administrative functions were carried out more and more by the Council of Credenza (a kind of today's Town Council), while the executive ones pertained to the judge. The effects brought about by the French Revolution, however, were clear also in the Marches at this stage.

On February 8th, 1797 the French army entered Ancona, on the12th it happened to Macerata and on the 13th to Tolentino. On February 28th Ascoli, that had been occupied the previous year, was declared republican and, consequently, there were no more signs of any papal authority.

The town was ruled by a Town Council made up of two noblemen, two members of the Curia, two merchants and two farmers.

Offida, as well, was involved by the events. Following the law of March the 22nd, 1798 the Marches were divided in three Departments (rather vast administrative territories) – the Department of the river Metauro (it rises on the Alpe della Luna, on the border of Tuscany, and flows into the Adriatic Sea, to the South of Fano) whose chief town was Ancona; the Department of the river Musone (it rises on the range of Mount S. Vicino, 1485 metres high, and flows into the Adriatic, nearby Porto Recanati) whose chief town was Macerata; the Department of the river Tronto (it rises on central Appennine, runs through Ascoli Piceno, and from here trough a valley that, for several kilometres, marks the border between the Marches and the Abruzzi) whose chief town was Fermo.

Offida, eventually, was included in the Department whose chief town was Fermo.

On April the 2nd, 1808 the Marches were included by Napoleon into the Italian Kingdom and on May the 17th the temporal power of the Pope did no longer exist.

The municipal emblem of Offida: “I am the Guelph Lion of Offida in the name of which I won”

The Marches were divided in three Departments (that of the Metauro, the Musone and the Tronto as in 1798) as well as into Districts, Cantons and Communes.

The prefects – appointed by the Government - were put in charge of the Departments, while the vice-prefects of the Districts. The Canton was a restricted judicial and administrative area represented by a magistrate, appointed by the prefect’s office.

The Commune was ruled by a Town Council that should meet twice a year and by a Municipality consisting of a podestà and a few wise men in the largest Communes and of a mayor and some elderly members in the smallest Communes.

In 1816 the Papal States were reorganized and divided into eleven (11) Provinces and seventeen (17) Delegations.

The territory of the Marca included the Provinces of Camerino, of the Marca and that of Urbino.

The Province of the Marca was divided in the Delegations of Macerata, Ancona, Fermo and that of Ascoli. Offida was comprised in that of Ascoli. They arranged that the Delegations should be ruled by delegates holding either administrative and criminal powers, helped by two town councillors with judicial, civil and penal powers.

1800s drawing of the silkworm factory

In the communes worked a Town Council and a Magistracy, a gonfalonier and some elderly people. The communes that were not a chief town had a mayor that depended on the gonfalonier of the chief town commune. Offida continued to be a chief town commune with its own gonfalonier.

Meanwhile, after the Restoration (1814-1815), in different parts of Italy began the revolutionary movements for the Italian union and the expulsion of the Austrians from the Italian peninsula.

In this regard, the Carbonarist movement was particularly active in the town of 0ffida. Among the best known characters followers we must remember: Gaetano Allevi, great-uncle of G. Allevi (historian and archaeologist) Amurri, Zazzetti, Castellotti, Cocci, Ciabattoni, Rosini and Bianchini. Two Offida priests, Don Giacinto Fiordi and Don Amurri, were even sentenced to be shot because accused of having joined an insurrection in Ancona in 1821. The sentence was suspended with the help of Pious VII (1742-1823); still the two rebels ended their days in the prison of Corneto (Lazio).

The movements in the Marches continued up to 1831 and ceased in 1832 with the occupation of Ancona by the French. Offida, in 1831, was given the privilege by Pope Gregory XVI (1765-1846) to grow into a town. To commemorate the event, a papal coat of arms was placed onto the Fortress of Offida and a memorial tablet laid in the actual Council Chamber.

In 1848 Ascoli, as well as Offida, had joined the Roman Republic of Mazzini, Armellini and Saffi. This ceased to exist when the French Army occupied Rome on the 1st July 1849, and the Pope started ruling again.

The “motu-proprio” of 12th September, 1849 restored the new political and administrative system of the Papal States.

Workers of the tobacco factory (archive of G. Ottavi)

This was divided in four Legations; these into Provinces or Delegations; the Provinces in Governments; the Governments into Communes.

The new system, however, would not last long since the clash between the Piedmontese and the Papal armies was inevitable by that time.

On September 18th, 1860, in fact, the Papal army was defeated in Castelfidardo and on November of that year the Marches were annexed to the Piedmontese State. Again Offida, centre of a Revolutionary Committee made up of Filippo Tinelli, Giacomo Michelangeli, Giuseppe Micheli and Guglielmo Allevi, was among the first towns in the Marches that had risen up against the Papal rule. After the battle of Castelfidardo the members of the Committee, themselves, took charge of the town.

Meanwhile, the Regal Decree of 22nd December, 1860 established the new administrative organization of the territory of the Marches. Four Provinces were founded: those of Pesaro-Urbino, Ancona, Macerata and Ascoli Piceno.

The Papal Delegations of Camerino and Fermo were abolished. Offida was included in the Province of Ascoli.

In 1861, Domenico Curti was appointed mayor of Offida; on December of the same year it was Giuseppe Micheli’s turn.

Leaving stagecoach (archive of G. Ottavi)

The town, meanwhile, was going through a transition phase from a typically rural economy to a flourishing craft industry and eventually to an economy based on the processes of mechanization and industrialization. As a matter of fact, in 1865, a tobacco factory and a certain number of silkworm industries - with an annual output of 9,000 kilos of cocoons – had been opened.

Among these, there were factories that manufactured over 4.000 ounces of seed. Owing to the mechanization process, there was a growth in business activities such as trade and a flourishing craft industry.

Means of transport and communication routes have always been the heart of the modernization process, that has meant more rapid exchanges in trade business.

Therefore, in 1886, in Offida was opened a railway station that linked up Ascoli Piceno, through the valley of the Tronto, to the Adriatic Ancona – Foggia line.

In 1874, a telegraph office was opened, at first slack hours and later full time.

That same year mail service took up office, with trains and trams that went to and from/backwards and forwards to deliver the mail.

Documentary records of 1840-42 and one of 1866 stood to confirm the restoration and reconstruction works in Offida. The formers showed that the pavement of Corso Serpente Aureo had been rebuilt with flinty stones and the latter referred to the restoration of the main square pavement made of stone and travertine marble. In 1887 a special aqueduct eventually supplied Offida with water coming from Mount Polesio (Ascensione). The work cost 249.995,09. The original contract by tender for the construction of the aqueduct (dated February 26th, 1886) is preserved inside the today mayor’s chamber.

The mayor of Offida was Agostino Curti. The project for an electric lighting system of the town was entrusted to engineer Attilio Pignocchi and carried out in 1906.

An abattoir, a butcher’s shop and a public fish shop were opened.

Education should be abreast of time as well! As a matter of fact, the Commune provided the teaching of gymnastics, of choral singing as well as of mechanical drawing and (the art of) of decoration.

In 1863 the kindergarten was built and on 31st December, 1891 the first edition of the periodical “Ophys” was published in Offida. The periodical editor was Guglielmo Allevi, while Tommaso Benfaremo was the managing editor . Since the health service too should be efficient, there were two physicians, a surgeon, a veterinarian and a midwife.

Meanwhile, there was an increase in population/the growth of population!

In 1865 Offida had 4437 inhabitants, in 1881 they grew to 5.031 and in 1888 they even reached 5.584.

Pictures of the town fair: the “out of town” area and the cattle camp with the tobacco factory in the middle