From the King’s Valley to Turin

Announcing a Literary Soirée at the historical Caffè Platti, Turin, to tell the story of the mysterious, precious candlesticks of Palazzo Madama, and King Edward II in Italy

Cafè Platti, Turin, 6 PM, Thursday 2 October, 2014

Two extraordinary medieval candlestick were donated to the Museum of Palazzo Madama, Turin, in the year 1876. (1) A gentleman collector from Piedmont, Count De-Roussi de Sales, had bought the candlesticks from the Abbey of Sant’Alberto of Butrio – where King Edward II is said to have lived in the 1330s. These beautiful and precious works of art were created by master crafstmen of Limoges, in the Duchy of Acquitaine, France, in the 13th century. They are elegant and refined, unique examples of ornately enameled copper. But how, when, and above all why did they come to the Abbey of Sant’Alberto of Butrio?

The ‘elegantissimo’ Caffè Platti, one of Turin’s favourite historical venues for Literary Soirées

It has long been thought that there must be a connection between these candlesticks and the (supposed) presence of King Edward II at the Abbey in the 14th century. (2)

Auramala Project researcher Elena Corbellini examined archival documents tracked down with the help of historian Doctor Luciano Maffi in the Cathedral Archive of the Diocese of Tortona. After reading through literally hundreds of pages of handwritten inventories scrawled in a mix of archaic Italian and Latin, Corbellini was able to reconstruct the presence of these candlesticks at the Abbey of Sant’Alberto di Butrio through the centuries.

We then took these hard-won documents to the present day curator and restorer of the medieval enamels collection at the Museum of Palazzo Madama, Doctor Simonetta Castronovo. We told her the remarkable story of the Fieschi Letter, and why an increasing number of academics believe Edward II was present in the Staffora Valley. We asked her a simple question: do you think there may be a connection between these candlesticks and King Edward II?

One word is enough to describe her answer: inspiring.

The spectacular Palazzo Madama, in the centre of Turin. The candlesticks of Sant’Alberto have been here, in the Civic Museum of Ancient Art, since 1876.

In due course, Professor Corbellini’s work will be published in detail on this blog, under the category Phase 2 (The Hunt for the King). But if you want a sneak preview of what it has revealed, why not join us at Cafè Platti on 2 October, at 6 PM, for a literary soirée, a delicious aperitivo featuring the finest bubbly wines from the Oltrepò wine hills surrounding Sant’Alberto of Butrio, and one of history’s most intriguing mysteries?

  1. The donation was recorded by the curator of the Museum, Doctor Bartolomeo Gastaldi. Personal communication, Angelo Alberto Piatti, biographer of Bartolomeo Gastaldi.
  2. The supposed connection was first hinted at in Legé, Vincenzo, ‘Sant’Alberto Abate: Fondatore del monastero di Butrio e il suo Culto’, Tortona, 1901, to be enthusiastically acclaimed as a near certainty in Benedetti, Anna, ‘Edoardo II d’Inghilterra a Sant’Alberto di Butrio’, Palermo, 1924. It has since been integrated into local folklore surrounding the ‘king in the valley’.
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