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Seborga (originally CASTRUM SEPULCRI) antique Feud of the Counts of Ventimiglia was a very important base for the Catari a religious sect which later on developed in the nearby Provenza and Lingua D’Oc.
The Cataro movement which lived in extreme poverty very rigid in comparison to the Catholic cult and who contested the temporal and economic power of the Church of Rome did not bring benefits to the owners of the Feud who were deprived of the collection of taxes For the above reasons and because the Count Guerra family believed of a curse, following the advice of the Archbishop of Arles or of the Prior of Montemaggiore in the year 954 the Feud was handed over to the Benedictine Monks of Santo Onorato of Lerms. The Feud which included the Church of San Michele in Ventimiglia with extensive adjoining territory assumed the title of „PRINCIPALITY“. Title which the Emperor of Vienna consacrated in 1079 „IMPERIAL SOVEREIGN PRINCIPALITY OF THE SACRED ROMAN EMPIRE“, after receiving confirmation of the donation from the Counts Ottone and Corrado, also from their Mother, the Countess Armilia friend of the court. It was in the name of such title that in the year 1720 the Duke Clement Doria, in the capacity of Member of the Casaria Court went to Vienna to contest the probable sale of the „Principality“ to the Duke Sabando Vittorio Amedo II of Sardinia. Knowing of the Pontiff’s consent, who was pushed in that direction by the Bishop of Nice, the Abbey of Arles and the Court of France, he tried for a possible dependence or account of Feudality from the Emperor. The answer was that the „Principality“ was protected by the King of France (A.S.G. Instructions Ministers Vienna, year 1770 n’2716). Let us return now to the Catari. Inspite of the rule of the Abbot Princes’ the Catari obstructed the possession of the Benedictine Monks who decided to transform the Church of San Michele in Ventimiglia into a Monastry from where the Prior could calmly hold into his power of Sovereign and put into practice his Feudal right over the Principality.
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This continued until San Bernardo of Chiaravalle visited Seborga, restored the Chapel of Santa Petronilla and took possession in 1117. From that now dilapidated Church which was situated 180 metres above the cemetery and later dedicated to the same San Bernardo, the Santo of Chiaravalle expanded the reformed order of the Cistercensi to the Monastry of Lerins (who had previously refused them) and to many other Abbeys. The arrival of San Bernardo in the Principality brought many other donations such as the Church of San Martino obtained from the men of Petralata in 1119 and the aggregation of the Monastry of Prelà. The Catari in the meantime subdued by the charismatic Friar and wizard of poverty, left the fortification of the village and moved in part two kilometres south near the cemetery of their Priests and in part north-west, under Monte Caggio where they built a fortification which is still identified by the name „I CHRISTIANI“. Story and legend claim that after the repression conducted in Provenza against the community with the famous crusades at 1150 conducted by Simon De Monfort and in 1200 by the Bishop of Monsegue in which more than three hundred men, women and children were burnt alive, the only surviving Catari were those of Seborga and that the „Holy Grail“ is hidden and buried here. San Bernardo passed through the Principality many times also because the Benedictine Monks at the time protected Alassio and the Island of Gallinara. The first crusade affected by them in 1095 was formed by the Alassini Knights. Not by chance the Saint of Chiaravalle, later increased the austerity of the Military Order of the Knights of the Temple ( Militiae Templi). The Order of the Templars founded in 1118 (19 years after the conquest of Jerusalem) by Ugone di Payens or De Paganis and by Geoffredo of Saint Omer, guest of Baldovino II (mitially composed of no more than nine extremely poor Monks who adopted as their protector „The Sweet Mother of God“ and who used only one horse for two) was confermed in 1127 by Onorio II during the Council of Tours. To these Knights who at the time respected the Cistercense rule goes te merit of leading back to Seborga in 1158 the Prior Prince who was settled into the Monastry beside the Church of San Michele in Ventimiglia. Merit also for their research and the documentation produced in 1177 which confirms the donation of 954. San Bernardo of Chiaravalle born in 1091 died on the 20th of August 1153 at only sixty years of age.
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From the Templar Knights above all the decision to establish the 20th of August a national holiday in memory of the death of San Bernardo. The Principality has kept that date as the holiday of the Father of the Cistercensi. This date was also confirmed by an order from Cristoforo Mercadante, General Vicar to the Archbishop of Genova an the 31st of July 1625 in which it was established that in all the churches dedicated to San Bernardo the Saint was to be celebrated, precisely and only an the 20th of August. Not only that
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The Templar Knights who at the time called each other „FRIERI“ (brothers), formed in Seborga an antique association of the population called the „Confraria“ (not to be confounded with Confraternity). „The Confraria“, assembly of people who mad useful decisions inside the community, quickly expanded to all the neighbouring towns. So much so that towards the end of 1300 there are examples of perfect organization which was vital especially of famine and control. The „Principality“ from the Papacy of Alessandro III to the Ecumenic Council of Vienna in 1312 lived easier years even though the Priory Princes ‘ certainly were not generous towards their subjects. It is in fact written that Richard The Lionheart said on his deathbed „I leave the stinginess to the Cistercensi Monks, the lewdness to the Grey Monks and the haughtiness to the Templars“. Furthermore the wars which had raged for decades obstructed the prospering of the Monastry of San Michele, the Principality and its gentlemen. Who either because of the distance from Lerino or negligence or for the impossibility to obtain justice after the defect of the Templar Knights by the hand of Filippo il Bello, who at the beginning of 1308 had arrested in Provenza all the members of the order, soon found themselves in difficulty and lost always more control of the situation. Let us now forget the claims of Ventimiglia submitted to Genova in 1224 in spite of a bull issued in 1187 by Pope Urbano III which sanctioned and protected the properties of the Prior of San Michele. Not to be underestimated the continuous ursurpation of the neighbouring villages like Vallebona and Sanremo who, protected and pushed by the greediness of the Republic of Genova continued to steal territories.
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The Duke of Savoia backed by the Freemasonry who knew both the Catara and the Templar histories tried in everyway to buy the Principaliy. The King of France agreed. The Abbot of the Monastry of Santo Onorato, Meyronnet, not knowing what to do about the sale which needed the approval of the Pope and the consent of the Abbey of Montemaggiore of Arles, who had to respect the will of Count Guido decided to hand over the paperwork to Father Marchesan of Nice Superior of the Domenican Monks. And so it was that on the 31st of January 1697 in the Palace Ducale of Nice an arrangement of sale was signed for the sum of 25 thousand scudi of Savoia which was to be paid on consignment of the Feud. Genoa opposed in every possible way until the agreement was undone. The Abbots were even accused of using torture and of paying torturers. The intervention of Cardinal Fleury made so that in 1699 Father Marchesan obtained from the Pope from Avignone a document which authorized the Abbots of Lerino to treat the sale of Seborga. Finally after various ups and downs, following the Pontiff’s authorization of the 18th of November 1728 and after three days of convention, on 20th of January 1729 in front of the Minister of the King of France Charivelin, present also the Cardinal Fleury, the Archbishop of Enbrun delegate of the Pope for the signing and Count Maffei Sardo Ambassador in Paris, Father Benoit signed the transfer and the deed of sale of the „Principality“ in favour of the King of Sardinia represented by the lawyer Lea. Here are the actual words from the centre part of the deed. „Seborga, Land, Dominion and Sovereign Principality without restrictions of property in possession or reserved to the Monastry, belongings and dependence, real and honorary rights that are part of this territory of the dominion and of the „Principality of Seborga“ without restriction reserved all which belonged or belongs to this Land even if not declared as well as the Church of San Michele with large adjoining territory which for years has belonged to the „Principality“ are to be surrendered in the best way all rights and privileges, without exeption until today enjoyed by the Monastry and the Church to the King and his Royal Family“. The order imposed by the Freemasons to the Great Master Vittorio Amedo II was carried out with the excuse of owning from the sea the road of salt and with the facade of the Reason of State. This property has never been registered in The Land Property Office of Sardinia or in the list of belongings of the house of Savoia or Sabauda even though they gave both friendship and protection to the Principality.
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Contestations followed which lasted for more than four hundred years notwithstanding the intervention of Colonel Vinzoni enjoy of Genoa in 1759. Then there was the sale of the „Principality“ to the King of Sardinia and his family. This sale was contested by the haughty Republic who for more than 300 years fought against Savoia for the aquisition of the „Principality“. Even the Holy See was no stranger, having to intervene many times in the diatribe. In 1583 the feared transfer of eventual exchange with the Abbay of San Ponso in Nice of Sabando property was suspended on authority of the Pope. This occured not only because of the intervention of the Cardinals of Genoa resident in Rome but also for the writings of the Bishop of Ventimiglia, Giovanni Francesco Gandolfo. In 1624 he allarmingly warned the Vatican that the Government of France supported the Abbey of Lerino in the idea that the Priory of San Michele was to be erected in the Abbey and that the „PRINCIPALITY OF SEBORGA“ was to be assigned to them. The same Bishope proposed to the Pontiff that the sovereignty of the Feud be recognized also in Italy not only in the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of France so that they could treat with minimum inconvenience the sale to Genoa or to the Vatican as in the letter sent to the Pope dated 1625 in which the Pontiff is advised not to let it fall into the hands of Monsignor Ceva subject of the Savoia. The „Principality“ however obtained slight progress when, with the powers that were conceded by the Emperor of Vienna who had sanctioned the absolute sovereignty of the „Sacred Roman Empire“ the Monks opened a mint for the mintage of coins in gold and silver. It was the 24th of December 1666. The money however was not well received on the European markets, in fact the King of Sardinia had prohibitted it’s use in Savoia in 1667; two years later it was badly tollerated such affermations of sovereignty with a decree from the Council of State dated the 1st of July 1686, signed by the Minister of Finance Colbert ordered the Abbay of Lerino to procede with the closure of the Mint of the Principality. Contestations followed which lasted two years and there was even the personal opposition of His Majesty who entrusted the Superintendent of Justice, Police and Finance of Provenza, Signore Morant to have the order executed. Lerino on French territory for a quiet life and never forgetting that the “Principality“ enjoyed the protection of that court at the beginning of 1668 had Seborga close the Mint.
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It is also to be remembered that even though Queen Margherita of Savoia lived in Bordighera she never boasted privileges or rights on the nearby territory of Seborga. It is to be noted also that the Parishes which followed the Rectors after the deed were destinated to the Parish with the title Regia until 1947 when after the event of the Republic of Italy, the Curia of Ventimiglia sent the first postwar Parson to Seborga Don Enrico Brianzy of Turin, from the Order of the Knights of Malta. Returning to history when with the treaty of Aquisgrana in 1748 the Dominiums were eliminated in favour of wider territories and for what concerns Liguria these were passed under the Republic of Genova. The „Principality of Seborga“ was not listed. So much so that in 1770 fortyone years after the sale to the King of Sardinia, in Austria Seborga was still declared „Sovereign Principality of the Sacred Roman Empire“. Not even after the fall of Napoleon, during the Congress of Vienna in 1814 when the territories were restabilized and the Republic of Genova passed over to the Kingdom of Sardinia with all the dominants that were assigned to them at Aquisgrana was there mention of the Principality! The Principality of Seborga was not even listed between the States to be part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. In 1946 there is no mention in the Italian territory which, assigned to the „Costituente“, formed the Republic of Italy. In 1963 the people elected as monarch the Prince GIORGIO I , rielected again by everybody in 1993. On April 23rd, 1995 the people voted the General Statuti with 304 votes against 4. The following day the „Luigino“ of Seborga became the official currency of the Principality. That day, the only ever existed country of the „Knights of the Temple“ rebirthed.
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