In just about the center of a flat map of our very large world lies a relatively small body of water called the Mediterranean Sea. In just about the center of that Sea is an Island called Sicily. In just about the center of Sicily is the little town of Valguarnera Caropepe. If you have an ancestor from this little town, think about the size of the earth and consider the odds that you are NOT related to every other person with the same name from this town.
Valguarnera Caropepe is situated about 2,000 feet (590 meters) above sea level in the Province of Enna, one of nine Sicilian Provinces. Until 1927, Enna was known as Castrogiovanni. Each province has a capitol city with the same name as the province itself. Enna is the only Sicilian province which does not touch the sea.
In 1296, "Carupipi" was a simple home belonging to Lamberto of Carupipi. In 1398, the home passed into the hands of Vitale and Tommaso Valguarnera. In 1549, a member of the Valguarnera family, Giovanni Valguarnera, Count of Assoro (Assoro is about 25 miles (15 km) north of Valguarnera), was authorized by Emperor Charles V to develop the urban settlement of Caropipi (yes, the spelling did change) into a village. The core of the village developed near Count Giovanni's home which was called "The Prince's Castle." The town later spread, creating many nearby neighborhoods.
So what is the origin of the name Caropepe? In medieval times, documents called the feudal holding "Carrapipi" or "Carupipi." The Arab origin of this name seems to be beyond doubt. The name comes from compounding two Arab words: quaryat, which means "village" and habibi which means "of my beloved." Over the next 200 years (from 1296), Quaryathabibi of Arabic/Sicilian changed to Carrapipi, Carupipi and then Caropepe of Latin/Sicilian.
THE FOUNDING OF THE TOWN
On 6 October 1625 Don Francesco asked the Duke of Alburquerque's Viceroy, who was acting on behalf of King Philip IV, to renew the authorization of Emperor Charles V and officially grant permission to form a town. On 26 January 1628, permission was granted and the town of Valguarnera was officially born. It consisted of about 100 families and about 350 total inhabitants.
Although the town was officially called "Valguarnera," the name "Caropepe" continued to be added to indicate the original area on which the town was built. Caropepe has continued to today to be a part of the town's name, to distinguish it from other areas that had "Valguarnera" in their name.
ABOUT THE FOUNDER & HIS FAMILY:
Don Francesco Valguarnera was the 6th Count of Assoro and the 1st Prince of Valguarnera. He was born 1592 in Assoro, Enna, Sicily to Giovanni Girolamo Valguarnera, the 5th Count of Assoro, and Maria del Carretto. He obtained his title Prince of Valguarnera on 1 Jan 1627 and was Magistrate of Palermo from 1630 to 1631.He married Donna Dorotea Lanza 14 Sept 1612 in Palermo, Sicily. Donna Dorotea Lanza was herself of regal lineage, born the daughter of Don Ottavio Lanza, Prince of Trabia and Donna Giovanna OrtecaGioeni, Baroness of Valcorrente. She died in 1628.
Upon Don Francesco's death in 1635 the castle and its landholdings was passed on to his son Don Giuseppe Valguarnera who became the 2nd Prince of Valguarnera. Don Giuseppe died 12 Sept 1656 in Assoro and his son Don Francesco became the 3rd Prince of Valguarnera, and when he died around 1704, the title passed to his grandson Don Francesco Saverio who became the 4th Prince of Valguarnera. Don Francesco Saverio produced no male heir before he died in Palermo 14 Apr 1739. After the death of Don Francesco Saverio, Don Francesco, the 3rd Prince of Valguarnera, passed the title to his next grandson Don Pietro, brother of Don Francesco Saverio, and he became the 5th Prince of Valguarnera. Don Pietro died 31 Dec 1779 and his son Don Giuseppe Emanuele became the 6th Prince of Valguarnera. Don Giuseppe Emanuele was born in Palermo around 1745 and died after 1809 at which time his son Don Pietro became the 7th Prince of Valguarnera. Don Pietro was born 23 Apr 1770 in Palermo and died 10 Feb 1855. After Don Pietro died, the Title Prince of Valguarnera passed on to the Alliata family and to his grandchildren.
Today, there is no official recognition of any title of nobility in Sicily, however so long as criminal impersonation is not involved, anyone may call themselves any title of nobility desired based on principles of freedom of expression and that such titles are not regulated by law in the Italian Republic.
MORE ABOUT THE HISTORICAL BEGINNINGS OF VALGUARNERA CAROPEPE
The first inhabitants of Valguarnera Caropepe came mostly from nearby towns such as Aidone, Agira, Castrogiovanni and Piazza Armerina. The parish church was initially based at the chapel of the Prince's Castle along with the homes and shops of the settlersin 1629. Soon the town's growth led Don Francesco Valguarnera to build a real church, completed in 1636 and dedicated to St. Christopher. In the following years additional churches were founded and dedicated to St. Anthony, St. Anne and the Immaculate Conception. In 1714 Valguarnera Caropepe counts 1,715 inhabitants, which rose to 3,079 in 1748 and 4,374 in 1798. During the second half of the eighteenth century the population increase resulted in an expansion of the town and the construction of new stores. Demographic trends continued upward into the nineteenth century, bringing the population to 7,240 inhabitants in 1852 and 14,051 in 1901.
THE GROWTH OF A COMUNE
What we today call a town or village is called a comune (more like a community than a commune, in English) in Sicily. A comune has a Mayor (Sindico in Italian) and an elected governing body.
As stated earlier, when Valguarnera became an official comune, it consisted of about 100 families and about 350 total inhabitants. We know this because of a tax census, called a Riveli, which was taken periodically in Sicily. In July 1636, eight and one half years after the official founding of Valguarnera, a Riveli was taken. The 1636 Riveli listed 346 people in 97 families which consisted of only 75 family names. Within the 97 families were 78 wives listed without last names, so determining their family names was not possible. Of the 346 inhabitants, 136 were children and 35 were relatives living with the 97 families.
As best we could determine, twenty four families listed in the 1636 Riveli appeared in the 1652 Riveli. In 1652 there were only 240 people listed in 89 families with 75 different family names. This was about a 30% population decrease in 16 years. In the 1681 Riveli there were 316 families listed. In a population which was decreasing, in 1681 it had more then tripled in the 29 years since the 1652 Riveli. Something was attracting people to Valguarnera.
THE MOTHER CHURCH
As with all communes in Sicily, when they were founded, they needed a church. The primary church in a commune is called the Mother Church, or Chiesa Madre in Italian. Valguarnera's Chiesa Madre, Saint Christoforo, was named after the patron saint of commune. The Church was built in the 17th century and dedicated in 1630, only 2 years after the Valguarnera was officially founded in 1628.
The Chiesa Madre began keeping Baptism records in 1630 and are still keeping them to this day. They most likely also began keeping Marriage and Death records in 1630, but no records apparently survived prior to 1665 for either.