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A Napoleonic family in Pisa: the Vaccà Berlinghieri

Montefoscoli (Pisa), House of Vaccà Berlinghieri
Montefoscoli (Pisa), House of Vaccà Berlinghieri

The Vaccà Berlinghieri, originally from Massa Carrara, were among the most famous Pisan families with close ties to Napoleonic politics and culture. Francesco Maria Vaccà Berlinghieri, district physician in Buti and Ponsacco, obtained the chair of the Surgical Institutions at the University of Pisa. His son Leopoldo was a high official in Napoleon’s army and head of the policeman’s association of French Tuscany. His other son, Andrea, was the founder of the chair of surgery at the Imperial University of Pisa, and general physician to princess Élisa Baciocchi from 1809. Both brothers married the Frenchwoman Sophie Caudeiron, who remained a widow when Leopoldo died prematurely in 1809, then marrying her brother–in–law shortly after.
The Vaccà Berlinghieri, their residence in Pisa being the medieval Palazzo Lanfranchi, also had a country residence in Montefoscoli, near Palaia, in a palazzo built in the fifteenth century on a pre–existing manor house from the eleventh century hosting a convent. Purchased by the Vaccà family in the early sixteenth century, it was transformed into a farm complete with an oil mill, wine cellars, an oil–jar cellar and a granary. Inherited by the heirs of Filippeschi Donalisio, in 2004 it became a House Museum dedicated to conserving the memories and testimonies of the illustrious family of physicians. There one finds what remains of the family archive together with old surgical instruments, art objects, period furniture and furnishings.
 Included among the most treasured family mementos of the Vaccà Berlinghieri house is a manuscript copy of the ‘Journal historique’ of the Napoleonic expedition in Portugal in 1807, in which Leopoldo Vaccà Berlinghieri participated, signed by colonel Dulog and probably written by Louis Etienne Dulong de Rosnay (1780–1829), colonel in 1809 and general in April 1813.
In 1823, Andrea Vaccà Berlinghieri commissioned his friend and architect the Pisan Ridolfo Castinelli (1791–1859) to build a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva Medica in a small holm oak grove near Montefoscoli, in honour of his father, who died in 1812. The little temple, with a pronaos and Ionic columns on a stone base, is rigorously Neoclassical and picks up stylistic elements that were broadly diffuse in Europe in those years.
The city of Pisa dedicated a monument in the Camposanto to Andrea Vaccà Berlinghieri, who died in 1826: this work, commissioned from the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen and inaugurated in 1830, is a marble cenotaph topped by a frieze and decorated with a bas relief depicting the Biblical episode of Tobias and the Angel.

Casa Vaccà Berlinghieri
Via A. Vaccà, 47

Temple of Minerva Medica
Locale: Torricchio

Montefoscoli, Palaia (Pisa)

For info:

Cenotaph of Andrea Vaccà Berlinghieri
Camposanto Monumentale
Piazza del Duomo

The Camposanto is open according to the following schedule
November to December 9 AM to 4 PM
March to October 9 AM to 5:30 PM
April to September 8 AM to 7:30 PM