Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2010.



Godfrey Wettinger*

On 19 June 1486, Don Antonius de Caxario, the Sub-Vicar of Gozo, was sent instructions from the court of the Vicar-General in Malta, carrying the ‘vidit’ of the Maltese judge of that court Andreas de Fauczono, to start proceedings against Francza de Gurabe[1] for having, ‘inspired by the malign spirit and against divine precepts and those of Holy Mother Church’, and by diabolical methods, attempted to break up the marriage which Andriocta Benjamin had contracted with the noblewoman Chanchia, daughter of Andrea de Bisconis. The case had been hanging fire for several weeks. Perhaps the problem was that Gozo lacked enough lawyers. Don Antonio was told that if Andrea de Benjamin refused to act as judge because he was Andriocta’s father or was disallowed for that reason, he was to appoint Don Pinu Saliva to hear the case. Francza was to be incarcerated, but a postscript directed that she should be allowed bail.[2] Two days later, further [p.140] instructions pointed out that Francza could not defend herself properly if she remained imprisoned. As she was poor and without a husband or relatives to defend her, Don Antonio was told expressly that, if she gave bail of eight uncie, she should be released for some days to prepare her defence, since one’s ‘defence is by natural right and no one can be condemned without defence’. Her guarantor had to be of adequate means and subject to the ecclesiastical court. If she could not find bail or a guarantor, she should appoint a representative to defend her. The papers of the case were then to be sent over to Malta. He was reminded that already two months had passed by since the commission of the alleged crime, and the accused was a woman and poor.[3]

Bill of indictment

On 3 July 1486, Andreas de Bisconis and his daughter Chancha presented their bill of indictment.[4] They accused Francza of adultery with Chancia’s husband, of incest and of practising magic as well as of uttering threats, injuries and bad language against Chanchia. Francza was also accused of practising magic to seduce Chancia’s husband, keeping him publicly as her lover after his marriage to Chancia, in particular that he and Francza were found by Chancia herself together alone in a room of the house belonging to Ylagia de Figkera at Rabat, Gozo. Francza herself had admitted that Andriocta was her lover and had threatened to use her magical arts to break up his marriage. She was further accused of incest for having had sex with brothers or cousins on several occasions and of being a public prostitute of bad fame and reputation and of low origin, a habitual practitioner of magic by the making of dolls and magic spells who boasted that she could evade any kind of penalty by means of magic so that she did not care for any sort of justice nor for the bishop’s vicar or the town mayor.

Francza denied outright that she had had sex with Andriocta since his marriage, explaining that he had been her lover before that and they had even had a male child. Subsequently, she gave him up and never had sex with him again, though their previous relationship had been public knowledge. More or less two months before, she had had occasion to go to the house belonging to Ylagia di Figkera on an errand and there she happened to meet her former lover, to whom she complained about the bad treatment her children were receiving at his hands, as he had taken them away from her. Still arguing, they entered Ylagia’s house, when Chanchia came along, shouting and screaming because she had found them together. This was all there was to it, neither more nor less. And Francza also denied that she practised magic or made any threats or used foul language against Chanchia.

[p.141] Case for the prosecution

On the same day, a number of women were questioned by the court on the bill of indictment. Ylagia herself explained that Chanchia was the legitimate daughter of Andreas de Bisconis and the lawful wife of Andreas de Benjamino, as was common knowledge ‘in the said walled town and island of Gozo’. The incident particularly complained of had occurred some two months before. She happened to be spinning (wool or cotton) before her door in the courtyard of her house in the district of Nuxeha at Rabat, Gozo, when Andriocta de Benjamin came up, remarking to her ‘Your mother Margarita has really done me a good turn! She had promised to help me tend the cotton plants and she did not turn up!’[5] He continued to speak about her mother when, lo and behold, Francza de Gurabe herself with an ‘agresta’ in her hand looking for a light entered the courtyard. She immediately burst out in lamentations, ‘You false traitor! You have snatched my children from me and taken them into your house where your wife ill-treats and beats them.’ They continued to argue over the children born to them both. Ylagia then interrupted and told them ‘in the vulgar tongue’ of the island of Gozo that ‘Donna Chanchia is my friend and I do not want her to get to know that you two have been here and are joking together in my courtyard, because she would get to hate me.’ She therefore made them continue their discussion within her own house and, seeing them continuing their arguments, she left them to it, retiring to her brother-in-law’s house in the same courtyard and adjoining her own. It was while she was there in her sister’s house that donna Chanchia herself arrived, much to her alarm. She gave them a warning; they shut the wooden door of her house, but donna Chanchia began to bang on it and shout ‘You traitor’, trying to force an entry. Andriocta then told Francza that ‘She is my wife. Let us open the door.’ Francza then left, Chanchia got hold of Andriocta, then let him go, which he did, leaving her there in Ylagia’s house. Ylagia confirmed that Francza and Andriocta had lived together before his marriage to Chanchia, but in the recent past Francza had had a priest as her partner whose name she refused to divulge ‘causa honestatis’, while she now had a cleric as her latest lover who had been described to her by the priest as really a close relative of his, apparently a first cousin, as was common knowledge in Gozo. Ylagia also stated that Francza was a prostitute of bad reputation, and she had heard on several other occasions donna Chanchia call her ‘Witch, unhappy witch.’[6] She knew all this because she had been living there ever since she could tell good from wrong. She was then twenty five years old.

[p.142] It would be impossibly boring to give in full the evidence of all the other witnesses, repetitive as it unavoidably was. Only the new facts will be recorded here. Gemma, the wife of Nicholas Gurabe, who lived in Rabat, testified that she had seen donna Chanchia entering Ylagia’s courtyard and immediately afterwards she had seen Francza running out of it. She was told by neighbours that donna Chanchia had discovered her husband having sex with Francia in Ylagia’s house and thus committing adultery.[7] Saphira, the wife of Nicholas Sahona, was inside her house when she heard the hubbub, but was given the same information by those she asked on going out to see what it was all about.[8] Catherina, the wife of Matheus Xelluki, added that she was told by people in the vicinity that not only had donna Chanchia caught her husband and Francza in fragrante, but that Francza had actually hidden herself under Ylagia’s bed and donna Chanchia pulled her out by the hair and the pleats of her dress.[9] Czuna, the wife of Angelus Ketut, said that it was very well-known at Rabat that Francza was guilty of incest since she habitually had sex with brothers and cousins, as she had known for the previous four years or so.[10] Antona, the widow of Raymundi Hueyna, said that she was told that once Francza had exclaimed in the middle of the street when they were talking over her case and that they wanted to put her to shame, ‘They want me to wear the mitre those who wear mitres themselves on their heads. But if they make me wear the mitre I shall act in such a way that I shall take Andriocta, the husband of the accuser, and keep him as my lover publicly.’ She would not mention the name of the priest who had been Francza’s lover, but her present lover was the cleric Andriocta de Avula. She had also learned from others that Francza had lately made some dolls of pitch to practise magic which she then placed at the head of Andriocta’s bed, Chanchia’s husband, who was still keeping her as his lover. Francza herself had told her, last Quatragesima Sunday, ‘What do I care that I keep these favours? I do not care for anyone. I do whatever I do, I fear no one, as I shall always come out free, safe and healthy.’[11] Orlandus Chappara said that children had been born out of the marriage between Andriocta and Chanchia, which had already lasted some three years. Andriocta had also had sons from Francza during the time she was his concubine before his marriage to Chanchia. He also explained how Andriocta’s brother, Don Petrus Benjamin, had found in his presence a little doll of pitch hidden at the head of Andriocta’s bed some three years previously. He had exclaimed, ‘Look. Look. This has been done by that whore Francza de Gurabe to Andriocta my brother,’ and he then ran off to show it to notary Andreas, Andriocta’s father. He described it as a doll of [p.143] pitch covered with some hair and something white in the middle.[12] Vintura, wife of Marcus Poeta, reported that, some two months before, Francza had told her in the house belonging to Lucia, the widow of Franciscus Vella ‘at Rabat in the common speech of the town of Gozo’ (in vulgari eloquio terre Gaudiensis) that ‘Her lover he had been and her lover he would remain.’[13] On occasion, Andriocta, when quarrelling with Francza, used to accuse her of being with his brother, ‘you once embraced my brother and now you are with me, you unhappy whore, guilty of incest; you embraced two other brothers, not mentioned for the sake of ‘honesty’. During such a quarrel a year before, he also told her that ‘with your magic and the practice of your magical arts, when I came across you, you seemed to be the very face of the moon, and now that I have found you out and I have abandoned you, you seem to me to be like a black devil and a whore and a witch who habitually rides a sea-turtle when returning to land to practise magic’.

Tiresa, the daughter of the late Stephen Kerdak,[14] not only confirmed all the worst accusations already made, but also added that she had seen Andriocta and Francza entering Ylagia’s house and after wards observed donna Chanchia coming wrapped up in the Gozitan manner and all pale and frightened,[15] who asked her where her husband and Francza had betaken themselves, but she did not tell her; only soon afterwards she heard a great row, and then repeated all that the other witnesses had been saying. She added finally that Francza had subsequently declared that ‘They think they are going to put me to shame (fari mi la vergogna); by God, when Don Micheli [the Vicar-General] arrives here, I shall go to him and tell him a couple of words for him not to do anything to me, and the following night he shall come to me ‘in casco’. According to her, Andriocta used to tell her that she used to go about riding sea-turtles. Another witness stated that when people advised Francza to give Andriocta up because he was now married to someone else, Francza answered ‘I shall never abandon him because I have had children from him. If they want to put me to shame I shall take him up publicly as my lover.’[16] Clara, the widow of Petrus Cadumi, insisted that not only was he her lover before his marriage, but even afterwards right down to the present day he had been visiting her in her house, as she knew from her neighbours. She reported that Francza had said that Andriocta told her not to worry if they wanted to shame her; he would take her publicly as his lover and would support her from the older one to the younger [sic] and provide her with all things.[17] Agata, the [p.144] wife of Franciscus Xeiba, carefully avoided, like the witnesses who preceded her, naming the priest who had been Francza’s lover, but could not help revealing that he was the brother of the cleric Andriocta de Avula who was Francza’s lover at the time of the proceedings.

The deposition of Leonardus de Luchia on 13 July was by far the most profuse but most of his allegations had already been made by other witnesses before him. He had known the plaintiffs for the past ten years and had known they were married to each other for the past two and they had produced children. Francia had been Andriocta’s girlfriend before his marriage to Chanchia, and since then he had seen Andriocta sometimes making erotic signals to each other; he had seen them talking to each other and signalling to each other with their hands where they should go, and afterwards saw Andriocta following her to such places. Whenever he told Francza that, now that Andriocta had found a wife, she should abandon him, she answered: ‘I am astonished at you! We have children. I cannot ever abandon him, nor can he abandon me.’ Speaking to her lately, she had said: ‘If they accuse me and bring me to public shame, I shall find out with whom those who have been publicly shamed stay. I shall stay with them and prepare myself, put on my cullaru and go to the one who wants to cut off my hair. He shall find what to cut. In the meantime, let them remember that I shall find a way that I never abandon him nor he me.’ She was in the habit of practising magic and making magic dolls and spells and using magic ointments.[18] According to Nicolaus Balistrera, Andriocta had been three years married to Chanchia.[19] Balistrera said that Don Petru had told him that the little doll of pitch had been found at his bed in the room he occupied at Rabat inside his father’s house, but Andriocta himself had told him that he had himself placed the pitch there and that it was not ‘magical’.

Case for the defence

On 15 July 1486, Francza was given twelve days to prepare her defence.[20] On 28 July, she presented her defence pleas.[21] She declared that she was innocent of adultery, the practice of magic, and of incest, of uttering threats and slanders in deeds or words. She could possibly have been innocently guilty of incest through not knowing the facts sufficiently, but it was not relevant to this case, and should be excluded from the proceedings.[22] She should be admonished for that by the church and punished if she persisted in that fault.[23] With regards to the accusation [p.145] that she had seduced Andriocta by the practice of magic, she objected that she could not be accused of that by Chanchia because, as a wife, the latter could not accuse her husband nor anyone else of adultery, while – though Andriocta himself had previously kept her publicly as his concubine and they had had four children altogether, boys and girls – they had terminated their relationship on his marriage to Chanchia.[24]

In her seventh and eighth points, Francza (really her lawyer) argued that the statements made by Leonardus de Luchia, Orlandus Chappara and some of the women produced as witnesses by the plaintiffs had to be rejected because it was based on hearsay evidence that the accused had been discovered committing adultery by Chanchia in Ylagia’s house.[25] Against such evidence, one must set that of Ylagia herself. She had denied that they had entered her house to commit adultery, that Andriocta had entered her courtyard accidentally in search of Margarita, Ylagia’s mother. Francia had entered the same courtyard looking for a flame or light, and began to argue with Andriocta over their children. Francza had only shut the door when she saw Chanchia arriving.[26] This testimony negates all that of the others which was based on the hubbub and noise aroused by Chanchia. Though she was alone, she had been produced as a witness by the plaintiffs themselves and her testimony was stronger than that of all the others since she was actually present while the others were not.[27] A witness cannot be rejected by the side itself which produces him.[28] With regard to the alleged practice of magic, though some of the witnesses quite willingly gave evidence against Francza, their accusations really came to nothing. All their evidence that they had heard Andriocta calling Francza a whore and other things did not matter since he had uttered those words in anger.[29] The evidence which Orlandus Chappara gave, concerning the little doll of pitch allegedly found by Don Petrus, cannot be accepted because it did not have the shape of a doll nor was it encircled with hair nor did it have any other sign of magic as Orlandus had stated; Don Petrus had merely found a lump of pitch.[30] Even if it had the shape of a doll, how could Francza have been involved when she hardly ever then spoke to Andriocta? At the time of the discovery, she had no relations left with Andriocta because of her fear of his father, notary Andreas de Benjamin.[31] They would have to reject also the evidence given by Leonardus de Luchia and Ventura, the wife of Marcus [p.146] Poeta, because it was unjust, based on hearsay, and they were her malicious and capital enemies.[32] Nor could one accept the evidence concerning the alleged frustrated and ridiculous words uttered by the accused. Even if she had actually spoken those words, dato et non concesso, she had not done so deliberately but more as a ridiculous and negative joke.[33] She also submitted that if she had sinned in her body and failed to preserve her chastity as an honest woman, yet she had never practised sex with married men nor committed adultery nor was it said or heard that she had had sex with one single married person or kept any such person as her lover, but she had always had relations with sensible (skecti) young men who did not have wives.[34] Nor was it ever truthfully said or heard that she was a witch or that she had ever practised magic and, though she had been regarded and treated as a sinful woman, yet she had never been treated or called a witch nor one who had ever separated a man from his wife but merely a woman who sinned with unmarried youths and men.[35]

On 19 July, the defence detailed its objections to the evidence of five named witnesses. Leonardus de Lucia was described as a capital enemy of Francza. In fact, proceedings were in progress in the town mayor’s court of Gozo as a result of a report laid against him by Francza herself that he had gone up, by stealth, on to the roof of Francza’s house at Rabat, Gozo, during night-time while she was asleep inside together with her four little girls, and he overturned some of the large corner stones on to the roof itself in order to bring it down on to the family lying in bed inside. He was also accused of various other injuries, both verbal and material.[36] He was an evil man, of a bad reputation and condition of life, proud and arrogant and very presumptuous, consequently nicknamed lu xauriatu and was better known as lu xauriatu than by his proper name Nardu de Lucia, because he was ‘fantastic’ and arrogant, or as was commonly said ysvintato.[37] He was also a relative of the plaintiffs. He hated the accused so much that he had gone in search of witnesses himself in the present case in favour of the plaintiffs and against the accused, prompting them on how they had to testify.[38] He had lent money to Chanchia’s own brothers to cover the court expenses, telling them ‘Start the proceedings against her and I shall lend and supply you with all the net expenses, and you will have her little house for the expenses you make in the present accusation, and I shall buy and take the said little house from you to cover the money I shall have lent you, and I shall keep my mule in her house.’[39]

[p.147] Orlandus Chappara was an indiscrete rustic, a coarse fellow, and a habitual liar.[40] It was enough to refer to his testimony on the alleged finding of a doll of pitch by Don Petrus de Benjamin and the alleged statement by the latter that ‘This is magic made by that bawd against my brother’ when Don Petrus himself had testified that the pitch did not have the shape of a doll, it was not found under Andriocta’s capicio, nor had he mentioned Francza at all.[41] Ventura, the wife of Marcus Poeta, was of a bad reputation and condition and lived in adultery; she was so shameless that she kept her illegitimate son with her and fed him in front of her own husband. She was a very malicious enemy of the accused and had quarrelled with her previously on several occasions, uttering injurious language at her expense both in her presence and her absence and had, on innumerable occasions, instigated and moved Chanchia to bring her allegation before the court.[42] Ventura provoked the accused extremely frequently with her injurious and defamatory words to report her to the town mayor, who laid Ventura under an obligation not to disturb or molest her any further.[43] Tiresa Kerdach, the daughter of Stephen, was a most vile person, a prostitute and a public call-girl; you found her wherever you wanted, a liar who specialized especially, owing to her vile life, in copulating with slaves, a wife without faith or reputation. Among her other depravities, she habitually copulated with Juliano, the slave belonging to Donna Manna, Chanchia’s own sister.[44] She had frequently quarrelled with Francza and had the greatest possible hatred for her, and spoke the worst things about her, both in her presence and her absence. Tiresa and Ventura hated Francza so much that, the night Francza was locked up by order of the Vicar, they both danced publicly in the courtyard of their house as well as in the public thoroughfare, shouting hux hux, meaning ‘I’m happy that Francza is gone to prison and is shut up and locked inside the mahaseni’.[45] Antona, the widow of Raymundi Guyne, was an extremely poor woman, a public enemy of the accused who had been quarrelling with her for years, making atrocious accusations against her.

The witnesses Francza produced on 28 July 1486 to support her allegations against the witnesses brought by the plaintiffs were numerous. Lucas de Truntino had never heard for the whole time he had known Francza that she had had sexual relations with married men nor that she had committed adultery, nor had he ever heard in the town of Gozo that she was a witch or had performed witchcraft or [p.148] kept a husband from his wife.[46] The nobleman Johannes de Pontitremulu insisted that he only knew the accused as a sinner but not a witch nor as one who kept husbands from their wives but one who had relations with unmarried youths and men who did not have the responsibility of wives. He had known her both at Rabat and the walled town of Gozo.[47] His kinsman Petrus de Pontitremulu explained that Francza had been going to Notary Andreas’s house at Rabat during the last two months only because Notary Andreas was talking and defending the accused, while Andriocta used to go to that house only before he got married.[48] This was supported by Henericus Chahura.[49]

Franciscus Riera described Leonardus de Luchia as one who va supra di se, presumptuous and somewhat proud, this being the reason why he was better known as lu xauriatu rather than by his personal name. He was personally related to Chianchia. He hated Francza and wished her evil. Orlandus Chappara was not a Gozitan and somewhat foolish: he had frequently seen him speaking without any discretion against his late father Johannes Chappara. Ventura had sinned once with a young person before her marriage and had a child whom she was now bringing up in her husband’s house. He had never heard any other ill spoken against her since then. Tiresa Stephani Kerdach was a prostitute who copulated with all and sundry.[50] He had frequently seen Julian, the slave belonging to Leonardus de Naso and Manna, Chanchia’s sister, entering her house. Tiresa and Francza both hated each other and he had frequently seen them fighting and calling each other names.[51]

The deacon Don Petrus Benjamin, Chanchia’s brother-in-law, declared that he had found a lump of pitch some two years before in his father’s house at Rabat where Andriocta normally slept. He showed it to his father who, however, did not find any resemblance to a doll or any sign of magic or any hair. He also confirmed that, at that time, Francza did not frequent that house owing to her fear of notary Andrea, Andriocta’s father.[52] Bertolus Delfinu said that when Francza was arrested in a store room belonging to the Bishop’s Vicar of Gozo, he had seen Tiresa Stephani Kirdac dancing in the public street before Francza’s house ‘in the way they usually dance’, but did not know why.[53] Cesaria, Paul Calleya’s wife, also reported the dancing both by Tiresa and Vintura: ‘they were delighted and danced in the middle of the public street at the misfortune of the accused’. The [p.149] nobleman Nicolaus Riera stated, among a multitude of things already reported by others, that Orlandu Chappara was not a Gozitan, being a burgisanu (from Birgu?).[54] Lagia, the widow of Johannis de Luchia, had seen Antona, the widow of Raymundi Hueyne, and Francza quarrelling within the past year, and she thought they were still hostile to each other.[55] According to Maria, the widow of Andria Muchutara, Leonardus de Luchia, Ventura and Tiresa had all quarrelled with the accused within the past year, the last of which incidents she had herself actually witnessed.[56]

Further legal arguments

On 8 August 1486, Francza’s accusers returned to the charge, insisting that the witnesses produced by the plaintiffs were all affirming while those of the accused were denying charges, as ‘both by canon as well as civil law greater credibility was to be given to two witnesses who affirm than to a thousand who are denying.’[57] They prove that the accused herself had, on several occasions, said that Andriocta had been having sexual relations with her right down to that very day. On 12 September, however, Francza denied this charge in front of the vicar-general himself, notary Gullielmus [de Sansone], and the lawyer Johannes de Cantore, though she was not under oath.[58] When Chianchia and Andriocta, the previous summer, had spent some days in their vineyard called Billaha [Bellieg˙a], even sleeping there, Francza herself was seen going there at night-time on several occasions; by her practice of magic she caused Andriocta to leave his wife’s side and go to her, having sex with her there under the trees of the vineyard. It should not surprise anyone that Francza used magic because her mother’s sister had herself been burnt as a witch in the Castle-by-the-Sea. Francza, however, denied all the charges.[59] This is the only known instance of witch-burning in the whole of Maltese history. On 10 August, she laid herself under an obligation not to leave the house of the nobleman Lancza de Pontitremulo, who also stood surety for her appearance in court under a penalty of ten uncie, the surety being renewed twenty days later.[60]

On 10 August, Francza asked for at least fourteen of the witnesses to be questioned on a number of points: whether they were her enemies and had quarrelled with her and had exchanged injurious language with her, whether  [p.150] they hated her and wished for her being found guilty in the present proceedings, whether they had provided information to Chanchia and her brothers and reported any bad rumours about her, whether they were friends or related to the plaintiffs, or to Antonius and Matheus, Chanchia’s brothers, whether – as they had said that they knew from common knowledge and reputation, but had said also that Francza and Andriocta had been caught in fragrante – what they understood by this phrase and what was ‘public fame’ and where they had obtained this information. As some of them had stated that they knew ex voce notoria, let them explain what vox notoria was.[61]

However, on 19 August, a further witness for the prosecution was produced by the plaintiffs: Margarita, the widow of Paulus de la Barba, in fact then stated in court that Francza had told her that Andriocta had not abandoned her after his marriage but still kept her as his lover. She had heard from several persons that Francza still visited him at night-time in a house at Rabat and slept with him there and that Francza had beaten out of jealousy the daughter of ‘Gayusa’ [sic].[62]

On 11 September 1486, it was argued in court that no account should be taken of Francza’s alleged ‘ridiculous’ statements reported by some women that she had told them ‘What do I care if they put me to shame, as I shall take him [ie. Andriocta] publicly, and separate him from her like hair from pastry.’ Even if she had uttered these words, they had not been spoken calmly and with consideration but only in a joking and playful manner, more to spite and annoy them because of their desire to see harm come to her being put to shame and condemned and punished. This can be proved by her further statement that if the vicar-general went over to Gozo she would put on her choppa and arrange herself and go to him, words which were obviously spoken in joke and fun ‘as sometimes women do, especially prostitutes, but to the wind and not factually’. A prudent and circumspect judge should consider such words well and examine the spirit with which they were spoken, whether thoughtlessly and without consideration, or in fun or as a joke or as a slip of the tongue or lightness of head, and so judge with prudence and discretion.[63]

On 18 September 1486, the plaintiffs presented their final arguments against the accused.[64] They insisted that Francza had continued her relationship with Andriocta even after his marriage. The evidence of Orlandus Chappara on her dealings in magic could not be challenged since it was supported by that of other witnesses, especially that of Nicolaus Balistrera, who had cited Don Petrus himself and others. Don Petrus’s present evidence on the matter deviates [p.151] from the truth but only because of his emotional ties since he was the brother of Andriocta and son of notary Andrea Benjamin who had made Francza’s case his own, refusing to take the part of Chanchia’s husband, his own son. Notary Andreas had quarrelled with Antonius and Matheus, the sons of Andreas de Bisconis, Chanchia’s brothers, provoking them to a fight, and insulting them because of their support of the proceedings. Two of the witnesses produced by Francza, the brothers Nicolaus and Franciscus Riera, should be challenged because they had been influenced by their emotional ties as nephews of notary Andreas’s wife Catherina. Franciscus Riera had supported notary Andreas when he had burst out against Antonius and Matheus when he reviled them atrociously before the sub-vicar of Gozo and other excellent men in the square of Rabat, provoking them both to a great fight of rage and anger. Francza’s witnesses had given their evidence negatively and they were moved by their emotional feelings and hatreds. Johannes de Pontitremulo, Petrus de Pontitremulo and Silvester de Nicolachio were themselves all related to Francza, though through illegitimate lines. The argument that Antona, Vintura and Tiresa had been influenced by their hatred for Francza when they gave evidence was wrong because they were all her friends both before and after they had testified since they continued to speak to one another like neighbours, and whatever went on between them occurred in the way usual with women, that from light banter they had been provoked by the accused to quarrels, bombast and insults. Francza had, after the beginning of the proceedings, boasted that she had had sexual relations with Andriocta less than a month before.

New witnesses

On 9 October 1486, the court assembled in Gozo, the Vicar-General himself and his assessor being present. They heard several new witnesses. The nobleman Fridericus Pontitremulo said that he had known that the notary Andreas Benjamin had married Catherina and that they lived together as husband and wife for the last forty years. He also stated that Angelu de Nicolachi was his own maternal uncle as well as that of his two brothers, Johannes and Petrus, and the paternal brother of Silvester di Nicolachio. He had procreated illegimately from a female slave another slave called Mica, from whom was born the late Antoni Gurabe, who was Francza’s maternal grandfather. Thus Francza was descended from slaves and freedmen belonging to Angelus de Nicolachi, who had freed her ancestors. He had known all that during the course of the previous fifty years.[65] The nobleman Andreas de Algaria confirmed that Francza and Andriocta had been seeing each other at night-time and in day-time both before Andriocta’s marriage and after, [p.152] but he could not tell whether it was for sex or otherwise. Notary Andreas de Benjamino was Francza’s lawyer, working in her favour. He had himself some five months before, at the entrance to the walled town of Gozo, asked Francza in a joking manner how much time had passed since she had last had sex with Andriocta. She answered laughing that four months had already elapsed.[66] Guillelmu Hueyne said that he had himself seen Francza in the house at Rabat which belonged to notary Andreas de Benjamin in the presence of Andriocta. When notary Andreas had spoken in the public square at Rabat against the two brothers of Chanchia in the presence of the sub-vicar of Gozo, Franciscus Riera, his kinsman, spoke in Andreas’ favour in anger against the other two. Guillelmus Hueyne himself was present.[67] The sub-vicar of Gozo, Don Antonius de Caxario, stated that Notary Andreas de Benjamin was Francza’s lawyer and defender and spoke in her favour. When he uttered some blistering words to Antonius and Matheus de Bisconis, Chanchia’s brothers, Franciscus Riera, his wife’s nephew who had been produced as a witness by Francza, also quarrelled with the other two in favour of Notary Andreas and Francza with much yelling and shouting.[68]

The Judgement

On 3 January 1487, sentence was delivered by the ecclesiastical tribunal consisting of the Vicar-General of the diocese of Malta, Don Michael Fauczono, his judge and kinsman, Andreas de Fauczono, and the court registrar or notary. It was announced that, as no written or proposed accusation by the plaintiffs against Francza was to be found, and acknowledging the good faith of the plaintiffs and their withdrawal of the charge, and in view of the fact also that Francza had stayed so long shut up in the public jail, and that the Church did not punish with an avenging sword, they declared Francza freed from the present proceedings. The sentence was published and promulgated in Malta before the nobleman Johannes de Guivara, Don Petrus Fauzuni, Don Thumeus de Bordino, Don Petrus Paulus de Fauzono, Don Guillelmus de Fauzono and others.[69]

* *Godfrey Wettinger is a medieval historian, Professor Emeritus of History and Senior Fellow of the University of Malta where he has been lecturing since 1972. He studied History at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels as an external student of the University of London, obtaining his PhD in 1971. He was a fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, in 1985/86. He obtained recognition in 1968 when he published, with Michael Fsadni OP, Peter Caxaro’s Cantilena: A Poem in Medieval Maltese, republished with additions in a Maltese version in 1983. Prof Wettinger has published numerous scholarly papers in prestigious journals at Malta and abroad and has taken part in various international conferences on medieval history. His published books include: The Jews of Malta in the Middle Ages (1985); Acta Juratorum et Consilii Civitatis et Insulae Maltae (1993); Place-Names of the Maltese Islands ca.1300-1800 (2000); Slavery in the Islands of Malta and Gozo ca.1000-1812 (2002), and Kliem Malti Qadim (2006). He has also contributed to joint scholarly publications that include: Medieval Malta: Studies on Malta before the Knights, ed. A.T. Luttrell (London 1975); Ħal Millieri: A Maltese Casale, its Churches and Paintings, ed. A. Luttrell (1976); Excavations at Ħal Millieri, Malta, eds. T.F.C. Blagg, A. Bonnano & A.T. Luttrell (1990); and Documentary Sources of Maltese History – Part III Documents of the Maltese Universitas – No. 1 Cathedral Museum, Mdina, Archivum Cathedralis Melitae, Miscellanea 33: 1405- 1542, eds. J. Del Amo Garc?a, S. Fiorini & G. Wettinger (2001). Prof Wettinger, a founder member of the Malta Historical Society, is a past President of the MHS and former editor of Melita Historica. He is also a Member of the National Order of Merit of Malta.

[1] On 8 August 1486, her full name is given as ‘Franciam mulieris filiam quondam Salvi Attardi et cognominatam de Gurabe’: Cath. Mus., Mdina, Malta (CMM), Curia Episcopalis Melitensis (CEM), Acta Originalia (AO), vol. 1, f. 252. However, other passages give her father’s name as Antonius: ibid., ff. 256 and 258. From the evidence given by Fridericus de Pontitremulo, it would appear that Antonius was the grandfather: see infra, p. 16.

[2] The case is to be found in CMM, CEM, AO, vol. 1, ff. 211-67v. The original letter from the Curia in Malta now appears as f. 212rv. It was dated 19 June but presented to the court two days later.

[3] Letter dated 21 June 1486 in ibid., f. 213rv. It was presented in court on 14 July 1486.

[4] Ibid, ff. 211-215v.

[5]E comu mi ha factu beni Margarita tua matri che mi divia viniri ad ajutari a zappuliari cuctuni et mi gabbau.’, ibid., f. 216v.

[6] Ibid., f. 217v.

[7] Ibid., ff. 217v-218.

[8] Ibid., ff. 219rv.

[9] Ibid., ff. 218v-219.

[10] Ibid., ff. 219rv.

[11] Ibid., ff. 220v-221.

[12] Ibid., ff. 221v-222.

[13] Ibid., ff. 222v.

[14] Ibid., ff. 223v-224.

[15]vidit quandam mulierem conbuglata more solita Gaudisanorum ad quam testis ipsa andau et canuxiula et atrovau a la dicta Chancha accusatrichi’, ibid., f. 223v.

[16] Evidence of Bezia, wife of the craftsman Micael Bringeli, 9 July 1486: ibid., f. 225v.

[17] Evidence dated 12 July 1486: ibid., ff. 225v-226.

[18] Ibid., ff. 227v-229.

[19] Ibid., f. 229v.

[20] Ibid., f. 230v.

[21] Ibid., ff. 232-235v.

[22] Ibid., f. 232.

[23] Ibid., f. 232v.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid., f. 233.

[26] Ibid., ff. 233rv.

[27] This was point 11: ibid., f. 233v.

[28] Ibid., pt. 12.

[29] Ibid., para. 13 and 14.

[30] Ibid., f. 234, para. 15.

[31] Ibid., f. 234v, paras. 16 and 17.

[32] Ibid., para. 18.

[33] Ibid., ff. 234v-235, paras. 19 and 20.

[34] Ibid., f. 235, para. 21.

[35] Ibid., para. 22.

[36] Ibid., ff. 236rv.

[37]ut vulgo dicitur ysvintato’: ibid., f. 236v.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid., f. 237.

[40] 'quod dictus Orlandis [Chapara] fuit et est rusticus indiscretus et valide grossalis homo solitus et assuetus mentiri': ibid.

[41] Ibid., ff.237rv

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid., f.238

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid., f. 240.

[47] Ibid., ff. 240v-241.

[48] Ibid., f. 241.

[49] Ibid.

[50]dicta Tiresa fuit et est femina meretrix la quali si fucti cum omni unu et esti un pocu mirsunara’: ibid., f. 242.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Testimony given on 4 August 1486: ibid., f.242v.

[53] Ibid., f. 243v.

[54] Ibid., f. 247v.

[55] Ibid., f. 248.

[56] Ibid., ff. 248rv.

[57] Ibid., ff. 252rv.

[58] Ibid., f. 252v.

[59] Ibid., ff. 252v-253.

[60] Ibid., f. 257v.

[61] Ibid., ff. 256rv.

[62] Ibid., ff. 253 and 254.

[63] Ibid., ff. 258rv.

[64] Ibid., ff. 260-262v.

[65] Ibid., ff. 264rv.

[66] Ibid., ff. 264v-265.

[67] Ibid., ff. 265rv.

[68] Ibid., f. 266.

[69] Ibid., f. 266v.