APT Basilicata

APT Basilicata

Basilicata turistica

Riccardo da Venosa

a cura di Giovanni Caserta

In 1854 Du Méril discovered the 500 Code, where there was a strange poem in elegiac distic – Libellus De Paulino et Polla –by a Mr Riccardo from Venosa. On the basis of careful researches and of some information drew from the text, he discovered in the libellus a kind of written comedy then read in front of the Emperor Federico II. It was the XIII century. Further studies gave us the probable year of the recitation, maybe the 1232, after the Emperor had issued the Constitutiones of Melfi and he also needed some rest as he had just came back from the Holy Land. It is also confirmed that Riccardo from Venosa was a judge ad contractus (justice of the peace), who, venusiae gentis alumnus, worked by Federico’s court and who in 1266 when Carlo D’Angiò arrived, he was already dead or maybe he was killed by him. Infact Carlo D’Angiò ordered his men to destroy all persons and cities supporting the Svevo party. Potenza was one of the cities literally destroyed.

The Libellus belongs to the “elegiac comedy” genre, a medieval genre, which in a dialogic way, replaced the theatre but it was not theatre because it did not have any performance. Unlike the “elegiac comedy”, which usually deals with erotic themes, although in a comic way, imitating Ovidio and with mithologic characters, Riccardo from Venosa deals with everyday life themes described with its grotesque, funny and astute aspects. His model was over all Orazio, who in Venosa was tutelary deity too.

Riccardo from Venosa wrote a story about the old low Polla, who, toothless and tottering, wants to marry the old Paolino, who was sexually unsuitable for marriage. This story was written in orden to entertain the clever and easy going Emperor, but also to follow the spirit of modernity of the Court of Federico II.

When Paolino was a young boy, he wanted to marry Polla; but she had always refused him. Now the positions are bravely reversed. Polla goes to a kind of iudex ad contractus (justice of the peace), Fulcone, who is the Riccardo comic and autoironical stand-in. The argumentations to convince Paolino are those of such a situation. A woman is useful at home, especially when you are old …Paolina has got a good dowry and is a hard-working woman…You might also have some sexual pleasure…The comedy of course has an happy end because they get married but the poor Fulcone falls into an open-air cesspool. This event was very common at that time, as we read in Boccaccio as well. Dogs and common people laugh and mock at the poor judge, who, only after a trial, could clear himself of the charge of being a night thief.

The Libellus was written in medieval Latin but it doesn’t ignore classic Latin rules. It shows the reader the Southern provinces world, the country, feudal and suburban village left without progress after the arrival of the Angiò and so of the Guelfism in a transitional period , from Middle Age to the Modern Age. On the other side it shows the Svevo confident and promising Ghibellinism. The story is very lively, that is to say “at full speed” and subverts all the often hypocrite commonplaces of the great old world, religion, honesty, loyalty, moderation, money contempt (which instead is perceived as the new Divinity).This deconsecration hit Orazio as well, in his gentle tone. His country world, for example, represented by a good father and the wise Ofello, becomes all volgus profanum (rude people), precursor of Morgante by Pulci or, more and more, Spanish picari’s brother or precursor of Bertoldo and Bertoldino so much that someone said for its spirit of modernity the Libellus might have been written in the Renaissance. But we forget the Age of Federico was really an attempt to overcome the Middle Age, it prefigured a rebirth, which, unlike in the Centre and North of Italy, didn’t occur in the South of Italy.

Many are the affinities of the Libellus with the contemporaneous and most famous Contrasto by Cielo D’Alcamo.

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