Caracciolo, Enrichetta (1821-1901)
Enrichetta Caracciolo is known for a single work: her controversial memoir entitled Misteri del chiostro napoletano. The work, published in 1864, gave an intimate account of Caracciolo's twenty years of forced monachization in a Benedictine convent. Because it exposed the hypocrisy within the walls of San Gregorio in Naples, the book was seen as a calculated attack on the Church and immediately provoked harsh criticism. Misteri del chiostro napoletano was evidently widely read: the work was popular enough that the first edition was reprinted six times in Italy and English and French translations appeared within one year of its initial publication. The scandalous publication of this memoir resulted in Caracciolo's excommunication from the Church.
Enrichetta Caracciolo was born February 17, 1871 in Naples to Gennaro Caracciolo, Prince of Fornio, and Teresa Cutelli. Caracciolo was christened Enrichetta after a sister of her father's who had also been a Benedictine nun. Gennaro Caracciolo's military career forced the family to move frequently throughout the South: Naples, Bari, and Calabria. Maria Bandini Buti paints Caracciolo as an impulsive and uncontrollable character who entered the convent out of romantic fantasy and not out of serious vocation. As proof of her assertion, Bandini Buti offers Caracciolo's marriage to Greuthen, a Neapolitan patriot of English descent, which took place shortly after her release from the convent. Caracciolo's memoir differs dramatically from Bandini Buti's account: Misteri del chiostro napoletano tells the story of a twenty year-old girl who is forced by her family to become a nun. Caracciolo is clear in her view of the convent as a prison that robbed her of her youth. After twenty years struggling with Neapolitan cardinal Riario Sforza, Caracciolo was finally released from her vows in 1861.
Misteri del chiostro napoletano is unquestionably Caracciolo's most significant work. Its publication attracted the attention of well-known critics and authors such as Alessandro Manzoni and Luigi Settembrini. She also published a political play in 1866, Un delitto impunito: fatto storico del 1838, as well as Un episodio dei misteri del Chiostro Napolitano (1883), a five-act play based on of her infamous memoir. A new edition of Misteri del chiostro napoletano was published in 1964, the centennial of the original work, and a critical edition with notes by Maria Rosa Cutrufelli was published in 1991.
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