The tragic love of Maria d’Avalos for Fabrizio Carafa

San Domenico Maggiore Square in Naples, Palazzo Sansevero, 1590: This is the scene and the time of the cruelest crimes took place in Naples, caused by a love story between two beautiful young, Maria d’Avalos and Fabrizio Carafa.
Maria D’Avalos belonged to one of the noblest and most powerful families of the kingdom, an ancestor of Maria, Ferrante D’Avalos, had married the famous poetess Vittoria Colonna, his father Carlo had even been baptized by emperor Charles V.

Maria D’Avalos was married in third marriage with Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa. Her two previous husbands were Federico Carafa with whom he had a children, Federico Carafa died in 1578, and Alfonso Gioeni who died in 1586.

Her third husband Carlo Gesualdo, with whom she had a son, belonged to one of the most powerful family in the kingdom, was a nephew of Carlo Borromeo, the future saint, also was the nephew of Pope Pius IV.

Carlo Gesualdo, not particularly attractive, was versed in literary studies and had a particular fondness for music. He played several instruments and dabbled in composing music and madrigals.

Piazza S. Domenico Maggiore - by Wikipedia: Lalupa
Piazza S. Domenico Maggiore – by Wikipedia: Lalupa

Mary and Carlo, married, lived in a building opposite the church of San Domenico Maggiore, which was later inhabited by Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, famous scholar and alchemist of ‘700, and is now known as the Palazzo Sansevero.
Fabrizio Carafa, Duca D’Andria, was married to Maria Carafa, very religious woman and devoted to her family, with whom he had four children; the couple lived in the family palace in S. Marcellino Square.

Maria D’Avalos, beautiful, young and thirsty of love, could not be satisfied with her husband, ugly, scholar, musician but not particularly gifted in performance amorous. She met at a dance the beautiful and fiery Fabrizio Carafa, not inclined to marital fidelity; it was inevitable that the two, dancing dancing, popped a spark.

Soon, after a few “casual” meeting at parties, the sympathy between the two young began to turn into love; Finally, the two arranged a love match; Maria feigned an illness while walking in the Chiaia street, finding a welcome house friends who stood nearby; Fabrizio was waiting in the house.

This was followed by other meetings, and the passion and love took over the initial caution of the two lovers.

Now their love story were known from everybody, subtle allusions in the noble salons and chatter of the people told about the love of Maria D’Avalos with her handsome Fabrizio and their trysts.
These meetings, passing the time, were increasingly bold and occurred even in the room of Maria in the Palace of the family.

It was inevitable that sooner or later the husband of Maria, Carlo Gesualdo, because of talk that also came to his ears, came to suspect the affair but, being deeply in love with his wife, and being sure to reciprocate the same love, He did not want to believe what was being reported.

However he concocted a ruse to see if what was said was true. He pretended to organize a hunting party to Astroni telling his wife that definitely, because of the prolongation of the hunting, would find lodging for the night at an inn near the forest of Astroni, inn that already had used in the past for the considerable distance among Astroni and home.
The afternoon set left for the hunt, but instead of going in the resort of Astroni, hid in a friend’s house, near Palazzo Sansevero; there waited until late at night.

Meanwhile, with the help of her maid, in the night Maria had come into the her house and received her lover in his room, recommending the maid to stand guard in the next room; the maid, against her will, fell asleep.

Carlo Gesualdo went home at midnight, before entering he met his factotum Bardotti which had already been put on notice by the Prince; they armed with a blunderbuss and halberd entered the building without being heard, and they went into the room of Maria D’Avalos who was surprised together in bed with Fabrizio Carafa.

Prince blinded by jealousy struck with a musket shot his wife’s lover who was over from Bardotti blows of pike. Then he killed his wife with a dagger and halberd.

Soon after they began looking for the waitress to make her the same fate, but she was quickly hidden under the bed of the little son of the Prince, not to wake the baby, was not made a thorough search, partly because the Bardotti harbored some sympathy for the maid so that was saved.

The morning after the viceregal prosecutor intervened for investigation of the case, where the Prince showed the unexpected his return as not premeditated, but due to a mishap, and thus the crime was listed as honor killing, not starting legal proceedings against the Prince and his factotum that the investigation proved no stranger to crime.

In the days following the Prince did expose the naked bodies of the two killed on the staircase to access the palace, where the people could see the consequences of the offense taken to the prince. 

The pressures of the Neapolitan nobility, concerned about the scandal and revenge of the families of origin of the two lovers, not for the murder of the Prince who was then considered quite legitimate given the offense suffered, but to treat made hateful to corpses, they obtained that the bodies were collected by their relatives for a proper burial.

Carlo Gesualdo, fearful for revenge that had sworn Giulio Carafa, nephew Fabrizio Carafa, took refuge in his castle at Gesualdo, near Avellino. Later he remarried in Ferrara with Eleonora D’Este, virtuous woman and passionate music, with whom he had a son who died at the tender age of three.

Castello di Gesualdo - by Wikipedia: Gopes 77
Castello di Gesualdo – by Wikipedia: Gopes 77

The Prince cultivated his passion for music, bringing together in Gesualdo the most famous musicians of the time. He is still considered one of the greatest madrigalist of his era. The theatre of Avellino was called Carlo Gesualdo in his honour.

He died in 1615 and was buried in the church of the Gesù Nuovo, because he did not want to be buried in San Domenico Maggiore, where rested the remains of his first wife Maria d’Avalos.