Francine Leona Fratelli
(Aunt, bossy Italian matriarch)
Born in 1779 on Oct, 22nd. Native sister to Francesco Fratelli and sister-in-law to Maria Lucia. Early on, she bonded closely with the Lucia family even though they were slightly less wealthy than the Fratellis. It is very likely that Francine set up her brother with young, comely Maria, suggesting their courtship and subtly acquainting them to each other over a period of 7 years.
Controlling and assertive in temperament, she purchased a house for the newlyweds and named their first child, Angelo. Unbeknownst to her, Francesco and Maria had already produced another son before their marriage but it didn’t matter for she took utmost pride in naming this “first son”.
Francine married Rudolfo Ariani one year after her own sister’s wedding but kept the Fratelli name. She bore three daughters: Iona, Francesca and Philomena. Her husband, already quite aged, died 5 years after Philomena’s birth. Often, she spent long afternoons watching Angelo in addition to her own children. Though harsh and domineering, Francine worked well with children, teaching things ranging from local geography to the proper manner of addressing nobility.
She continually made decisions for the Fratelli family, managing their wealth, hiring those who worked for them and providing burial for their parents. When Maria fell ill, she brought upon herself the task of taking Angelo to daily Mass and instructing him in etiquette. During these instructions she was utmost strict. After Francesco died in 1817, Francine prepared to take their son in when he entered seminary instead of moving with her. Since, she has felt slighted by this deliberate act of independence and renunciation of marriage.
Inheriting much wealth from the Fratelli family, Francine funded Angelo’s priestly education, though still opposed to it, and bought a fine villa for herself in the city of Lucca.
Her behavior towards Angelo, as a grown man and priest, hasn’t changed much from how she treated him as a child. He is always a little boy in her eyes. After her three daughters were wed to respectable men, she tried convincing Angelo to forsake holy orders and embrace family life. Needless to say, this failed.
Born on a fair, May morning in 1803, Michele Dominici was the daughter of a lawyer and seamstress. Her father, Damiano Dominici put her though the highest-ranking schools. A majority of her fine dresses were made by her own mother Anabella Quentino. During her childhood years, Michele lived nest to the bustling Fratelli house. She played with Angelo every afternoon following school and sometimes joined Francine’s daughters in their games. The girls playacted fairy-tales and fantasies, which always revolved around meeting a handsome prince.
Michele’s family wasn’t incredibly religious. Although faithful Catholics who attended Sunday Mass, her parents taught that a good heart was more important than good religion. They also encouraged her to read books and see numerous plays. Soon, she favored these more than school. As a consequence of her idyllic childhood, Michele spent most days yearning after fantasies and basking in earthly beauty.
At age 18, she left the boardinghouse for girls where she’d been voluntarily placed and lived with a young artist in Lucca. Their relationship was chaste and friendly. At 21, Michele traveled to Florence and spent all her money on visiting museums, purchasing art and dining. Then she lived with her parents.
Well into adulthood, Michele still believes herself somewhat to be a child or fragile damsel waiting upon rescue and adoration. She remains unmarried because, in her view, no man has proved himself worthy of her affections.
(Awkward Prince of the Church, blushing virgin, unseemly hero)
The son of Maria and Francesco Fratelli, Angelo was born on April, 6, 1801. He knew nothing of his older brother, preceding him by 4 years nor did his parents ever disclose this. Named “Angelo”, after the angel who appeared in Luke’s Gospel by his aunt Francine, he grew up in a nearly perfect home. He had many childhood friends. Dearest to him were: Francesca, his own cousin, Gino, a boy who eventually joined the military, and of course, Michele, the girl next door.
Angelo’s parents attended Mass daily at Lucca’s local church and instilled within him deep piety. He tried joining the boys’ choir at age 10 but lacked a skilled voice and so became an altar server. A wealthy child who indulged in fine sweets, Angelo was overweight thus subjected to torment by other boys. Strong support from family and the parish priest, Father Antonio, helped him cope. When 13, Angelo expressed desire to be a priest, causing his parents joy- and his aunt chagrin. He studied Scripture during free time after school.
Despite the vigorous discipline of seminary and buffeting from his aunt Francine, Angelo developed high self-esteem, thinned down and blossomed into a man. Angelo’s talent for oratory and preaching yielded a mixed blessing as he attracted Lucca’s townspeople, who came great distances to hear him speak, generated attention from higher clergy and even gained the notice of the pope!
Ultimately, due to this great gift, Angelo was summoned to Rome and appointed the cardinal bishop of Lucca. He has found this position of great authority and honor also to be a rather mixed blessing.
Gianni’s true birthdate is unknown- as are the identities of his parents. From a very young age, he found himself homeless, hungry and having to survive the streets of Lucca. Needless to say, Gianni acquired a penchant for slyness, thievery and judging people’s motives. When he was 10, a very old woman took him in only to die a year later. Making off with some of her jewelry and coins, Gianni sold these and bought a small apartment. When the money was gone, he resumed life on the streets. He seldom attended church, only doing so to snatch offerings or candlesticks, but wandered into Lucca’s cathedral one, cold night and met an unsuspecting clergyman who changed his life.
It’s not from resent that Gianni mocks and annoys Cardinal Fratelli but rather to display misplaced admiration. Being without a father for so long, he scarcely knows how to react to Fratelli’s masculine authority. Gianni tests the cardinal, seeing if he’ll abandon him like the rest.
To be continued…