The Pio Monte dei Marinai of Procida, the precursor of insurance

by Federico Quagliuolo

Centuries ago i sea works they were extremely risky, between storms, pirate attacks and adventures on unexplored coasts. For this reason, in 1617, the citizens of Procida decided to create an institution that would provide for the ransom of imprisoned sailors at war or enslaved by pirates, but soon he also took care of paying for one pension to senior sailors and even a replacement income for the injured. Today it still exists and is the Archconfraternity of the Pio Monte dei Marinai of Procida, which is based in yellow church which welcomes all visitors in the small square of the port of the island.
Attention: it was originally called “Pio Monte dei Marinari", With R.

Il Pio Monte dei Marinai di Procida, il precursore delle assicurazioni

The golden age of piracy

At the time of its foundation it was called "Redemption column”And, just as the name implied, it was an institution born to pay the ransoms of Procidan sailors captured by pirates that haunted the seas around the world. It was born with the intention of creating an autonomous institution compared to Monte di Pietà of Naples (who paid the ransoms from 1539), so as to no longer be dependent on the mainland. However, its functions soon extended to the point of becoming amutual insurance in the modern sense of the term, just as they were being born in Genoa and London in those years.

The seventeenth century was indeed the golden age of piracy and honest sea workers were constantly taking risks: if in the Mediterranean i Saracen pirates had been assaulting coasts and ships of Western peoples for at least a thousand years, the new trade routes of the Americas had created new havens for privateers. THE Caribbean in particular they became the center of piracy, with the legendary Port Royal, the most infamous city in the world that still feeds the fantasies of adventure movies and stories.

What does little Procida have to do with the islands on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean?
Port Royal was also frequented by islanders, as well as the coasts of almost all the commercial places of the time. The naval tradition of the island, on the other hand, was already known by the ancient Romans.
Procida has few lands, steep and rugged cliffs and a past life behind the fertile Ischia (so much so that Pliny the Elder, in his Historia Naturalis, he wondered if Procida and Ischia had once been united): unable to afford a pastoral life, she was forced to make the sea her strong point. And so he baked generations of formidable navigators who found a home in the 1700s, when the naval school still existing today.
An example? The navigator of Procida who was personally called by Nicholas I, Tsar of Russia, to bring the bronze horses that today stand in front of the National Library from St. Petersburg to Naples.
But it also brings so much fame many risks: the pirate assaults they were very frequent in the wild seas of the seventeenth century and it was not at all easy to bring the skin safe and sound home.

Logo originale Pio Monte dei Marinai
The original logo of the Pio Monte dei Marinari

How did the Pio Monte dei Marinai in Procida work?

The statute was approved on April 12, 1617 and limited enrollment to "sailors, boatmen or ship owners". Guaranteed a series of benefits compared to the payment of a quarter of the earnings from maritime activity.
Before starting the insurance business, however, the religion, which has always been a faithful companion of all men of the sea: the church of Maria Santissima della Pietà, which still exists today.
The Pio Monte dei Marinai however, it remained a secular institution and it was not run by clergymen. The initiative got the approval of Pope Urban VIII, which with a bull allowed the construction of the church and the establishment of the institution.

In addition to the ransom "for fifty ducats" for the sailors caught, the Pio Monte dei Marinai took care of pay a subsidy to disabled or injured members, which obviously could no longer sail the seas. A great innovation was also the introduction of one first form of pension, to be allocated to seamen with an age so advanced that they can no longer carry out their work.

There was even a form of insurance for marriages without children: if a sailor married a "defective" daughter (according to the canons of the time) and the latter died childless, the Institute paid her husband 30 ducats by way of compensation. Obviously, all the weddings and religious functions of the members of the institution had to be celebrated inside the church they built: it was a real contractual obligation.

The institute was managed by four treasurers and a chancellor, appointed by the shareholders' meeting, who also took care of publishing the activity reports. There was indeed an oObligation of transparency of financial statements, in such a way as to always give the opportunity to discuss any improvements in the institution's policy.

Another fundamental activity of the institute was that of build and maintain the houses of the sailors on the Island.
It is in fact very frequent to notice riggiole with religious symbols on the walls of the island: they are the ancient ones houses built by the Pio Monte dei Marinai.

simbolo Pio Monte dei Marinari
A symbol of the Pio Monte dei Marinari of Procida on a house

Between religion and secular tradition

After the unification of Italy the institute did not change function. It was updated the regulation in 1871 with a version that it is still in effect today. The legal framework also changed: it became a "lay assistance body“, Since pirate attacks were now memories of the past. The Mediterranean He had become a quiet place and the Atlantic Ocean had just met its future ruler: The United States of America.

The revolution occurred during the fascist era, when in 1939 it was identified by law as a "Confraternity" and completely changed its function: from a lay institute it became a religious. The purpose changed again: from then on there was no longer talk of "assistance", but of "charity“. The Church thus entered the management of the assets and activities of the Pio Monte dei Marinai. And here's another one anomaly: the institution is today governed by the ecclesiastical authority, but the regulation remains the same as 150 years ago, that ofsecular body.

The modern world was unimaginable 400 years ago: pirates no longer exist, the seas are crossed every summer by all sorts of boats and the insurance market is dominated by large banks and multinationals. However, one thing has remained the same: the emotion of a Procidan who, after a life spent on ships, is about to dock at the port of his beloved island.

-Federico Quagliuolo


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1 Comment

Patrizia Garavaglia 20 August 2020 - 17:08



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