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 Beatrice Cenci

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Beatrice Cenci

  • Birth 6 Feb 1577 Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy
  • Death 11 Sep 1599 Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy
  • Burial Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy
  • Plot Beneath the altar
  • Memorial ID 10185744

Noblewoman. Known as "The Beautiful Parricide," her tragic life came to symbolize the decadence and cruelty of 16th-Century Rome. She was the daughter of Francesco Cenci, a Roman nobleman notorious for his viciousness and vice-ridden ways. He was charged with numerous offenses but used bribery and his rank to avoid serious punishment. His family bore the brunt of his abuse. In 1595 he imprisoned Beatrice and her stepmother Lucrezia in a lonely castle outside Rome, while he amused himself with a number of mistresses. After three years of confinement Beatrice, with the complicity of her stepmother and her brothers Giacomo and Bernardo, conspired to procure Francesco's murder. This occurred on September 10, 1598. Two hired killers posing as servants crushed Francesco's skull while he slept and threw his body off a balcony to make it look like an accident. Giacomo Cenci later had one of the killers eliminated, but the second was captured in Naples and revealed the murder plot. When word got to Rome Pope Clement VIII personally ordered the arrest of the Cenci family. The ensuing trial aroused great public sympathy for Beatrice because of her youth and beauty, and her lawyer claimed that Francesco had tried to commit incest with her. But the Cencis confessed under torture, and three were condemned. The executions took place at Rome's Ponte Sant'Angelo on September 11, 1599. Beatrice and Lucrezia were beheaded; Giacomo was bludgeoned, drawn and quartered. Bernardo was spared the death penalty because of his age (he was 12), but he was forced to watch the executions and sentenced to life in prison. The Cencis' wealth was then confiscated by Pope Clement. This gruesome example of Papal Justice angered the people of Rome, who viewed the Cencis as martyrs against the tyranny of the nobility. A torchlit procession brought Beatrice's body to the Church of San Pietro in Montorio, where she was buried beneath the high altar. Roman tradition has it that each year during the night of September 10-11, the ghost of Beatrice stalks the Ponte Sant'Angelo, carrying her head in her hands. Her story has long been a favorite theme of artists. It has inspired plays by Percy Shelley, Antonin Artaud, and Alberto Moravia, novels by Alexandre Dumas and Stendhal, an opera by Alberto Ginastera, and numerous other works. Beatrice's portrait (c. 1596) in the Barberini Palace, attributed to Guido Reni, is one of Rome's most-visited artworks.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 29 Dec 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 10185744
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Beatrice Cenci (6 Feb 1577–11 Sep 1599), Find A Grave Memorial no. 10185744, citing Chiesa di S.Pietro in Montorio, Rome, Città Metropolitana di Roma Capitale, Lazio, Italy ; Maintained by Find A Grave .