On August 26, 1795, the body of a dead man was extracted from a shaft sunk into the San Leo fortress, in Rimini. He had been lowered from a hatch into that narrow, 10-square-meter cell four years earlier, after being sentenced for his crimes to “perpetual imprisonment in some fortress,” where he was to be “closely guarded, with no hope for pardon.”
All of Europe, from royal courts to the poorest neighborhoods, had heard of him: he was a forger, fraud, freemason, alchemist, healer, and wizard. He had travelled across the continent reaching Poland, France, England, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and Holland. At every stop he had set up scams, swindles, and trickeries, to the detriment of simpletons as well as highly placed people and even members of the aristocracy.
He said of himself, “I am not of any time or of any place; beyond time and space my spiritual being lives an eternal existence.”
Time and space weighed down on him, however, in that sorrowful dungeon hidden inside the fortress of San Leo, built by Federico da Montefeltro in the first half of the 15th century.
That man’s name was Giuseppe Balsamo, but all of Europe knew him as Cagliostro.
The San Leo Fortress takes part of Parco Letterario© “Paolo Volponi”