Count Alexander of Cagliostro, born Marquis Giuseppe Balsamo of Palermo, a patrician of Messina and Knight of Malta, visited Naples several times.
When he stopped in the city, he stayed in the palace of the Prince of Sansevero, on the mezzanine floor on the right, which faced toward the obelisk in the ancient square of San Domenico Maggiore.
Cagliostro therefore certainly had dealings with the great master of alchemy and theurgy-the high priestly sapiential magic-who had the terrible but fascinating power to erase the boundary between time and space, between life and physical death, a great predestined, perhaps one of the Rosicrucians or a reincarnated Apulian Templar, we are talking about Raimondo Maria de Sangro, seventh Prince of Sansevero.
Raimondo in 1737 had begun studies in alchemy and death, setting out in search of the philosopher's stone and to investigate physical immortality dear to the ancient Egyptians, not neglecting Masonic studies, indeed revolutionizing planimetry and astrological rotation. The Sansevero aristocratic chapel itself had been built in 1590 on points of telluric force; starting from this particular location, the prince in future years would then develop within the chapel.
He completed his initial studies in 1753; he then received as a gift some very rare books from the English ambassador to Naples Lord Herdnesse, the friend of the French Count of Saint Germain; based on their study he reformed together with his Swiss friend Baron Tschudy the masonic obedience into three degrees or high levels, formerly called Adonhiramites.
The new three levels together took the name Arcana Arcanorum Scala di Napoli; similar to Cagliostro's system, they affirmed the physical regeneration or reintegration already formulated in France by Saint Germain and the Count of Saint Martin.
In this reform of his he was greatly assisted by his brilliant cousin, Louis Joseph d'Aquino, Knight of Malta and cadet of the princes of Caramanico, known as Altotas, who was none other than Cagliostro's initiatic master ...
Also participating in the refounding of the Neapolitan lodge was the engineer Felice Piccinini, director of its alchemical and glass chemistry laboratory as well as the private printing house in the Sansevero palace; in 1763 the Palermo anatomist physician Don Giuseppe Salerno was added.
The official tomb had been built by the princes in 1750 in the chapel, and frescoed by the mysterious painter Francesco Maria Russo; it was blessed by the reverend rector of the chapel Gennaro Ottone. The tomb had been precisely placed at right angles to the nearby tomb of his ancestor Ferdinand, who died in 1609, a young man of letters and alchemist ...
Prince Ramon was surrounded throughout his life by a strong aura of mystery and legend; he conducted in his chapel and in his palace mysterious alchemical and scientific experiments according to the Egyptian Book of the Dead, entering spaces unknown to human knowledge, where profound and terrible truths are concealed in an arcane dimension: the sapiential truths of Eternity and Immortality that the rational self of man fears to discover.
After a serious illness occurred to him in July 1770, by August, DonnRaimondo had not only recovered well but seemed rejuvenated more than ever in body and spirit.
Despite his excellent health, the prince died mysteriously at the age of 62 on March 22, 1771 in his bedroom. He received last rites and a death certificate from Abbot Volo of the nearby parish of Santa Maria Rotonda, who also drew up the death certificate; he was attended and examined by his personal physician Don Giuseppe Salerno. The funeral was celebrated with pomp and circumstance by the Neapolitan undertaker Domenico Luciano; he was therefore buried in his aristocratic tomb in the nearby chapel.
A year later, as per Prince Raimondo's holographic will - kept at the trusted notary Francesco Di Maggio - early in the morning, on March 22, 1772, the newly appointed Prince Vincenzo, his last-born brother, Giovan Francesco, curator of the will appointed by his father, went to the Sansevero Chapel, the physician Salerno, the engineer Piccinini, the French butler of the house Leonard Lambert and his son Emanuele, page of the house, the footmen Carlo Russo and Giuseppino Catena, and Prince Carlo Moret's secretary, all of whom had already been loyal servants of the late Raimondo; cousin Luigi Giuseppe d'Aquino of Caramanico was also part of the group.
It was only a few minutes before noon: the two servants aided by a stonemason, under the direction of the butler opened the magnificent tomb, as stipulated in the deceased's will. The improbable happened: a cloud of thick, blackish, almost suffocating smoke rose from the empty tomb. At the bottom only having a little water and a rope of Peruvian knots and nothing more, with no trace whatsoever of Raimondo's body.
Panic spread among the servants present: two felt ill and one fainted, while the stonemason was taken to his home where he died of a heart attack. Prince Vincent himself fainted and had to be taken to his room by the butler and the engineer Piccinini,after he and d'Aquino ordered those present to keep quiet about the incident.
The church was closed and the tomb was hastily sealed by the servants that same night.
The next day the house administrator was immediately replaced with Marquis Danza of San Giorgio a Cremano; the same fate befell the priests in charge of the chapel. At the same time work was stopped and the workers and architect Celebrano were dismissed.
Two days later, in a carriage escorted by 24 guards and with 8 servants in tow, Prince Vincenzo and his cousin Luigi left for the fiefs of Torremaggiore in Apulia.
As soon as they arrived, the two had a excavation carried out in a hurry between the castle and the nearby countryside; they returned to Naples after a week, silencing any questions or gossip from servants or family ...
The young Vincenzo already began to take an interest in Neapolitan Freemasonry with his father; in 1773, rearranging Raimondo's papers, he deepened his studies; he thus had the work of the lodges of Naples, Torremaggiore and Syracuse resumed.
He avidly read the two manuscripts of his father's memoirs and his father's holograph will and spent with his wife, a Mirelli of Teora, and some trusted friends many weeks hunting and at the court theater in the castle of Torremaggiore ...
Vincenzo also took to studying alchemy because he had met Cagliostro again, with whom he became linked in correspondence friendship. When Cagliostro was arrested, the eighth prince of Sansevero welcomed under his protection the latter's trusted friend, Count Gian Gastone Rezzonico, a dignitary of the court of Ferdinand Grand Duke of Parma: he had him flee Rome for Naples in his stemmed carriage and offered him board and lodging in his house.
His social engagements diminished: as was his father Raimondo's custom, he no longer frequented the San Carlo theater much nor did he engage in too much social life at court.
Promoted to brigadier general of line infantry in 1778, Vincenzo took to protecting his Mason friends, including the engineer Piccinini, his children's mathematics tutor, when he became involved in a judicial trial against Freemasonry in 1775.
Arrested by the chief of police, Don Gennaro Pallante on the orders of Prime Minister Tannucci, Piccinini was defended by the de Sangro house lawyer and immediately released.
In October 1776 Tannucci was discharged by Ferdinand at the request of his wife Maria Carolina d'Asburgo, herself a Freemason and mistress of Prince Francesco d'Aquino, Luigi's brother.
In 1783 Luigi d'Aquino, known as Altotas, who a few years earlier had won the civil suit by which he had challenged his father and first-born brother Francis for the hereditary majorat, died as well.
Vincenzo died mysteriously in 1790: the medical certificate reports the cause of death was due to the consequences of his father Raimondo's own chemical and physical experiments ... And even his body was never found either in Naples or in Apulia, though regularly buried, as his last-born brother Giovan Francesco recounted.
It should be noted that the Palermo physician Giuseppe Salerno noted that one of the two anatomical dolls that were in the Sansevero house in the apartment of the Phoenix, presented the lack of digestive organs, removed as in ancient Egyptian mummifications at the time of the pharaohs ...
Count Rezzonico some time later was found dead of a heart attack; subject to intense nervous depression in the last days of his life, he died in the office of physician Domenico Cirillo, executed as a Jacobin in 1799.
First Raimondo died, then his cousin Luigi d'Aquino, Cagliostro in prison in San Leo, his son Vincenzo and finally Rezzonico ...
A series of mysterious deaths that aroused suspicions about the Masons and their links to the French Jacobites and revolutionaries; even the new head of the Bourbon police, the young Luigi Medici, prince of Ottaviano, a Freemason, was arrested.
Giovan Francesco, Raimondo de Sangro's youngest son and executor of his father's will, therefore, in 1793 brought to safety immediately after the arrest of the Freemason lawyer and Jacobite Mario Pagano all the confidential documents from the house at the ancestral castle of Torremaggiore.
In 1795 he left for Palermo where his cousin, the powerful viceroy of Sicily and Grand Master of Sicilian Freemasonry Prince Francesco d'Aquino di Caramanico, was staying, but the latter also died of poison.
Then frightened Giovan Francesco took refuge in the cloister of the Benedictine convent of Monreale, and from there he repaired to the castle of Torremaggiore; he returned only two years later to Naples in the retinue of Ferdinand IV.
During that time he inspected the castle and parts of the estate, where there is said to be a mysterious family tomb ... where since 1804 the noble Giovan Francesco, the only survivor of a series of sudden and mysterious deaths ... is also buried.