La Nostra Storia

It was in the 1920’s that the idea of an Italian Cultural Club was born in Cleveland.

     Il Circolo was thus founded in 1928 by the Italian Consul Dr. Antonio Logoluso, Dr. Leonardo Samartini, Prof. Joseph L. Borgerhoff, Mr. Burt Berardi, Dr. Nicola Cerri, Judge B.D. Nicola, and Mrs. Walter P. Rice, with the assistance of Dr. Robert Vinson, then president of Western Reserve University.

     Il Circolo aimed at keeping alive the Italian language and culture in this city. Its first president, and perhaps the most influential single force, was Professor Borgerhoff.

In 1932, at the suggestion of Count Buzzi Gradenigo, Il Circolo was given the name of Il Cenacolo Italiano and began to attract new members such as Dr. William M. Milliken, former director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Dr. Orfea Barricelli, Mrs. Henry Hunt Clark, and other distinguished persons. Years later the name was changed, more appropriately, to Il Cenacolo Italiano di Cleveland, most often simply referred to as Il Cenacolo.

     Il Cenacolo is another name for Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. In this case it simply means an intimate group of friends who, in the noble Renaissance tradition, are interested in the arts in general and in the Italian culture in particular. It is a spiritual link between Italy and the USA.

     Il Cenacolo carries out its mission by offering a number of lectures on Italian cultural subjects throughout the year, sponsoring an annual scholarship competition, and supporting cultural institutions such as the Italian American Collection of the Western Reserve and the Italian Cultural Garden of Cleveland. For many years, Il Cenacolo contributed to the augmentation of the collection of Italian books housed at John Carroll University. In addition, Il Cenacolo, as the administrator of the Ferdinand and Ina Fournier Fund, provides grants to Italian immigrants in need of financial assistance.

On its 50th anniversary, May 12, 1978, at the Canterbury Golf Club, Dr. Gian Pietro Barricelli noted:

Across its 50 successful years, the work of Il Cenacolo represents a necessary sharing in the democratic process of American civilization whereby all groups are acknowledged for that part of their heritage which acts as a fermenter of the present, a forger of the future, and a defender of all people whose histories and ideas underpin the making of the collective human mind. Our country would be impoverished without the Cenacolos like Cleveland’s.

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Saving History
Article:  Dr. Franca Barricelli Visits Cleveland
By: Pamela Dorazio Dean

Dr. Franca Barricelli did not grow up in Cleveland, but feels a sense of home whenever she visits. The feeling comes from her familial ties to the area. Her grandfather, Dr. Giovanni Barricelli, was a prominent physician and Italian community leader until his death in 1934. Her grandmother, Dr. Orfea Barricelli, was a scholar of philosophy and literature and professor at Western Reserve University. Giovanni and Orfea Barricelli’s only son and Franca’s father, Jean-Pierre, was born in 1924 and grew up in the Barricelli’s home located on the corner of Cornell and Murray Hill Roads in Little Italy. The beautiful brownstone home now serves as a restaurant and inn and is where Franca chooses to stay when in the area.

Dr. Franca Barricelli is the associate dean in the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and will soon become the dean of arts and sciences at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. She completed her PhD and Master of Science in history at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and specializes in Early Modern Europe, Renaissance, and Early Modern Italy.

Dott.ssa Franca Barricelli
From left to right: Sig.ra Beatrice Colagè, Dott.ssa Franca Barricelli, Sig.ra Elda Borroni (President)

An invitation to speak at a meeting of Il Cenacolo Italiano di Cleveland brought Franca to Northeast Ohio this past April. Her grandparents were active members of the group and grandmother Orfea served a term as president. The invitation to speak to the group was quite meaningful to her and she enthusiastically accepted. In fact, she opened her presentation by sharing a date book which belonged to her grandparents with only one entry – “Today, a meeting of Il Cenacolo.”Dr. Franca Barricelli gave a wonderful and intriguing presentation titled “Opera as Political Art: Verdi’s Attila and the Myth of Venice.” The opera Attila (1846) is about Attila the Hun’s 5th-century invasion of the Aquila at the eastern edge of the Roman Empire, an invasion that sent the peoples of the northern Adriatic fleeing to the lagoon which would be the site of the future city of Venice. She explained how the opera features allusions to Italian national identity and speaks specifically to the complex history of the sovereign state of Venice, which had fallen to Napoleonic troops after a millennium of independence. Verdi’s work resonated far more immediately and tragically in terms of Venice’s political fate and that of its famous Fenice opera house, at which Attila debuted.

Franca’s visit to the area also gave her the opportunity to grow her family archive which is a part of the WRHS Italian American Collection. She and other family members have donated a number of photographs and documents of the Barricelli family over the years. At this visit, Franca donated several interesting items, including Dr. Giovanni Barricelli’s prescription pad, architectural plans for the Cornell Road home, a poster announcing her father’s, Jean-Pierre’s, performance with the Cafarelli Opera Company in Cleveland, and his autobiography.

Spending time with and hearing Dr. Franca Barricelli’s presentation was a great honor and pleasure for me. She helped me directly connect to the past and learn more about a f
family so important to the formation and growth of the Italian community in Cleveland.

90th Anniversary 1928-2018
Dr. John Grabowski’s excerpts of his speech given on Friday, June 8, 2018

To see more pictures, click below
Galleria Foto