The children you see in the photo are not students at a Jesuit college, nor do they attend an oratory or a religious school run by Jesuits. Who are they? And what are these photos doing in our Archives?
Not everything in our archive is related to the Society of Jesus, its colleges and students. In fact, it can often happen that among the papers we find documents or photographs concerning different institutes and it is not always clear what the link is between the papers and the fund that keeps them. This is the case with the sources we are dealing with today.
The Bigi friars
During the reordering of the photographs of the Massimo Institute, several photographs were found that had nothing to do with the Jesuit institute: many concerned missions, views of Rome, Confirmations and Communions of adults in the East. Then there is a small group of photographs depicting pupils at a school founded in Rome by the Brothers of Charity, often called, Bigi friars.
The order was founded by Ludovico da Casoria in 1859, the male branch was suppressed in 1972, but the female branch is still active. The Bigie nuns are mainly engaged in care and prayer, they also have a parish school in Rome, which is still active today. The Order’s name derives from the grey colour of the habit.
The School of the Immaculata
The photographs kept in our archive were taken of pupils at the Immaculata Institute in Rome. Some photographs in our Archives prove the school was already active in the early 20th century. Among them are several, collected in an album, are taken on the occasion of the blessing of the national flag on 24 May 1923; the ceremony was staged in the school’s outdoor courtyard.
The school was located in Viale Manzoni 30: today it no longer exists, but the building has not changed and in the side entrance on Via Tasso you can still see the arch under which so many of those children were photographed. The photographs of the inauguration were taken right in the schoolyard.
The importance of the source
We do not know for sure why these photographs ended up in the Maximus Institute, perhaps because one of the Jesuits was present at the inauguration of the school or knew the Bigi friars. These hypotheses need further investigation.
The photographs are a useful source for those who want to reconstruct the history of this religious order and one of its schools in Rome and of the many boys who attended it and of whom these photographs remain. In addition to the album, there are others loose and now kept in a dedicated file, depicting groups of students, together with their teacher. As in the case of the Jesuit schools, the names of the subjects depicted are absent from these photos, with the exception of the teacher.
In the second shot accompanying today’s in-depth study, children and young people are depicted during a sacred performance; the photo dates back to 1909.
In order to deepen the history of the school and the order, it is necessary to continue the research, checking the bibliography on the Bigi friars and the archival documentation of the order.
We hope the mention of these photographs will be useful for all those who wish to study the history of this religious congregation and one of its schools, and for its former pupils and their descendants.