The Triora Museum is not just a mere exhibition of old everyday objects but above all it is an invitation, an incentive to visit the ancient village, experience its characteristics, enjoy strolling around its breathtaking hamlets and small suburbs where on occasion one might still be able to encounter the usage of some of the utensils already spotted in the museum’s many rooms. Surrounded by such unspoiled nature you will be able to rediscover a zest for “real” life.

Silvano Oddo (museum curator) Website



Divided into six main rooms, the Ethnic section of the museum represents scenes from farmers’ daily lives, their work in the fields, the various steps of wheat, milk, chestnuts and wine production as well as examples of traditional local cuisine.


Luigia Margherita Brassetti

Margherita was a wealthy lady much loved by the people of Triora due to the charity work and monetary donations she imparted to the impoverished locals. She launched a series of intense social and religious activities for local women by founding female congregations. She founded a needlework and embroidery workshop, and opened a theatre with a small cinematograph for young ladies, while along with other congregations she took care of the preparation and restoration of the church’ sacred garments.


Time stands still

The museum is a place where time seems frozen in a bygone era where everything has been faithfully reproduced according to historical facts and the details of local life and culture.

Old utensils.. for old professions



Four gloomy rooms are dedicated to a tragic chapter in our local history. Two of these room house scenes taken from the interrogation and imprisonment of the accused women. The other rooms besides displaying old trial documents also host life-size reproductions of local “witches” in their daily activities.



I clench my teeth….but they will say I am smiling

Franchetta Borelli


The legacy of Franchetta Borelli

by Paolo Portone

The story is well documented: in 1588 a group of women from Triora were accused of what at the time was considered the most heinous of crimes, namely to be followers of the heretical sect of diabolic witches. That is how Franchetta Borelli and other accused local women were subjected first to the Inquisitor then to Commissioner Giulio Scribani. They were found guilty of being Satan’s worshippers.

According to the judges they had renounced their bodies and souls to the Devil (of Christian religion) in exchange for his evil powers. Although they were not burnt to death, their fate was marked forever. Today, through scrupulous archival research conducted on ancient documents we have finally uncovered new elements which allow us to retrace one of the most notorious witchcraft trials that took place in our country. A sequence of events that profoundly marked the relationship between the Holy Office and the Republic of Genoa and at the same time permanently established the Church of Rome’s new position towards folkloric “superstitions” and their custodians providers of traditional magic, whom under the various titles of herb healers, midwives and faith healers played a significant role in the safeguarding of health and well-being within their communities, especially among the lower classes.

The biggest heed taken by the Inquisition in evil witchcraft trials involved a change in the strategies used to counteract superstitions; these were eventually no longer fought but mostly absorbed as orthodoxy. This fact allowed the spread of that particular condition known as hunt-free demonopathy which characterized Italy during the age of the great persecutions of the 1500-1600 in Europe. While maintaining a severe stance in their fight against demonology, ecclesiastic authorities ended up substituting burning at the stake with holy water exorcisms. As a matter of fact, it is not by chance that Triora still celebrates a curious religious ceremony in order to ward off caterpillar invasions, a ritual deeply ingrained in that magic mentality which on paper was meant to be eradicated but instead, at the end of the Counter-Reformation resulted in it being absorbed and in fact amplified within a religiousness inspired by a sense of the supernatural, by the cult of relics (Triora hosts an enviable array of holy relics, even odd ones such as the Virgin Mary’s milk), of sacred images and by the use of sacramentals (holy water, oil, salt, candles and incense). It remains unclear whether behind the apparent confessionalization of society and through the abandonment of its witchcraft accusations the Church wanted to maintain its spiritual hegemony, coming to terms with folkloristic religiousness and with those profound beliefs (the vane rites) that were part of Franchetta and the other victim’s cultural world. Those who tried, against the tide and the times, such as Giulio Scribani, to eradicate them appealed to a tradition preceding the Counter-reform when the Church came out victorious against Cathar and Waldensian heretics. Thereafter they started to look at rural superstitions with different eyes giving a juridical and theological shape to that new heresy called diabolic witchcraft which had been fought for over three centuries. It is questionable whether the witch hunt in Italy ended in Triora but it is certain that Scribani thought its end was untimely. In a letter to his seniors he claimed it necessary to conduct an inquisition, the likes of which hadn’t been seen for over a century in this area, against evil women referring to an important preceding phenomenon of which there were only traces left in human memory. From these events we have just a few remaining references, the most famous of which is the fresco in the Saint Bernard Church dating back to the end of the 1400s. The fresco depicts “witches” wearing a miter who burn in an infernal furnace along with “Gazari” heretics. This illustrates how early witch hunting took place in this area, considering the role this Franciscan monk had in the spread of this new threat and the active part he took in the instruction of the first two trials against two women Finicella (Rome 1426) and Matteuccia (Todi 1428) both of whom were burnt at the stake for being in collusion with the Devil.

In the year 1588, Triora just like the rest of Italian society had progressed from burning witches at the stake as much larger threats loomed over the Church of Rome. Soon those painful events would be hushed while the older beliefs and superstitious rites would be absorbed into the prevailing religion and survive to the 1900s a many oral sources gathered by local historians can testify to. From that perspective, we could say something has survived from Franchetta’s world, besides our recollection of her as a victim of religious fanaticism. However, we must not look for her legacy in the modern day stereotypical images of Triora’s witches as these paradoxically distance us even further from the memory of the trials’ victims, thus inappropriately handing them a posthumous “damnatio memoriae” (literally “condemnation of memory” meaning that a person should not be remembered). “Surprisingly” evidence of that world that Scribani wanted to eradicate completely can to this day still be found within the official religion. Beyond the layers of widespread devotion and inherited faith you can catch a glimpse of it woven between ancient traditions and words deriving from a more modern religion. This reveals that, centuries later, the various shapes of the ancestral magic originated from the “common social phenomenon” of which Franchetta and the other unfortunate ladies were a result of, can be placed on the same level of importance as their persecutors.

After a long period of hard work and commitment

MES opens to the public in October 2016

Ethnohistoric Museum of Witchcraft

Why did Triora establish a museum on witchery and the witch hunt? Between late Medieval times and the Age of Enlightenment, in the heart of Western Europe there were about 110 thousand trials held against the followers of satanic sects all conducted by religious and secular tribunals. According to cautious estimations, these trials resulted in the death of almost 60 thousand people, mainly women, whom were identified as guilty of a crime which was impossible to demonstrate and yet they were sentenced to death. As innocent victims of the first holocaust in European history these victims remind us of how fanaticism and obscurantism are not alien to us, on the contrary they are a relevant part of our past; they remind us of how the poisonous seeds of intolerance and prejudice had pervaded institutions and religion, resulting in enormous injustices. The present-day image of the diabolic witch is a concept that saw its birth in religious and secular tribunals, a concept outlined in demonology manuals and validated through the victims’ forced confessions obtained after torture. To this day the victims’ memory is still tarnished by the atrocious seal imposed by their merciless judges: they were accused of being witches, murderers of children, sorceresses, tempest makers, Satan slaves and therefore apostates, idolatrous and heretics. From those murders few records remain, not only in their numbers but also in the recollection of what actually happened as inquisitors destroyed almost all the documented evidence over a period of three centuries. The destruction, initially aimed at the annihilation of a myth was later avoided in part thanks to a pre-scientific urgency of classification intended at interpreting and mystifying the most archaic traditions of the European cultural heritage. However, the interest initially shown by historiography never lasted over time and never gave a proper direction to studies and research. In the remaining literature available today studies have brought forward new and significant information about the victims’ world, their cultural environment,  though their biographies are rare. Today we certainly know a great deal more about the persecutors (judges, inquisitors, demonologists, preachers, Catholics and Protestants). We have a deep knowledge of the mechanisms that regulated justice in cases of diabolic witchcraft, of the measures taken by the clergy through councils and synods to oppose popular superstitions etc. However we continue to learn about the victims through the unappealing filter of diabolic witchcraft. Therefore, the aim and the challenge of this museum is to document the realm and enhance the memory of the witch hunt victims. For the first time, through historical and ethnographic evidence, we try to reconstruct the cultural profile of those who were forced onto the Satan slave’s Procrustean bed. The items displayed have the objective to accompany visitors on a journey into the underlying reality of one of the most popular mythical figures of the European collective imagination. In order to achieve this we follow an itinerary divided into four main themes (“The Magic Thought”, “Goddesses, Spirits and Female Creatures”, “Dominae Herbarum (mistress of the herbs)”, “The Invention of the Demonic Witch and the Triora Trial”) allowing academics and curious visitors to compare ideas with finds deriving from a world closer to their historic reality. At the end of this journey, the victims will possibly regain some of their dignity by re-establishing the connection between the person, their name, their occupation and what they represented in European society between the middle ages and modern times. Giving back a more personal and human profile to the thousands of women sentenced without any proper evidence or fair trial means to at least compensate their remembrance and to establish the real reasons for a persecution conducted with rational determination against a nonexistent enemy. It means gaining a new remembrance out of which we all come transformed and knowledgeable, just like the bonae feminae following in Diana’s footsteps.