Museum of the Charletan – former church of San Nicola
The Cure of the Charlatan
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The Museo del Ciarlatano, one of the Antennae of the Ecomuseum of the Umbrian Apennine Range, is housed in the Complex of San Nicola, a former Augustinian monastic settlement of Romanesque origin, recently restored. It aims to illustrate the historical figure of the charlatan and to document his actions and activities with modern re-elaborations and repropositions in the form of shows and street theater performances.
The term “charlatan”, known throughout the world, is generically used to indicate any type of impostor and deceiver; probably its etymology derives from the fusion betweenthe words “Ciarla” (chatter, false news) and “Cerretano” (inhabitant of Cerreto).
The name was originally associated with the profession of begging, exercised by the Cerretani on behalf of the Church starting from the 11th century; but throughout the 15th and 16th century, the original profession of begging often degenerated into behaviors that had little to do with charity, resulting in the sale of indulgences for profit and exorcism against plague and disease. For this reason, the term Cerretan/Charlatan ended up taking on the negative meaning of barker / deceiver.
In fact, the charlatans, in an attempt to profit from alms, put on shows and representations of high talent in public squares, attracting the interest of the people with wonder, amazement, play and magic: “they often climbed on wooden stools that they brought with them, in order to attract the public and sell their wares ”.
This last aspect is the basis of the “Charlatan Festival”, a cultural event aimed at highlighting and celebrating the great intelligence and skill of the Charlatans, who traveling throughout Europe, beckoned, fascinated and … cheated entire squares.
In the dictionary of the Crusca of 1612 they were described as “Cerretans, those who peddle ointments or other medicines in the squares, pull out their teeth or play hand games, whom today are more commonly called Ciarlatani, … from Cerreto, a town in Umbria from which in ancient times such people came, who with various pretenses were making money “.