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CONFRATERNITY OF ST. ELIGIO (UNDER THE NAME OF MARIA SANTISSIMA ANNUNZIATA)

The founding of the confraternities dares back to the Middle Ages, during which they enjoyed great religious and social importance. They were brought into being by a formal decree issued by the local bishop.
We know that the rules governing the Confraternity of Saint Eligius were approved by Mons. Raffaele Palma in 1660, although its origins date back even further, at least to 1629.
It was founded not only with a view to cooperating and collaborating with the ecclesiastical hierarchy in order to spread the kingdom of God, but also for the sanctification of its members, without which the very institutional aims of the body – for which it was recognised and approved by the Church – might have been compromised.
On ceremonial occasions, the members of the confraternity wear a white robe, a blue belt and a blue mozzetta featuring two escutcheons, with a lily on one side and the words "Humilitas" on the other. Today, in addition to cooperating with the parish, the confraternity carries out spiritual and charitable education activities and organises religious functions such as the Quarantore, the rites that take place during Holy Week, the feast-days of the titular saints Eligius and Our Lady of the Annunciation and the religious and lay celebrations in honour of Saint Lucy.

ROYAL ARCHCONFRATERNITY OF PRAYER AND DEATH

The origins of the Confraternity of Prayer and Death date right back to the desire, at the very beginning of civilisation in Francavilla, to provide a Christian burial for the deceased and assistance to the needy. The members originally wore a black sackcloth robe with a hood covering their faces; they worked hard and left little in writing. The fi rst offi cial written document in the archives is dated 12th February 1620, when the Abbot Marco Antonio Forleo requested the aggregation of the confraternity to the Archconfraternity of Prayer and Death in Rome. This request was granted, as 1620 was given as the date of the body’s foundation in the census carried out in 1976 by the See of Oria to determine the origin of the various confraternities. Royal recognition was granted on 29th April 1769 by Ferdinand IV, King of Naples, after the status of Archconfraternity had been granted by the religious authorities. Considering the members’ devotion to the Virgin of Tears, as Our Lady of Sorrows was once known, a request was presented for aggregation to the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Sorrows in Rome. Thus, the name became “Reale Arciconfraternita dell’Orazione e Morte sotto il titolo dell’Addolorata” (Royal Archconfraternity of Prayer and Death under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows). The confraternity is based in the Church of Saint Clare, the place of worship that was granted to the enclosed nuns of the Monastery of the Poor Clares in 1947, following the demolition of the previous Church of Saint Clare, which stood in what is today Piazza Giovanni XXIII. It has 200 members, and within the confraternity a 200-strong women’s association operates under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows.

ARCHCONFRATERNITY OF SAINT BERNARD OF SIENA

One of the earliest confraternities to be founded in Francavilla Fontana (Brindisi), part of the diocese of Oria, is the Arciconfraternita di San Bernardino da Siena.
There is reliable documentary evidence of the presence of the Arciconfraternita di San Bernardino da Siena in the town on 29th April 1568 in the ancient church of the Franciscan Order, now of the Redemptorists, otherwise known as the Liguori Fathers.
In 1759 the Archconfraternity set up its headquarters in the “Old” Capuchin Church (now the Parish Church of the Holy Spirit).
In the years that followed the Second World War, as we know from the words of the sadly missed Prior Oronzo Barbaro, it was hosted in the Church of Saint Blaise, now open again for worship.
In 1947 the decision was taken to move the headquarters to the Church of the Holy Spirit, after the remains of soldiers killed during the Second World War were transferred there.
The robes of the Archconfraternity are composed of a white surplice featuring coloured embroidery on the lower part and a cord - in cilice – tied with two green tassels at the ends that go round the waist of the surplice. The members also wear a white hood in an upside-down cone shape, a green mozzetta and green gloves.
The headquarters of the Archconfraternity remain to this day in the Parish of the Holy Spirit.

CONFRATERNITY OF THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT

Until 1553, the members of the Confraternita del Santissimo Sacramento of Francavilla, in order to comply with their duties as assistants to the parish, bore the title of the chapel, founded by Pagano Trasente, in which they used to gather. In 1554 they were offi cially recognised by canon law with the title of Confraternita del Santissimo Corpo di Cristo (Confraternity of the Most Holy Body of Christ), associated with the main sodality in Rome and thereby committed to defending Catholicism on the lay devotional front during the upheaval of the Reformation. Dependent on the clergy, the members were entitled to their own possessions and an independent administration. They made a decisive contribution to the social and cultural development of the community, taking part in the set-up of aid organisations and schools. They enjoyed a series of particular papal privileges and contributed with their own fi nancial resources to the reconstruction of the Mother Church following the 1743 earthquake. In 1777 they were granted Royal Assent for their Statutes by King Ferdinand IV of Bourbon. During the French Decade (1806-1815) they remained operative, as they did thereafter during the Bourbon Restoration (1816-1860). With the application of a number of laws of the unifi ed Italian state, they were deprived of their property and possessions. This did nothing to prevent them from continuing – as indeed they do to this day - their charitable activities and liturgical assistance duties, regulated by the priors, governors and priests of the Mother Church, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, where the confraternity is based. Members wear a white surplice with a red mozzetta and belt. They celebrated their 4th centenary in 1954 and their 450th anniversary in 2004. They see to the maintenance of two archives, one historical and another with current activities. In 2004, when the second edition of their History was reprinted – rewritten and updated from the original 1954 edition - the confraternity had 227 practising members.

CONFRATERNITY OF OUR LADY OF CARMINE

Devotion to Our Lady of Carmine gained in popularity thanks to the Carmelite Friars, who, following persecution on the part of Muslims, fl ed from Palestine and took refuge in Europe towards the middle of the 13th century. The Carmelite Friars arrived in Francavilla Fontana in 1517 and built a church with a small convent attached to it; as the years went by, this convent grew to such an extent that it became one of the largest in the South of Italy. Thanks to the dedication of the Carmelite Friars in spreading the Gospel and value of Christian life, huge numbers of the faithful became devoted to the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; it remains to this day one of the most widespread Marian devotions in the world. The scapular, approved by the Church, is the means through which the Carmelite community has extended out beyond the circles of friars and nuns, bringing in considerable numbers of tertiaries and members of other confraternities. The Marian devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is expressed through an attitude of fi lial love, warm familiarity, harmony and a desire to emulate and to practise the virtues of the Virgin. From 1500, there were several confraternities in Francavilla Fontana, and with the arrival of the Carmelite Friars, these were joined by the Confraternita del Carmine, offi cially founded on 11th July 1677, as is indicated in a record of proceedings held in the archives.

CONFRATERNITY OF MARY IMMACULATE

This Confraternity, which dates back to the early 18th century, was originally linked to the Convent of the Black Franciscans, i.e. today's Liguori Fathers, and later to the Church of the Capuchin Order. It set up its permanent headquarters in the Church of Mary Immaculate immediately after it was built in 1856, following the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.
The Confraternita dell'Immaculata has an important role to play during Holy Week, specifically in the rejoicing at the Resurrection. On the evening of Easter Sunday, the Confraternity used to “take the statue of Christ out in procession, in groups and waves, following no established order, singing the Magnificat at the top of their voices and running". Members wear a white surplice and a pale blue mozzetta.

CONFRATERNITY OF THE CRUCIFIX

Once connected to the Church of the Crucifix, now linked to the Church of the Seven Sorrows. Members wear a plain red surplice and sandals on their feet.
This was the Confraternity traditionally joined by the inhabitants of Francavilla from the ancient ceramics quarter of the town.

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