Masseria Donnagnora: a legend of lords, settlers, heritage, Black dressed women, chains, deaths
History by Enza Aurisicchio from “LO SCUDO” n° 7 2014
The etymology of the Donna Gnora district, a title evocative of mysterious presences. The story that generated the toponym is linked to the personal history of an Ostunese gentleman and unfolds between 1860 and 1875, transmitted orally to a descendant of his family, settlers and peasants who were allowed to cultivate small plots and dwell in rural dwellings aggregated to the tower-farm. Part of a large latifundium once interlaced between Monte Casarone (historic toponym of the district from the 16th century) and Monte Lotorto, the predio in the XIXth century was the dotal patrimony of the wife of a wealthy Lecce who lived there only for short periods of the year to control the company. Intent on getting rid of property, he tried in vain to persuade his unwilling wife of such a solution.
Finally, he issued a proxy with proxy to sell, provoking the woman’s resentment, who wounded in pride threatened an extreme action if the act had materialized. Thus, the deed of sale was stipulated with the buyer, unaware of this fact. When threatened was tragically accomplished and when returning to the farm, the gentleman from Lecce crossed the entrance that leads into the courtyard enclosed by high walls, found the body of his wife and child lifeless on the pavement: the woman had launched herself from the top of tower. The new owner who moved to the farm was very struck by some disturbing episodes: the collapse of one of the rooms on the first floor and the destruction of the internal church due to the fall of lightning. The place of worship was rebuilt again in 1898 with a different orientation to facilitate access for the faithful who came from the surrounding countryside. Even more disturbing was the one told by peasants, laborers, massari and those who resided in the imposing and articulate household, frightened by the nocturnal appearance of a woman dressed in black, who moaned and dragged chains, wandering about the tower. To free himself from the sense of guilt, having learned of the circumstances that preceded his purchase, the new owner went to Rome to obtain a plenary indulgence in articulus mortis from the Pontiff and a blessing for himself and his family up to the third generation. It is undoubtedly a very suggestive narration that a more in-depth historical research will support. It is an irrefutable fact, however, that the district was called Donna Gnora as early as 1737 (A.S.B., Catasto onciario, 1737, vol. I, c. 130r), when it belonged to the Spanish family Lopez y Royo.