Morpurgo Parente

The Morpurgo Parente enclosure holds the burials or commemorative plaques of twenty individuals belonging to four generations of one Trieste’s 1800s most important families.

This was a complex and branched out family, tied to the commercial and banking enterprises of Elia Morpurgo, a Gorizian jew with ancient Styrian heritage who moved to Trieste at the turn of the Nineteenth century. His son Isacco eventually founded, with his associate Marco Parente, the namesake Morpurgo & Parente. At the same time bank and exporting firm, it would later become one the points of reference in the marketplace city. Able to extend its influence and business relationships well beyond the city and Habsburg Empire’s borders, the company tied tight connections with Vienna’s and Paris’ most important bankers, including the Rothschild family.

The ties between Morpurgos and Parentes, however, were not restricted to the professional sphere. As traditional in Jewish communities and, more broadly, in the entrepreneurial bourgeoisie  of the time, firm and family were generally considered as one. Familial bonds were often the only support network one could always rely on. And so, if an associate was not already part of the family, they could become one, being – if necessary – buried as such: this is how we can explain why members of the Landauer, Hiershcel de’ Minerbi and, above all, Parente families rest here.

Frontispiece to the sheet music for Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Stiffelio”, with a dedication to Clementina Hierschel de Minerbi, Museo Teatrale Carlo Schmidl, Trieste.

Not only Isacco Morpurgo married a Parente, Regina, his long-standing associate’s  sister, but some of his children and grandchildren would eventually do the same. Giuseppe was one of these, having married in 1836 his first cousin Elisa. Educated, cosmopolite, well integrated into the fabric of the majority society, simultaneously culturally Italian and a loyal Habsburg subject, «baron Pepi» was one of the best examples of the  Jewish upper-bourgeoisie of the time.

His business ventures and prestigious posts are too many to be all mentioned here. It will be enough to remember his key role as general director of Assicurazioni Generali, held from 1850 to his death in 1898, when he oversaw the growth and strengthening of this insurance giant; or his position as Vice President of Trieste’s Chamber of Commerce, that in 1869 earned him an invitation to the Suez Canal’s inauguration ceremony, in the presence of kings and emperors. 

Even if perfectly integrated at the highest levels of economical and political power in his city and in the Habsburg empire and characterised by a religiosity devoid of outward signs, unlike most of his descendents Giuseppe remained tied to Trieste’s Jewish Community, which he kept supporting both with his own wealth and through the Morpurgo & Parente bank. Especially involved in charity – not just aimed at fellow Jews – just like many upper-bourgeois of all religions he contributed to City Council and Empire-sponsored charities and initiatives. In 1869 his professional, philanthropic and patriotic merits earned him the title of Baron (Freiherr), later passed on to his heirs.

The enclosure designed by Milanese architect Carlo Maciachini (who authored Milan’s Monumental Cemetery and Trieste’s S. Spyridon’s serb-orthodox church) and Enrico de Morpurgo (son of Elio, one of Giuseppe’s siblings) was built a few months after Giuseppe’s ennoblement and is a further testimony of the influence and affluence garnered by the family. It is characterised by a magnificence and a splendour that, while departing from the restraint in one’s burial place recommended by halakhah, put this monument close to those of members of the same social class buried in Sant’Anna’s Catholic cemetery.

In any case, starting with the latter half of the Nineteenth century, while in the Empire the Jewish emancipation process moved along, the Morpurgo Parente family became characterised by a growing assimilation too. One by one, members of the younger generations converted to Catholicism or to the konfessionslos status (i.e. without religious affiliation).

The last Morpurgo to be buried here was Pietro Luigi, «Cuddly», the «beautiful little sailor», Giuseppe’s favourite grandchild and real heir, able to at least partially revive the family’s fortunes after a series of financial setbacks in the 1890s.

Banquet for the 25th anniversary of Circolo dell’Unione’s foundation. This was one of the city’s most exclusive clubs. Baron Pier Luigi de Morpurgo is the third from the right, standing – Civici Musei di storia ed arte, Trieste.
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