The timid beginnings of the school in L’Ile

The start of the new school year brings many questions about, for example, new teachers, new premises, new friends or the latest fashionable games at recess. On the other hand, one might wonder where was the first school of Ile Rousse.

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In Corsica, as on the Continent, at the beginning of the 19the century, a distinction was made between schools for boys and those for girls. We have to wait until the middle of the XXe century for co-education to take place in the courses of our schools. What was it before?

The old parish bulletin provides information on religious life in Ile-Rousse*. On June 15, 1771, the major podestas and the padri del comune address themselves to the bishop of Aleria, Mgr Jean-Joseph-Marie de Guernes, whose jurisdiction extended to the pieve of Aregno, to ask him for a priest with the title of “vicar” for L’ Ile Rousse. The inhabitants of the Paoline city committed themselves, in an act of August 30, 1771 of Me Antoine Antonelli, notary at Santa Reparata, to provide him with a suitable indemnity, in foodstuffs and in money. The diocese welcomed the request of the faithful of L’Île-Rousse.

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Two years later, the diocesan authority appointed Abbot Francesco Maria Castellani (1736-1818) of Santa Reparata as vicar to administer the parish. This abbot officially took office on January 16, 1774 in the church of Santissima Cuncezzione at Scalu, the current district of the town hall (church demolished in 1937). He promised to administer the sacraments, to teach catechism, to explain the Gospel on Sunday afternoons, to teach the children, to say the rosary on Fridays, to celebrate religious services on feast days, to give salvation and to recite prayers every day of Lent. This could make Father Castellani the first schoolmaster of the Paoline city after the conquest.

The possible first school

For the department of Golo, the questionnaire of year X (1801-1802), intended for the mayors, the sub-prefects and the justices of the peace of the department, provides us with useful information. In general, in Balagne, the remuneration of the master is constituted for all or part of wheat. The 1818 census of L’Île-Rousse lists only one schoolteacher. This is Ange Emanuelli, 44 years old and husband of Justine Laffon, 33 years old, with whom he had five children. This suggests that at that date, only one school existed, intended for boys and probably located in one of the few buildings at the Scalu. But this remains a hypothesis because Emanuelli, although listed in L’Île-Rousse, could very well teach in Santa Reparata or elsewhere. Moreover, a survey, carried out in Corsica in 1819, indicates the number of men and women who can read and write in each commune. It clearly shows that women are much less literate than men. Thus, for L’Île-Rousse, 68 men and 20 women are literate out of a population of 758 inhabitants, or 11.6%. However, Algajola seems to be an exception, 35% of adult women can read and write.

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Louis-Magloire Cottard, inspector in charge of rectoral functions in Corsica, completed on June 18, 1821 the inspection of the district of Calvi where he noted the good results of the school of the Brothers of Christian Doctrine, created in 1819 in Calvi. For the canton of Sant’Angelo, he confirms that his efforts to teach French are rewarded in L’Île-Rousse, which wishes to create a similar school. Indeed, the mayor of the Cité Paoline, Giovan Battista Muzio-Olivi, and his municipal council unanimously declare that the sum of five hundred francs will be levied for this purpose each year for a French-speaking teacher. As planned, in 1823 a primary education school of the Christian Doctrine Brothers was opened at the expense of the municipality and the church factory. There were four at that time in Balagne. We can think that this one-class school, where we begin to teach the French language, was perhaps in the current Vesperini house, which at the time would have been a convent. Then the boys moved to a room on the ground floor of the Orsoni house, the current Giorgi boutique, rue Notre-Dame.

The laws that develop the school

At the beginning of the XIXe century, the communes of Corsica mostly had a school for boys, but the education of girls posed a problem. At the time, a reductive opinion was commonly held about the education of young girls. Among certain notables, it was claimed that nothing should be taught to little girls except sewing and manual work. But it was the opposite of the projects of Mgr Casanelli d’Istria, bishop of Corsica from 1833 to 1869, who wanted at all costs to develop education on the island. In application of the Guizot law of 1833, each municipality is required to open a school for boys. It was not until the Falloux law of 1850 that public schools opened up to young girls. From then on, female education soared.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph

In 1835, the municipal council of L’Île-Rousse, via the mayor Giovan Ambroggio Suzzoni, strongly wished to obtain the installation of the Sisters of Saint-Joseph, a religious congregation of Lyon. At that time, they ran an institution in Calvi, opened around 1829, which obtained very good results.

In 1840, this congregation was to set up the Saint-Joseph boarding school in Bastia, which had become the private Jeanne-d’Arc establishment. Thus, the Paoline city wishes to have a school for girls in the same way as that for boys. The city is growing and needs to build new structures. However, unable to support such a burden alone, the municipality requested financial aid of 1,200 francs per year from the General Council of Corsica for the operation of this institution. The request was rejected by the Ministry of the Interior because of the form presented. Wanting to educate girls in L’Île-Rousse then seemed compromised. But thanks to Bishop Casanelli d’Istria, another congregation of nuns from Agen settled for this purpose in 1840 at L’Île-Rousse: the Daughters of Mary. But this is another story.

* Martelli, Ignace-Martin, Parish bulletin of L’Île-Rousse, “Genesis of a parish, L’Île-Rousse and its priests”, Société de la Bonne Presse du Midi, Villedieu-Vaison, 1916, 1917.

The timid beginnings of the school in L’Ile-Rousse