The self-styled Count Alessandro Cagliostro alias the Sicilian Giuseppe Balsamo was surely one of the most controversial figures of all times. In the late 18th century, his fame reached from Lisbon to St. Petersburg, from London to Rome. He was a hypnotizer, an alchemist, a scholar of cabbala, the founder of several lodges of Freemasonry, and, above all, a person of an extraordinary great charisma. At the peak of his fame il divino Cagliostro was the friend of kings and queens, cardinals, scholars, and scientists.
Cagliostro himself alleged that he was the son of the Grand Master of the Order of St John, Emanuel Pinto de Fonseca, and to have visited Malta several times. It was in Malta, he alleged, that he turned from a naive adolescent to a master of mystery and secrets notorious all over Europe. Cagliostro’s own stories were taken up by many modern authors and very often interpreted in a way which made it even more difficult to distinguish between truth and fiction. Thomas Freller’s Cagliostro and Malta sorts out the real facts around Cagliostro’s multi-faceted connection with Hospitaller Malta.
Tomas Freller is the author of St Paul’s Grotto and its visitors, The Life and Adventures of Michael Heberer von Bretten, and Johann Hermann von Riedesel – a classical traveller in Malta.