Carlo Amoretti

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Carlo Amoretti was an erudite ecclesiastic, scholar, writer, and scientist. His life straddled the 18th and 19th centuries. He was born on 16 March 1741 in Oneglia, now Imperia in the Liguria region, Italy and died on 23 March 1816.

He entered the Augustinian order in 1757. To further his studies he went to Pavia and Parma where he also taught ecclesiastical law.


Wide-ranging intellect

Amoretti was an Encyclopedist whose mind encompassed theology, physics, geology, paleography, geography, and art history. He translated scientific works, published or republished many rare books and manuscripts noteworthy of these being the extant codex of Antonio Pigafetta's relation of the first circumnavigation by Magellan's fleet.

Amoretti, having fallen from the graces of the ecclesiastical order at Parma, was forced to relocate to Milan around 1771. Here he became an active member of the scientific community. He was editor of the first scientific magazine published in Milan under the title--from 1775 until 1777--Scelta di opuscoli interessanti tradotti da varie lingue renamed in 1778 Opuscoli scelti until 1803, and further renamed in 1804 as Nuovi opusculi scelti.

He joined the Societa Patriottica di Milano (Patriotic Society of Milan) becoming editor of its journal Atti della Società patriotica di Milano: diretta all avanzamento dell agricoltura, delle arte, e delle manifatture.


Amoretti wrote many books. Among these Memorie storiche su la vita gli studi e le opera di Leonardo da Vinci si aggiungono le memorie intorno all vita del Ch. Baldassare Oltrocchi gia Perfetto della stessa Bibliotecca scritte dal sup successore Pietro Cighera (Milan, 1804) which is considered to be the first modern biography of Leonardo da Vinci.

Other works worth mention are Della raddomanzia ossia elettrometria animale ricerche fisiche e storiche (Milan, 1808), Elementi di elettrometria animale (Milan, 1816), and Viaggio di Milano ai tre laghi maggiore (Milan, 1814).

Librarian, discoverer of Pigafetta

He became a librarian in 1797 of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana (Ambrosian Library) at Milan which is said to be the first public library in Europe having first opened its door to the public in 1609. It was as librarian here that the world of exploration history was turned on its head by this paleographer.

In 1797 Amoretti discovered at the Biblioteca the lost Italian manuscript of Pigafetta on Magellan's voyage, considered by most Magellan scholars as the oldest of four extant manuscripts and the most complete, although there is consensus among paleographic scholars this and all surviving codices are mere copies of an original or originals now deemed forever lost. The three other extant manuscripts are all in French of which two are conserved at the Bibliotheque Nationale, MSS 5650 and 24224, the last, viewed as the most "princely" of all, is conserved at the Beinecke Library of the Yale University Library, in the United States.

Garbled edition

Amoretti lost no time in transcribing, editing, and annotating the manuscript. He published his edition of Pigafetta in 1800 under this most formidable title Primo viaggio intorno al globo terracqueo ossia ragguaglio della navigazione alle Indie orientali per la via d'occidente fatta dal cavaliere Antonio Pigafetta patrizio vicentino sulla squadra del capit. Magaglianes negli anni 1519-1522 ora pubblicato per la prima volta, tratto da un codice MS. della Biblioteca Ambrosiana di Milano e corredato di note da C. Amoretti...con un transunto del Trattato di Navigazione dello stesso autore... Milan, 1800. The following year a French edition, translated by Amoretti himself, came out with the title Premier voyage autour du monde par le chevalier Francesco Antonio Pigafetta sur l'escadre de Magellan, pendant les années 1519-20-21-22, suivi de l'extrait du Traité de navigation du même auteur et d'une notice sur le chev. Martin de Behain. Paris, H.J. de Jansen.

Among other things Amoretti modernized the Italian of Pigafetta's text. His edition was the basis for the writings on Magellan's expedition by Jose Toribio Medina and Francis Hill H. Guillemard whose biography of Magellan is still considered the leading work on the Portuguese navigator. Navigation historians and Magellan scholars, among them James Alexander Robertson, Donald D. Brand, and Martin Torodash, fault Amoretti's edition for taking liberties with Pigafetta's text. Brand describes the work as "somewhat garbled."

Creator of grand geographical illusion

Even while it is so poorly regarded Amoretti's work has left an enduring geographical puzzle--an invalid geographical assertion--which has only been recently detected.

In two footnotes on pages 66 and 72, Amoretti surmised that Magellan's port, which he named Massana and appears otherwise as Mazaua or Mazzaua in the clear calligraphic writing of the Beinecke-Yale codex, where the Armada de Molucca anchored from March 28 to April 4, 1521, this port may be the Limassava in Jacques N. Bellin's map of the Philippines.

Bellin's map is a perfect copy of a chart made by Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, S.J., of the Philippines in 1734. Murillo's map was such a brilliant and beautiful map many European mapmakers plagiarized it outright. To the credit of Bellin, he cites Murillo as his authority; he corrects the longitude which followed the erroneous entries of Pigafetta. The French Bellin was hydrographer to the king of France and one of the greatest and most important French cartographers of the mid-18th century. His works were of such excellence as to set a high standard and were widely copied throughout Europe. His map of the Philippines came out the same year that Murillo's map came out.

In any case, Amorettti offers one proof in support of his guess: the latitude of Limassava is at Pigafetta's latitude for Mazaua at 9°40' North. He was mistaken on two counts, Limasawa is at 9°56' North while Mazaua had three latitude readings by three members of the Armada, 9°40' N by Pigafetta, 9°20' N by Francisco Albo, and 9° N by the Genoese Pilot.

Mazaua was the port where Magellan's fleet anchored for one week. It was also the port where 22 years later, Ginés de Mafra, revisited, the only crewmember of the Armada to do so. There are other visits by Spanish and Portuguese during the entire Age of Sail, the last notable one a few months before the 1565 arrival of the Legazpi expedition being a Portuguese squadron that virtually wiped out the entire population of the isle except for one native who was able to hide. The enduring significance of Mazaua was, for the Philippines, the Easter mass which was held by Magellan and his men on 31 March 1521 and a huge cross they planted west of the island on the same day. Mazaua is therefore an icon of the Christianization of the Philippine archipelago. To the larger world of today, rift by the clash of cultures, it is iconic of the peace and amity that characterized the entire Mazaua episode which Stefan Zweig said was the happiest in the entire 1081-day circumnavigation of the globe. Mazaua therefore is a powerful imagery that hearkens the people of the world to the ideas of tolerance, friendship, goodwill, acceptance of one another's diversity and uniqueness.

Limasawa, an invented word

The word Limasawa is not found in any of the over 100 languages of the Philippines. It is not found in any of the eyewitness reports that mention the episode of March 28-April 4, 1521 as written by Antonio Pigafetta, Gines de Mafra, Martinho de Aiamonte, Francisco Albo, and The Genoese Pilot.

In fact, it was invented in 1667 by a Jesuit historian who had not read any of those accounts. Fr. Francisco Combés, S.J., had read three works that refer to the Mazaua episode, by Gian Battista Ramusio who said the port was Butuan and this Combés adopted, Antonio de Herrera who said it was Mazaua which Combés rejected, and Fr. Francisco Colín, S.J., who said the island was Butuan. Colín pointed to another island he called Dimasaua to signify it is not (di is Bisaya for not) the isle where an Easter mass was celebrated. The island is Pigafetta's Gatighan. In the case of Combés, who wrote five years after Colín, he did not adopt Dimasaua because his story does not mention any mass at all.

Amoretti, ignorant of Colín, Combés, de Mafra, Albo, etc.

Amoretti had not read Colín and Combés and was unaware that their Dimasawa and Limasawa were born of ignorance of the true Mazaua episode. That the island whose names they invented pointed to Pigafetta's Gatighan.

Amoretti also had not read the French manuscripts of Pigafetta which described Mazaua as having plenty of gold mines, and the other firsthand accounts by de Mafra, Albo, the Genoese Pilot, and Aiamonte. These uniformly referred to an island with an excellent port. Limasawa has no anchorage.

His claim asserting identity between Limasawa and Mazaua was false from the very basic level of anchorage.

Uncritical acceptance of Amoretti

Navigation historians and Magellan scholars who followed in the wake of Amoretti adopted uncritically his Limasawa=Mazaua dictum. Not one raised any question or doubt. Among these were Lord Stanley of Alderley, Jose T. Medina, F.H.H. Guillemard, Andrea da Mosto, Charles McKew Parr, James Alexander Robertson, down to the latest authors like Laurence Bergreen. In the Philippines it was swallowed hook, line, and sinker by T. H. Pardo de Tavera, Fr. Pablo Pastells, Jayme de Veyra, and almost every historian--professional and amateur. By the time Robertson came into the picture, Amoretti's guess became a certainty, this without any additional argument or evidence. Mazaua, declared Robertson, "is doubtless the Limasaua of the present day." It was de riguer for Magellan writers to state that Limasawa was Pigafetta's Mazaua. In 2003 Bergreen broke away from this and completely disregards the name "Mazaua" altogether, he names the port Limasawa without citing Pigafetta's "Mazaua."

Amoretti name unknown in the Philippines

Philippine historians and historiographers who have written on Magellan and the Mazaua episode are totally ignorant of Amoretti. This incredible phenomenon may be explained by the practice or non-practice of modern historiography which is marked by a strict if not reverential respect for authorship.

In the Philippines, Amoretti's dictum was completely accepted but his authorship unrecognized if not indeed appropriated. His assertion was reworked in such a manner as to make it look new and original. Instead of saying what Amoretti said that "Limasawa may be Mazaua" Philippine historiographers reframed it as "the site of the first mass" (Mazaua) is not Butuan (Gian Battista Ramusio's version) but Limasawa.

The framework finally blossomed to the classic question, "Where is the site of the first mass, Limasawa or Butuan?" This proposition forces the reader to choose between an isle that has no anchorage, Limasawa, and a place that is not an isle, Butuan.

Only with the discovery of the Ginés de Mafra account and by tracing the Limasawa=Mazaua dictum to Amoretti was it possible to see that Amoretti's assertion was based on ignorance of all the eyewitness accounts which he had not read and the accounts of Colín and Combés whose invented names did not point to Magellan's port. De Mafra described a port that was in the Genoese Pilot's 9°N; at this location, all the other's testimonies converged, harmonized to create a unified whole and a consistent truth.

Amoretti's Limasaua is Pigafetta's Gatighan

The notion Amoretti propounded that Limasawa is Mazaua is based on ignorance--or willful ignorance--of a basic fact: Limasawa has no anchorage. It also rests on a garbled text of Pigafetta by Ramusio. Finally, it comes from Combés's renaming of Pigafetta's Gatighan into Limasawa.


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Combés, Francisco. 1667. Historia de las islas de Mindanao, Iolo y sus adyacentes. W.E. Retana (ed.). Madrid 1897.

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Foronda, Marcelino A., Jr. (1981). "The First Mass in the Philippines as a Problem in Philippine Historiography". Kasaysayan, Vol. VI, Number 1-4, 3-7.

Herrera, Antonio de. 1601. Historia general de los hechos de los Castellanos en las islas y tierrafirme del mar oceano, t. VI. Angel Gonzalez Palencia (ed.). Madrid 1947.

Torodash, Martin. 1971. “Magellan Historiography.” In: Hispanic American Historical Review, LI, Pp. 313-335.