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A brief biography of the mysterious Count Alessandro di Cagliostro (1743 – 1795), the alias of the occultist Giuseppe Balsamo, no doubt the greatest occult figure of early modern Europe.

 

Born in Palermo, Sicily, Cagliostro travelled through Europe, selling ‘magical’ paraphernalia and performing alchemical rituals. He seems to have been a skilled letter forger: Casanova was greatly impressed by his talent, as he relates in his memoirs.

 

In London Cagliostro was admitted as a freemason, and he went on to establish several masonic lodges throughout Europe. He possibly even participated in the infamous Affair of the Diamond Necklace, but, after being held in the Bastille for nine months, he was acquitted. After a life of adventure and controversy, he was finally arrested in Rome in 1789, apparently after his wife had denounced him to the Inquisition as a heretic. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he died in prison in 1795.

The greatest occult figure of early modern Europe

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  • [Jean-Pierre-Louis de Luchet]. Mémoires authentiques pour servir à l'histoire du comte de Cagliostro.Paris, 1786. 

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