The brotherhood (1563-1852)
The history of the Compagnia di San Paolo begins in 16th century Torino, when, on 25 January 1563 seven citizens from Torino founded the “Compagnia della Fede Cattolica sotto l’invocazione di San Paolo,” with the double purpose of helping the population burdened by the economic blight – through the gathering of alms and home assistance – and of checking the spreading of the Protestant Reformation.
Towards the end of the 16th century the brotherhood founded the first “Opere” (today we would call them “institutions”) having a social and humanitarian character: the Monte di pietà cittadino of 1579, that issued small loans against security and, in 1589, with the beginning of assistance to women, the Casa del soccorso, destined to the education of poor girls. In 1595 the Ufficio Pio was established with the purpose of managing all of the Compagnia’s charity work: subsidies to the impoverished, to the ill, and to beggars; religious services; dowries for the girls hosted in the Casa del soccorso, and payment of fees. Later on, in 1683, the Casa del deposito was founded, that welcomed women who were victims of exploitation and violence.
Later on, the Compagnia di San Paolo also contributed to the establishment of the Collegio dei nobili convittori, for the education of the youth of the affluent classes, and of the Albergo di virtù that helped beggars to work in mechanics and manufacturing (in agreement with the ducal project that introduced silk manufacturing in Piedmont). In the middle of the 17th century the brotherhood promoted the creation of the Ospedale di carità, collaborating both in its direction and financing; and in the following century it financed the establishment of the Ospedale dei pazzi.
In the course of the 17th century, the Compagnia consolidated its organizational structure and its role in society with an intensive financial activity that culminated in the undertaking of the management of the public debt in 1653: the Monte della fede, entrusted to the Monte di pietà. At the end of the 18th century even the Compagnia suffered from the general influence of the crisis, and during the French republican government it lost the management of the Opere and the possession of its estate, until it was suppressed in 1802 and substituted with publicly appointed bodies, that were however able to ensure continuity with the preceding experience.
With the Restoration, the Compagnia was restored and its activities amplified: it took on the management of the Monte di pietà a interessi as well as that of the Monte di pietà gratuito and, while the activities of the Ufficio Pio were resumed, between 1824 and 1851, the Compagnia was entrusted with healthcare services for the poor of Torino, which included, beside basic medical care, pharmaceutical assistance and specialized medical care.