Sisters of charity of St. Vincent De Paul of Palermo (SV)

The Servant of God
Prince of Palagonia

Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de’ Paul of Palermo

Francesco Paolo Gravina was born in Palermo 5th Feb 1800. Only male heir of a strange couple(his father and mother were uncle and nice, in order not to waste both family name and patrimony, when he was 19 years old, he married Nicoletta Filengeri Pignatelli. They were living together ten years, during which he suffered the unfaithfulness of his wife as a dramatic affront to the sincerity of his love and his moral rectitude. In 1830 he separated from his wife, and he sent her away with a gesture of a tragic actor pulling her out from his house, that struck the imagination of the town. While his wife started a new life with another man, the prince of Palagonia lived the anguish of a betrayed love and the prospect of a lonely life. His moral rectitude in fact didn’t allow him the idea of a new love.

Then, after a year spent to think about his future in the light of God, finding out the answer about “spending” his huge richness, the new man is born. In a few years, don Francesco Paolo Gravina is considered a benefactor of the poor that he helps and overwhelms of gifts in their hovels, untill he realizes that for a lot of them the only hope is to take them away from their hovels. His houses, the villas become Poorhouses.

In 1835 the authorities, frightened of cholera and the presence of a huge crowd of homeless and beggars in Palermo, chose the prince F .P. Gravina to solve this difficult problem and so they gave him the duty to create the Alms-house. F. P. Gravina beings to work and he accomplishes a magnificent work that shows the mark of his brillant genius.
F .P. Gravina not only succeeds in gathering the beggars of Palermo, but he succeeds to persuade the authorities to amplify the project, filling many buildings of Palermo with the poor men. He found out the locals, he modified them with stoneworks, he furnished them with the chapel, the infirmary, labs and kitchens. He organized the work inside and outside the alms-house, buying equipments and employing clever masters.

In this work, he is helped by a group of generous women who give him at first their time and then their freedom, forming the first group of the Sisters of Charity, always beloved by the servant of God.

The Christian education of poor people was the other aim of his life, for this reason he looked for holy priest willing to work for him.

Until his death, F .P. Gravina held the direction of the “ Deposito dei mendici”, founded in 1835 and the pre-existent house of poor.

Untill his death he took care of his huge property, not as an owner, but as a faithful administrator of poor’s property. In fact he left it to them on 15th April 148 years ago.

A new interest and a new fervour of studies about this noble man are now rising. In 1990 the cardinal Pappalardo, Archbishop of Palermo opened the cause of beatification. In 1991in the first biography was published and new reserches about his life are still in progress.

Palermo turns its attention to the man who, who lived in the first half of the past century, now seems new and actual because his life was imbued with the eternal evangelical message. We can close this brief recalling of his life with the final words of his biography: “his humble and great name is pronounced again, the story of his excellent life is known again”.

The Sisters of Charity of the prince of Palagonia, asking for the glorification of don Paolo Gravina to the church, drew the beautiful story of this unknown hero from the silence of history and offer it to the world.


To obtain the glorification of the Servant


Holy Trinity, for the endless glory that blessed Jesus offers to you, we ask you to glorify your faithfull Servant don F. P. Gravina, prince of Palagonia and his intercession give us the graces which we need and with devot heart, we are asking you.

Pater, Ave, Gloria
With ecclesiastical permission

To buy the biography of the God Servant F. P. Gravina addresses the General Mother of The Charity Sisters, Via Sciuti, 102-90144 Palermo-Italy. Tel. +39 091 343271- email:,


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