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Filadelfia Story

July 2024
1min read

Reader Marcello Maestro of Manhattan has recently passed on a curious footnote to the spread of American ideals after the Revolution:

“There are in the United States many towns and cities that have been named after European communities, sometimes with “New” preceding the name, such as New York or New Orleans. The list is very long, and the same name often is given to several towns in different states. What may come as news to many people, however, is the fact that at least one European town was named after an American city—Philadelphia, the very birthplace of American independence.

“That independence became fact in 1783, when the peace treaty between England and the United States was signed. In that same year, a series of earthquakes rocked southern Italy. One of the towns that suffered most was Castelmonardo near the tip of Italy’s toe. The place was so completely wrecked that its surviving inhabitants decided to abandon what was left of their homes and rebuild their town at some distance from the ruins. The idea was endorsed by Castelmonardo’s most illustrious citizen, Bishop Giovanni Andrea Serrao. Bishop Serrao, a man of liberal convictions, had followed with great sympathy the American struggle for independence, so it was natural for him to propose for the new town the name of Philadelphia—or, as spelled in Italian, Filadelfia —a name that would, he said, always remind the town’s citizens ‘not only to love one another as brothers and friends, but to nurture within themselves this same sentiment toward all men.’ Not only that, the good bishop also drew up a plan for the new town—one that was remarkably similar to that drawn up for Philadelphia by William Penn in 1681. And so it is that in the Italian province of Calabria there is today a town of some ten thousand inhabitants called Filadelfia—so far as I know, the only European town that has been named after an American city.”

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