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he Italian Heraldic Council was founded in Turin, the ancient capital of Italy – with a deed of 18 November 1948 by the notary Dr. Adolfo Baldioli – by Prince Antonio Ferdinando Gravina Cruyllas di Valsavoja,, Count Alessandro Michele Arnaldi and Count Ubaldo Camnasio de Irun y Villaroel, with the support of the gentlemen Count Vittorio Emanuele Caramelli di Clavesana, Count Giuseppe Maria Ferrero di Roccaferra, Count Attilio Valente di Valbruna and Count Mario Giacomo Brack del Prever.

The functions of the College of Heralds of the Kingdom of Italy having been abolished following the fourteenth transitory and final disposition of the Constitution of the Republic of Italy (“The law declares the suppression of the College of Heralds”), the Italian Heraldic Council set itself the following principal aims: checking the historic legitimacy of concession titles; establishing the validity of geological trees; carrying out research of a historic and genealogical nature; collecting coats of arms, in order to safeguard the historic heritage of the Italian nobility.

On 28 December 1960, a delegation was founded in the Terra di Lavoro, in Bari.

In 1966, the head office was moved to Milan and, in 1993, Don Francesco Maria Mariano Duke of Otranto became the Grand Master, notifying the Ministry for Education and the Ministry for the Interior that the Institute “aims to operate as a cultural body in the training and promoting sphragistics, genealogy and diplomatic studies in the widest sense linked to heraldry, as subjects which require a fundamental revitalisation”.

In 1994, the Marquises Arardo Maria and Renato Maria Spreti – sons of the Marquis Vittorio Spreti, promoter and director of the Italian Historic and Noble Encyclopaedia – granted the Italian Heraldic Council the exclusive right to transpose the text of the Italian Historic and Noble Encyclopaedia into a data bank operating on any type of magnetic support.

On 19 April 1995, the Association, in agreement with the aforesaid sole heirs of the Marquis Vittorio Spreti, assumed the name Italian Heraldic Council - Marquis Vittorio Spreti Institute; on the same occasion, the Duke of Otranto became the President of the association and the head office was moved to its final home in Padua.

After the death, in 2000, of the Marquis Arardo Maria, the position of Vice-President of the Council was taken over by the Marquis Renato Maria Spreti, second son of Vittorio, whose experience, coordination and spiritual as well as material guidance, provides us with particular, invincible stimuli.

Ever since its foundation, the Institute has pursued the aim of scientifically encouraging studies in heraldry and genealogy, as well as providing advice for the granting or recognition of titles, coats of arms and predicates of nobility, even in the realm of jurisdiction and the law, in Italy and abroad; this is done in order to safeguard the history of the homeland and to seek and preserve heraldic, noble, genealogical, bourgeois and chivalrous values.

Among other things, the Council deals with:
• the illustration of noble and bourgeois coats of arms and the realisation of family coats of arms ex novo, with respective registration by notary, filing and possible publication in the Official Gazette (as well as recording in the Italian Grand Armorial Register);
• etymological studies, with particular reference to the etymological origin of surnames;
• carrying out formalities for the admission to orders of chivalry;
• the publication of editorial works of particular historic and heraldic interest, including the Iconographic Archive of Orders of Chivalry and the Italian Grand Armorial Register, etc.
• the issue of opinions pro veritate, of a technical heraldic nature, and, for services provided by the Higher Institute of Noble Law, of a chivalrous and noble nature;
• all types of investigations in the national, municipal and parish registers, and wherever may be considered necessary for the greater accuracy of research.

The Italian Heraldic Council can count on the interest and loyalty of over 16,000 clients or appreciators, and has delegations in many countries, including the United States of America, Spain, the Principality of Monaco, France, Austria, Japan, Slovakia, Poland, Russia, the Ukraine, Armenia, China, the United Arab Emirates, etc.

The Council’s heritage comprises more than 2,000 volumes on the relevant subjects, some of them very rare; there is data bank of more than 300,000 coats of arms; 245,000 profiles of families; 85,000 etymologies of surnames; 13,000 family trees; one and a half million historical references; five archives, among which the Spreti archive, comprising 200 box files.

For all these reasons it may be said that talking about heraldry, nobility and chivalry is not at all anachronistic, but denotes both cultural and historic sensitivity to the best traditions and the awareness of experiencing the cult of the family, of feelings of honour, duty and fatherland, even though all this seems almost to have been forgotten, in a time when ideals and values appear to have been swept away.

This leads to a reaction, to trace and hand down the glorious examples of our forefathers, recalling their exploits, their magnanimous deeds and generous actions, even when those forefathers were of humble stock.

Noble and chivalrous distinctions were – and fortunately still are – a token and expression of Institutions steeped in history, and they have left indelible traces of memorable events as well as a heritage of cultural and religious tractions that are still alive, even after many centuries. Nor must it be forgotten that aristocracy and chivalry – being tied to moral nobility – have always been able, in every period, to confirm their role in any social context, almost as a premise and foundation of every important action, because everywhere their origin dates back to ancient times and is closely linked with the civil, political and religious progress of the Nation.

The achieving of their aim has therefore not completely forgotten the very essence of the social function of these Institutions (whether they be old or new), and in the present crisis of civilisation their fertile seeds have survived in the souls of those who are truly noble, to support their restoring and forming mission.

It is therefore a duty and a mission to make history, heraldry, genealogy, coats of arms, chivalry and nobility known in places where there is no knowledge of such articulated and meaningful subjects.

That is why, in our life as keen, though modest, followers of the subsidiary sciences of history that go by the name of heraldry and genealogy, we have not wished to shirk the categorical demand to engage ourselves and all our knowledge in a constant activity of searching for the truth using scientific methods, whatever that truth may be.

The greater glory should be a famous name borne with pride and enriched with a strong family tree. Over the centuries, generations increase as do the branches of a tree, of which we are the greenest branches: the farther back we can trace our origin, the deeper the roots and the stronger the trunk.

For these reasons too, we want to keep giving importance to heraldry and genealogy, and we shall fight to ensure that they are never neglected or despised: any science, no matter what it may be, can be regulated within its own proper limits, but never denied.

That is neither logical nor democratic. We therefore ask all visitors to this historic and cultural site for their understand and their valid, honest help, wishing them happy surfing.

Don Francesco Maria Mariano
duke of Otranto