Please note that registration for tomorrow’s Franciacorta tasting in Austin, Texas is closed. We’ll be posting notes and images from the tasting later this week.
Above: The frontispiece of the Statuta Civitatis Brixiae or Statutes of the city of Brescia, published in 1557, a census of the city-state.
There are myriad theories as to the origins of the place name Franciacorta but there is little consensus among philologists on a tenable etymology.
Many nineteenth-century scholars believed that the toponym owed its origins to the presence of French king Charles of Anjou (Charles I of Naples) who sojourned in Brescia province with his troops as he descended through the Italic peninsula in the thirteenth century.
According to this theory, Franciacorta is a composite of Francia (France) and corte (court).
The earliest known mention of Franciacorta dates back to a thirteenth century census of the city-state of Brescia (an earlier Statuta like the 1577 census above) and so it aligns with this theory.
But other historians hold that the name can be attributed to the fact that the Cluniac monks who arrived there in the late middle ages enjoyed “tax free” status or at least (depending on which account you read) a free hand to establish and build their monasteries. According to this theory, Franciacorta is a corruption of corte franca (free court).
Above: I wasn’t able to track down an image of the 1277 census (Statuta) but I did find the 1577 census in a facsimile reproduction of the book.
The bottom line is that we will most likely never know the true origin of the toponym.
Philology is an inexact science. Some would say that its value lies in the insights into history that it delivers along the way.
The Italian Wiki entry for Franciacorta documents the myriad however inconclusive theories as to the etymology of the toponym.