Start : Cagliostro’s Elixir.
15, Cours Georges Clemenceau - Hôtel du marquis de Canolle.
This is where Giuseppe Balsamo, an Italian adventurer who at the time went by the name of Count Cagliostro, among others, and who was soon after involved in the murky affair of the Queen’s necklace, was received by Marquis de Canolle with his wife, Lorenza Feliciani, the nefarious Serafina, whom he married in Rome, in 1768. After travelling Europe, Cagliostro stopped at Bordeaux in November 1783.
Born in Palermo in 1743, he travelled from 1769 through Asia Minor and Egypt, then Europe. He met Casanova for the first time in Aix-en-Provence, then journeyed through Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, London, Paris, Venice, Naples, Germany, etc. In 1776-1777, he was in London, where he was introduced to freemasonry before leaving for Brussels.
Having become “Count Cagliostro,” he travelled Europe again between 1778 and 1783, from Venice (where he met the all-important Casanova for a second time), to Paris, passing through Saint Petersburg, Warsaw, Basel and Strasbourg. On 8 November 1783, Giuseppe Balsamo moved in with Marquis de Canolle. They were both freemasons, but the first was of Egyptian rite. Marquis of Canolle’s town house had a facade adorned with several grotesques, including a head encircled by a band, indicating a recent initiation.
Balsamo presented himself as a healer, using magnetism and strange remedies. A spiritualist and magician, he organised large parties and held mysterious meetings, dressed in his Grand Cophta costume consisting of a black silk robe on which hieroglyphic legends were embroidered in red, and an Egyptian headdress “made of strips of pleated fabric that fell around the head.” An emerald green cord surrounded his waist, and a “knight’s sword hung from a red silk sash.” If local gossip was anything to go by, the inhabitants of Bordeaux were not impressed by his theories. At the time, they were more interested in the strange events surrounding the baquet treatment of the Austrian Anton Messmer.
Gascon humour taunted the Sicilian mage. A poem entitled Les prodiges de Cagliostro à Bordeaux [Cagliostro’s miracles in Bordeaux] appeared in all the local papers:
[He has arrived in Bordeaux
This man who does wonders;
By him, everyone is saved,
Open your eyes and your ears
Count... Count Caliostro (sic)
Will cure all vertigo Bravo, bravo, bravissimo!]