GIOVANNI PIO (Gio’Pio) J.U.D. 1st Baron of Budach and 1st Marquis de Piro 1673-1752 – He studied for his doctorate in Rome. He was appointed ambassador representing the Grand Master and the Università as procurator of Wheat. Grand Master Perellos created him Baron of Budach in 1716 with a tribute of two muskets to be paid on the feast of St Barbara every year. He became a Segreto of the Inquisition in 1720 and in 1728 was Curator of the Holy Office. He was placed in a position of further trust by being appointed Secreto of Malta, Gozo and Comino. His honours increased: he was appointed Lieutenant of the regimental company to which the Grand Master’s famigliari belonged. He was appointed Regio Secreto of Syracuse by the King of Spain.
By 1742 Gio’Pio was Senior Jurat of Valletta. As a stepping stone to his final accolade he was temporally created Viscount Cartely but this title was suppressed in order to raise him further: on November 6th, 1742 Philip V of Spain raised him to the rank of Marquis de Piro in the Kingdom of Castille.
Gio’Pio was an entrepreneur with seemingly insatiable ambition and unflagging energy. He was soon in charge of his family’s business including the transactions involving infidel slaves. The family archives hold a bill for 1,500 Scudi representing one transaction in which Gio’Pio is selling Muslims to a Muslim trader called Rais. But these were early days in his career, soon he would concentrate on other people’s administrations and prove his reliability.
His marriage to Anna Antonia Gourgion considerably increased his worldly assets, and fortune seems to have been showered upon him for the rest of his life. His wealthy father-in-law’s administration fell into his lap: Giovanni Gourgion was a landowner, Magistro di Sala of the Valletta Magisterial Palace and even a patron of Mattia Preti’s. The artist painted both Giovanni and his wife pouring water over the Holy Souls in Purgatory in a great altarpiece at St George’s Basilica in Gozo.
Gio’Pio’s career was a triumph and perhaps the most successful of any Maltese man of his period. He invested in land, ships, and cargoes of textiles, grain, sugar, rice and coffee. He would sometimes insure cargoes and ships on his own account. He sometimes lent money, and quite often to Knights of Malta including the illustrious Fra Carlo Albani, nephew of Clement XI.
Gio’Pio purchased land all over Malta, and, in Sicily, great tracts in the plains of Girgenti. He kept houses in Valletta, in Mdina, and, by the sea in Scicli and also in the hexagonal city of Avola. He also invested in good unions. He married off his daughter to the Baron Ferdinando de Ribera and his granddaughter to Francesco, eldest son of the Duke of Montalto. Both ladies were given conspicuous dowries, the descriptions of which survive in the family archives.
His business affairs were administered with efficiency. The surviving papers including many of his letters make the point. He was always aware of what was happening and crosschecked his information through a series of agents in Malta, Sicily, Naples and Rome. He organised the education of his sons through his contacts: Angelo went to Siena and was made to take Holy Orders against his will; Felicissimo Antonio went to Lyons and he pre-deceased his father; Vincenzo, his adored grandson and heir, went to Rome, under the tutelage of the Albani family.
Gio’Pio was conscientious and even religious. He endowed charities: he helped spinsters, and donated altars and embellishments, he gave oil and legacies for masses to churches. He died in 1752 after his son, and was succeeded by his grandson. He is buried with his wife in his family vault under an intarsio marble tombstone in the main isle of the Church of St Francis in Valletta.