Who was Faà di Bruno?


The Blessed Francesco Faà di Bruno, born in Alessandria (formerly Kingdom of Sardinia, now Piedmont, Italy) on March, 29th 1825, belonged to a family of ancient nobilty, the Marquises of Bruno.

The member of the Faà di Bruno household had a long tradition of great members who made their way through the fields of religion, army and politics.

After his studies, Francesco took up the military career: he became Captain in the Piedmontese Army and Aide-de-camp of the Prince Vittorio Emanuele (the future Vittorio Emanuele II,first King of Italy) and with this degree he fought in 1848, during the First Independence War that the Sardinian Kingdom fought with the Italian patriots against the Austrian Empire.


During the conflict, he designed the first topographic maps of the Mincio River, which will be a decisive strategical instrument during the 1860 ‘s war, won by the Savoia against the Austrians.

When Vittorio Emanuele II acceded to the throne, he decided to appoint Francesco as Mathematics and Science house tutor of his two sons, Umberto (heir to the throne) and Amedeo (future king of Spain).

To complete and enhance his education, Francesco moved to Paris and attended

 the Sorbonne  under the great mathematician Augustin Cauchy. He got his degree in Mathematics on March, 10th 1851.


Back to Turin, Francesco saw his place being taken by other people due to anticlerical conspirations that managed to oust him succesfully.

He was then sent to the Riviera Ligure and effectuated a topographical survey from La Spezia to Nice.

The young officer felt bound and oppressed by the activity and on March 14th, 1853 he eventually resigned from the Sardinian Army.

The official reason was his refusal of a duel with another officer who made fun of his religious convinctions.

Again a civilian, he moved for the second time to Paris to complete and perfectionate his studies: this time, he got a degree in Mathematics and Astronomy with two distincted thesis on October 20th, 1856.


The degree was recognised by the Italian Ministry of Public Education and he was allowed to hold courses in Mathematics, Astronomy and Physics at the University of Turin; he mantained the position from 1857 until the end of his life.

Along this lifespan, he published many works that obtained praises and accolades throughout the whole Europe, such as the Calcul des erreurs (1869) and the Théorie des formes binaires (1876) ; however, always because of religious opposition, he would never become full professor.


As a lay, he founded the Opera di Santa Zita in 1859.

The institution was intendend to offer social assistence and education to women in general, elder as well as younger, and housemaids in particular.

As a part of the Institution of Santa Zita, there were a Catholic Empory ( a shop for sacred furniture and garments), a typography and a steam laundry.

Furthermore, he promoted the building of public baths and soup kitchens; in the scientific field, he invented astronomic and physical  teaching devices, a writing table intended for blind people and an electric alarm clock.


It was not enough, though: he opened a High School for the schooling of future upper class members, and, first man in Turin, he organised a circulating library which would allow education in many fields of knowledge, from religion and spirituality to scientific texts, because, it was his strong convinction, “true science leads to God”.


The Library was extended to the entire Italy and got the praise and blessing of Pope Leo XIII in 1879.

He was an active member of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul both in Paris and Turin and founded  the section of Alessandria (Piedmont).

He designed the Church of Our Lady of Suffrage in Turin (Via San Donato 33), dedicated to the fallen in war and, what is more, he designed the 75 m (246 ft.) tall clock tower, astonishingly standing in the skyline of the city.

He introduced in Turin the liturgical practise of the month of the dead and the night eucharistic adoration opened to men only.

Under request of Pope Pius IX, he opened a shelter house for single mothers and a professional college with summer retreats in Benevello d’Alba (Piedmont).


Aged 51, he was ordained priest with the direct intervention of Pope Pius IX in Rome on October 22nd,1876, and that was the first step of an intense sacerdotal ministry.

He officially undertook the Congregation of the Minim Sisters of Our Lady of Suffrage on July, 16th, 1881, whom he endowed with the task of perpetually bolstering the prayers for the deceased and the duty of carrying forth the social, educational and charitable works, especially the ones intended for women, that nowadays are spread in Italy, Romania, Argentine, Colombia and Congo.

He contributed to scientific reviews, he published learned treatises and school texts adopted even abroad, he wrote and printed his and other’s music works, devotion and liturgic-musical manuals, ascetic, agiographic and moral brochures.

Another aspect of his cultural width was his linguistic interest: next to Italian, he currently spoke French, English and German and he started the study of Russian and Chinese.

He died aged only 63 on March, 27th, 1888 and his remains rest since 1925 in a shrine into his church in via San Donato, Turin.

He was beatified by Saint John Paul II in Rome in occasion of the first centenary of his death, on September 25th 1988.


Nonetheless, he is revered in the military field: the Application School in Turin, where he taught Geodesy, entitled him a Chapel and the Military Engineers corps of the Italian army chose him as patron saint.

In the social engagement, his multifaceted works and his intuitions for giving an answer to the social problems of his epoch are admirable while in the religious field, we remember his devotion to the Eucharisty, to Mary and his piety for the Purgatory souls, especially the ones who fell in every war.


Death only contributed to furtherly exalting the talents of a great and humble personality, who had always been reluctant to speak of himself.

He had undoubtedly an extraordinary personality, that distinguished him in every milieu and situation: he was intelligent as well as good-minded, he had great inventive skills and a outstanding genius which harvested success in every field he applied his creative energies.

We must admire his charity open to every problem of the poor, the sensitivity to all social miseries, his anxiety of donating to whoever was in want a help, a relief, a hope or even a certainty.

Minim Sisters of Our Lady of Suffrage |  Via San Donato 31  | 10144 Torino | Italy | +39 011 48.91.45 |