It’s the kind of quirky antique that baby name guides omit, an all-but-lost appellation that has a certain vintage charm.
Thanks to Meredith for suggesting her great-grandmother’s name as our Baby Name of the Day: Consiglia.
References to Consiglia are rare. The current Queen of Belgium’s full name is Paola Margherita Maria Antonia Consiglia, born in 1937.
The Italian priest Pio of Pietrelcina, commonly known as Padre Pio, has been a popular candidate for canonization in recent years. One of the women said to be cured through his miraculous intercession was Consiglia de Martino.
Consiglia Teutonica was just fourteen during the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts strike known as the Bread and Roses uprising. Consiglia’s mom was an organizer, and their kitchen a war room. Years later, Consiglia would help historians record oral histories of the events.
Women wearing the name are plentiful in the 1930 US Census, nearly all with Italian surnames, many with spouses called Guido or Rocco or Frank. There must have been a flurry of baby girls called Consiglia at the the turn of the twentieth century.
Singer Consiglia Licciardi has had a long career in Italy. Like Meredith’s grandmother, she hails from Naples.
But where does the name come from? Anyone who has seen a mob movie has stumbled across the shadowy position of consigliere – literally the Italian word for counselor. It is sometimes misunderstood as the equivalent of lawyer. The most famous consigliere was Tom Hagen of The Godfather. Tom had a law degree, but his predecessor, Genco, had nothin’ but street smarts.
In Latin, consilium is advice, and a consiliarius is one who offers such guidance. Before the term was used by the mafia, it surfaced in medieval Venice. The consigliere ducal was an advisor to the Doge.
But none of this tracks with a name given to daughters in the nineteenth century. Here’s something that does: there’s a story that a fresco of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child miraculously appeared in a church in Genazzano, Italy – about midway between Rome and Naples – during a feast in the year 1467. Over the centuries, it became a pilgrimage site, with miracles attached to the portrait. Mary is called Our Lady of Good Counsel in this depiction.
Devotion to his particular aspect of Mary intensified, and seems to have peaked in the 1890s and early 1900s, under Pope Leo XIII. Other artists painted Our Lady of Good Counsel, and this title entered into common use. Marian attributes frequently became given names, especially in Spanish and Italian. Little wonder that affection for Our Lady of Good Counsel would translate to a bunch of baby Consiglias.
If you have Consiglia on your family tree and are eager to use it, the nickname option Cosi might serve as an update. Still, while some Marian names – Lourdes, for one – are fashion-forward, Consiglia keeps company with other obscurities like Assumpta.
She might not be the easiest name to wear in 21st century America, but Consiglia does demonstrate that names have always been influenced by major cultural events of our time. Parents are delightfully inventive, and our influences are ever-changing.