Castrated Young Church Singers in Italy

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Castrated Young Church Singers in Italy

Dealing with art has required many hardships and some sacrifices to be endured in almost all periods of history. In other words, art was something that was paid for in the past. But young singers living in sixteenth-century Italy, specially trained to sing in church choirs, were forced to make somewhat extraordinary sacrifices for the sake of the arts, to pay a frightening price. These singers, called castratos, were castrated at a young age in order to have a high-pitched female voice!

Until the early nineteenth century, Italian churches used dozens of castrato. Some of the castrato, who gave exceptional musical performances with their female voices, became very popular in Europe and gained great fame. However, many castrates were destined to be poor, sick and forgotten. Here is the extraordinary story of Italian singers who were castrated at a young age so that they could have a high-pitched female voice.

In 16th-century Italy, boys with soprano, middle soprano, or contralto, that is, high-pitched voices, were seen as the hope of “salvation” for poor families.

Because these children can participate in church choirs and become as famous and rich as their luck and ability. But fame and fortune were not easily achieved in sixteenth-century Italy. Boys who met the relevant criteria were asked to retain their female voices throughout their lives.

In other words, deepening their voices was the biggest obstacle on their path to fame and fortune. There was only one way these boys could preserve their fine voices, eunuchs! Hereafter low-voiced male singer candidates in Italy were castrated and named castrato so that they could participate in church choirs.

In the 16th century, the Vatican banned women from participating in church choirs. After this ban, castratos became a very popular alternative.

Particularly poor Italian families, who had a son with a low voice, saw this ban as the shortest way out of poverty. Because of this, many good-voiced boys were castrated at an early age so that they could take the place of women in church choirs and continue their singing careers for many years to come.

In the late 17th century, 4,000 children a year were castrated to become castratos.

Because the churches and the papacy in Italy needed a large number of castrato. However, castration of young boys was an illegal practice at that time!

Male singers in Italy were castrated by surgeons or barbers in dark practices!

Of course, it was not possible to find modern applications in these processes. So much so that these unfortunate candidates for castrati were often performed without the use of anesthesia. According to research, 20 percent of castrated babies died during the operation in those years.

On the other hand, families whose children could not get up from the operating table allegedly lied that their children had fallen from a horse or died as a result of an attack by wild animals in order to avoid punishment.

These surviving children had the opportunity to receive a serious musical education.

Children who completed their education and became true castratos began their careers by participating in church choirs. However, a brighter life was possible for the castrato who were lucky.

Some of the castrato in history have achieved great wealth and fame.

The custom of castrating boys with low voices so that they could participate in church choirs was only practiced in Italy. For this reason, all the singers who spread around Europe spread and became famous in different geographical areas, from Italy to Europe. Moreover, some castratos managed to enter palaces in different countries of Europe. Castratos, who sang for royalty, was of great wealth.

Castrato Farinelli, who rose to prominence across eighteenth-century Europe, earned £5,000 a year at the height of his career.


Farinelli, who gave various performances and gained great popularity throughout Europe, was employed by Queen Elisabetta Farnese of Spain and became a court artist.

Farinelli, who has been in the service of the Spanish royal family for many years, also managed to become one of the most famous castratos in history … However, the vast majority of Italian castratos never had the opportunities that Farinelli had.

Most of the castrato lived a difficult life, suffering from many health problems due to being castrated at a young age.

First of all, because they were castrated, they had hormonal disorders for life. For this reason, almost every castrato in history has been tall. Bone growth problems and osteoporosis were also very common.

Kastratos began to decline in the early nineteenth century


Because the papacy allowed singers back into churches in the late eighteenth century. However, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the most important philosophers of the period, wrote an article that criticized the castrato tradition very harshly.

Rousseau’s parents who condoned the castration of their childrenInhuman fathers who abandoned their children for the amusement of immoral tyrants!He described it. In the following period, this practice, in which young children were castrated, became a source of embarrassment in Italy and the number of castrato in churches gradually decreased.

Alessandro Moreschi, one of the last known castrato, ended his singing career in 1913.

Alessandro Moreschi

Thus, both this interesting practice and castratos were shuffled into the dusty pages of history…

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