At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Armando Diaz - First World War general

Neapolitan commander led decisive victory over Austria

General Armando Diaz in 1918
General Armando Diaz in 1918
Armando Diaz, the general who masterminded Italy's victory over Austrian forces at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto in 1918, was born on this day in 1861 in Naples.

The battle, which ended the First World War on the Italian front, also precipitated the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ending more than 200 years of Austrian control of substantial parts of Italy.

The general's announcement of the total defeat of the Austrian Army at Vittorio Veneto sparked one of the greatest moments of celebration in the history of Italy, with some Italians seeing it as the final culmination of the Risorgimento movement and the unification of Italy.

Diaz was born to a Neapolitan father of Spanish heritage and an Italian mother. He decided to pursue his ambitions to of a military career despite the preference for soldiers of Piedmontese background in newly formed Royal Italian Army.

After attending military colleges in Naples and Turin, Diaz served with distinction in the Italo-Turkish War.

In 1914, when the First World War broke out, General Count Luigi Cadorna promoted Diaz to major general and made him Chief of Operations.

Italian troops on the move in Val d'Assa during the Battle of Vittorio Veneto
Italian troops on the move in Val d'Assa
during the Battle of Vittorio Veneto
The disastrous Battle of Caporetto, which took place near what is now the Slovenian town of Kobarid, saw the Royal Italian Army overwhelmed in the face of the Austrian advance, losing 300,000 men. It spelled the end for General Cadorna and Diaz was appointed to replace him as Chief of Staff.

Diaz had to rebuild the army and restore morale after Caporetto, while at the same time making progress against the Austrians.  Yet he proved to be enormously astute. His strategy was defensive but well-timed tactical strikes inflicted significant losses on the enemy.

When the Austrians launched their next offensive, Diaz's forces repelled them and some 150,000 Austrians were killed or wounded.

Diaz was under pressure from the Allies to make gains for Italy to ensure the territorial concessions promised by France and Britain were granted but was determined to bide his time. He did not want to move until what he considered the most opportune moment against a weakened enemy in which unity was beginning to fragment.

That moment came on October 23, 1918, when the Italian offensive was launched against Austro-Hungarian forces at Vittorio - later Vittorio Veneto - the point chosen because Diaz reasoned that the capture of the town, at the midway point of the Austro-Hungarian line across northern Italy, would split the enemy forces in two and make it much more likely their resistance would crumble.

An attack was launched along a line that stretched from Venice through Treviso, Vicenza and Bormio and within seven days Vittorio Veneto had fallen. The Austrians lost 35,000 dead, 100,000 wounded and a further 300,000 to 500,000 were captured as prisoners of war.

By contrast, only 5,800 Italians were killed and 26,000 wounded.

Austro-Hungarian troops captured at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto
Austro-Hungarian troops captured
at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto
As bad as Caporetto had been for Italy, Vittorio Veneto was worse for the Austrians, and not just in terms of casualties. During the offensive, Hungary broke away from Austria and ordered the Hungarian troops on the Italian front to stop fighting.  Czechoslovakia then declared itself independent of Austria, as did Yugoslavia.

Diaz was given much of the credit and in 1921 was appointed to the Senate by King Victor Emmanuel III and given the title 'Duke of Victory'.  In the same year he became the first Italian general to be honoured with a ticker tape parade in New York City when he and other Allied commanders visited the United States.

Diaz became a somewhat controversial figure in the years after the First World War, persuading Victor Emmanuel III against the military action that might have prevented Mussolini's Fascists coming to power.

The King had wanted his soldiers to be ready to fire on Mussolini's armed Blackshirts if they went ahead with their planned 'march on Rome' in October 1922 but Diaz, aware of significant support for Mussolini's nationalistic ambitions within the army's rank and file, feared there might be a mutiny if the order was given.

As a result, the Blackshirts were unopposed and Mussolini was invited to form a government.

Diaz was then appointed Minister of War in the first Fascist cabinet and later promoted to the rank of Marshal of Italy.

He retired in 1924 in failing health and died in Rome in 1928 at the age of 66.  He was buried in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri. 

Travel tip:

Vittorio Veneto is a town of some 28,000 people in the Province of Treviso, in Veneto, situated between the Piave and Livenza rivers at the foot of the mountain region known as the Prealpi.  It was formed from the joining of the communities of Serravalle and Ceneda in 1866 and named Vittorio in honour of Victor Emmanuel II.  The Veneto suffix was added in 1923 to commemorate the decisive battle.

Hotels in Vittorio Veneto by

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri off Rome's Piazza della Repubblica
The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
off Rome's Piazza della Repubblica
Travel tip:

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, which was built inside the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian off Rome's Piazza della Repubblica to a design by Michelangelo, was the official state church of the Kingdom of Italy (1870-1946). It hosts the tombs of both General Armando Diaz and Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel, the First World War naval commander, and is today used for funerals of Italian soldiers killed abroad.

Hotels in Rome by Expedia

More reading:

Villa Giusti armistice formerly ends the First World War in Italy

Mussolini and the rise of Italian Fascism

The abdication of Victor Emmanuel III

Also on this day:

1443: Birth of Julius II - the pope who commissioned Michelangelo's greatest works

(Picture credit: Basilica by Bgabel via Wikimedia Commons)


Sunday, 4 December 2016

Pope Adrian IV

The warlike conduct of England’s one and only pontiff

A cameo of Pope Adrian IV at the  Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris
A cameo of Pope Adrian IV at the
Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris
The only Englishman to have ever sat on the papal throne, Nicholas Breakspear, became Pope on this day in 1154 in Rome.

Breakspear, who was from Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire, had previously been created Cardinal Bishop of Albano by Pope Eugene III.

After his election as Pope, Breakspear took the name of Adrian IV (also known as Hadrian IV) and immediately set about dealing with the anti-papal faction in Rome.

After Frederick Barbarossa, Duke of Swabia, caught and hanged the leader of the faction, a man known as Arnold of Brescia, Adrian crowned Frederick as Holy Roman Emperor in 1155 to reward him.

He then formed an alliance with the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel Comnenus, against the Normans in Sicily.

Adrian raised mercenary troops in Campania to fight alongside the Byzantine forces and the alliance was immediately successful, with many cities giving in, either because of the threat of force or the promise of gold.

Frederick I as portrayed in a document in the Vatican library dated 1188
Frederick I as portrayed in a document in
the Vatican library dated 1188
But the Normans launched a counter attack by land and sea and many of the mercenaries deserted leaving the Byzantine troops outnumbered and forced to return home.

Adrian is also believed to have urged King Henry II of England to invade Ireland and bring the church under Roman control. It was claimed that Henry’s mother, the Empress Mathilda, protested about it and so the proposed invasion was postponed.

Then a letter Adrian sent to Frederick I was misinterpreted by one of the Emperor’s officials causing a breach between the two leaders. Adrian was just about to excommunicate the Holy Roman Emperor when he died at Anagni near Rome in 1159, reputedly from choking on a fly in his wine, but it has also been suggested he was possibly suffering from a quinsy, a complication of tonsilitis.

Travel tip:

The Diocese of Albano, where Adrian IV was Cardinal Bishop between 1149 and 1154, includes several towns in the Castelli Romano area of Lazio. It was founded in the fourth century after a Basilica had been built at Albano Laziale, 25 kilometres from Rome. Albano is now one of the most important municipalities of the Castelli Romani. It is close to Castel Gandolfo, where the Pope’s present day summer residence was built in the 17th century for  Pope Urban VIII.

Hotels in Castelli Romano by

The Cathedral of Santa Maria in Agnani
The Cathedral of Santa Maria in Agnani
Travel tip:

Agnani, where Adrian IV died, is an ancient town, southeast of Rome in an area of Italy known as the Ciociaria, which takes its name from the type of footwear, cioce, once worn by the local people. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Agnani became one of the favourite residences of the Popes, who considered it safer and healthier than Rome. One of the main sights is the Cathedral of Santa Maria, built in Romanesque style between 1071 and 1105.

Hotels in Agnani by Expedia

More reading:

St Clare of Assisi - the count's daughter inspired by hearing Francis of Assisi preach

Pope John Paul II - first non-Italian pope for 455 years

The 33-day reign of the 'smiling pope'

Also on this day:

1798: Death of the scientist whose name added a new word to the language

(Picture credits: Agnani Cathedral by Livioandronico2013 via Wikimedia Commons)


Saturday, 3 December 2016

Nicolò Amati - violin maker

Grandson of Andrea Amati produced some of world's finest instruments

A portrait of Nicolò Amati by French artist Jacques-Joseph Lecurieux
A portrait of Nicolò Amati by French
artist Jacques-Joseph Lecurieux
Nicolò Amati, who is acknowledged as the greatest in the line of Amati violin makers in the 16th and 17th centuries, was born on this day in 1596 in Cremona.

The grandson of Andrea Amati, who is credited by most experts with being the inventor of the violin in its four-stringed form, Nicolò followed his father, Girolamo, and uncle, Antonio, into the family business.

Girolamo and Antonio went their separate ways in around 1590, Antonio setting up a different workshop, which was thought to specialize in lutes.

Initially, Nicolò made instruments that were very similar to those created by Girolamo but later began to add refinements of his own, the most significant of which came between 1630 and 1640 when he created the Grand Amati design.

This model, slightly wider and longer than the violins his father had produced, yielded greater power of tone than the smaller instruments and soon became sought after.

The bubonic plague outbreak that swept through Italy between 1629 and 1633 claimed the lives of both Girolamo and Nicolò's mother, Laura, and that of his main rival in violin manufacture at the time, Giovanni Paolo Maggini, from the Brescian school.

With Antonio also dead, although a few years earlier, and none of Girolamo's other sons having entered the business, Nicolò was left as one of the only active luthiers in the Cremonese tradition.

A 1662 violin made by Nicolò Amati in the Grand Amati design
A 1662 violin made by Nicolò Amati
in the Grand Amati design
He struggled in the years immediately following the plague outbreak, when Europe was gripped by famine and owning luxury violins was not a priority even for the wealthier nobleman. But gradually returned to normal and the success of the Grand Amati model created a demand Nicolò was unable to meet on his own.

As a result, he took the decision for the first time to take on assistants from outside the family and appointed a number of apprentices, including Andrea Guarneri, Giacomo Gennaro and the German Matthias Klotz, who all went on to become great violin makers in their own right.

While there is no clear documentation of his having worked in Nicolò's shop, the brilliant Antonio Stradivari was clearly a student of his style and methods, as were Francesco Ruggiero, Giovanni Battista Ruggiero and the Austrian Jacob Stainer.

Nicolò's son, Girolamo, often known by his Latinized name Hieronymous II, continued in the family line, although without the same level of success as his forebears.

Thomas Bowes still plays a 1659 Nicolò Amati violin
Thomas Bowes still plays a
1659 Nicolò Amati violin
As well as producing a sweet, mellow tone, Nicolò's violins were characterized by their elegance and quality craftsmanship and fetch large prices when they appear in auction houses today, even if not quite in the league of the Stradivarius instruments.

In 2013, the London auctioneers Ingles and Hayday sold a 1658 violin by Nicolò Amati for £432,000 ($654,590; €508,775).

The distinguished English violinist and orchestra leader Thomas Bowes is a prominent performer who uses a Nicolò Amati violin, the one he plays being manufactured in 1659.

Travel tip:

As well as being known universally as the city of the violin, with a number of manufacturers based there today, Cremona is also associated the with composer Claudio Monteverdi.  The Baroque musician, whose 1607 work L'Orfeo is recognised as the first full-length opera, was born in Cremona and studied music at the city's 12th century Romanesque Duomo.

Hotels in Cremona by Expedia

Piazza della Loggia in the historic centre of Brescia
Piazza della Loggia in the historic centre of Brescia
Travel tip:

Brescia, a city in Lombardy situated between Lake Garda and the smaller Lago d'Iseo, is often overlooked by visitors to the area and first impressions are often coloured by the somewhat seedy nature of the streets in the immediate vicinity of the railway station.   However, the historic centre contains some of the best preserved Roman buildings in northern Italy as well as a medieval castle, two cathedrals and the beautiful Renaissance square, Piazza della Loggia.

Hotels in Brescia by

More reading:


Friday, 2 December 2016

Paolo Tosti – composer

How a poor boy from Abruzzo became an English knight

  Paolo Tosti
Paolo Tosti
Paolo Tosti, the composer of the popular Neapolitan song, Marechiare, died on this day in 1916 in Rome.

Many of the light, sentimental songs he composed were performed by the top opera singers of the time and are still regularly recorded by the stars of today.

At the height of his career, Tosti was singing professor to Princess Margherita of Savoy, who later became the Queen of Italy. He then went to live in England, where his popularity grew even more.

He was appointed singing master to the British Royal Family and was eventually knighted by King Edward VII, who had become one of his personal friends.

Born Francesco Paolo Tosti in Ortona in the Abruzzo region, the composer received an early musical education in his home town and then moved on to study at the Naples Conservatory.

His teachers there were so impressed with him that they appointed him a student teacher, which earned him a small salary.

Ill health forced Tosti to return to Ortona, but while he was confined to bed, he began composing songs.

Once he had recovered from his illness he moved to live in Ancona where, it is said, he was so impoverished that he had to exist on stale bread and oranges.

Nellie Meloba, the Australian opera singer, performed a number of Tosti songs
Nellie Meloba, the Australian opera singer,
performed a number of Tosti songs
When Tosti moved to Rome his fortunes improved after he met the pianist and composer Giovanni Sgambati, who became his patron.

Sgambati arranged for him to give a concert at which Princess Margherita of Savoy was present. She was so impressed she appointed him as her singing professor and later made him the curator of the Italian Musical Archives at the court.

Soon after arriving in London, Tosti became a celebrity and was invited to the fashionable drawing rooms and salons of the time. After being made singing master to the Royal Family, his fame grew even more.

One of his songs, For Ever and For Ever, became a hit in England overnight. His publishers are said to have paid him a substantial retainer for producing 12 songs a year for them afterwards.

Tosti is particularly remembered for his collection of Abruzzo folk songs, Canti popolare Abruzzesi, but he also wrote many Neapolitan songs.

The Australian opera singer Nellie Melba recorded his song, Mattinata, and the Swedish star, Jussi Bjorling, recorded his song, L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra.

Tosti joined the Royal Academy of Music as a professor and then became a British citizen. He received his knighthood in 1908.

Tosti returned to Italy in 1913, where he died three years later in Rome.

His former home in London, 12 Mandeville Place, Marylebone, which is now the Mandeville Hotel, bears a memorial plaque to him, which was unveiled in 1996.

The coastal town of Ortona, where Tosti was born
The coastal town of Ortona, where Tosti was born
Travel tip:

Ortona, where Paolo Tosti was born, is a coastal town in the province of Chieti in Abruzzo. It became known as ‘Little Stalingrad’ after it was fiercely defended by German soldiers fighting against Canadian soldiers in 1943, who were trying to take the port on behalf of the Allies during the Second World War.

Hotels in Ortona by

Travel tip:

Ortona now has a musical institute dedicated to Tosti, Istituto Nazionale Tostiano, which is in Palazzo Corvo in Corso Matteotti. It was founded in 1983 to commemorate the life and works of Tosti and other musicians from Abruzzo. There is a museum with Tosti rooms, Sale Tosti, recreating the environment in which he composed his music, using his own furniture, pictures and objects. For more information visit

More reading:

Cesare Andrea Bixio - songwriter whose legacy of classic songs included Mamma and Vivere

Enrico Caruso - great tenor began his career singing Neapolitan songs

Teatro San Carlo - the world's oldest opera house

Also on this day:

1946: The birth of dress designer Gianni Versace

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Alberto Cova - Olympic champion

Los Angeles gold completed 10k hat-trick

Alberto Cova in his moment of triumph at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles
Alberto Cova in his moment of triumph
at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles
Alberto Cova, the athlete who won the 10,000 metres gold medal at the 1984 Olympics, was born on this day in 1958 in Inverigo, a small town not far from Lake Como and a little under 40km north of Milan.

Cova's triumph at the 1984 Los Angeles Games completed a golden hat-trick of 10,000m titles, following on from his gold medals over the distance at the 1982 European Championships in Athens and the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki.

He was not able to maintain that form, however.  He was run out of the gold on the final lap of the 10,000m by fellow Italian Stefano Mai at the European Championships in Stuttgart in 1986 and failed to qualify for the final at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, which proved to be his last international competition.

Cova's chief asset was his devastating sprint finish, which could be nullified in a race run at a strong pace throughout but often was not.

He was an outsider when he sprang a surprise in Athens in 1982, when his finishing speed enabled him to charge through to beat the favourite, Werner Schildhauer from East Germany, to win his first international championship title.

His disciplined running style enabled him to triumph again in Helsinki the following year, when the pace was slow and 13 runners were still in a leading pack at the bell. With only 30m left, Cova was in fifth place, but then found the energy to sprint for the line, passing all four runners in front of him and relegating Schildhauer into second place again.

Cova found the field playing into his hands again in Los Angeles.  The final began at an even slower pace than at Helsinki.  With 4km to go, Finland's Martti Vainio began to accelerate but Cova stayed with him and Vainio could not maintain the quicker pace and Cova swept past him after the bell.  Vainio was subsequently stripped of his silver medal after traces of an anabolic steroid were found in a urine sample.

A qualified accountant, Cova combined his athletics with his office job.  He was nicknamed 'the accountant' in part because of his profession but also because of the meticulous way he kept to his racing plans and stayed faithful to his tactics.

Alberto Cova, pictured in 1987
Alberto Cova, pictured in 1987
Cova won 14 Italian titles, including five cross-country championships, four over 5,000m and two at 10,000m, and attributes his success to his work with the top Italian coach, Giorgio Rondelli, at the Pro Patria athletics club in Milan.

His successes were tarnished somewhat when, in the wake of revelations of organised blood doping by the Italian federation, Cova confessed he had used the process by which the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is increased by the withdrawal and re-infusion of red blood cells.

Blood doping, or blood boosting, can improve performances by 5 per cent.  Yet Cova was never punished.

After his athletics career, Cova became involved in politics and was elected to the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament in 1994 after winning the Olgiate Comasco seat in Lombardy for Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

Two years later he ran again for the town of Erba but was defeated this time by the Northern League candidate, Cesare Rizzi.

Nowadays, Cova works as a commentator on athletics events for Italian television.

The Villa La Rotonda outside Inverigo
The Villa La Rotonda outside Inverigo
Travel tip:

Inverigo falls into the area of Lombardy known as Brianza, which extends from Monza, just north of Milan, to the triangle of mountainous land that sits between the forks at the southern end of Lake Como.  Brianza is best defined as a cultural, geographical and cultural region, first settled in the second millenium BC.  Inverigo's most interesting building is the Villa Rotonda, a castle built in the early part of the 19th century to a design by Luigi Cagnola inspired by Andrea Palladio's Villa Capra near Vicenza, also commonly known as La Rotonda.

Hotels in Inverigo from

Travel tip:

Erba, the town for which Alberto Cova stood and lost during his career as a politician representing the Forza Italia party, is situated about 10km (six miles) east of Como at the foot of the mountainous area known as the Lombard Prealps.  Its Romanesque church of Sant' Eufemia has an eye-catching 11th century bell tower and there are the remains of a medieval castle.

Hotels in Erba from Expedia

More reading:

Luigi Beccali - the 1,500m runner who brought home Italy's first track gold

Why the 1960 Olympics in Rome was an historic moment for African athletics

How cyclist Attilio Pavesi won Italy's first Olympic gold on the road

Also on this day:

1964: The birth of Italy's 1990 goals hero Salvatore 'Toto' Schillaci


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Simonetta Stefanelli – actress

Godfather star now designs bags and shoes

Simonetta Stefanelli, in a scene from Dino Risi's 1971 movie, In the Name of the Italian People
Simonetta Stefanelli, in a scene from Dino Risi's 1971
movie, In the Name of the Italian People
Simonetta Stefanelli, the actress and fashion designer, was born on this day in 1954 in Rome.

Stefanelli is perhaps best-known for her performance as Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone in the 1972 film The Godfather directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

She also made several films with her former husband, the actor and director Michele Placido.

The couple had three children together, Michelangelo, Brenno and Violante Placido, who is also an actress.

They divorced in 1994 and Stefanelli and her three children went to live in London for a short time.

Before appearing in The Godfather, Stefanelli had small roles in films guided by some of the top Italian directors, such as Gian Luigi Polidoro, Giulio Petroni, Marco Vicario and Dino Risi.

In 1972 she appeared in a German film for television, Di Sonne angreifen, 'The Sun Attack'.

Then came her role in The Godfather alongside Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan and Diane Keaton.  Her character is the first wife of Pacino's character, Michael Corleone, a local girl Michael marries while in hiding in Sicily, but is then murdered in a bomb attack of which her husband was the intended victim.

Apollonia also featured in the 1977 mini series The Godfather: A Novel for Television.

Stefanelli with her then-husband Michele Placido in a scene from the 1975 film Scandal in the Family
Stefanelli with her then-husband Michele Placido
in a scene from the 1975 film Scandal in the Family
Stefanelli once explained during an interview that she had refused a career in Hollywood to avoid being typecast and chose instead to continue her career in Italy.

She appeared in Peccati in famiglia ('Scandal in the Family'), an erotic drama in which she starred opposite her husband Michele Placido, and in Francesco Rosi’s Tre Fratelli ('Three Brothers).

She made her final appearance in Michele Placido’s film Le Amiche del cuore, ('Close friends') before ending her acting career in 1992.

Stefanelli continues to live in Rome and now owns a fashion store in the city, Simo Bloom, for which she designs bags and shoes.

Michele Placido, who is now 70, is well-known for playing the role of Corrado Cattani in the TV series La Piovra, which means 'The Octopus' in English, a reference to the many tentacles of the Mafia.

The actress Violante Placido, who is now 40, has many film and television credits to her name and is also a singer and song writer.

The 18th century Temple of Aesculapius is an attraction in the Villa Borghese gardens in Rome
The 18th century Temple of Aesculapius is an attraction
in the Villa Borghese gardens in Rome
Travel tip:

Stefanelli’s shop, Simo Bloom, is in Via Chiana in Rome to the north east of the Villa Borghese and its gardens on the Pincian Hill. The beautiful gardens were developed for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V, starting in 1605. They were bought by the city of Rome and opened to the public in 1903.

Travel tip:

The Godfather's location scenes in Sicily were filmed in the towns of Savoca and Forza d’Agro near Taormina because the town of Corleone was considered too developed to be suitable. In Savoca you can see the church in which Michael and Apollonia (played by Stefanelli) were married and walk the route they took to the Bar Vitelli in the village’s main square where they went to celebrate afterwards in the film.

More reading:

How playing an anti-Mafia police inspector Michele Placido into a TV star

Nino Rota - the brilliant composer behind the music of The Godfather

The wonderful cinema legacy of Francesco Rosi

Also on this day:

1957: Death of the great tenor Beniamino Gigli

(Picture credits: Simonetta Stefanelli by Cavarrone; Temple of Aesculapius by Jean-Christophe Benoist; via Wikimedia Commons)


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Agostino Richelmy – Cardinal

Former soldier sent priests to say mass for troops

A photograph of Richelmy  as Archbishop of Turin
A photograph of Richelmy
as Archbishop of Turin
Cardinal Agostino Richelmy, who fought for Garibaldi as a teenager, was born on this day in 1850 in Turin.

He joined the Garibaldi Volunteers during the war of 1866 and is said to have worn his red shirt under his cassock for years afterwards.

When Italy entered the First World War in 1915, Richelmy organised priests to serve as army chaplains in the mountains of Trentino, where they had to carve altars out of snow and say mass in temperatures below zero.

Richelmy was born into an ancient, noble family and his father, Prospero was a hydraulic engineer.

He was educated at the Liceo Classico Cavour and the Archiepiscopal Seminary in Turin and gained a doctorate in theology in 1876. He became a professor of moral and dogmatic theology and then a professor in the faculty of canon law.

Richelmy was elected Bishop of Ivrea in 1886 and named as the Archbishop of Turin in 1897.

He was created cardinal priest of Sant’Eusebio in Rome in 1899 and was then transferred to Santa Maria in Via in Rome in 1911.

The marble sarcophagus in the Santuario della Consolata in Turin, containing the remains of Cardinal Richelmy
The marble sarcophagus in the Santuario della Consolata
in Turin, containing the remains of Cardinal Richelmy
Richelmy supported all the social directives of Pope Leo XIII, who worked to encourage understanding between the Church and the modern world during his papacy.

The Cardinal then participated in the papal conclaves of 1903, 1914 and 1922.

During the First World War Richelmy dedicated himself to organising assistance for the people most affected, after more than 300,000 Italian soldiers had been killed in the early battles.

He died after surgical intervention for kidney stones in Turin in 1923 at the age of 72 and his funeral was attended by the Duke of Aosta, representing the King of Italy.

The Cardinal was initially buried at the chapel for the clergy in the cemetery in Turin but his remains were transferred in 1927 to the Santuario della Consolata, where they now lie in a pink marble sarcophagus.

Travel tip:

The Santuario della Consolata in Turin, the final resting place of Cardinal Agostino Richelmy, is a minor basilica in the centre of the city known to locals as La Consia. A church has stood on the site from Roman times and by the 12th century it was claimed that a blind pilgrim had his sight restored by an icon of the Virgin in the church. Construction of the present church building was commissioned in 1678 to be designed by architect Guarino Guarini and it now serves as a burial place for several saints connected with Turin. A procession of the icon of the Virgin passes through the streets of Turin every year on 20 June.

Hotels in Turin by

Santa Maria in Via, Richelmy's second church in Rome
Santa Maria in Via, Richelmy's
second church in Rome
Travel tip:

Santa Maria in Via, Cardinal Richelmy’s second church in Rome, has existed since the ninth century. The words ‘in Via’ mean ‘on the way’ and are a reference to nearby Via Flaminia. It is claimed that in the 13th century a well in the stables of a Cardinal’s house overflowed and a picture of Our Lady was seen floating on the waters. Pope Alexander IV declared it a miracle and ordered the construction of a chapel on the site. The chapel is the first on the right in the current church and still houses the well of the miracle. The current church building was erected in 1491 and now serves as the national church in Rome for the Ecuadorian community.

Hotels in Rome by Expedia

More reading:

How the ideology of Giuseppe Mazzini inspired the battle for Italian unification

Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour - Italy's first prime minister

How the capture of Rome completed Italian unification

Also on this day:

1797: The birth of Gaetano Donizetti

(Picture credit: Richelmy sarcophagus by Geobia via Wikimedia Commons)