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.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel – poet and revolutionary

Noblewoman who sacrificed her life for the principle of liberty


Eleonora Fonseca Partinel was inspired by the French Revolution to join the Jacobins
Eleonora Fonseca Partinel was inspired by the
French Revolution to join the Jacobins
A writer and leader of the movement that established the Parthenopean Republic in Naples, Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel was hanged on this day in 1799 in a public square near the port.

A noblewoman, she would have expected her execution to be carried out by beheading, but had given up her title of marchioness when she became involved with the Jacobins, founded by supporters of the French Revolution, who were working to overthrow the monarchy.

Pimentel had asked to be beheaded anyway, but the restored Bourbon monarchy showed her no mercy, reputedly because she had written pamphlets denouncing Queen Maria Carolina as a lesbian.

On the day of her execution, Pimentel was reputed to have stepped calmly up to the gallows, quoting Virgil by saying: ‘Perhaps one day this will be worth remembering.’ She was 47 years of age.

Pimentel was born in Rome in 1752 into a noble Portuguese family. As a child she wrote poetry, read Latin and Greek and learnt to speak several languages.

Her family had to move to Naples because of political difficulties between Portugal and the Papal States, of which Rome was the capital.

A plaque marks the birthplace of  Pimentel in Campo Marzio in Rome
A plaque marks the birthplace of
Pimentel in Campo Marzio in Rome
As an adult, Pimentel became part of literary circles in Naples and exchanged letters with other literary figures.

She had a long correspondence with Pietro Metastasio, the Italian court poet in Vienna, who was a prominent librettist at the time, and Voltaire, the French writer, who was an outspoken advocate for civil liberties.

Pimentel married a lieutenant in the Neapolitan army and gave birth to a son, Francesco, who died at the age of eight months. She had no other children as she suffered two subsequent miscarriages, following alleged mistreatment by her husband, and eventually the couple separated.

In the 1790s Pimentel became involved in the Jacobin movement in Naples, which was working to overthrow the monarchy and establish a republic. She was one of the leaders of the revolution that installed the Pathenopean Republic in the city in January 1799, which was proclaimed from the Certosa di San Martino, citing liberty and equality for all along the lines of the French model.

Pimentel was the director of Monitore Napoletano, the republic’s newspaper, for which she wrote most of the content. She also translated books and articles into the Neapolitan dialect to try to win popular support. When the republic was overthrown, after just five months, she was arrested on the orders of the restored Bourbon monarchy and sentenced to death.

The Certosa di San Martino occupies a commanding position on too of the Vomero hill
The Certosa di San Martino occupies a commanding
position on too of the Vomero hill
Travel tip:

The Certosa di San Martino in Naples, from which the short-lived republic was proclaimed, is a former monastery complex that is now a museum. It is one of the most visible landmarks of the city, perched high on the Vomero hill overlooking the bay. Today the museum houses paintings, porcelain, jewellery, Neapolitan costumes, and old presepi, nativity scenes made in the city.  

The Piazza Mercato is an open space not far from the main  port of Naples between Corso Umberto I and the waterfront
The Piazza Mercato is an open space not far from the main
port of Naples between Corso Umberto I and the waterfront 
Travel tip:

Piazza Mercato, where Pimentel and her fellow revolutionaries were executed, is in the heart of Naples not far from the port. Overlooked by the church of Santa Maria del Carmine, it had been the setting for many other historic events in the city, including the beheading in 1268 of Corradino, a 16-year-old King of Naples.


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