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.

26 August 2019

26 August

La Pietà - Michelangelo's masterpiece


Brilliant sculpture commissioned by French Cardinal

Michelangelo Buonarotti agreed the contract to create the sculpture that would come to be regarded as his masterpiece on this day in 1498.  It was made between the artist and Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas, the French ambassador to the Holy See, who wanted a sculpture of the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Jesus, which was a common theme in religious art in northern Europe at the time.  Michelangelo, who would live until he was almost 89, was just 23 at the time and had been in Rome only a couple of years, but was about to produce a piece of work that astounded his contemporaries and is still seen as one of the finest pieces of sculpture ever crafted.  La Pietà – in English, 'the pity' – was carved from a block of blue and white Carrara marble selected by Michelangelo a good six feet (183cm) tall by six feet across.  The Cardinal intended it to be his funeral monument. It was eventually placed in a chapel in St Peter’s Basilica.  The work shows the body of Christ, shortly after being taken down from the cross following his crucifixion by the Romans, cradled in the lap of Mary.  Read more…

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Carlo Camillo Di Rudio - soldier


Italian aristocrat who survived Battle of the Little Bighorn

Carlo Camillo Di Rudio, a military officer who became known as Charles Camillus DeRudio and gave 32 years’ service to the United States Army in the late 19th century, was born in Belluno in northern Italy on this day in 1832.  Having arrived in New York City as an immigrant from England in 1860, he served as a volunteer in the American Civil War (1861-65) before joining the Regular Army in 1867 as a 2nd lieutenant in the 2nd Infantry, an appointment which was cancelled when he failed a medical. Undeterred, he was readmitted and joined the 7th Cavalry in 1869, eventually attaining the rank of Major.  He participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which the US Army suffered a defeat to the combined forces of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribesmen. The battle was part of the Great Sioux Wars of 1876, fought for possession of the Black Hills in South Dakota, where gold had been found.  DeRudio was thrown from his horse and left stranded on the western side of the Little Bighorn River and hid for 36 hours with a private, Thomas O’Neill. They were twice almost captured but eventually managed to cross the river to safety.  Read more…

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Sant’Alessandro of Bergamo


Annual festival keeps alive the memory of city’s saint

The patron saint of Bergamo, Sant’Alessandro, was martyred on this day in 303 by the Romans for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.  It is believed Alessandro was a devout citizen who had continued to preach in Bergamo, despite having several narrow escapes from would-be Roman executioners, but he was eventually caught and suffered public decapitation.  In Christian legend, Alessandro was a centurion of the Theban Legion, a legion of the Roman army that converted en masse to Christianity, whose existence prompted a crusade against Christianity launched by the Romans in around AD 298.  Alessandro was reputedly held in prison in Milan on two occasions but escaped to Bergamo, where he defiantly refused to go into hiding and instead openly preached, converting many Bergamaschi to his faith.  Of course, he was ultimately taken into custody again by the Romans and beheaded on August 26, 303, on the spot now occupied by the church of Sant' Alessandro in Colonna in Bergamo’s Città Bassa (lower town).  Read more…

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