20 December 2015

Francesco Bentivegna – military leader

Patriotic baron executed in what was to become mafia heartland

Baron Francesco Bentivegna, a Sicilian patriot, died on this day at Mezzojuso in Sicily in 1856.

Bentivegna led revolts against the Bourbon rulers of the island in the mid 19th century and became renowned for his bravery.
Corleone, made famous by The Godfather movies, is the birthplace of Sicilian patriot Francesco Bentivegna
Corleone, perched in the mountains above Palermo,
is the birthplace of Francesco Bentivegna
Photo: Michael Urso (CC BY-SA 2.0 DE)

He was born in Corleone near Palermo and it is believed his parents originally intended him for the church.

But after leading his first revolt against the Bourbons in 1848 in Palermo he was appointed military governor of the Corleone district as a reward.

Within 16 months the Bourbon soldiers had reoccupied Palermo and offered all the rebels an amnesty if they pledged loyalty to their French rulers.

Bentivegna refused and again attempted to launch a coup, which was unsuccessful. Afterwards he had to live as a wanted fugitive, while continuing to try to organise revolutionaries.

He was arrested in 1853 but released in 1856, after which he began to plan a full-scale uprising against the occupying forces.

The Baron was betrayed by one of his compatriots and arrested. He was sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad on 20 December 1856 . His body was thrown into a communal ossuary but later secretly removed.

After Sicily had been liberated by Garibaldi, Bentivegna’s body was taken to Corleone. It was wrapped in the Italian flag and entombed in his local church.
Hill towns are typical of Sicily's rugged landscape
Sicily's rugged landscape is dotted with hill towns,
such as Ragusa (pictured here) in the south-east

Travel tip:

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, just off the toe of Italy’s boot. The ancient ruins, diverse architecture and distinctive cuisine enjoyed by visitors are all testament to the island’s colourful history. Watching over the island is Mount Etna, a volcano that is still active.

Travel tip:

Corleone, the town of Francesco Bentivegna’s birth, is a commune of Palermo, Sicily’s capital city. Several real life Mafia bosses have come from Corleone and it is also the fictional birthplace of some of the characters in Mario Puzo’s novel about the mafia, The Godfather. There is now a street named Via Francesco Bentivegna in Corleone.

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