29 March 2019

29 March

Castruccio Castracani - condottiero

Mercenary soldier who ruled Lucca

Castruccio Castracani, a condottiero who ruled his home city of Lucca from 1316 to 1328, was born on this day in 1281. His relatively short life - he died at the age of 47 - was taken up with a series of battles, some fought on behalf of others, but latterly for his own ends in the conflict between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines that dominated medieval Italy as part of the power struggle between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. Castruccio's story inspired a biography by Niccolò Machiavelli and later a novel by Mary Shelley. Born Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli, he was from a Ghibelline family. He was proclaimed Duke of Lucca soon afterward masterminding a battlefield victory that saw the Guelphs driven out of the city. Read more…


Terence Hill – actor

Film star progressed from playing cowboys to become a popular parish priest

Terence Hill was born as Mario Girotti on this day in 1939 in Venice. He became an actor as a child and went on to have many starring roles in films, particularly spaghetti westerns. He took up the stage name Terence Hill after it was suggested as a publicity stunt by the producers of one of his films. It is said he had to pick from a list of names and chose one with his mother’s initials. Terence Hill later became a household name in Italy as the actor who played the lead character in the long-running television series, Don Matteo. Hill was given a part in an adventure film directed by Dino Risi when he was just 12 years old. At the height of his popularity, Hill was said to be among the highest-paid actors in Italy. Read more…


Enea Bossi - aviation pioneer

Claimed first pedal-powered flight in 1936

Enea Bossi, the aviator credited - albeit disputedly - with building the world's first human-powered aeroplane, was born on this day in 1888 in Milan. It was claimed that in 1936 Bossi's Pedaliante aircraft flew for approximately 300 feet (91.4m) under pedal power alone. Piloted by Emilio Casco, a robustly built major in the Italian army and an experienced cyclist, the Pedaliante - or pedal glider - is said to have taken off and covered the distance while remaining a few feet off the ground, although in the absence of independent verification it is not counted as the first authenticated human-powered flight, which did not take place until 1961 in Southampton, England. The following year, as Bossi attempted to win a competition in Italy offering a prize of 100,000 lire for a successful human-powered flight, Casco succeeded in completing the required 1km (0.62 miles) distance at a height of 30 feet (9m) off the ground. Read more…


Francesco Faà di Bruno - advocate for poor

Entered priesthood after appeal to pope

The blessed Francesco Faà di Bruno, a talented academic from a wealthy family who devoted much energy to helping the poor, disadvantaged and elderly, was born on this day in 1825 near Alessandria in Piedmont. A supporter of Italian unification, he was wounded while serving in the Piedmontese Army during the First Italian War of Independence. After leaving the army and becoming Professor of Mathematics at the University of Turin he began to devote time and money to helping the poor and disadvantaged.  He first provided food for the poor during the icy cold Turin winters and later founded the Society of Saint Zita for maids and domestic servants, later expanding it to include unmarried mothers. He helped establish hospitals and boarding houses for the elderly, poor and disabled At the age of 51 he became a priest. He was beatified 100 years after his death by Pope John Paul II. Read more...


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