17 August 2022

17 August

NEW - The Milan-Monza railway

First line in northern Italy sparked industrial growth 

The first railway line laid in northern Italy was opened on this day in 1840. The line, authorised by Ferdinand I of Austria, within whose empire the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia fell at the time, connected the city of Milan with the smaller city of Monza, covering a distance of 12.8km (eight miles).  It was the second railway line to be built on the Italian peninsula, following on from the shorter Naples-Portici line, which had been opened in October of the previous year.  Italy was a little behind in developing railways. The first steam-powered railway engine had completed its maiden journey some 56 years earlier, in England.   But once Milan-Monza was operational, quickly followed by the first section of what would become a Milan-Venice line, the rest of Italy awoke to their potential.  By the end of the 1840s, there were nine or 10 routes, mainly in the north; by unification in 1861, the network had expanded to more than 2,000km (1,240 miles) and by the early 1870s, there were some 7,000km (4,340 miles) of track, enabling travel from the outposts of Susa in the northwest, close to the border with France, and Udine in the northeast, all the way down to Maglie, south of Lecce, and Cariati, east of Cosenza, in the south.  Read more…


Franco Sensi - businessman

Oil tycoon who rescued AS Roma football club

The businessman Francesco ‘Franco’ Sensi, best known as the businessman who transformed a near-bankrupt AS Roma into a successful football club, died on this day in 2008 in the Gemelli General Hospital in Rome.  He was 88 and had been in ill health for a number of years. He had been the longest-serving president of the Roma club, remaining at the helm for 15 years, and it is generally accepted that the success the team enjoyed during his tenure - a Serie A title, two Coppa Italia triumphs and two in the Supercoppa Italiana - would not have happened but for his astute management.  His death was mourned by tens of thousands of Roma fans who filed past his coffin in the days before the funeral at the Basilica of San Lorenzo al Verano, where a crowd put at around 30,000 turned out to witness the funeral procession. The then-Roma coach Luciano Spalletti and captain Francesco Totti were among the pallbearers.  Sensi, whose father, Silvio, had helped bring about the formation of AS Roma in 1927 in a merger of three other city teams, grew up supporting the club and followed his father into a business career.  Read more…


Cesare Borgia – condottiero

Renaissance prince turned his back on the Church

Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, became the first person in history to resign as a Cardinal on this day in 1498 in Rome.  Cesare was originally intended for the Church and had been made a Cardinal at the age of 18 after his father’s election to the Papacy. After the assassination of his brother, Giovanni, who was captain general of the Pope’s military forces, Cesare made an abrupt career change and was put in charge of the Papal States.  His fight to gain power was later the inspiration for Machiavelli’s book The Prince.  Cesare was made Duke of Valentinois by King Louis XII of France and after Louis invaded Italy in 1499, Cesare accompanied him when he entered Milan. He reinforced his alliance with France by marrying Charlotte d’Albret, the sister of John III of Navarre.  Pope Alexander encouraged Cesare to carve out a state of his own in northern Italy and deposed all his vicars in the Romagna and Marche regions.  Cesare was made condottiero - military leader - in command of the papal army and sent to capture Imola and ForlĂ­.  He returned to Rome in triumph and received the title Papal Gonfalonier from his father.  Read more...


Pope Benedict XIV

Erudite, gentle, honest man was chosen as a compromise

Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini began his reign as Pope Benedict XIV on this day in 1740 in Rome.  Considered one of the greatest ever Christian scholars, he promoted scientific learning, the baroque arts and the study of the human form.  Benedict XIV also revived interest in the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas, reduced taxation in the Papal States, encouraged agriculture and supported free trade.  As a scholar interested in ancient literature, and who published many ecclesiastical books and documents himself, he laid the groundwork for the present-day Vatican Museum.  Lambertini was born into a noble family in Bologna in 1675. At the age of 13 he started attending the Collegium Clementinum in Rome, where he studied rhetoric, Latin, philosophy and theology. Thomas Aquinas became his favourite author and saint. At the age of 19 he received a doctorate in both ecclesiastical and civil law.  Lambertini was consecrated a bishop in Rome in 1724, was made Bishop of Ancona in 1727 and Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in 1728.  Following the death of Pope Clement XII, Lambertini was elected pope on the evening of August 17, 1740.  Read more…


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