6 April 2023

6 April

Maurizio and Giorgio Damilano – race walkers

Maurizio won Olympic gold in Moscow

Twins Maurizio and Giorgio Damilano, both former race walkers, were born on this day in 1957 in Scarnafigi in the province of Cuneo in Piedmont.  Maurizio won the gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics in the 20km race walk, while his brother, Giorgio, finished 11th.  In sympathy with the American-led boycott of the Moscow Games following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Italian athletes competed under the Olympic flag rather than the Italian tricolore.  Damilano was one of eight Italians to win gold medals in Moscow.  Giorgio was less successful than Maurizio, but did win the 20km race walk at the 1979 Italian Athletics Championships.  Maurizio was also the 1987 and 1991 World Champion in the 20km race walk. He had 60 caps for representing the national team between 1977 and 1992. He was supported through much of his career by the Italian car manufacturer, Fiat.  He also achieved a world record for the 30km race walk in 1992 with a time of 2:01:44.1, which he set in Cuneo.  Maurizio won two more Olympic medals, picking up the bronze medal for the 20km race walk at both the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.  Read more…


Sergio Franchi – tenor

Budding opera star became popular for singing romantic ballads

The tenor and actor Sergio Franchi was born Sergio Franci Galli on this day in 1926 in Codogno in the province of Lodi in northern Italy.  Franchi earned recognition as a performer in Britain in the 1960s and subsequently went to America where he became such a success he was once invited by John F Kennedy to sing the US national anthem at a rally.  Franchi was born to a Neapolitan father and a Ligurian mother who were living in Codogno in the Lombardy region. As a child he sang with his father who played the piano and guitar.  When he was 16, Franchi formed a band to earn extra money and went on to sing with a male group in jazz clubs.  Franchi’s father was a successful businessman but he lost all his assets during the German occupation of Italy in World War II.  After the war a family friend suggested to Franchi’s father that he should emigrate to South Africa where there were more opportunities for work. The whole family moved to Johannesburg in 1947.  Franchi worked initially for his father but also began singing in informal concerts. His voice soon attracted attention and he was offered roles in musicals.  Read more…


Raphael - Renaissance painter and architect

Precocious genius from Urbino famous for Vatican frescoes

The Renaissance painter and architect commonly known as Raphael was born Raffaello Sanzio in Urbino, in the Marche region of Italy, on this day in 1483.  Raphael is regarded as one of the masters of the Renaissance, along with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.  He was more prolific than Da Vinci and, some argue, more versatile than Michelangelo, and was certainly influenced by both.  The young Raphael was taught to paint by his father, Giovanni Santi, who was a painter for the Duke of Urbino, Federigo da Montefeltro, but his talents surpassed those of his father, who died when he was just 11 years old.  He was soon considered one of Urbino's finest painters and was commissioned to paint for a church in a neighbouring town while still a teenager.  In 1500, Raphael moved to Perugia in Umbria to become assistant to Pietro Vannucci, otherwise known as Perugino, absorbing considerable knowledge of his master's technique and incorporating it in his own style.  From 1504 onwards, Raphael spent a good deal of his time in Florence, studying the works of Fra Bartolommeo, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Masaccio.  Read more…


The L’Aquila Earthquake

Shock measuring 6.3 magnitude killed more than 300

The central Italy region of Abruzzo suffered a major disaster on this day in 2009 when an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 caused extensive damage and considerable loss of life in the city of L’Aquila and surrounding villages.  The main shock struck at 3.32am, when many of the victims would have been asleep, although there had been two smaller tremors the day before in an area with a long history of seismic turbulence, giving rise to speculation that a major quake was imminent.  The epicentre was only a little outside L’Aquila, a city with a population of about 70,000, damaging up to 11,000 buildings in the 13th century city.  A total of 309 people lost their lives and such was the scale of devastation that up to 65,000 people were left homeless in the city and neighbouring villages.  It was the deadliest earthquake to hit Italy since the Irpinia quake in Campania killed almost 2,500 people in 1980.  The dead in L’Aquila, a university city, included 55 students killed when their halls of residence collapsed.  The 309 victims were of 11 different nationalities, including Italians.  The main shock was felt 92 km (57 miles) away in the Italian capital, Rome.  Read more…


Pier Giorgio Frassati – social activist

Brave Catholic has inspired youth of the world

Pier Giorgio Frassati, who was dedicated to social justice issues and spent his brief life helping the poor, was born on this day in 1901 in Turin.  He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1990, who dubbed him ‘the Man of the Eight Beatitudes,’ alluding to a passage in the Gospel According to Matthew.  Frassati’s father, Alfredo, owned the newspaper La Stampa, and his mother Adelaide, was a painter, whose works were purchased by King Victor Emmanuel III.  Although he was from a wealthy background, even as a child Frassati showed compassion for the poor. He was educated at a school run by Jesuits and grew up to become dedicated to social action as a means of combating inequalities.  He was an ardent opponent of Fascism and was arrested in Rome for protesting with the Young Catholic Workers Congress, continuing to hold his banner aloft while being attacked by the police.  One night a group of Fascists broke into his family’s home to attack him and his father, but Frassati fought them off single-handedly and chased them away down the street.  He joined Catholic Action in 1919 and later became a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic.  Read more…

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