Showing posts with label 1801. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1801. Show all posts

15 June 2018

Carlo Cattaneo - philosopher and writer

Intellectual who became a key figure in Milan uprising


Carlo Cattaneo was an intellectual who led the Five Days of Milan uprising
Carlo Cattaneo was an intellectual who
led the Five Days of Milan uprising
Carlo Cattaneo, the philosopher and political writer who emerged as a leader in the so-called Five Days of Milan, the 1848 rebellion against the harsh rule of Austria, was born on this day in 1801 in Milan.

An influential figure in academic and intellectual circles in Milan, whose ideas helped shape the Risorgimento, Cattaneo was fundamentally against violence as a means to achieve change.

Yet when large-scale rioting broke out in the city in March 1848 he joined other intellectuals bringing organisation to the insurrection and succeeded in driving out Austrian’s occupying army, at least temporarily.

The uprising happened against a backcloth of social reform in other parts of the peninsula, in Rome and further south in Salerno, Naples and Sicily. 

By contrast, the Austrians, who ruled most of northern Italy, sought to strengthen their grip by imposing harsh tax increases on the citizens and sent out tax collectors, supported by the army, to ensure that everybody paid.

Cattaneo, who published his philosophical and political ideas in a journal entitled Il Politecnico, considered negotiation was the best way to represent the grievances of Milanese citizens and obtained some concessions from Austria’s deputy governer in the city.

Cattaneo was a republican who refused to swear an oath to the monarchy
Cattaneo was a republican who refused
to swear an oath to the monarchy
But when these were immediately cancelled by Josef Radetzky, the veteran general and highly accomplished military leader in charge of the Milan garrison, he changed his mind, realising that it was unlikely that any dialogue could take place with the Lombard nobility or the Vienna court.

So when trouble erupted on March 18, Cattaneo joined with Enrico Cernuschi, Giulio Terzaghi and Giorgio Clerici, who were three political progressives of his acquaintance, in forming a council of war.

Based at the Palazzo Taverna in Via Bigli, they organised the insurgents to fight tactical battles and harnessed the passion of the Milanese so effectively, persuading even priests to join the street battles and mobilising farmers from the surrounding countryside to come to the city to give their support, that the Austrians, weakened after Radetzky was forced to send some of his troops to Vienna, to quell a simultaneous revolt there, sought an armistice.

Cattaneo rejected the request, and in the evening of March 22, after five days of fighting, Radetzky decided to minimise his losses and began a withdrawal to the Quadrilatero, an area between Milan and Venice protected by four fortresses.

Despite King Charles Albert, whom Cattaneo disliked, sending his Piedmontese army to war with the Austrians the following day at the start of the First Italian War of Independence, Radetzky marched back into Milan within five months and Cattaneo, who had been at the head of a temporary government in Milan, fled to Switzerland.

The monument to Carlo Cattaneo in Via Santa Margherita in Milan
The monument to Carlo Cattaneo in
Via Santa Margherita in Milan
He settled in Lugano, where he wrote his Storia della Rivoluzione del 1848 (History of the 1848 Revolution) and other historical works. In 1860, he relaunched Politecnico, in which he expressed his vision of Italy as a progressive federalist republic.

He opposed Cavour for his unitarian views and when Garibaldi invited him to be part of the government of the Neapolitan provinces, he would not agree to the union with Piedmont. In the unified Italy he was frequently asked to stand for parliament, but always ruled himself out because he felt he could not swear an oath of allegiance to the monarchy.

He died in Castagnolo, a village on the north shore of Lake Lugano.


The plaque outside Cattaneo's headquarters in Via Bigli
The plaque outside Cattaneo's headquarters in Via Bigli
Travel tip:

Palazzo Taverna in Via Bigli in Milan, which acquired its name after it passed into the possession of Count Francesco Taverna in 1502, is celebrated for its role in the Five Days of Milan, when it became the headquarters of the insurgents after they were forced to abandon the nearby Palazzo Vidiserti. There is a plaque on the facade of the building bearing the inscription: “In this house while the people combated in the five days of March 1848 the central committee of the insurrection rejected the armistice offered by General Radetzky."

The Castelvecchio in Verona was one of the fortresses in the Quadrilatero
The Castelvecchio in Verona was one
of the fortresses in the Quadrilatero
Travel tip:

The Quadrilatero, often called the Quadrilateral Fortresses in English, is the traditional name of a defensive system of the Austrian Empire in the Lombardy-Venetia region of Italy, which was defended by the fortresses of Peschiera, Mantua, Legnago and Verona, between the Mincio, the Po and Adige Rivers, all of which are well preserved.

More reading:

The Five Days of Milan

Venice 1849: History's first air raid

Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour - Italy's first prime minister

Also on this day:

1479: The birth of Lisa del Giocondo, Da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa'

1927: The birth of comic book artist Hugo Pratt

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5 April 2018

Vincenzo Gioberti - philosopher and politician

Writings helped bring about unification of Italy


Vincenzo Gioberti, who was a major  philosophical influence on Italians
Vincenzo Gioberti, who was a major
philosophical influence on Italians
Vincenzo Gioberti, a philosopher regarded as one of the key figures in the Italian unification, was born on this day in 1801 in Turin.

He became prime minister of Sardinia-Piedmont in December 1848, albeit for only two months.

Although he was an associate of the republican revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini - and was arrested and then exiled as a result - he did not agree with Mazzini’s opposition to the monarchy and was not an advocate of violence.

However, he was staunchly in favour of a united Italy, particularly because of his conviction that Italians represented a superior race, intellectually and morally, and that by pulling together as one nation they could assert a profound influence on civilisation that would benefit the world.

Gioberti’s book Del Primato civile e morale degli Italiani (The civic and moral primacy of the Italians), which detailed examples from history to underline his theories about Italian supremacy, is said to have helped give momentum to the unification campaign.

Born into a family of modest means, Gioberti studied diligently, obtained the baccalaureate in theology and in 1825 was ordained a priest. He became professor of theology at the University of Turin and a court chaplain in 1831.

Gioberti was arrested over his association with revolutionaries such as Giuseppe Mazzini
Gioberti was arrested over his association with
revolutionaries such as Giuseppe Mazzini
However, his ties with a secret society known as the Cavalieri della libertĂ , his links with Mazzini and his sympathies with republican views were treated with suspicion within the church and he was arrested in 1833 on trumped up charges of conspiracy. After a four-month prison term he was forced into exile, first in Paris, then Brussels, where he lived from 1834 to 1845, teaching and writing.

It was in Brussels that Gioberti wrote Del Primato civile e morale degli Italiani, in which he also proposed his plan for the unification of the Italian people, based on co-operation between Turin and Rome.

Gioberti’s vision was an alliance between what he saw as the spiritual greatness of the Holy See with the secular greatness of the Royal House of Savoy.

He proposed that the princes of the Italian states govern themselves at local level but that the states should bind themselves together in a federation under the leadership of the Pope in order to have a common military, foreign policy, overseas colonies and a customs union.

He regarded this federation as more realistic than Mazzini's revolutionary republican plan and on his return to Italy made a series of tours in Liguria, Tuscany, and Rome in which he was able to swing more Italians behind his philosophies than Mazzini had ever reached.

The cover of the book that was banned from the Vatican Library
The cover of the book that was
banned from the Vatican Library
However, Gioberti seldom had the pope on his side at the same time as the monarchy and ultimately abandoned federalism in favour of a unitary programme.

An amnesty permitted Gioberti to return to Turin in 1847. Appointed president of the newly constituted Chamber of Deputies, he was also premier briefly from 1848 to 1849 until his proposal for military intervention in Tuscany in support of the deposed Grand Duke Leopold II lost him support and forced his resignation.

He retired from politics and in 1851 wrote a book Del rinnovamento civile d'Italia (On the Civil Renovation of Italy), which foresaw an Italy in which the power of the Pope was diminished. It was banned by the Vatican.

Gioberti died in Paris in 1852.

The monument to Gioberti in Piazza Carignano
The monument to Gioberti in Piazza Carignano
Travel tip:

A statue of Vincenzo Gioberti, created in 1859 by Giovanni Albertoni, stands on a monument erected in front of the magnificent Baroque Palazzo Carignano in the square of the same name, adjoining Palazzo Castello and just a short distance from the Royal palaces in the heart of Turin. The square became symbolic of Italy’s Risorgimento, as did the Ristorante del Cambio, established in the 18th century, where the united Italy’s first prime minister, Camillo Benso Cavour, and its first king, Vittorio Emmanuele II, were frequent diners.

The front facade of Palazzo Carignano
The front facade of Palazzo Carignano
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Carignano, a royal palace commissioned in the 17th century and designed by the architect Guarino Guarini,  now houses the Museo nazionale del Risorgimento italiano (the National Museum of the Risorgimento), the largest and most important of 23 museums across Italy dedicated to the history of the unification. Originally housed in the Mole Antonelliana, from which it moved in 1938, its exhibits include weapons, flags, uniforms, printed and written documents, among them the original manuscript of the song Il Canto degli Italiani, dated November 10, 1847 by Goffredo Mameli, now the Italian national anthem.

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3 November 2016

Vincenzo Bellini – opera composer

Short but successful career of Sicilian musical genius



A portrait of Vincenzo Bellini
A portrait of Vincenzo Bellini
The talented composer of the celebrated opera, Norma, was born Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini on this day in 1801 in Catania in Sicily.

Bellini became known for his long, flowing, melodic lines, which earned him the nickname, ‘The Swan of Catania’. He enjoyed great success during the bel canto era of Italian opera in the early part of the 19th century and many of his operas are still regularly performed today.

Born into a musical family, Bellini showed early talent. It was claimed he could sing an aria at 18 months and could play the piano by the age of five. Although some writers have said these are exaggerations, Bellini is known to have already begun composing music by his teens.

He was given financial support by the city of Catania to study music at a college in Naples and while he was there he was profoundly influenced by meeting the composer Gaetano Donizetti, having heard his opera, La zingara, performed at Teatro di San Carlo.

Bellini then wrote his first opera, Adelson e Salvini, which his fellow students performed to great acclaim.

In 1825, Bellini began work on what was to be his first professionally-produced opera, Bianca e Fernando. It was premiered at Teatro di San Carlo on 30 May, 1826 and was a big success. Donizetti attended the performance and wrote about it enthusiastically to his former tutor in Bergamo.

Teatro alla Scala in the 18th century
Teatro alla Scala in the 18th century
After Bellini was commissioned to compose an opera by Teatro alla Scala in Milan he moved to live in the city in 1827.

During the six years he spent in Milan he wrote four masterpieces, Il pirata, I Capuletti e I Montecchi, La sonnambula and Norma.

The tenor, Giovanni Battista Rubini, attracted rave reviews for his performance in Il pirata, having been urged by Bellini to act the part as well as sing it.

Norma was given 39 performances in its first season at La Scala and was equally popular when it was later performed in Bergamo.

When Bellini returned to Sicily in 1832, his opera, Il pirata, was a big success at the Teatro della Munzione in Messina and he was given a civic welcome when he arrived in Catania.

Excerpts from his operas were performed in a concert at the Teatro Massimo Bellini, which had been named by the city in his honour.

The Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania
The Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania
Bellini’s visit to London in 1833 was a triumph, with La sonnambula and Norma attracting excellent reviews, and he was fĂȘted by the fashionable set when he moved on to Paris.

However, when he began composing I puritani he moved out of Paris to live in nearby Puteaux in order to concentrate fully on the opera.

The opera was premiered at the Theatre-Italien in Paris on 24 January 1835 and was given an enthusiastic reception.

In the aftermath of the opera’s success, Bellini was named by King Louis-Philippe as Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur and he was awarded the cross of the Order of Francesco I by King Ferdinand II in Naples.

But Bellini was being increasingly troubled by gastric problems and became seriously ill later in the year. The composer died on 23 September 1835 at his home in Puteaux. He was just 33 years old.

Bellini was buried in a French cemetery as a short-term arrangement and his remains were taken to Catania and reburied in the Cathedral there in 1876.

Vincenzo Bellini's tomb in the Duomo in Catania, his birthplace
Vincenzo Bellini's tomb in the Duomo
in Catania, his birthplace
Travel tip:

Catania, where Bellini was born, is an ancient city on Sicily’s east coast, situated at the foot of Mount Etna, an active volcano. There is a monument to Bellini in the Cathedral in Piazza del Duomo and a museum dedicated to his life, the Bellini Museum, which was opened in 1930 in Palazzo Gravina-Cruyllas, the house where he was born.

Travel tip:

Teatro San Carlo in Naples, where Bellini’s first professionally-produced opera was staged, is thought to be the oldest opera house in the world. It was officially opened in 1737, way ahead of La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice. The theatre is in Via San Carlo close to Piazza Plebiscito, the main square in Naples. It was designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano for the Bourbon King of Naples, Charles I. In the magnificent auditorium the royal box is surmounted by the crown of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.


More reading:


The genius of Gaetano Donizetti

Giovanni Battista Rubini - as famous in his day as Pavarotti

Teatro San Carlo - the world's oldest opera house


Also on this day:


The end of the First World War in Italy

(Photo of Bellini's tomb by G.dallorto)



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