Showing posts with label Carbonari. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carbonari. Show all posts

7 July 2024

Michele Amari – politician, historian, and writer

Scholarly revolutionary became a leading translator of mediaeval Arabic

Michele Amari embraced the  cause of Italian unification
Michele Amari embraced the 
cause of Italian unification
Patriotic Sicilian revolutionary Michele Amari was born on this day in 1806 in Palermo.

Amari published a history in 1842 of the War of the Sicilian Vespers, was a minister in the Sicilian revolutionary government in 1848, and was part of Giuseppe Garibaldi’s revolutionary cabinet in Sicily in 1860.

He embraced the cause of Italian unification and helped prepare Sicilians for the annexation of Sicily by the Kingdom of Sardinia. During his later years, he served as a Senator of the new Kingdom of Italy.

A grandson of the third Count Amari of Sant’Adriano, he grew up in an aristocratic household. The title had been acquired in 1772 by one of his ancestors, who had held the hereditary office of the administrator of the royal tobacco monopoly.

Michele Amari lived with his grandfather in the centre of Palermo after his father, Ferdinando, had financial problems caused by his gambling. Armari was educated in Palermo and one of his teachers was a leading Sicilian historian.

Amari’s father later introduced him to Francophile democratic circles in Palermo and secured him a position at the Ministry of the Interior in 1820.

After his grandfather died, Amari returned to live in his father’s house and he was involved, along with his father, in the uprising of the Carbonari in Palermo. The rebels were demanding Sicilian independence and a liberal constitution.

Amari served in the governments of Sicily and the unified Italy
Amari served in the governments
of Sicily and the unified Italy
Ferdinando Amari was initially sentenced to death in 1822 for his participation in the rebellion, but he was kept in prison instead until he was released in 1834. During those years, Michele Amari read widely about politics and published translations of English authors, at one point receiving a letter of thanks from Sir Walter Scott for his work.

By 1837, Amari had prepared an outline for his book investigating the War of the Sicilian Vespers between 1282 and 1302. The work was interpreted by many people as being a call to overthrow the Bourbon rule in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Amari was involved in health administration during an outbreak of cholera in 1837 and he was transferred to Naples in 1838, but the book was eventually released in 1842.

The title was deliberately understated to bypass censorship, but it rapidly won an audience in Sicily and on the mainland in Italy. This caused concern to the Neapolitan Government and Amari had to go into exile in Paris, where he moved in French liberal elite circles.

During the 1848 Sicilian revolution, Amari returned to the island to take up the Chair of Law at the University in Palermo. He was elected as a deputy in the Sicilian parliament and became Minister of Finance in the revolutionary government.

After lobbying for the recognition of the Sicilian state in Paris and London, he accepted an academic position at the University of Pisa.

The Villa Amari in Via Traversa was the family's home in Palermo
The Villa Amari in Via Traversa
was the family's home in Palermo
Amari returned to Sicily in 1860 after Garibaldi’s Expedition of The Thousand and campaigned among Sicilians for approval of the annexation of the island. Amari was appointed a senator of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1861, two months before the proclamation of the new Kingdom of Italy.

He served as Minister of Education in the Italian Government from 1862 until 1864 and lived at times in Florence, Rome, and Pisa. He died in Florence in 1889 and was later buried in Palermo, at the church of San Domenico.

Having mastered Arabic while living in Paris, Amari was a forerunner for Oriental studies in Italy and became recognised as one of the finest translators of mediaeval Arabic in Europe.

Pasta alla Norma, served in a sauce made from tomatoes and aubergine, is a typical Sicilian dish
Pasta alla Norma, served in a sauce made from
tomatoes and aubergine, is a typical Sicilian dish
Travel tip:

With an area of 10,000 square miles (26,000 sq km), and 620 miles of coastline, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, just off the toe of Italy’s boot. The ancient ruins, diverse architecture and wonderful cuisine enjoyed by visitors are all testament to the island’s colourful history. It's two biggest cities are Palermo and Catania, while the among the biggest draws for tourists are the cities of the southeast of the island, such as Siracusa (Syracuse), Noto and Ragusa, famous for their stunning Sicilian Baroque architecture, the upmarket resort of Taormina, and the Greek temples at Agrigento. Watching over the east of the island is Mount Etna, a volcano that is still active today. 

Palermo's magnificent cathedral relects the diversity of architectural style on the island
Palermo's magnificent cathedral relects the
diversity of architectural style on the island
Travel tip:

Sicily’s capital city, Palermo, where Michele Amari was born and is buried, has a wealth of beautiful architecture, plenty of shops and markets, and is home to the largest opera house in Italy, the Teatro Massimo. Amari’s family residence, the baroque Villa Amari, was built in 1720 by the first Count of Armari in Via Traversa in the Piano dei Colli in Palermo. Palermo's architectural styles bear testament to a history of northern European and Arabian influences.  The church of San Cataldo on Piazza Bellini is a good example of the fusion of Norman and Arabic architectural styles, having a bell tower typical of those common in northern France but with three spherical red domes on the roof, while the city’s majestic Cathedral of the Assumption of Virgin Mary includes Norman, Moorish, Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassical elements. 

Also on this day:

1573: The death of architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola

1903: The birth of film director Vittorio De Sica

1911: The death of composer and librettist Gian Carlo Menotti

1990: Italy finished third in Italia '90 World Cup






28 February 2022

Gabriele Rossetti - poet and revolutionary

Academic fled to England after exile from Naples

Gabriele Rossetti became a revolutionary after moving to Naples as a student
Gabriele Rossetti became a revolutionary
after moving to Naples as a student
The poet and academic Gabriele Rossetti, who was a key figure in a revolutionary secret society in 19th century Italy known as the Carbonari, was born on this day in 1783 in the city of Vasto in Abruzzo.

A Dante scholar known for his detailed and sometimes controversial interpretations of The Divine Comedy and other works, Rossetti’s own poetry was of a patriotic nature and regularly contained commentaries on contemporary politics, often in support of the growing number of popular uprisings in the early 19th century.

He became a member of the Carbonari, an informal collective of secret revolutionary societies across Italy that was active between 1800 and 1831, promoting the creation of a liberal, unified Italy. He came into contact with them after moving to Naples to study at the city's prestigious university.

Similar to masonic lodges in that they had used secret signals so that fellow members could recognise them and even a coded language, the Carbonari were founded in Naples, where their membership included military officers, nobility and priests as well as ordinary citizens. 

A librettist at the city’s Teatro San Carlo and later curator at the Capodimonte Museum, Rossetti’s standing in Naples society made him an important figure within the group, which was the driving force behind the 1820 uprising in the city which, with the help of a mutiny among the army, forced King Ferdinand I to agree to a constitution.

The Piazza Gabriele Rossetti in his home city of Vasto, with the monument to him in the centre
The Piazza Gabriele Rossetti in his home city of
Vasto, with the monument to him in the centre
It was a short-lived affair, however. After a congress to discuss a response to the uprising, Ferdinand sought help from Austria - his in-laws included the Habsburg empress Maria Theresa - and returned to Naples with an army of 50,000 that easily crushed the force of 8,000 Neapolitans pitted against him, promptly dismissing the newly-appointed parliament and tearing up the constitution.

This so outraged Rossetti that he published a poem that amounted to a tirade against Ferdinand’s tyranny. Immediately branding him a traitor, the King issued a warrant for Rossetti's arrest and announced a death sentence. Fortunately, Rossetti managed to escape, fleeing first to Malta, where he remained in hiding for three years before an admiral of the British Royal Navy helped him travel to London.

He settled in England, supporting himself by giving Italian lessons and publishing two volumes of commentary on Dante’s La divina commedia (The Divine Comedy). 

The commentary claimed that The Divine Comedy was written in the code language of a humanistic secret society that was opposed to political and ecclesiastical tyranny. Rossetti’s interpretation is now regarded as unrealistic but at the time it helped him attain the position of professor of Italian at King’s College, London, a post he held until his eyesight began to fail in 1847.

In 1826 he had married Frances Mary Lavinia Polidori, daughter of another Italian exile in England, Gaetano Polidori. Their four children - Maria Francesca, Dante Gabriel, William Michael and Christina Georgina - all grew up to be distinguished writers or artists in their own right. 

Rossetti died in London in April 1854 at the age of 71 and was buried in Highgate Cemetery. The main square in Vasto was named after him, with a monument to him at its centre.

The 15th century Castello Caldoresco presides  over the centre of the city of Vasto
The 15th century Castello Caldoresco presides 
over the centre of the city of Vasto
Travel tip:

Vasto is not a well known destination among overseas tourists but with an elevated position overlooking the Adriatic in the south of Abruzzo it is a small city well worth a visit, offering beautiful panoramic views of the coastline in addition to a charming medieval centre, with narrow alleyways and the impressive Castello Caldoresco. Built in the early 15th century, the square castle is built around an inner courtyard with cylindrical towers in three of the four corners. The Piazza Gabriele Rossetti is behind the castle.  In addition to the attractions of the city, it is just a 15-20 minute walk down the hill to golden, sandy beach at Marina di Vasto, which while thronged by Italian families in July and August is relatively quiet outside the main Italian holiday season.

The Reggia di Capodimonte in Naples, home of one of Italy's most important art collections
The Reggia di Capodimonte in Naples, home of
one of Italy's most important art collections
Travel tip:

The Museo di Capodimonte, where Rossetti was curator before he was forced to flee the city, is an art museum located in the Reggia di Capodimonte, a grand Bourbon royal palace a few kilometres from the centre of Naples. Housing the most important collection of Neapolitan painting and decorative art, as well as works from other Italian schools of painting and ancient Roman sculptures, it is one of the biggest museums in Italy.  The palace dates back to 1783, when it was built by King Charles VII of Naples and Sicily. Adjoining an area of woodland now known as the Real Bosco di Capodimonte, it was originally intended to be a hunting lodge but evolved as a replacement for the Reggia di Portici as the seat of Charles’s court. The King’s fabulous Farnese art collection, which he had inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese, became the basis for the museum’s collection.

Also on this day:

1740: The death of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, patron of music and art

1907: The birth of entrepreneur Domenico Agusta

1915: The birth of jam maker Karl Zuegg

1940: The birth of racing driver Mario Andretti

1942: The birth of footballer and coach Dino Zoff


16 September 2017

Sir Anthony Panizzi - revolutionary librarian

Political refugee knighted by Queen Victoria

Panizzi was a friend of the British Lord Chancellor, Henry Broughton
Panizzi was a friend of the British Lord
Chancellor, Henry Broughton
Sir Anthony Panizzi, who as Principal Librarian at the British Museum was knighted by Queen Victoria, was a former Italian revolutionary, born Antonio Genesio Maria Panizzi in Brescello in what is now Reggio Emilia, on this day in 1797.

A law graduate from the University of Parma, Panizzi began his working life as a civil servant, attaining the position of Inspector of Public Schools in his home town.

At the same time he was a member of the Carbonari, the network of secret societies set up across Italy in the early part of the 19th century, whose aim was to overthrow the repressive regimes of the Kingdoms of Naples and Sardinia, the Papal States and the Duchy of Modena and bring about the unification of Italy as a republic or a constitutional monarchy.

He was party to a number of attempted uprisings but was forced to flee the country in 1822, having been tipped off that he was to be arrested and would face trial as a subversive.

Panizzi found a haven in Switzerland, but after publishing a book that attacked the Duchy of Modena, of which Brescello was then part, he was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Modena.

Threatened with expulsion from Switzerland, with Modena pressing the Swiss government to allow his arrest, he fled again, which is how he came to arrive in England in 1823.

Almost destitute by the time he reached London, he met a fellow revolutionary, the poet Ugo Foscolo, who was exiled in England, who gave him a letter of recommendation that enabled him to find work in Liverpool as a teacher of Italian.

Sir Anthony Panizzi was the subject of a caricature in Vanity Fair magazine
Sir Anthony Panizzi was the subject
of a caricature in Vanity Fair magazine
The job made him only a meagre living, but while in Liverpool he was befriended by Henry Broughton, a lawyer and politician who was destined for high office.  When Broughton became Lord Chancellor in 1830, he remembered Panizzi and smoothed the way for him to be appointed Professor of Italian at the newly-formed University of London (now University College, London).

Soon afterwards Panizzi obtained the post of Extra-Assistant Keeper of Books at the British Museum library and in time worked his way through the levels of administration at the museum to be Assistant Librarian (1831–37), Keeper of Printed Books (1837–56) and finally Principal Librarian (1856–66).

His appointment in that role met with some opposition, partly because, despite being a British subject since 1832, he was seen as unsuitable on account of his non-British heritage.  There were also stories that he had been so poor in his early days in London he had resorted to hawking items on the street in order to feed himself.

Yet Panizzi had impressed the hierarchy at the British Museum during his tenure as Keeper of Printed Books, when he increased the library’s stock from 235,000 to 540,000 books, making it at the time the largest library in the world.  

Although he ceased to be involved directly in the Risorgimento movement in Italy, he continued to further the cause of Italian liberty through his friendships with influential Liberal statesmen in England, including two prime ministers in Lord Palmerston and William Ewart Gladstone, whom he took to Naples to see for himself the inhumane conditions in which political prisoners were kept.

Panizzi met the exiled poet Ugo Foscolo in London
Panizzi met the exiled poet Ugo
Foscolo in London
He could, in fact, have taken an active role in Italian politics after unification, but declined invitations from Giuseppe Garibaldi and Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, the first prime minister of the united Italy, to serve as a senator or as a member of the Council of Public Instruction.

Instead, he remained in London, where he was knighted in 1869, three years after retiring, for his extraordinary services to the British Museum library.

His achievements covered a diverse range, from devising a new system for cataloguing books using the 91 Rules code, from which the current ISBD (International Standard Bibliographic Description) system evolved, to designing a shelf support – the ‘Panizzi pin’ – to stop wooden book shelves from wobbling.

Panizzi died in London in 1879 and was buried in the Kensal Green Catholic Cemetery.

The British Museum library became simply the British Library in 1973, although it continued to be housed in the museum’s buildings on Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury until moving to a new purpose-built facility on Euston Road in 1997.

The British Library has a staff meeting room called the Panizzi Room and the former Principal Librarian is remembered in the annual Panizzi Lectures.

Piazza Matteotti and the church of Santa Maria Nascente
Piazza Matteotti and the church of Santa Maria Nascente
Travel tip:

The small town of Brescello is about 25km (16mls) northwest of Reggio Emilia, on the south bank of the Po river. It has a pleasant central square, the Piazza Matteotti, dominated by the parish church of Santa Maria Nascente.  Brescello makes a good deal of its association with the Don Camillo novels of author Giovannino Guareschi, having been chosen as the setting for a series of films made in the 1950s and 1960s about a local priest, Don Camillo, and his constant run-ins with Peppone, the communist mayor, in what was meant to be a typical small town in rural Italy in the years after the Second World War.  There is a museum dedicated to the two characters, while visitors to the church of Santa Maria Nascente can see the crucifix that appeared in the films to speak to Don Camillo.  

Piazza Prampolini is an attractive square in Reggio Emilia
Piazza Prampolini is an attractive square in Reggio Emilia
Travel tip:

Positioned between Parma and Modena along the path of the Roman road known as the Via Emilia, the city of Reggio Emilia is often missed out on the tourist trail but the wealth of attractive squares within the hexagonal lay-out of the old city are well worth a traveller’s time. The city – or, at least, the surrounding province – is thought to be the home of Italy's world famous hard cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, and is also credited with being the area of Italy from which the country adopted the tricolore as the national flag, with evidence that a short-lived 18th century republic, the Repubblica Cispadana, had a flag of red, white and green.