Showing posts with label Joachim Murat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joachim Murat. Show all posts

30 March 2020

Rimini Proclamation

Opening statement of the Risorgimento came from a Frenchman

Murat's Rimini Proclamation is seen as the rallying call for the Risorgimento
Murat's Rimini Proclamation is seen as the
rallying call for the Risorgimento
The first political proclamation calling for all Italians to unite into a single people and drive out foreigners was issued on this day in 1815 in Rimini.

But the stirring words: ‘Italians! The hour has come to engage in your highest destiny…’ came from a Frenchman, Gioacchino (Joachim) Murat, who was at the time occupying the throne of Naples, which he had been given by his brother-in-law, Napoleon.

Murat had just declared war on Austria and used the Proclamation to call on Italians to revolt against the Austrians occupying Italy. He was trying to show himself as a backer of Italian independence in an attempt to find allies in his desperate battle to hang on to his own throne.

Although Murat was acting out of self-interest at the time, the Proclamation is often seen as the opening statement of the Risorgimento, the movement that helped to arouse the national consciousness of the Italian people. It led to a series of political events that freed the Italian states from foreign domination and unified them politically.

Murat’s Proclamation impressed the Milanese writer Alessandro Manzoni, who wrote a poem about it later that year, Il proclama di Rimini. However, he abandoned it unfinished after Murat’s military campaign failed.

Joachim Murat was one of Napoleon's most trusted military aides
Joachim Murat was one of Napoleon's
most trusted military aides
Napoleon had originally installed his brother, Joseph, as King of Naples in 1806. But two years later he moved Joseph to the throne of Spain and installed Murat, the husband of his sister, Carolina, in his place.

Murat was one of Napoleon’s most trusted military aides, who had shown himself to be a daring and capable military leader.

While in charge of Naples, Murat made social and economic changes, reformed the University and introduced new scientific facilities. He built new roads and started work on Piazza del Plebiscito and the Church of San Francesco di Paola.

After Napoleon’s exile to Elba in 1814, Murat signed a treaty with Austria, pledging his help against the French troops in the north.

He took over the Papal States and Tuscany in return for an Austrian assurance that he would remain on the throne of Naples. From Rimini he writes in his Proclamation: 'Providence has called you to be an independent nation. From the Alps to the straits of Sicily, there is but one cry – Italian independence.’

But then Napoleon escaped from Elba and set out for Paris. Murat decided to realign himself with his brother-in-law and declared war on the Austrians.

He fought battles to save his own throne and to prevent the Austrians from moving into France to take on Napoleon. But after he lost a major battle at Tolentino in May and his army was in tatters, he fled from Italy to France, where he was snubbed by Napoleon.

Murat was killed by a firing squad in the Calabrian town of Pizzo
Murat was killed by a firing squad
in the Calabrian town of Pizzo
Murat set sail for Italy again to make one last desperate attempt to regain his kingdom, which by now was back in Bourbon hands.

With a small group of soldiers he landed at Pizzo on the coast of Calabria, planning to march north to Naples. Instead, he was captured, imprisoned and sentenced to death.

On 13 October 1815 he faced his firing squad, smartly dressed and fearless, having refused the offer of a blindfold.

Within another 46 years Italy had become a unified country.

The Tempio Malatestiano, a 13th century Gothic church in Rimini, has works by Piero della Francesca and Giotto
The Tempio Malatestiano, a 13th century Gothic church in
Rimini, has works by Piero della Francesca and Giotto
Travel tip:

The coastal city of Rimini was part of Napoleon’s Cisalpine Republic when Murat launched his Proclamation from there to the Italian people in 1815. The city looking out over the Adriatic Sea was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. Now part of the Emilia-Romagna region it has become one of the leading seaside resorts in Europe, with wide sandy beaches and plenty of hotels and restaurants. One of Rimini’s most famous sights is the Tempio Malatestiano, a 13th century Gothic church originally built for the Franciscans that was transformed on the outside in the 15th century and decorated inside with frescos by Piero della Francesca and works by Giotto.

The Palazzo Reale, on the Piazza del Plesbiscito, was  Murat's luxurious home in Naples
The Palazzo Reale, on the Piazza del Plesbiscito, was
Murat's luxurious home in Naples
Travel tip:

Murat lived a luxurious lifestyle during his brief rule over the Kingdom of Naples and resided at the Royal Palace in Naples (Palazzo Reale), which is at the eastern end of Piazza del Plebiscito. The 17th century palace now houses a 30-room museum and the largest library in southern Italy, which are both open to the public. A statue of Murat was erected in the 1880s in the west façade of the Royal palace.

Also on this day:

1282: French driven out by the Sicilian Vespers

1892: The birth of painter and designer Fortunato Depero

1905: The birth of architect and engineer Ignazio Gardella


9 May 2018

Giovanni Paisiello - composer

Audience favourite with a jealous streak

Giovanni Paisiello was one of the most  popular Italian composers in the 18th century
Giovanni Paisiello was one of the most
popular Italian composers in the 18th century
The composer Giovanni Paisiello, who wrote more than 90 operas and much other music and was enormously popular in the 18th century, was born on this day in 1740 in Taranto.

Paisiello was talented, versatile and had a big influence on other composers of his day and later, yet he was jealous of the success of rivals and is remembered today primarily as the composer whose passionate fans wrecked the premiere of Gioachino Rossini’s opera Almaviva, which was based on the same French play as Paisiello’s Il barbiere di siviglia, which was regarded as his masterpiece.

Rossini’s opera would eventually be more commonly known as Il barbiere di siviglia, but not until after Paisiello had died.

Nonetheless, Paisiello’s supporters still felt Rossini was attempting to steal their favourite’s thunder and many of them infiltrated the audience at Almaviva’s opening night in Rome and disrupted the performance with constant jeers and catcalls.

History has shown that perhaps they were right to be worried: today, Rossini’s Barber of Seville is one of the world’s most popular operas, yet Paisiello’s is rarely performed.

Paisiello was educated at a Jesuit school in Taranto. His father wanted his son to become a lawyer but noted the beauty of his singing voice and enrolled him at the Conservatory of San Onofrio at Naples.

A poster advertising the premiere of Paisiello's opera Nina
A poster advertising the premiere
of Paisiello's opera Nina
There he displayed a talent for composing too, and the quality of some intermezzi he wrote for the conservatory’s theatre led to him being invited to write his first operas, La Pupilla and Il Marchese Tulissano. These brought him instant recognition and he settled in Naples, producing a series of successful operas, popular for being simple, dramatic, and always fast moving.

He set himself up in rivalry with the established giants of the Neapolitan school, Niccolò Piccinni, Domenico Cimarosa and Pietro Guglielmi. He was known for being bitterly outspoken when one or another of the trio staged a work that received public acclaim, but he enjoyed his own triumphs, in particular with his 1767 comic opera L'ldolo cinese. 

Paisiello left Naples only when he was invited in 1776 by the Russian empress Catherine II to St. Petersburg, where he remained for eight years. It was there that he produced Il barbiere di siviglia, with a libretto by Giuseppe Petrosellini, based on the play by Pierre Beaumarchais.

Il barbiere premiered in St Petersburg in 1782 and its fame spread quickly around Europe. Among those influenced by the artistry of his score and the beauty of the melodies was Mozart, whose Marriage of Figaro made its debut four years later as a sequel to Paisiello’s Barbiere.

Paisiello left Russia in 1784, initially going to Vienna before returning to Naples to enter the service of King Ferdinand IV, where he enjoyed more success, composing what many regard as his best operas, including Nina and La Molinara, the latter featuring perhaps the best-known tune that Paisiello wrote in his lifetime, the duet Nel cor più non mi sento, which inspired works by Beethoven, Paganini and many others.

Domenico Cimarosa was a target for  Paisiello's outspoken comments
Domenico Cimarosa was a target for
Paisiello's outspoken comments
His decline began after he was invited to Paris in 1802 by Napoleon, for whom he had composed a march for the funeral of General Hoche. This time his rivals were Luigi Cherubini and Etienne Méhul, towards whom he displayed similar jealousy to that he once aimed at Cimarosa, Guglielmi and Piccinni.

However, the Parisian public was unimpressed and in 1803 he obtained permission to return to Italy, citing his wife's ill health. He kept his job in Naples even after the fall of Ferdinand IV, who was replaced as king by Napoleon’s brother, Joseph, and in turn by Joachim Murat.

But by then he was beginning to lose his touch and his fortunes declined just as the power of the Bonapartes was collapsing. His wife died in 1815 and his own health failed quickly thereafter. He died in 1816 at the age of 76.

In addition to his operas, Paisiello wrote a good deal of church music and instrumental works that include symphonies, harp and piano concerti, string quartets, sonatas for harp, violin and cello.

The 20th century saw his Barbiere and La Molinara revived along with a number of other operas and instrumental pieces.

The Castello Aragonese is a landmark in Taranto
The Castello Aragonese is a landmark in Taranto
Travel tip:

Taranto, situated at the top of the inside of the ‘heel’ of Italy, where Paisiello was born, is a large city - population in excess of 200,000 - of two distinct sections, divided by a swing bridge. The bridge links the small island containing the Città Vecchia, the old city, guarded by the imposing 15th century Castello Aragonese castle, which protects an area of Greek origins which has not been overdeveloped and has an authentic atmosphere of old southern Italy.  On the southern side of the bridge is the modern, new city, full of wide boulevards and carrying a much more prosperous air.  The city is heavily industrialised with a huge steel industry and a large naval base but its National Museum contains one of the most important collections of Greek and Roman artefacts in Italy.

The Conservatorio of San Onofrio
The Conservatorio of San Onofrio
Travel tip:

The Conservatorio of San Onofrio a Porta Capuana was one of the four original Naples conservatories, founded in 1588 and developed first as an orphanage. Almost one fifth of the students at the Conservatory of San Onofrio were castrati, which gave it a different identity.  Its popularity declined during the Napoleonic period, and only 30 students remained when the conservatory merged with that of Santa Maria di Loreto in 1797.


3 May 2018

Battle of Tolentino

Murat is defeated but ignites desire for Risorgimento

Joachim Murat led an army of 50,000 men into battle against the Austrians
Joachim Murat led an army of 50,000 men
into battle against the Austrians
Neapolitan troops were defeated by Austrian forces on this day in 1815 near Tolentino in what is now the Marche region of Italy.

It was the decisive battle in the Neapolitan War fought by the Napoleonic King of Naples, Joachim Murat, in a bid to keep the throne after the Congress of Vienna had ruled that the Bourbon Ferdinand IV, King of Sicily, should be restored.

The conflict was similar to the Battle of Waterloo, in that it occurred during the 100 days following Napoleon’s return from exile.

Murat had declared war on Austria in March 1815 after learning about Napoleon’s return to France and he advanced north with about 50,000 troops, establishing his headquarters at Ancona.

By the end of March, Murat’s army had arrived in Rimini, where he incited all Italian nationalists to go to war with him against the Austrians.

But his attempts to cross the River Po into Austrian-dominated northern Italy were unsuccessful and the Neapolitan army suffered heavy casualties.

The United Kingdom then declared war on Murat and sent a fleet to Italy. Murat retreated to Ancona to regroup his forces, with two Austrian armies pursuing him.

Vincenzo Milizia's representation of the Battle of  Tolentino, in which the Neapolitan forces were defeated
Vincenzo Milizia's representation of the Battle of
Tolentino, in which the Neapolitan forces were defeated
Murat sent a division north, commanded by General Michele Carrascosa, to stall one of the armies, while his main force headed west to deal with the other.

By the end of April the Austrians had driven out the small Neapolitan garrison based at Tolentino and Murat was forced to face their forces on a battlefield near the town on 2 May.

After two days of inconclusive fighting, Murat learned that the Austrians had defeated Carrascosa’s troops at the Battle of Scapezzano and were advancing towards him, so he ordered a retreat. Murat fled to Corsica disguised as a sailor on board a Danish ship.

A few months later he returned to Italy, landing in Pizzo in Calabria with a small force to try to retake Naples. But he was soon captured and sentenced to death.

His execution by firing squad in the town’s castle marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars and Naples and Sicily were united to create the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

However, it is considered that Murat had given impetus to the movement for Italian unification and the Battle of Tolentino later became regarded as the first conflict of the Risorgimento.

The Piazza della Libertà in Tolentino
Travel tip:

Tolentino is a town in the province of Macerata in the Marche region. From the end of the 14th century it was ruled by the Da Varano family and then the Sforza family before becoming part of the Papal States. After the arrival of Napoleon’s forces in Italy, the Treaty of Tolentino was signed between Napoleon and Pope Pius VI in 1797, imposing territorial and economic restrictions on the papacy. After the 1815 Battle of Tolentino, the town returned to papal control until Italy became a unified kingdom in 1861.

The Castle of La Rancia just outside Tolentino  stages re-enactments of the battle annually
The Castle of La Rancia just outside Tolentino
stages re-enactments of the battle annually
Travel tip:

The medieval Castle of La Rancia, which is seven kilometres (4 miles) from Tolentino, was at the centre of the battle in 1815 and the countryside around it is still used for re-enactments. It has been claimed many of the dead from the battle were buried in a tank below the courtyard of the castle. The 2018 re-enactment takes place between May 5 and 6. The castle is open to the public between Tuesday and Sunday from 10.30 to 18.30 from May to September and for limited hours during the winter. For more information visit


9 February 2017

Vito Antuofermo - world champion boxer

Farmer's son from deep south who won title in Monaco

Vito Antuofermo won the European light-middleweight title in 1976 and became world middleweight champion in 1979
Vito Antuofermo won the European light-middleweight title
in 1976 and became world middleweight champion in 1979
Vito Antuofermo, who went from working in the fields as a boy to becoming a world champion in the boxing ring, was born on this day in 1953 in Palo del Colle, a small town in Apulia, about 15km (9 miles) inland from the port of Bari.

He took up boxing after his family emigrated to the United States in the mid-1960s.  After turning professional in 1971, he lost only one of his first 36 fights before becoming European light-middleweight champion in January 1976.

In his 49th fight, in June 1979, he beat Argentina's Hugo Corro in Monaco to become the undisputed world champion in the middleweight division.

Antuofermo's success in the ring, where he won 50 of his 59 fights before retiring in 1985, opened the door to a number of opportunities in film and television and he was able to settle in the upper middle-class neighbourhood of Howard Beach in New York, just along the coast from John F Kennedy Airport.  He and his wife Joan have four children - Lauren, Vito Junior, Pasquale and Anthony.

He grew up in rather less comfort. The second child of Gaetano and Lauretta Antuofermo, who were poor tenant farmers, he was working in the fields from as young as seven years old.

Antuofermo (left) in action against Britain's Alan Minter
Antuofermo (left) in action against Britain's Alan Minter
Often travelling two hours even before starting work, young Vito would help to harvest grapes, olives and almonds, sometimes trudging along behind a mule-drawn plough attempting to break up sun-baked earth to prepare for planting crops.

It was physically hard work from which it was difficult for his family to make a living and after a series of severe droughts in southern Italy, they decided to move to the United States, where Lauretta had an uncle living in Brooklyn, New York.  Leaving Gaetano to follow later, she took her two oldest boys, hoping they would find opportunities for a better life. For Vito, one came along - although not in a way he had planned.

Picked up by the police with two other young men after a fight in the street, he was lucky that his arresting officer was a boxing fan and a friend of Joe LaGuardia, the ex-boxer in charge of the gym at the Police Athletic League. Instead of taking the three into the police station, the officer took them to the gym, instructing LaGuardia to “see if you can do something with them."

Vito Antuofermo in 2006 after his induction to the Boxing Hall of Fame
Vito Antuofermo in 2006 after his
induction to the Boxing Hall of Fame
LaGuardia saw potential in Antuofermo, who lacked physical strength but packed a good punch and never backed off his opponent.  He inspired him by talking about Rocky Marciano, another son of southern Italian immigrants, who was world heavyweight champion from 1952 to 1956, and Antuofermo became fixated with the idea of becoming world champion too.

As an amateur, he won the New York Golden Gloves championship in 1970, turning professional the following year after it became clear his status would not allow him to compete for Italy or the United States in the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

He began to rack up wins and good purses as a professional, even winning the approval of his father, who had initially opposed his ambitions to box.

Victories over former world champions Denny Moyer and Emile Griffith in November 1974 confirmed Antuofermo's potential, and he claimed his first major title by defeating Germany's Eckhard Dagge on his home soil in Berlin to become European champion in January 1976.

His reign was short-lived, the British fighter Maurice Hope taking the crown from him nine months later.  It was another British boxer, Alan Minter, who deprived him of his world title in March 1980, again after only nine months, although Antuofermo did have the satisfaction of making one successful defence, against America's Marvin Hagler, who would go on to beat Minter for the title in 1980 and hold on to it for seven years.

Antuofermo quit the ring after losing to Hagler in 1981 but make a comeback in 1984, winning four more bouts before defeat to Canada's Matthew Hilton in Quebec in October 1985 prompted him to retire for good.

Antuofermo played a bodyguard in The Godfather Part III
Antuofermo played a bodyguard
in The Godfather Part III
After retirement, Antuofermo enjoyed success as an actor. He was picked for a small role in The Godfather Part III as the chief bodyguard of gangster Joey Zasa and was a mobster in the hit television show The Sopranos.  After Godfather star Al Pacino persuaded him to take acting lessons, he also landed a series of parts in theatre plays.

Never afraid of hard work, he was employed by the Port Authority of New York as a crane operator for a sizeable part of his fight career, while his business pursuits included stints working in marketing for Coca-Cola and for an Italian beer company, and running a landscaping company in Long Island.

Travel tip:

Often overlooked in favour of Lecce and Brindisi when tourists venture towards the heel of Italy, Bari is the second largest urban area after Naples in the south of the country. It has a busy port and some expansive industrial areas but plenty of history, too, especially in the old city - Bari Vecchia - which sits on a headland between two harbours.  Fanning out around two Romanesque churches, the Cattedrale di San Sebino and the Basilica of St Nicholas, the area is a maze of medieval streets with many historical buildings and plenty of bars and restaurants.  There is also a castle, the Castello Svevo.

Find a hotel in Bari with

Bari's San Sebino cathedral by night
Bari's San Sebino cathedral by night
Travel tip:

Bari's more modern centre is known as the Centro Murattiano, or the Murat quarter, in that it was built during the period in the early 19th century in which Joachim Murat, for a long time Napoleon's most trusted military strategist, ruled the Kingdom of Naples, of which Bari was a part.  Set out in a grid plan between Bari's main railway station and the sea, the area is the commercial heart of the city and the home of the most prestigious shops, but also of a vibrant night life in a city with a large student population.

More reading:

Angelo Siciliano - the Brooklyn Italian who became Charles Atlas

How Bruno Sammartini dodged wolves and Nazis in Abruzzo before finding fame in the wrestling ring

Why charismatic Joachim Murat's life was ended by a firing squad

Also on this day:

1621: Alessandro Ludovisi becomes Pope Gregory XV

1770: The birth of classical guitar composer Ferdinando Carulli

13 October 2016

Execution of former King of Naples

Joachim Murat, key aide of Napoleon, shot by firing squad

Joachim Murat, King of Naples, depicted by Francois Gerard
Joachim Murat, King of Naples,
depicted by Francois Gerard
Joachim Murat, the French cavalry leader who was a key military strategist in Napoleon's rise to power in France and his subsequent creation of an empire in continental Europe, was executed on this day in 1815 in Pizzo in Calabria.

The charismatic Marshal was captured by Bourbon forces in the coastal town in Italy's deep south as he tried to gather support for an attempt to regain control of Naples, where he had been King until the fall of Napoleon saw the throne returned to the Bourbon king Ferdinand IV in May 1815.

Murat was held prisoner in the Castello di Pizzo before a tribunal found him guilty of insurrection and sentenced him to death by firing squad.

The 48-year-old soldier from Lot in south-west France had been an important figure in the French Revolutionary Wars and gained recognition from Napoleon as one of his best generals, his influence vital in the success of Napoleon's campaigns in Egypt and Italy and in victories against the numerically superior Prussians and Russians.

He was a flamboyant dresser, going into battle with his uniform bedecked in medals, gold tassels, feathers and shiny buttons.  Yet for all his peacock tendencies, he was renowned as a bold, brave and decisive leader, often securing victory through daring cavalry charges.  In all he is thought to have fought around 200 battles.

A defiant Murat faces his executioners
A defiant Murat faces his executioners
Napoleon rewarded him with the hand of his sister, Caroline, and promotion to the rank of Marshal and Admiral of France. He made him King of Naples in 1808, although it was something of a consolation prize to Murat, who had hoped to be given the throne of Spain, which went instead to Napoleon's brother, Joseph.

Murat moved into the Royal Palace and indulged himself in a life of luxury, entertaining lavishly and surrounding himself with expensive acquisitions.  He had portraits of himself, his wife and other family members commissioned by celebrated artists as well as numerous scenes depicting his victories on the battlefield.

Nonetheless, he was an effective ruler of Naples, where he broke up the large landed estates, introduced workable laws and established the Napoleonic Code, under which class privilege and hereditary nobility were abolished and all male citizens deemed as equal. He also cracked down on the many gangs who made their living through robbery and pillage.

He foresaw and supported the potential unification of Italy, attempting to position himself to take control beyond Naples by encouraging the secret societies that eventually were central to the Risorgimento.

When it became clear, however, that Napoleon's grip on Europe was weakening, Murat's thoughts became focussed on self-preservation.

A room at the Murat museum in Pizzo imagines the scene as Murat appears before the Bourbon tribunal
A room at the Murat museum in Pizzo imagines the scene
as Murat appears before the Bourbon tribunal
Desperate to retain power in Naples and the lifestyle that went with it, he entered into an alliance with Austria after France’s defeat at the Battle of Leipzig in October of 1813. However, the summit of European powers that met at the Congress of Vienna after Napoleon's defeat had other ideas, planning to return Naples to the Bourbons.

Murat fled, declared himself in support of Italian independence and fought the Austrians in northern Italy. He was defeated, then attempted to regain favour with Napoleon, who had escaped his exile on Elba, only to be turned away without even speaking to him. The emperor would later regret shunning his former trusted aide, claiming that with Murat at his side he would have won the Battle of Waterloo,

In a last throw of the dice, Murat then assembled an expedition force on Corsica and set out to recapture Naples himself. With only 250 men, however, he was never likely to succeed. In the event, bad weather blew his three ships of course and his landed in Pizzo, more than 350km south of Naples, almost at the toe of the boot, where he was soon arrested.

He faced death in the same way as he had gone into battle, extravagantly dressed and fearless. Having been granted his last wish for a perfumed bath and the opportunity to write to his wife and children, he refused the offer of a blindfold and a stool to sit on, and instead stood before the firing squad, eyes wide open.  His final words, or so the story goes, were: “Soldiers, do your duty. Aim for my heart, but spare my face. Fire!”

Travel tip:

Pizzo has made the most of its connection with Joachim Murat, who was buried in the town's Baroque Church of St George. The Aragonese castle has been renamed Castello Murat and contains a Murat museum.  Each year celebrations take place on the anniversary of his death, sometimes with historical re-enactments.  Pizzo is also notable for tuna fishing and for its speciality tartufo ice cream, which features a ball of ice cream encasing molten chocolate.

The plaque on the wall of Murat's villa at Santa Maria Annunziata
The plaque on the wall of Murat's
villa at Santa Maria Annunziata
Travel tip:

As well as his home at the Royal Palace in Naples, Joachim Murat kept a villa on the Sorrentine peninsula, just outside the small town of Massa Lubrense at the village of Santa Maria Annunziata. The building, identifiable by a plaque on the wall, has a clear view of the island of Capri and was used as a vantage point by Murat from which, early in his reign as King of Naples, he was able to oversee an operation to recapture the island, which had been garrisoned by a combined force of English and Corsican soldiers in 1806.

Capri as seen from Murat's villa on the Sorrentine peninsula
Capri as seen from Murat's villa on the Sorrentine peninsula

More reading:

How the defeat of Austria at the Battle of Marengo helped Napoleon secure power

Napoleon crowns himself King of Italy