Showing posts with label Orbassano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Orbassano. Show all posts

15 February 2024

Carlo Maria Martini – Cardinal

Liberal leanings prevented scholar’s elevation to the papacy

Carlo Maria Martini, a liberal within the Catholic Church, lost out to papal rival Joseph Ratzinger
Carlo Maria Martini, a liberal within the Catholic
Church, lost out to papal rival Joseph Ratzinger 
Carlo Maria Martini, who was once a candidate to become pope, was born on this day in 1927 in Orbassano in the province of Turin.

As Cardinal Martini, he was known to be tolerant in areas of sexuality and strong on ecumenism, and he was the leader of the liberal opposition to Pope John Paul II. He published more than 50 books, which sold millions of copies worldwide.

Martini, who expressed views in his lifetime on the need for the Catholic Church to update itself, was a contender for the papacy in the 2005 conclave and, according to Vatican sources at the time, he received more votes than Joseph Ratzinger in the first round. 

But Ratzinger, who was considered the more conservative of the candidates, ended up with a higher number of votes in subsequent rounds and was elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Martini had entered the Jesuit order in 1944 when he was 17 and he was ordained at the age of 25, which was considered unusually early.

His doctoral theses, in theology at the Gregorian University and in scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, were thought to be so brilliant that they were immediately published.

After completing his studies, Martini had a successful academic career. He edited scholarly works and became active in the scientific field, publishing articles and books. He had the honour of being the only Catholic member of the ecumenical committee that prepared the new Greek edition of the New Testament. He became dean of the faculty of scripture at the Biblical Institute, was rector from 1969 to 1978, and then rector of the Gregorian University. 

In his later years, suffering from Parkinson's disease, Martini moved to Jerusalem
In his later years, suffering from Parkinson's
disease, Martini moved to Jerusalem
In 1979, he was appointed Archbishop of Milan, which was considered unusual, as Jesuits are not normally named bishops. He was made a cardinal in 1983. 

He started the so-called ‘cathedra of non-believers’ in 1987, an idea he conceived with philosopher Massimo Cacciari. He held a series of public dialogues in Milan with agnostic, or atheist, scientists, and intellectuals about the reasons to believe in God.

He was presented with an honorary doctorate from the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1996 and an award for Social Sciences in 2000. In the same year, Martini was admitted as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI was considering retirement, but was being urged against it by some of his confidants. By then, Martini was himself suffering from Parkinson’s disease and he encouraged the Pope to go ahead with his decision to retire.

After his own retirement, Martini moved to Jerusalem to continue his work as a biblical scholar. 

He died in Gallarate in the province of Varese in 2012. More than 150,000 people passed before his casket in the Duomo di Milano. The Italian Government was represented by Prime Minister Mario Monti and his wife. Martini was buried in a tomb on the left side of the cathedral facing the main altar.

Piazza Umberto I in Orbassano, overlooked by the parish church of San Giovanni Battista
Piazza Umberto I in Orbassano, overlooked by
the parish church of San Giovanni Battista
Travel tip:

Orbassano, the comune (municipality) where Martini was born, is about 13km (8 miles) southwest of Turin, falling within the Piedmont capital's municipal area. It can trace its history back to the Roman conquest of Cisalpine Gaul because two imperial era tombstones were found there in the 19th century. The Indian politician, Sonia Gandi, was brought up in Orbassano, although she was born near Vicenza. While studying at Cambridge, Sonia met Rajiv Gandi, who she married in 1968. The couple settled in India and had a family but he was assassinated in his home country in 1991.  Orbassano has a pleasant central square, the Piazza Umberto I, the site of the town's two main churches, the parish church of San Giovanni Battista and the Baroque church of the Confraternita dello Spirito Santo, in which the artworks include a Pentecost by Giovanni Andrea Casella from 1647 and a Madonna and saints by Michele Antonio Milocco from 1754.

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Liberty-style villas built by architect Carlo Moroni and his partner, Filippo Tenconi, abound in Gallarate
Liberty-style villas built by architect Carlo Moroni
and his partner, Filippo Tenconi, abound in Gallarate 
Travel tip:

Gallarate, where Martini died after he spent his final years living in a Jesuit house, is a small city in the province of Varese, about 42km (26 miles) northwest of Milan. It has a Romanesque church, San Pietro, which dates from the 11th century. In Piazza Garibaldi, where there is a statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi, there is an historic pharmacy, Dahò, where members of the Carbonari used to hide out during the 19th century.  Founded by the Gauls and later conquered by the Romans, Gallarate enjoyed prosperity under Visconti control in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the area's textile industry began to develop and grow. By the 19th and 20th centuries, it was an important industrial city, where thousands of workers were employed in Liberty-style factory buildings. The heavy industry has largely gone now, with high-tech businesses a features of the city's modern economy, but the architectural echoes remain. Piazza Garibaldi also features Casa Bellora, a Stile Liberty mansion commissioned by the local captain of industry, Carlo Bellora, who had factories in Gallarate, Somma, Albizzate, and in the Bergamo area, who hired the architect Carlo Moroni to build a house for his family.  Moroni and the engineer Filippo Tenconi combined to build numerous villas in what is known as the 'Liberty district' between Corso Sempione and the railway. 

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More reading:

How the first railway line in northern Italy sparked 19th century boom

Karol Wojtyla - the first non-Italian pope for 455 years

Carlo Maria Viganò, the controversial archbishop who shocked Catholic Church

Also on this day:

1564: The birth of astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei

1898: The birth of comic actor Totò

1910: The birth of circus clown Charlie Cairoli

1944: Monte Cassino Abbey destroyed in WW2 bombing raid

(Picture credits: Main picture by Mafon1959; older Carlo Martini by RaminusFalcon; Piazza Umberto I by Simoneislanda; via Wikimedia Commons)



9 December 2017

Sonia Gandhi - Indian politician

Widow of ex-PM Rajiv born in pre-Alps of Veneto

Sonia Gandhi overcame her reluctance to become a major figure in Indian politics
Sonia Gandhi overcame her reluctance to become
a major figure in Indian politics
Sonia Gandhi, an Italian who married into a famous political dynasty and became the most powerful woman in India, was born on this day in 1946 in a small town near Vicenza.

In 1965, in a restaurant in Cambridge, England, where she was attending a language school, she met an engineering student from the University of Cambridge. They began dating and three years later were married.

His name was Rajiv Gandhi, the eldest son of the future Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.  They were married in a Hindu ceremony, Sonia moved into her mother-in-law’s house and from then on lived as an Indian. Rajiv became an airline pilot while Sonia looked after their two children, Rahul and Priyanka.

Everything changed when Indira Gandhi was assassinated by Sikh nationalists in 1984, a year after Sonia had been granted Indian citizenship.  Rajiv had entered politics in 1982 following the death of his brother, Sanjay, in a plane crash and was elected to succeed his mother as prime minister.

Sonia wanted to remain in the background, having developed a passionate interest in preserving India’s artistic treasures. Inevitably she became more involved, campaigning on her husband’s behalf, and when Rajiv himself was killed by a suicide bomber in 1991, she was invited to take over as prime minister.

Sonia Gandhi at a meeting with the former US president Bill Clinton
Sonia Gandhi at a meeting with the former US
president Bill Clinton
She declined but then watched her husband’s Indian National Congress Party lose its way over the next few years and was urged to help revive its flagging fortunes. She joined the party in 1997. Within a year she was leader of the opposition in the Indian Parliament and in 2004 won the general election.

Amid controversy over whether a foreigner should be allowed to assume the highest office in the country, she opted not to become prime minister, nominating Manmohan Singh to hold the title instead, a move that was accepted by her political opponents.

Nonetheless, as chair of the 15-party governing coalition, named the United Progressive Alliance, that was charged with running the country, she was the most powerful woman in Indian politics and therefore one of the most powerful women in the world.

How different her life might have been had she not met the young Rajiv Gandhi on that evening in 1965.

The house in Lusiana where Sonia Gandhi was born in 1946
The house in Lusiana where Sonia
Gandhi was born in 1946
Born in Lusiana, a town in the Veneto about 20km (12 miles) north of Vicenza, her birth name was Edvige Antonia Albina Maino.  She spent her early years in the Contrada Maini – the Maini quarter – which historically was dominated by people from the Maino family, many of whom spoke a Germanic language called Cimbro.

It was her father, Stefano, who began to call her Sonia. A fervent supporter of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist party, he had fought in Russia alongside the Axis forces during the Second World War and was taken prisoner, but was grateful for the kindness of three Russian women who helped him after he was released.  One was named Sonia, the others Anouchka and Nadia, and he used their names as nicknames for his own three daughters.

When Sonia was nine, the family moved to Orbassano, a town near Turin, where her father started a small business.  He built his family a two-storey villa, with tall iron gates, that remains the family home even today.

He was a strict catholic and sent Sonia and her sisters to a convent, where they were boarders. Sonia was remembered as a lively student who took part in theatre activities and sang.

Later, she attended a Berlitz language school in Turin, eager to learn good English, a command of which was regarded as essential for any Italian with ambition. It was becoming the norm for wealthier Italian parents to send their children to study in England, hence Sonia’s arrival in Cambridge in January, 1965.

She did not care much for English weather nor the food, and the only cuisine resembling Italian that she could find in Cambridge at the time was at the Varsity Restaurant, whose owner was Greek-Cypriot. It was where she met Rajiv.  Some accounts of her life say she took temporary work there as a waitress while studying, although it is not clear whether she was waiting on tables or simply there as a diner on the night she met Rajiv.

Rajiv Gandhi (left) with his mother Indira and brother Sanjay as a young man in India
Rajiv Gandhi (left) with his mother Indira and brother
Sanjay as a young man in India
Although she was a beautiful girl, never short of male attention, and comfortably off, too, thanks to her father’s generous allowance, it was only after meeting Rajiv that she felt her time in Cambridge became bearable. Rajiv was wealthy but Indians were not allowed to take much money out of the country and he therefore had to live a humble life. He took a part-time job in a supermarket while not studying. 

Sonia met Indira Gandhi in London and it was plain to her that her relationship with Rajiv met with his mother’s approval. But her own parents had reservations about the idea of her marrying a non-Italian, never mind one from a country so far removed from Italy as India, even though Stefano thought Rajiv was sincere and was impressed by his determination to support her by becoming a commercial pilot.

He forbade Sonia to travel to India until she was 18 and even then said he would give their relationship his blessing only after they had lived apart for a year, hoping it might cool.  It did not, and they were married in 1968.

Although her life from then was in India, Sonia returned to Italy from time to time but did so discreetly. When she won the 2004 election, the media descended on Orbassano.  Her father had passed away some years earlier but her mother and sisters still lived in the town. They declined all interviews, however, their reluctance explained by the mayor of Orbassano, who told reporters that they had been upset by the tragedies that had beset the Gandhi family and asked to be left in peace.

Lusiana nestles in the picturesque hills of the northern Veneto in the shadow of the Alps
Lusiana nestles in the picturesque hills of the northern
Veneto in the shadow of the Alps
Travel tip:

Lusiana is a town of slightly more than 2,500 inhabitants in the picturesque pre-Alps of northern Veneto, about 20km (12 miles) north of Vicenza and about the same distance west of Bassano del Grappa. It is located about 750m (2,450ft) above sea level on the Asiago or Sette Comuni plateau. It is a centre for tourism both in summer and winter. The church of Santa Caterina in the nearby village of the same name contains an altarpiece by the artist Jacopo Bassano.

Piazza Umberto I in Orbassano
Piazza Umberto I in Orbassano
Travel tip:

The town of Orbassano is in an area about 20km southwest of Turin that was deforested in Roman times. It grew from a village to a town in the 19th century when a railway line from Turin and a textile factory was opened, although it remained a relatively small municipality until the 1960s, when its development as an industrial centre saw the population double to around 16,000 in the space of a decade, largely due to Fiat opening a plant at nearby Rivalta. The town, with a pretty central square, Piazza Umberto I, has continued to grow and is earmarked  for a direct metro link to the centre of Turin. A road out of Orbassano is named Via Rajiv Gandhi.