Showing posts with label Revolutionary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Revolutionary. Show all posts

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


29 June 2021

Masaniello - insurgent

Fisherman who led Naples revolt 

Onofrio Palumbo's portrait of Masaniello, which is in San Martino museum in Naples
Onofrio Palumbo's portrait of Masaniello,
which is in San Martino museum in Naples
The 17th century insurgent known as Masaniello was born on this day in 1620 in Naples.

A humble fishmonger’s son, Masaniello was the unlikely leader of a revolt against the Spanish rulers of his home city in 1647, which was successful in that it led to the formation of a Neapolitan Republic, even though Spain regained control within less than a year.

The uprising, which followed years of oppression and discontent among the 300,000 inhabitants of Naples, was sparked by the imposition of taxes on fruit and other basic provisions, hitting the poor particularly hard.

Masaniello - real name Tommaso Aniello - was a charismatic character, well known among the traders of Piazza Mercato, the expansive square that had been a centre of commerce in the city since the 14th century.

Born in a house in Vico Rotto al Mercato, one of the many narrow streets around the market square, situated close to the city’s main port area, he followed his father, Ciccio d’Amalfi, into the fish trading business. 

He had his own clients among the Spanish nobility, with whom he traded directly to avoid taxation. He was a smuggler, too, although he was frequently caught. He took his regular spells in prison on the chin but was less phlegmatic when his young wife, Bernardina, was arrested and sentenced to eight days in jail, after she had entered the city with a quantity of flour - also subject to tax - hidden in a sock.

Masaniello was told he could spare Bernardina from the ordeal of prison if he paid the authorities a ransom of one hundred crowns. He found the money, but only by putting himself in debt, after which he resolved that he would somehow avenge the Neapolitan people against their oppressors.

An illustration of Masaniello (right) with academic Giulio Genoino
An illustration of Masaniello (right)
with academic Giulio Genoino
The opportunity arose after one of his own stays in prison, in which he met a lawyer, Marco Vitale, through whom he came into contact with several members of the Naples middle classes who wanted to see something done about the corruption among the tax inspectors and the privileges granted to the nobility.

Among them was an octogenarian cleric and academic, Giulio Genoino, who recognised in Masaniello someone who could command popular support and recruited him to his cause.

It was under Genoina’s instruction that Masaniello organised a demonstration on 7 July, 1647, among the fruit sellers of Piazza Mercato, having persuaded two of his relatives to refuse to pay the tax on fruit imposed by a new viceroy, Rodrigo Ponce de León, Duke of Arcos, who had arrived in Naples the previous year with a brief to raise money for the faltering Spanish Habsburg empire.

The demonstrators were aware that there had been an uprising against the Spanish rulers in Sicily a couple of months earlier and their protests quickly turned into a riot.  Genoino tried to restore order, having envisaged a longer campaign of insurgency, but Masaniello had his own motives. He led a mob numbering nearly a thousand on a rampage, ransacking the armouries and opening the prisons.

The Roman painter Michelangelo Cerquozzi's painting of the revolt in Piazza del Mercato
The Roman painter Michelangelo Cerquozzi's
painting of the revolt in Piazza del Mercato
The viceroy tried to placate the insurgents by promising to abolish the new taxes and appointing Masaniello as Captain-General of the People. He and Genoino negotiated with De León through the mediation of the Archbishop of Naples, demanding parity between people and nobility on the city council.

De León acceded but the Naples nobility were unhappy. Even before the ceremony to confirm his elevation to Captain-General, Masaniello was the target of an assassination attempt.  Little more than a week after the riots in Piazza del Mercato, Masaniello went to the Basilica Santuario di Maria Santissima del Carmine, a church on the edge of the square.

He interrupted mass and delivered a blasphemous address denouncing his fellow-citizens. Arrested, he was taken to a nearby monastery and executed, after which his head was paraded on a pike around the streets of Naples.

The death of Masaniello did not restore order. Extremists took over and a second revolution took place in August which culminated in the proclamation of a Neapolitan republic under French protection.  

The Spanish fleet attempted to regain control, bombarding the city in October 1647 but failed to break the resolve of the insurgents and Naples was declared a free republic. However, rival factions among the revolutionaries could not agree on a way forward and in April 1648 the Spanish regained control of the city. 

The Fountain of the Lions in Piazza Mercato looking towards the Chiesa di Santa Croce e Purgatorio
The Fountain of the Lions in Piazza Mercato looking
towards the Chiesa di Santa Croce e Purgatorio
Travel tip:

Piazza Mercato in Naples has long been the focal point of commercial life in the city due to its location not far from the port. Overlooked by the Basilica of Santa Maria del Carmine, it was the setting for the execution of Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel and her fellow revolutionaries in 1799. It was also the location for the beheading in 1268 of Corradino, a 16-year-old King of Naples.  Michelangelo Cerquozzi, the Baroque painter born in Rome in 1602, collaborated with the painter Viviano Codazzi in 1648 on a canvas depicting the Revolt of Masaniello, which is currently at the Galleria Spada in Rome.

The Basilica of Santa Maria del Carmine overlooks the square
The Basilica of Santa Maria del
Carmine overlooks the square
Travel tip:

The Basilica of Santa Maria del Carmine can be found at one end of Piazza Mercato. Its history goes back to the 13th century, when it was established by Carmelite friars driven from the Holy Land in the Crusades, who probably arrived in the Bay of Naples aboard Amalfitan ships. Some sources, however, place the original refugees from Mount Carmel as early as the eighth century. The church is still in use and the 75m (246ft) bell tower is visible from a distance, while the square adjacent to the church was the site in 1268 of the execution of Conradin, the last Hohenstaufen heir to the throne of the kingdom of Naples, at the hands of Charles I of Anjou, thus beginning the Angevin reign of the kingdom.

Also on this day:

1844: The birth of photographer and catering entrepreneur Federico Peliti

1861: The death of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning

1925: The birth of politician Giorgio Napolitano

1929: The birth of journalist Oriana Fallaci


8 February 2016

Revolt in Padua

When students and citizens joined forces against their oppressors 

The Caffè Pedrocchi in Padua witnessed fighting in the 1848 uprising against the Austrians
The Caffè Pedrocchi in Padua witnessed fighting
in the 1848 uprising against the Austrians
An uprising against the Austrian occupying forces, when students and ordinary citizens fought side by side, took place on this day in Padua in 1848.

A street is now named Via VIII Febbraio to commemorate the location of the struggle between the Austrian soldiers and the students and citizens of Padua, when both the University of Padua and the Caffè Pedrocchi briefly became battlegrounds.

The Padua rebellion was one of a series of revolts in Italy during 1848, which had started with the Sicilian uprising in January of that year.

The Austrians were seen as arrogant and aggressive by ordinary citizens and the ideas of Giuseppe Mazzini and Camillo Benso Cavour about a united Italy were becoming popular with progressive thinkers.
Many students supported the ideas of the revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini
Many students supported the ideas of
the revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini

Students and professors at Padua University had been meeting in rooms at the University and in Caffè Pedrocchi to discuss their discontent.

The uprising began with the storming of a prison and prisoners being set free. Then many ordinary citizens came to fight alongside the students against the armed Austrians, who clubbed the Paduans with their guns as well as firing at them.

You can still see a hole in the wall of the White Room inside Caffè Pedrocchi made by a bullet fired by an Austro-Hungarian soldier at the students.

Both Paduans and Austrian soldiers were killed and wounded in the fighting. Many people were arrested by the soldiers and in a crackdown later, some students and professors were expelled from the university.

The revolt was short lived and there was no other rebellion  in Padua against the Austrians. But the 8 February uprising was thought to have encouraged Charles Albert of Savoy, King of Sardinia-Piedmont, to later declare war on Austria.

In 1866 Italy finally expelled the Austrians from the Veneto and Padua became annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.

Travel tip:

Right in the centre of Padua, the Caffè Pedrocchi has been a meeting place for business people, students, intellectuals and writers for nearly 200 years. Founded by coffee maker Antonio Pedrocchi in 1831, the café was designed in neoclassical style and each side is edged with Corinthian columns. It quickly became a centre for the Risorgimento movement and was popular with students and artists because of its location close to Palazzo del Bò, the main university building. It became known as 'the café without doors', as it was open day and night for people to talk, read, play cards and debate. Caffè Pedrocchi is now a Padua institution and a 'must see' sight for visitors. You can enjoy coffee, drinks and snacks all day in the elegant surroundings.

The Basilica di Sant'Antonio dates back to the 13th century
The Basilica di Sant'Antonio in Padua
Travel tip:

The University of Padua was established in 1222 and is one of the oldest in the world, second in Italy only to the University of Bologna . The main university building, Palazzo del Bò in Via VIII Febbraio in the centre of Padua, used to house the medical faculty. You can take a guided tour to see the lectern used by Galileo when he taught at the university between 1592 and 1610. Other sights that are a must-see on a visit to Padua include the 13th century Basilica di Sant'Antonio.

More reading:

Giuseppe Mazzini - hero of the Risorgimento

Sicilian revolt that sparked a year of uprisings

The Five Days of Milan

Also on this day:

1591: The birth of Baroque master Guercino

1751: The death of Trevi Fountain architect Nicola Salvi


12 January 2016

Revolution in Sicily

January revolt meant the beginning of the end for the Bourbons

The Sicilian uprising on this day in 1848 was to be the first of several revolutions in Italy and Europe that year.

Ferdinand was the Bourbon ruler of Sicily
King Ferdinand II
The revolt against the Bourbon government of Ferdinand II in Sicily started in Palermo and led to Sicily becoming an independent state for 16 months.

It was the third revolution to take place on the island against Bourbon rule and signalled the end for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Naples and Sicily had been formally reunited to become the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in 1815. Back in medieval times they had both been part of a single Kingdom of Sicily.

The 1848 revolt was organised in Palermo and deliberately timed to coincide with King Ferdinand’s birthday.

News of the revolt spread and peasants from the countryside arrived to join the fray and express their frustration about the hardships they were enduring.

Sicilian nobles revived the liberal constitution based on the Westminster system of parliamentary government, which had been drawn up for the island in 1812.

The Bourbon army took back full control of Sicily by force in May 1849 but the revolt proved to be only a curtain raiser for the events to come in 1860 when Giuseppe Garibaldi ended Bourbon rule once and for all.

The island of Sicily became part of the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

Travel tip:
Palermo's magnificent Teatro Massimo
Photo: Bjs (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Palermo,  the capital of Sicily, is famous for its history, culture, architecture, food and wine. It has examples of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches and palaces. Palazzo dei Normanni, a marvellous example of Norman architecture, is the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The Teatro Massimo, the biggest theatre in Italy, has staged operas starring Enrico Caruso.

Travel tip:

Naples has been subjected to persistent foreign domination over the centuries. After the Spanish came the Austrians and in 1734 the Bourbon King, Charles I, renovated the city, building the Villa di Capodimonte and the Teatro di San Carlo. Napoleon conquered Naples in 1806 and made his brother the King, but the Bourbon King, Ferdinand, regained Naples in 1815. In 1861, Garibaldi’s army conquered the city and handed it over to the King of Sardinia, who later became King Victor Emanuel II, the ruler of the newly united Italy.


20 December 2015

Francesco Bentivegna – military leader

Patriotic baron executed in what was to become mafia heartland

Baron Francesco Bentivegna, a Sicilian patriot, died on this day at Mezzojuso in Sicily in 1856.

Bentivegna led revolts against the Bourbon rulers of the island in the mid 19th century and became renowned for his bravery.
Corleone, made famous by The Godfather movies, is the birthplace of Sicilian patriot Francesco Bentivegna
Corleone, perched in the mountains above Palermo,
is the birthplace of Francesco Bentivegna
Photo: Michael Urso (CC BY-SA 2.0 DE)

He was born in Corleone near Palermo and it is believed his parents originally intended him for the church.

But after leading his first revolt against the Bourbons in 1848 in Palermo he was appointed military governor of the Corleone district as a reward.

Within 16 months the Bourbon soldiers had reoccupied Palermo and offered all the rebels an amnesty if they pledged loyalty to their French rulers.

Bentivegna refused and again attempted to launch a coup, which was unsuccessful. Afterwards he had to live as a wanted fugitive, while continuing to try to organise revolutionaries.

He was arrested in 1853 but released in 1856, after which he began to plan a full-scale uprising against the occupying forces.

The Baron was betrayed by one of his compatriots and arrested. He was sentenced to death and executed by a firing squad on 20 December 1856 . His body was thrown into a communal ossuary but later secretly removed.

After Sicily had been liberated by Garibaldi, Bentivegna’s body was taken to Corleone. It was wrapped in the Italian flag and entombed in his local church.
Hill towns are typical of Sicily's rugged landscape
Sicily's rugged landscape is dotted with hill towns,
such as Ragusa (pictured here) in the south-east

Travel tip:

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, just off the toe of Italy’s boot. The ancient ruins, diverse architecture and distinctive cuisine enjoyed by visitors are all testament to the island’s colourful history. Watching over the island is Mount Etna, a volcano that is still active.

Travel tip:

Corleone, the town of Francesco Bentivegna’s birth, is a commune of Palermo, Sicily’s capital city. Several real life Mafia bosses have come from Corleone and it is also the fictional birthplace of some of the characters in Mario Puzo’s novel about the mafia, The Godfather. There is now a street named Via Francesco Bentivegna in Corleone.