Showing posts with label Thomas Aquinas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thomas Aquinas. Show all posts

6 April 2019

Pier Giorgio Frassati – social activist

Brave Catholic has inspired youth of the world


Pier Giorgio Frassati came from a wealthy background but fought for social justice
Pier Giorgio Frassati came from a wealthy
background but fought for social justice
Pier Giorgio Frassati, who was dedicated to social justice issues and spent his brief life helping the poor, was born on this day in 1901 in Turin.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1990, who dubbed him ‘the Man of the Eight Beatitudes,’ alluding to a passage in the Gospel According to Matthew.

Frassati’s father, Alfredo, owned the newspaper La Stampa, and his mother Adelaide, was a painter, whose works were purchased by King Victor Emmanuel III.

Although he was from a wealthy background, even as a child Frassati showed compassion for the poor. He was educated at a school run by Jesuits and grew up to become dedicated to social action as a means of combating inequalities.

He was an ardent opponent of Fascism and was arrested in Rome for protesting with the Young Catholic Workers Congress, continuing to hold his banner aloft while being attacked by the police.

One night a group of Fascists broke into his family’s home to attack him and his father, but Frassati fought them off single-handedly and chased them away down the street.

Frassati in the office of his father, who  owned the newspaper, La Stampa
Frassati in the office of his father, who
owned the newspaper, La Stampa
He joined Catholic Action in 1919 and later became a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic. He was devoted to the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Siena and Paul the Apostle.

He believed charity was not enough and called for social reform, joining the St Vincent de Paul Group so he could help the poor, frequently giving away his own and his family’s money.

After he had obtained a degree in engineering, which he had chosen to study with the intention of improving working conditions for miners, he was offered a gift by his father of either a car or a sum of money. He chose money so that he could give it to the poor rather than keep it himself.

A man of athletic build, he loved swimming and mountaineering and, as a member of Club Alpino Italiano, climbed the Grand Tournalin and Monte Viso, two peaks in northeast Italy.

In June 1925, while boating with friends on the Po River, Frassati complained of sharp pains in his back muscles.

He was diagnosed with poliomyelitis and died four days later, in his mother’s arms, aged just 24. The streets of Turin were lined with thousands of people wishing to pay their respects as his funeral cortege went past on its way to the Frassati plot in the Pollone Cimitero, where he was initially buried.

In 1981 his remains were transferred to Turin Cathedral and were apparently found on inspection to be incorrupt - that is, not having been affected by decomposition, supposedly because of divine intervention.

Frassati's tomb in Turin Cathedral, where his remains were transferred in 1981, prior to his beatification
Frassati's tomb in Turin Cathedral, where his remains
were transferred in 1981, prior to his beatification
The people of Turin had pleaded for him to be canonised and his cause was originally opened in 1932. However, it was suspended in 1941 by Pope Pius XII due to false allegations made about his moral conduct. The cause was eventually resumed and Frassati was made a Servant of God in 1978 and was proclaimed Venerable in 1987. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in St Peter’s Square in 1990.

Frassati is now a patron of students, mountaineers and youth groups. Several schools and colleges in America and Australia have been named after him, where he is seen as an excellent role model for young men.


The Royal Palace - Palazzo Reale - in Turin was built by the Savoy family in the 16th century
The Royal Palace - Palazzo Reale - in Turin was built by
the Savoy family in the 16th century
Travel tip:

Frassati was born in Turin the year after King Victor Emmanuel III came to the throne of Italy. The city’s fine architecture illustrates its rich history as the home of the Savoy Kings of Italy. Piazza Castello, with the Royal Palace, Royal Library and Palazzo Madama, which used to house the Italian senate, is at the heart of ‘royal’ Turin. The Royal Palace – the Palazzo Reale – was built on the site of what had been the Bishop’s Palace, built by Emmanuel Philibert, who was Duke of Savoy from 1528 to 1580. He chose the site because it had an open and sunny position close to other court buildings.

Frassati's final resting place was Turin Cathedral, which is most famous for being the home of the Turin Shroud
Frassati's final resting place was Turin Cathedral, which
is most famous for being the home of the Turin Shroud
Travel tip:

Frassati’s final resting place was in Turin Cathedral, il Duomo di Torino, or Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista, as it is also known. The Cathedral was built between 1491 and 1498 in Piazza San Giovanni in Turin, on the site of an old Roman theatre and adjacent to an earlier campanile built in 1470. The Chapel of the Holy Shroud, where the Turin Shroud is kept, was added in 1668. Some members of the House of Savoy are buried in the Duomo while others are buried in the Basilica di Superga on the outskirts of the city.

More reading:

How the Blessed Vincent Romano devoted himself to helping the poor of Naples

The inspirational figure of Saint John Bosco

Francesco Faà di Bruno's life as an advocate for poor

Also on this day:

1483: The birth of Renaissance genius Raphael

1726: The birth of Saint Gerard Majella

1957: The birth of the race walking Damilano twins


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5 January 2019

Severino Gazzelloni - flautist

Lead player with RAI orchestra considered a great of Italian music


Severino Gazzelloni was regarded as one of Italy's finest flautist
Severino Gazzelloni was regarded as one of
Italy's finest flautist
The flautist Severino Gazzelloni, who for 30 years was the principal player of his instrument in the prestigious RAI National Symphony Orchestra but who had a repertoire that extended well beyond orchestral classical music, was born on this day in 1919 in Roccasecca, a town perched on a hillside in southern Lazio, about 130km (81 miles) south of Rome.

He was known for his versatility. In addition to his proficiency in classical flute pieces, Gazzelloni also excelled in jazz and 20th century avant-garde music. As such, many musicians and aficionados regard him as one of the finest flute players of all time.

Gazzelloni also taught others to master the flute. His notable pupils included the American jazz saxophonist Eric Dolphy and the Dutch classical flautist Abbie de Quant.

The son of a tailor in Roccasecca, Gazzelloni grew up in modest circumstances yet had music around him from a young age as his father played in a local band.  He taught himself music and became fascinated with the flute as an instrument, acquiring the technique to play it simply by practising for endless hours on his own.

Severino Gazzelloni's golden flute was made for him by a craftsman in Germany
Severino Gazzelloni's golden flute was made for him
by a craftsman in Germany
By the age of seven, his father considered him good enough to sit alongside him in the band, whose conductor and musical director, Giambattista Creati, recognised him as a musician of natural talent and great potential.

With Creati’s encouragement, Gazzelloni developed as a performer over the next few years and in 1934, at the age of 15, obtained a place at Italy’s premier conservatory, the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he graduated in 1942 under the guidance of the accomplished flautist Arrigo Tassinari.

During the war years he stayed in Rome, finding work in the orchestra at a variety theatre, where he met Alberto Semprini, who would go on to become director of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra.

When Gazzelloni played with that orchestra for the first time in 1944, it was called the Radio Roma Orchestra, led by Fernando Previtali. His debut appearance began an association that would last until the mid 1970s.

Gazzelloni was as comfortable playing jazz as he was with classical music
Gazzelloni was as comfortable playing jazz as he
was with classical music
He began to give solo recitals in 1945, launching his solo career with a tour of Belgium. His debut as a soloist in an Italian venue did not come until 1947, when Italy was beginning to get back on its feet after the devastation of the Second World War, and Gazzelloni gave a performance at the Teatro Eliseo in Rome.

His interest in avant-garde music developed after he had met the Venetian-born composer Bruno Maderna, through whom he was introduced to the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik - a summer school for ‘new music’ - that was held each year in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt.

Gazzelloni went to Darmstadt for the first time in 1952 and taught there continuously from 1956 to 1966.

In those years he developed friendships and professional relationships with some of the leading lights of the 20th century avant-garde movement, including Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, Franco Donatoni, Olivier Messiaen, John Cage, Luciano Berio and Sylvano Bussotti.

The composer Igor Stravinsky composed music for Gazzelloni
The composer Igor Stravinsky composed
music for Gazzelloni
Berio, the experimental composer who was a pioneer of electronic music, Boulez, Maderna and Igor Stravinsky - the Russian-born pianist considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century - all wrote pieces specifically for Gazzelloni, who was nicknamed “the Golden Flute” - in part in recognition of his virtuosity but also because he did actually own a gold-plated flute, made for him by a German craftsman in 1956.

Gazzelloni is said to have enjoyed the informality of the jazz scene and one of his most successful tours came in 1976, when he was accompanied by the eminent classical pianist Bruno Canino and a jazz combo that comprised some of Italy’s top names, including the jazz piano player Enrico Intra, the saxophonist Giancarlo Barigozzi, bass guitarist Pino Presti, drummer Tullio De Piscopo and lead guitarist Sergio Farina.

At his peak as a soloist, Gazzelloni played as many as 250 concerts a year, as well as teaching at the Academy of Santa Cecilia and at the Chigiana Academy in Siena.

He died in Cassino, not far from Roccasecca, in 1992 in a clinic where he had been undergoing treatment for a brain tumour.

Two years after his death, the municipality of Roccasecca launched a musical festival in his honour and the event, the International Festival Severino Gazzelloni, is today an annual month-long event staged in August and September, supported by the Licinio Refice Conservatory of Frosinone and the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, with sponsorship from businesses in the area.

The remains of the castle at Roccasecca
The remains of the castle at Roccasecca
Travel tip:

The town of Roccasecca occupies a strategic position at the entrance to two narrow gorges that provide access to the Valle di Comino below the slopes of Monte Asprano. It has a castle built in the 10th century at the behest of the Abbot of Montecassino. The abbot later put the castle in the control of the D’Aquino family and it was there that Tommaso D’Aquino, the Dominican friar who was canonized as Saint Thomas Aquinas fifty years after his death, was supposedly born in 1225. The castle fell into disrepair in the 17th century.


The entrance to the Conservatory of the Academy of Santa Cecilia
The entrance to the Conservatory
of the Academy of Santa Cecilia
Travel tip:

The National Academy of Santa Cecilia is one of the oldest musical academies in the world. It was founded in Rome by Pope Sixtus V in 1585 at the Church of Santa Maria ad Martires, better known as the Pantheon. Over the centuries, many famous composers and musicians have been members of the Academy, which lists opera singers Beniamino Gigli and Cecilia Bartoli among its alumni. Since 2005 the Academy’s headquarters have been at the Parco della Musica in Rome, which was designed by the architect Renzo Piano, but the historic conservatory in Via dei Greci remains, offering preparatory courses, and also houses the Italian Institute for Music History.



More reading:

How avant-garde composer Luigi Nono saw music as a form of political expression

Why Pino Presti is an important figure in Italian contemporary music

The brilliance of classical flute player Leonardo De Lorenzo

Also on this day:

1905: The birth of Michele Navarra - practising doctor and Mafia boss

1932: The birth of academic and novelist Umberto Eco

1948: The birth of anti-Mafia activist Giuseppe Impastato


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17 August 2017

Pope Benedict XIV

Erudite, gentle, honest man was chosen as a compromise


Pope Benedict XIV succeeded Clement XII as a compromise candidate after a six-month conclave
Pope Benedict XIV succeeded Clement XII as a
compromise candidate after a six-month conclave
Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini began his reign as Pope Benedict XIV on this day in 1740 in Rome.

Considered one of the greatest ever Christian scholars, he promoted scientific learning, the baroque arts and the study of the human form.

Benedict XIV also revived interest in the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas, reduced taxation in the Papal States, encouraged agriculture and supported free trade.

As a scholar interested in ancient literature, and who published many ecclesiastical books and documents himself, he laid the groundwork for the present-day Vatican Museum.

Lambertini was born into a noble family in Bologna in 1675. At the age of 13 he started attending the Collegium Clementinum in Rome, where he studied rhetoric, Latin, philosophy and theology. Thomas Aquinas became his favourite author and saint. At the age of 19 he received a doctorate in both ecclesiastical and civil law.

Benedict XIV's monument by Pietro Bracci in  St Peter's Basilica in Rome
Benedict XIV's monument by Pietro Bracci in
St Peter's Basilica in Rome
Lambertini was consecrated a bishop in Rome in 1724, was made Bishop of Ancona in 1727 and Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in 1728.

Following the death of Pope Clement XII, Lambertini was elected pope on the evening of August 17, 1740, having been put forward as a compromise candidate after a papal conclave that had lasted six months.

During his reign he carried out many religious reforms and issued a papal bull against the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

He also set in motion the cataloguing of the contents of the Vatican Library.

At the University of Bologna, he revived the practice of anatomical studies and established a chair of surgery and he was one of the first popes to voice displeasure about the use of castrated males in church choirs.

After a battle with gout, Benedict XIV died in 1753 at the age of 83. His final words to the people surrounding his deathbed were: ‘I leave you in the hands of God.’ He was buried in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Horace Walpole later described him as ‘a priest without insolence or interest, a prince without favourites, a pope without nephews.’

The anatomical theatre in the Archiginnasio at the University of Bologna
The anatomical theatre in the Archiginnasio
at the University of Bologna
Travel tip:

The world’s first university was established in Bologna in 1088 and attracted popes and kings as well as students of the calibre of Dante, Copernicus and Boccaccio. Benedict XIV revived anatomical studies and established a chair of surgery there while he was pope. You can visit the university’s former anatomy theatre in the oldest university building, the Archiginnasio, in Piazza Galvani. It is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 1pm, admission free.

Travel tip:

The monument to Benedict XIV in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome was created by Pietro Bracci in 1769 in the late baroque tradition. It shows the Pope standing and blessing his flock with statues of Wisdom and Unselfishness at his feet, to reflect his character.


7 March 2017

Saint Thomas Aquinas - philosopher

Theologian who synthesised Aristotle’s ideas with principles of Christianity


A portrait of Saint Thomas Aquinas by the Italian artist Carlo Crivelli
A portrait of Saint Thomas Aquinas
by the Italian artist Carlo Crivelli
Saint Thomas Aquinas, known in Italian as Tommaso d’Aquino, died on this day in 1274 at Fossanova near Terracina in Lazio.

A Dominican friar who became a respected theologian and philosopher, D’Aquino was canonised in 1323, less than 50 years after his death.

He was responsible for two masterpieces of theology, Summa theologiae and Summa contra gentiles. The first sought to explain the Christian faith to students setting out to study theology, the second to explain the Christian faith and defend it in the face of hostile attacks.

As a poet, D'Aquino wrote some of the most beautiful hymns in the church’s liturgy, which are still sung today.

D’Aquino is recognised by the Roman Catholic Church as its foremost philosopher and theologian and he had a considerable influence on the development of Western thought and ideas. His commentaries on Scripture and on Aristotle are an important part of his legacy and he is still regarded as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood.

D’Aquino was born in Roccasecca in the province of Frosinone in about 1225 in the castle owned by his father, who was count of Aquino.

He was placed in the nearby monastery of Monte Cassino when he was a young boy as a prospective monk. But after nine years in the monastery he was forced to return to his parents when the Holy Roman Emperor expelled all the monks for being too obedient to the Pope.

Fra Angelico's depiction of  Thomas Aquinas with his Summa Theologiae in the Convent of San Marco in Florence
Fra Angelico's depiction of  Thomas Aquinas with his Summa
Theologiae in the Convent of San Marco in Florence
After D’Aquino was sent to the University of Naples, he encountered scientific and theological works translated from Greek and Arabic for the first time.

He joined the Dominicans, which was a new religious order actively involved in preaching and teaching. His superiors immediately sent him to Paris pursue his studies.

But on the way there he was abducted on his parents’ orders because they did not want him to continue with the Dominicans. After a year in captivity in the family castle, his parents reluctantly liberated him and he was able to continue on his journey.

He studied at the Convent of Saint-Jacques under Saint Albertus Magnus, a scholar with a wide range of intellectual interests.

D’Aquino’s writings have been interpreted as the integration into Christian thought of the recently-discovered Aristotelian philosophy, but they also presented the need for a cultural and spiritual renewal, not only in the lives of individual men, but throughout the church.

He took the degree of Master of Theology, received the licence to teach in 1256 and then started to teach theology in a Dominican school.

The historic Abbey of Monte Cassino, where D'Aquino was sent to study as a child and where he stayed before his death
The historic Abbey of Monte Cassino, where D'Aquino was
sent to study as a child and where he stayed before his death
D’Aquino returned to Italy after being appointed theological adviser to the Papal Curia, the body that administered the government of the church. He spent two years at Agnani in Lazio at the end of the reign of Pope Alexander IV and four years at Orvieto with Pope Urban IV. He spent two years teaching at the convent of Santa Sabina in Rome and then, at the request of Pope Clement IV, went to the Papal Curia in Viterbo.

On his return to Paris in 1268, D’Aquino became involved in doctrinal arguments. As an Aristotelian, he believed that truth becomes known through both natural revelation - through human nature and human reasoning - and supernatural revelation - the faith-based knowledge revealed through scripture.

Unlike some Christian philosophers, he saw these two elements as complementary rather than contradictory. He believed that the existence of God and his attributes could be deduced through reason, but that certain specifics - the Trinity and the Incarnation, for example - may be known only through special revelation.

When he returned to Italy in 1272, D’Aquino established a Dominican house of studies at the University of Naples and continued to defend his Aristotelian ideas against the criticisms of other scholars.

The main building at the University of Naples, where D'Aquino set up a Dominican house of studies
The main building at the University of Naples, where
D'Aquino set up a Dominican house of studies
He was personally summoned by Pope Gregory X to the second Council of Lyons in 1274 but became ill on the journey.

While riding a donkey along the Appian Way he is thought to have struck his head against the branch of a tree. He was taken to Monte Cassino to convalesce and after resting for a while, he set out on his journey again. However, he fell ill once more and stopped off at the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, where he died on March 7.

Three years after D'Aquino's death, the Bishops of Paris and Oxford condemned a series of his theses as heretical, in that they contradicted the orthodox theology which considered human reason inadequate to understand the will of God. As a result, he was excommunicated posthumously.

However, he reputation was rebuilt over time and he was canonised a saint in 1323 by Pope John XXII, officially named Doctor of the Church in 1567 and proclaimed the Protagonist of Orthodoxy at the end of the 19th century. Many schools and colleges throughout the world have been named after him.

His remains were at first placed in the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse but were later moved to the Basilique de Saint-Sernin in Toulouse. In 1974 his remains were returned to the Church of the Jacobins where they have stayed ever since.

An aerial view of Roccasecca, the town of D'Aquino's  birth in the Frosinone province in Lazio
An aerial view of Roccasecca, the town of D'Aquino's
birth in the Frosinone province in Lazio
Travel tip:

Roccasecca, D’Aquino’s birthplace, is a town in the province of Frosinone in the Lazio region of central Italy. It is within an area known as Ciociaria by Italians, a name derived from the word ciocie, the footwear worn by the inhabitants in years gone by. Ciociaria hosts food fairs, events and music festivals as well as celebrating traditional feasts, when the local people wear the regional costume and the typical footwear, ciocie.

Hotels in Roccasecca by Booking.com

Travel tip:

The Abbey of Fossanova, where D’Aquino died, is a Cistercian monastery near the railway station of Priverno, about 100 kilometres south-east of Rome. The Abbey dates from around 1135 and is one of the finest example or early Gothic architecture in Italy. Priverno’s patron saint is Saint Thomas Aquinas.

More reading:

Monte Cassino Abbey destroyed by Allies in the Second World War

How bravery of Clare of Assissi was recognised after her death

When the funeral of a nurse brought the city of Rome to a standstill

Also on this day:

1785: The birth of the novelist Alessandro Manzoni