1868: Giuseppe Monti and Gaetano Tognetti, by the Papal guillotine

1 comment November 24th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1868, Italian revolutionaries Giuseppe Monti and Gaetano Tognetti were guillotined in Rome.

Theirs was a passion of the Risorgimento, the 19th century drive to unify as a single nation the peninsula’s quiltwork of minor kingdoms, duchies, and city-states.

Following the Third Italian War of Independence, this had largely been accomplished … with the notable exception of the Papal States surrounding Rome. You can hardly have Italy without the Eternal City.

So national liberator Giuseppe Garibaldi gathered a force under the slogan Roma o morte and prepared to march … while Pope Pius IX began receiving reinforcements from the sympathetic French emperor Napoleon III.

Inside Rome, Monti and Tognetti prepared a little morte of their own. Intending to mount a fifth-column uprising to coincide with the arrival of Garibaldi’s army, the two detonated a couple barrels of gunpowder under the Serristori barracks, killing 23 French zouaves and four Roman civilians. (All links in this paragraph are Italian.)


Kablamo.

Unfortunately for the bombers, no general rising ensued, and the Papal and French armies subsequently repulsed Garibaldi at the Battle of Mentana on Nov. 3, 1867 — extending the papal enclave’s lease on life only slightly, but just enough to deal with Monti and Tognetti.

Their fate at the hands of the civil and religious authorities (one and the same, at this time), is dramatized in the 1977 Italian film In Nome Del Pap Re. (This Google books freebie purports to relate their final days.)

The triumph, such as it was, was short-lived for the Papal States: these were the very last executions by guillotine in Rome; the Papal States polity as a whole had time for only two more executions in its history before the Italian nationalist army completed the risorgimento by capturing Rome in 1870.

The two are memorialized in a celebratory ode by Giosue Carducci.

PER GIUSEPPE MONTI E GAETANO TOGNETTI
MARTIRI DEL DIRITTO ITALIANO

I
Torpido fra la nebbia ed increscioso
Esce su Roma il giorno:
Fiochi i suon de la vita, un pauroso
Silenzio è d’ogn’intorno.

Novembre sta del Vatican su gli orti
Come di piombo un velo:
Senza canti gli augei da’ tronchi morti
Fuggon pe ‘l morto cielo.

Fioccano d’un cader lento le fronde
Gialle, cineree, bianche;
E sotto il fioccar tristo che le asconde
Paion di vita stanche

Fin quelle, che d’etadi e genti sparte
Mirar tanta ruina
In calma gioventù, forme de l’arte
Argolica e latina.

Il gran prete quel dì svegliossi allegro,
Guardò pe’ vaticani
Vetri dorati il cielo umido e negro,
E si fregò le mani.

Natura par che di deforme orrore
Tremi innanzi a la morte:
Ei sente de le piume anco il tepore
E dice – Ecco, io son forte.

Antecessor mio santo, anni parecchi
Corser da la tua gesta:
A te, Piero, bastarono gli orecchi;
Io taglierò la testa.

A questa volta son con noi le squadre,
Né Gesù ci scompiglia:
Egli è in collegio al Sacro Cuore, e il padre
Curci lo tiene in briglia.

Un forte vecchio io son; l’ardor de i belli
Anni in cuor mi ritrovo:
La scure che aprì ‘l cielo al Locatelli
Arrotatela a novo.

Sottil, lucida, acuta, in alto splenda
Ella come un’idea:
Bello il patibol sia: l’oro si spenda
Che mandò Il Menabrea.

I francesi, posato il Maometto
Del Voltèr da l’un canto,
Diano una man, per compiere il gibetto,
Al tribunal mio santo.

Si esponga il sacramento a San Niccola
Con le indulgenze usate,
Ed in faccia a l’Italia mia figliuola
Due teste insanguinate. –

II
E pur tu sei canuto: e pur la vita
Ti rifugge dal corpo inerte al cuor,
E dal cuore al cervel, come smarrita
Nube per l’alpi solvesi in vapor.

Deh, perdona a la vita! A l’un vent’anni
Schiudon, superbi araldi, l’avvenir;
E in sen, del carcer tuo pur tra gli affanni.
La speme gli fiorisce et il desir.

Crescean tre fanciulletti a l’altro intorno,
Come novelli del castagno al piè;
Or giaccion tristi, e nel morente giorno
La madre lor pensa tremando a te.

Oh, allor che del Giordano a i freschi rivi
Traea le turbe una gentil virtù
E ascese a le città liete d’ulivi
Giovin messia del popolo Gesù,

Non tremavan le madri; e Naim in festa
Vide la morte a un suo cenno fuggir
E la piangente vedovella onesta
Tra il figlio e Cristo i baci suoi partir.

Sorridean da i cilestri occhi profondi
I pargoletti al bel profeta umìl;
Ei lacrimando entro i lor ricci biondi
La mano ravvolgea pura e sottil.

Ma tu co ‘l pugno di peccati onusto
Calchi a terra quei capi, empio signor,
E sotto al sangue del paterno busto
De le tenere vite affoghi il fior.

Tu su gli occhi de i miseri parenti
(E son tremuli vegli al par di te)
Scavi le fosse a i figli ancor viventi,
Chierico sanguinoso e imbelle re.

Deh, prete, non sia ver che dal tuo nero
Antro niun salvo a l’aure pure uscì;
Polifemo cristian, deh non sia vero
Che tu nudri la morte in trenta dì.

Stringili al petto, grida – Io del ciel messo
Sono a portar la pace, a benedir –
E sentirai dal giovanile amplesso
Nuovo sangue a le tue vene fluir…

In sua mente crudel (volgonsi inani
Le lacrime ed i prieghi) egli si sta:
Come un fallo gittò gli affetti umani
Ei solitario ne l’antica età.

III
Meglio così! Sangue dei morti, affretta
I rivi tuoi vermigli
E i fati; al ciel vapora, e di vendetta
Inebria i nostri figli.

Essi, nati a l’amore, a cui l’aurora
De l’avvenir sorride
Ne le limpide fronti, odiino ancora,
Come chi molto vide.

Mirate, udite, o avversi continenti.
O monti al ciel ribelli,
Isole e voi ne l’oceàn fiorenti
Di boschi e di vascelli;

E tu che inciampi, faticosa ancella,
Europa, in su la via;
E tu che segui pe’ i gran mar la stella
Che al Penn si discovria;

E voi che sotto i furiosi raggi
Serpenti e re nutrite,
Africa ed Asia, immani, e voi selvaggi,
Voi, pelli colorite;

E tu, sole divino: ecco l’onesto
Veglio, rosso le mani
Di sangue e ‘l viso di salute: è questo
L’angel de gli Sciuani.

Ei, prima che il fatale esecutore
Lo spazzo abbia lavato,
Esce raggiante a delibar l’orrore
Del popolo indignato.

Ei, di demenza orribile percosso,
Com’ebbro il capo scuote,
E vorria pur vedere un po’ di rosso
Ne l’òr de le sue ruote.

Veglio! son pompe di ferocie vane
In che il tuo cor si esala,
E in van t’afforza a troncar teste umane
Quei che salvò i La Gala.

Due tu spegnesti; e a la chiamata pronti
Son mille, ancor più mille.
I nostri padiglion splendon su i monti,
Ne’ piani e per le ville,

Dovunque s’apre un’alta vita umana
A la luce a l’amore:
Noi siam la sacra legion tebana,
Veglio, che mai non muore.

Sparsa è la via di tombe, ma com’ara
Ogni tomba si mostra:
La memoria de i morti arde e rischiara
La grande opera nostra.

Savi, guerrier, poeti ed operai,
Tutti ci diam la mano:
Duro lavor ne gli anni, e lieve omai
Minammo il Vaticano.

Splende la face, e il sangue pio l’avviva;
Splende siccome un sole:
Sospiri il vento, e su l’antica riva
Cadrà l’orrenda mole.

E tra i ruderi in fior la tiberina
Vergin di nere chiome
Al peregrin dirà: Son la ruina
D’un’onta senza nome.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,France,Guillotine,History,Italy,Murder,Occupation and Colonialism,Papal States,Power,Public Executions,Revolutionaries,Terrorists

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1849: Ugo Bassi, nationalist priest

4 comments August 8th, 2012 Headsman

Measure thy life by loss instead of gain;
Not by the wine drunk, but the wine poured forth
For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice;
And whoso suffers most hath most to give.

-From Harriet King‘s poem “Ugo Bassi’s Sermon in the Hospital”

On this date in 1849, the Garibaldian priest Ugo Bassi was shot in Bologna along with fellow-nationalist Count Livraghi.


Statue of Ugo Bassi at Bologna’s via Ugo Bassi.(cc) image from Biblioteca Salaborsa.
Detail view (click for full image) of Bassi and Livraghi being escorted to execution.

Bassi was a penniless Barnabite priest famous for his powerful oratory* and his national enthusiasms. He signed right up for Garibaldi‘s national movement in the heady liberal revolutions of 1848-49.

“Italy is here in our camp,” he would say of the Garibaldian forces readying their (ultimately unsuccessful) defense of the Roman Republic.** “Italy is Garibaldi; and so are we.”

Alas, in this engagement, Italy had a lot fewer guns than the French.

The new French ruler Napoleon III, who had himself been in youth a revolutionary carbonaro in Rome, saw foreign policy advantage in backing the exiled Papacy and overthrew the Republic.†

Garibaldi escaped to exile, but many of his subalterns did not. Bassi was captured unarmed — he didn’t even bear arms in battle — and Pius IX, once thought a fellow-traveler by the liberals, did not hesitate to hand him to the Austrians for punishment. The Habsburgs stood equally to lose from any gains of the Risorgimento, and accordingly gave Bassi a perfunctory military trial, then had him shot immediately in Bologna.

For crowning his open-hearted life with this sacrifice, Ugo Bassi instantly became, from that day to this, one of the best-honored Italian patriots.

He possessed at once the simplicity of a child, the faith of a martyr, the knowledge of a scholar, and the calm courage of a hero … If ever Italy comes to be united may God restore her the Voice of Ugo Bassi … The name of Ugo Bassi will be the watchword of the Italians on the day of vengeance!

-Garibaldi

* Anecdote associated with Bassi once he came to firing up the Bolognese for Garibaldi: a poor girl who could give nothing to the cause spontaneously chopped off her own hair and handed it to him. This is the event depicted by Bassi’s fellow-Bolognese Napoleone Angiolini, Ugo Bassi sui gradini di San Petronio.

** Topical incidental: the Roman Republic lasted only a few months, but its constitution abolished the death penalty … so it can count as the first nation to abolish capital punishment in constitutional law.

† Earning Napoleon III the permanent wrath of Italian nationalists.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Austria,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Habsburg Realm,History,Italy,Martyrs,Religious Figures,Revolutionaries,Separatists,Shot,Treason,Wartime Executions

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1858: Felice Orsini, Italian revolutionary

4 comments March 13th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1858, Italian revolutionary Felice Orsini calmly lost his head for the nation.

Something of a celebrity revolutionary, Orsini joined the independence movement of Giuseppe Mazzini and embarked on a generation’s worth of conspiracy, covert operations and prison spells and prison breaks which he himself voluptuously recounted in hot-selling autobiographical tomes.

Orsini became convinced that French ruler Louis Napoleon* was the chief obstacle to Italian unification, and accordingly chucked a bomb at the dictator’s carriage on January 14, 1858.

Ever theatrical, the condemned Orsini addressed a letter to Louis Napoleon while awaiting execution. In it, he urged the emperor to take up the Italian cause.

Whether mindful of the prospect of another Orsini waiting for his carriage, remembering his own youthful plotting with the Italian carbonari, or simply for reasons of French statecraft, Napoleon did just that. His alliance with the Piedmont state in northwest Italy (for which France received Savoy and the French Riviera in exchange) helped it absorb most of what now constitutes the Italian state.

Within three years of Orsini’s death, only a reduced papal enclave around Rome and the Austrian holdings around Venice separated the peninsula from unification.

In life, Orsini had been a prominent advocate of the Italian cause and played to packed houses in England. In death, he was felt further afield than that.

Tacking to a moderate stance on slavery abolition ahead of his presidential campaign, Abraham Lincoln condemned the late radical abolitionist John Brown as another Orsini — “an enthusiast [who] broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt, which ends in little else than his own execution.”

Among Lincoln’s officers in the coming Civil War would be Charles DeRudio, the anglicized name of Orsini co-conspirator Carlo di Rudio.

Di Rudio had drawn a death sentence himself for the Orsini plot but was spared (pdf) by the clemency of his intended victim. He would go on to fight in the Battle of the Little Bighorn where he once again managed to cheat death.

* aka Napoleon III. He was the grandson of Josephine’s guillotined first husband.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Assassins,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,France,Guillotine,History,Italy,Martyrs,Not Executed,Notable for their Victims,Occupation and Colonialism,Pardons and Clemencies,Public Executions,Revolutionaries

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