Calabria, Italy and its Genealogy, History, Culture and Language

The Bourbon Era (1734-1860) - Page 3

The Insurrection and the Brigands

As the vendettas increased on both sides (French and Calabrian) the populace was incited to "payback" the invading army through increased acts of cruelty. The King, from Palermo, hearing of the situation, dreamed of reconquering Calabria again, recalling the favorable outcome of the Sanfedisti under Cardinal Ruffo in 1799 and keeping in mind his decrees of 1805 and 1806 for the institution of the Corpi Volanti and Corpi a Massa. 4

He contacted the heads of the "old" fighting bands under Cardinal Ruffo. He nominated some to new commands offering amnesty for any crimes committed. To others he offered increased honors and higher rank where it was it was deserved. He offered these things under the condition that they fight the French invaders. He again was dependent on the outlaw factions in Calabria. The populace was both benefactor and victim to this strategy. Thus, throughout the regions of Crotone and the Principality of Cerenzia the outlaw bands appeared everywhere. Francatrippa, Parafante, Re Corenne, Lorenzo Benincasa, Pane di Grano, etc. are remembered for their sack of Crotone and other Bourbon or Sanfedisti acts against the Calabrian people.

Certainly among these groups was no lack of those who fought for principle, loyalty or patriotism. But, the greater part of those who fought against the French on the side of the King of Naples were ex-convicts, bandits, brigands as Nitti wrote: "For the first time in civilized time, violating every moral rule, the Bourbons dare to utilize bandits of the worst ilk" 5

The spark of the revolt led by Carmine Caligiuri in Soveria-Manelli, inflamed most of Calabria. Encounters resulted in total massacres, French soldiers were burned as human torches, Calabrian brigands were decapitated and their heads placed on poles in the cities and towns as a warning to others.

The French counterattack was fierce. Scigliano, hometown of Parafante, was put to the torch on the 28th of March 1806. Carmine Caligiuri of Soveria died in this encounter. Pedace was sacked and burned on the 26th of March 1806 the hometown of Francatrippa. In June, the following towns denounced the French and swore allegiance to the King of Naples: Cotronei, Savelli, Cerenzia 6. Thus, the remaining bands around Scigliano and Pedace with Parafante and Francatrippa leading them, passed down into our territory. They found many collaborators among the people, San Giovanni in Fiore and Savelli especially. We read: "The outlaws, known as Pedacesi, found many followers. A wave of enemies infiltrated the areas around Rossano and Crotone. In Longobucco, a general insurrection is at hand.

The communes of Spinello, Caccuri, Casino and Cerenzia are seeing rebellion in their areas due to some of their citizens-the disturbance is widespread." 7 thus wrote Vincenzo Palumbo, Administrator of Calabria Citra under General Miot on June 6th.1806. We have already noted the damage done by the marauders adding well over 2600 head of cattle from Cerenzia alone. The Bourbons depended not only on the common people for support but on the nobility and clergy as well. Among the latter, we note, Fra Bernardino of Casino, fervent partisan and defender of King Ferdinand IV.

The South of Italy, then had a population of 4,000,000. The clergy population was 121,038. Of which: 22 were archbishops, 116 bishops, 65,500 priests, 31,800 monks, and 23,000 nuns. Not all were clerics for religious reasons. Some were out and out outlaws like the Bishop of Capaccio (Salerno) who was the head of an outlaw band 10

The Bourbon royalty heaped honors on the outlaws. They called the misanthrope, Mammone, "our good friend and General, faithful sustainer of the throne."

The well known (to our grandparents) Francatrippa, displayed a white ostrich plume and wore a jewel encrusted solid gold medallion of the Madonna--a gift of his friend: the Queen Carolina.

Meanwhile the Calabrese economy was disastrous. Suffering under the exploitation of the throne and then the French. For example, the three Salt mines of the principality of Cerenzia (a major source of local economy) was in ruins. The governor of Cerenzia, Mirtillio Grimaldi, denounced to the King the poor administration of Carmine Caracciolo who had let the mines in a disastrous inundated condition. For almost a decade, it was under the control of Michele Gallo of Bisignano who also had those of Altomonte, Nieto and Paludi and who in 1799 had sent to Cardinal Ruffo, proceeds from these mines totaling almost 30,000 ducats! 12 When the French arrived, they found no benefit in the salt, already expropriated by Cardinal Ruffo.

Submitted and translated by Dr. Tom Lucente