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

The Bourbon Era (1734-1860) - Page 5

The Final Days of the French in Calabria; The Napoleonic Laws; Terrible punishment of the Rebels.

Reynier occupied Crotone on July 13th, 1806. He gathered his wounded, placed the sick in the local hospitals, left a garrison in the city and continued his march toward Catanzaro. He was consistently persued and openly harassed by the brigand bands from the villages along the road to Catanzaro. He suffered many casualities. His reaction and counterattacks were equally cruel. In Scandale (KR) the populace ambushed and killed a squadron of the French invaders. In retalliation, Reynier killed 25 citizens, sacked, and burned the town to the ground. The same happened in Cotronei (KR) in retalliation to the resistence. However, Santa Severina and San Mauro were intimidated into surrender. Thus, town by town, Reynier made his way to Catanzaro. But the revolt intensified along the Sila mountain chain.

Francatrippa's band from Pedace (CS) and Parafante with his band from Scigliano (CS) together with those of Savelli, San Giovanni in Fiore, Caccuri and other villagers perpertrated attacks, stealing the army animals, kidnapping the soldiers for ransom, etc.

Even after the villages were occupied by the French from Crotone to Catanzaro, the executions did not stop. On February 16, 1807 Domenico Mangone, from Cerenzia, was shot by a firing squad for military crimes in Santa Severina. The Sila mountains boiled with rebel activity. The situation was intolerable for the French. Giuseppe Napoleone declared a State of Emergency and sent General Massena to Calabria to deal with the rebels and brigands.

He thus promulagated the most severe punishments for the brigands and rebels. On his arrival in Cosenza, he erected innumerable gallows. Since the days of the Partonopean Republic, San Giovanni in Fiore was a center of Bourbon support, therefore staunchly anti-French. General Franceschi was therefore sent there on the 30th of August 1806 with a large contingent of troops.

He was there to capture the following bourbon supporters: Pignanelli, Biafora, a certain Vincenzo Barberio (called Occhiodipecora) Giovanni Benicasa (called Specchiale) all heads of local rebel bands. The French imposed severe penalities to maintain order in Savelli, Casino, Cerenzia, Caccuri, San Nicola dell'Alto, Verzino, Belevedere, etc. The leader of the Bourbons and rebels in San Giovanni in Fiore was Nicola Barberio Toscano who together with his brothers, were able to acquire (not totally innocently) from the Bourbons on March 28th 1804, the fiefdoms of Verzino and Savelli which were confiscated from Nicola Cortese Jr., in 1796 and had been up until this time in Bourbon hands. General Franceschi occupied San Giovanni, sacked it, and slaughtered about 100 persons including a Capuchin monk.

He took Baron Nicola Baberio Toscano prisoner and brought him as a hostage to Cosenza. These brutal acts are confirmed by a letter from Courier to Rogliano, dated August 21, 1806: "We hung a Capuchin in San Giovanni in Fiore and about 20 poor devils who looked like colliers." The consequences of what occured here, were felt in all neighboring towns, The most brutal and bloody were seen in Savelli, the town was split equally between supporters of the French and the Bourbons. The arrest of Baron Nicola Barberio Toscano gave the opportunity to those who opposed the "land grab" of 1796, with the help of the Bourbons,  to express their anger. Politics mixed with personal vendettas. From that time until 1812, (precisely August 22nd) there were 83 persons violently killed, including seven women.

Among the first laws that Giuseppe Napoleone passed as King of Naples are those of August 2, 1806:

  1. Feudalism as it exists, is abolished. All baronial rights are reserved to the Throne.
  2. Cities, towns and castles are all under the laws of the Throne.
  3. All feudal funds and income are subject to tribute to the throne, as are all other funds and income.
  4. All feudal taxation is abolished.
  5. All feudal rights to fishing, hunting and the slaughter of livestock are abolished.
  6. The feudal domains will stay as they are in order for all the populace to continue their use until laws and statutes can be promulgated to govern and divide. The court of Naples will decide all controversies.

All feudal contributions were supposed to be abolished, those contributions that filled the coffers of the Barons and reduced the people to virtual slavery. Here is an example of what some laws were: Feudalism in Calabria "consisted of feudal tributes and tributes of provision (inkind) or payments to the Lords"--all animals were not to be slaughtered without Baronial approval. The Barons reserved the right to take the breats of any animal slaughtered, one quarter of any hunted animal. 25

The elimination of the these feudal rights were in word only. The state merely took over the Baronial privileges and imposed heavy taxes on the populace.

Thus the principality of Cerenzia came to an end as did others in Calabria. But the lands remained in the hands of the Giannuzzi Savelli family.

Communes and taxation were reconfigured to benefit the throne. 27 Now, the mayor of the commune was the all important position, "To become a mayor was the highest postion of the populace. All means were used including open violence to achieve it."

In Paris on May 4, 1811, Cosenza was designated as capital of Calabria Citra.

Submitted and translated by Dr. Tom Lucente