Monday, 14 April 2008

Garibaldi's Chaplain

Garibaldi was not, of course, a very popular man with the Church. The Janiculum hill is pretty well given over to commemorating him and his fellow freemasons who overthrew the Papal States in 1870. There is a very dramatic statue of his wife on horseback brandishing a gun in one hand and clutching a baby to her breast with the other. One lesser-known fact is that Garibaldi had a chaplain. Still less well-known is the fact that he was, er, a Methodist! His name was Alessandro Gavazzi, 1809-89) and he is commemorated on the outside wall of the Methodist church in Rome, just over the bridge from the Castel S. Angelo. He had been a Barnabite monk, but had left and, having participated in the short-lived Roman Republic in the 1840s, fled and joined the Methodists in London, returning to join 'Biscuits' Garibaldi's army as a chaplain, and founding the Christian Free Church ('Chiesa Metodista') which still exists, I think, though hardly huge.
Methodism isn't exactly what springs to mind when you think of Italy, but it does have its own Protestant church, the Waldensians. Actually, the Waldenses, a northern phenomenon, predate the Reformation, but they were happy to join in as soon as they could. I don't think these guys are Waldenses, though; on their sign they identify themselves as Methodists. I suppose we are simply going to have to think of it as one of those things… unless any of you have any more information, of course.

2 comments:

Fr G said...

As a seminarian in Rome we would occasionally visit the Church of Scotland Manse on the Via XX Settembre and one of the other guests was usually the Methodist minister. As I recall he wasn't Italian, I think he was Dutch or Belgian, although I can't be sure of that. I do remember that he was bitterly anti-Catholic, although not openly so, but you could tell from what he said. I remember some of our priests having to move away from him to avoid "physical ecumenism"!

Augustine said...

Garibaldi stayed in a house which is part of my school. The headmaster has his meetings in the 'Garibaldi Room'. I don't think he's planning to overthrow the Papacy though...