|Almost totally unnoticed amid the
clutter of modern buildings near the port, this
cross was set in place in 1799 to commemorate
the reconquest of the Kingdom of Naples by
Ruffo's Army of the Holy Faith.
Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo
(1744—1827) (photo, below) figures
prominently in the history surrounding the short-lived
Neapolitan (or Parthenopean) Republic of 1799; he was
the one who formed and led the loyalist Army of the Holy
Faith in its campaign to retake the kingdom of Naples
from the forces of the Revolution. He was born at San
Lucido in Calabria in 1744, son of Litterio Ruffo, duke
of Baranello. He was educated by his uncle, the cardinal
Thomas Ruffo, as a result of which he gained the favor
of Giovanni Angelo Braschi di Cesera, who in 1775 became
Pope Pius VI. Ruffo became a member of the papal civil
and financial service and was created a cardinal in
1791, though he had never been a priest. He then went to
Naples where he was named administrator of the royal
domain of Caserta. When the French troops advanced on
Naples in in December 1798, Ruffo fled to Palermo with
the royal family.
He was chosen to head a royalist movement in Calabria with the goal of advancing north on Naples and overthrowing the revolutionary government. He landed at La Cortona on February 8, 1799 and began to raise the "Army of the Holy Faith," organizing for his cause the aid of well-known Calabrian bandits such as Fra Diavolo and Nicola Gualtieri, known as "Panedigrano". It is impossible to find an impartial statement about the conduct of Ruffo's army as it marched north. On the one hand, he is described as somewhat of a Robin Hood, out to free his kingdom from the French. On the other hand, he is said to have done very little to prevent his bandit army from killing and pillaging as they went. Supporters point to Republican atrocities, as well. Perhaps all that can be said is that neither side was particularly interested in taking prisoners. Whatever the case, by June, Ruffo's army had advanced to the city of Naples. When the French army occupying the city in support of the Republic withdrew to the north, the revolution was doomed.
broker the surrender of the city to his forces,
guaranteeing safe passage to those members of the
Republican government who wanted to sail for France. He
was more interested in reconciliation than revenge. In a
letter to Admiral Nelson, dated April 30, 1799, he
|If we show that we want
only to put on trial and to punish ... we close
the path to conciliation... Is clemency perhaps
a fault? No, some will say—but it is dangerous.
I don't believe that, and with some caution I
believe it preferable to punishment.
Quoted in Il Risorgimento Napoletano (1799-1860) Pironti, Lucio. Collana Ricciardiana II. Libreria Lucio Pironto. Naples. 1993.]
Clemency was not to
be, and Ruffo was then genuinely outraged when his
guarantee was violated by the King of Naples, Ferdinand
(certainly at the behest of Queen Caroline), who had the
refugees removed from ships in the harbor, returned to
prison, and put on trial. Ruffo, himself, was part of the
tribunal that was now to sit in judgment on the
revolutionaries. He was so inclined to be forgiving and
lenient that the King removed him from the tribunal.
[You may read more about the
Neapolitan Republic and events surrounding its demise at
Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel;
and The Bourbons (1).]
The French, under
Napoleon, retook the Kingdom of Naples in 1806 and stayed
until Napoleon's ultimate defeat almost 10 years later.
Interestingly, Ruffo stayed in Naples during the French
decade. He apparently lived calmly and undisturbed by the
French, who might have had reason to act otherwise toward
their former enemy. When the Bourbons were again restored
to the throne of Naples, Ruffo took a ministerial post in
the government and again became a confidante of the same
King, Ferdinand IV (now known as Ferdinand I) whom he had
aided so many years earlier. Ruffo died in 1827 in Naples.