THE REPUBLIC OF BERGAMO (1797)


In Italy, that particular politically and ideologically fertile period which saw the start of the many Independence struggles for the national unification was greatly influenced by the revolutionary ideas of the French and by Napoleon.

Bergamo was the first of the Venetian territories to rebel against Venice and to declare itself an indepedent republic on March 13th 1797. The rebellion was organized by some members of the local nobility, mostly young men, who, with the support of a group of intellectuals and exponents of the middle class decided to act autonomously, but nevertheless backed by the French army. On Christmas Eve 1796, the town gates and the castle had already been taken by the French, yet formally respecting the Venetian power. On March 12th 1797 the revolutionaries forced the deputies of the Consiglio Minore to adhere to approve the union to the Cisapline Republic. On the following night ,the Republic was officially proclaimed in Palazzo Roncalli and a new Municipality was elected. Mr. Angelo Ottolini, who was the last representative of the Venetian power in Bergamo, was dismissed the following day, but no blood was shed. Subscriptions to the loyality oath were opened: "I swear perpetual hate to the tyranny and loyalty to the people of Bergamo". Even the ArchBishop Dolfin sanctioned through his vote the legitimacy of the new government.

On March 16th the symbols of the old regime were pulled down and the first liberty tree was placed in Piazza Vecchia. The abolitions of the old symbols and the adoption of the new ones, gave the town a new political sense. Town festivities and patriotic dinners were organized; political brochures along with satirical prints particularly meant for the illiterate who could easily understand them appeared; all that helped to create a strong political and revolutionary propaganda in the whole town. The main objective was helping the new ideas to take root especially among the people who had not shown enthusiasm towards the new government. In fact many of them had simply taken note of the change, while some of them had opposed it violently especially in the provinces, many people from which the day after the rebellion had reached the town's gate with threatening intentions and were driven back by the French Army itself.

 

Picture: Arlequin (a mask from Bergamo) sells off orders of chivalry to Pantaloon (a Venetian mask). Satirical print of the period.