The Newsletter of The Italian Club of St. Louis
Internet Edition
August 2001

Painting the Doctors of the Church
Italy at the First Millenium
Tony Lombardo Receives Vastola Awrad
Carla Bossola Receives Heritage Award
Bocce Club Events
La Tavola Italiana
Board of Directors
Emilio Praga

La Rondine is published 
monthly by The Italian 
Club of St. Louis
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Franco Giannotti
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La Rondine

Volume 5 - Issue 8
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August 2001

Painting the Doctors of the Church

   Our August speaker will be Ann Walsh Torrini.  Her topic will be Painting the Doctors of the Church, a portrait series commissioned by a special American Committee of the Queen of the World Center in Fatima, Portugal.   The “Doctors of the Church” are thirty-three individuals who made outstanding contributions to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church between the fourth and nineteenth centuries.  The paintings will ultimately be displayed in a museum especially created for them in Fatima. 

   Ann will present a slide lecture describing her experiences in the execution of this unusual challenge.

   Ann Walsh Torrini is a distinguished painter and designer of portraits, including Bishop Charles Koester’s and Betty and Arnaldo Bucciero’s.  She also painted a portrait of Clementine Zerr, founder of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a religious order of Sisters based in Ruma, Illinois.  In addition, she designs stained glass and collaborates with her husband Rudy in the creation of his commissions.

Next Meeting Wednesday, August 15, 2001 
Cocktails 6:30 PM - Dinner 7:00 PM 
 Da Baldo's Restaurant 
RSVP Marie Wehrle 544-8899
Or e-mail to


Italy at the First Millenium

   In the year 1000, northern and central Italy was under the rule of the German King, Otto I, the southern half of the Italian peninsula was controlled by the Byzantines, and Sicily and Sardinia were controlled by the Arabs.  The Byzantines, essentially Greek in origin, were based in Constantinople and were and powerful cultural and spiritual force in the history of the region.  The Arabs, too, were comparable to the Byzantines, being proficient in literature, philosophy, mathematics and the sciences.

   At the first millennium, there were no defined national or state boundaries in Europe.  Territories were held and ruled by force and cities and towns were controlled by local nobles. 

   Otto I the Great (936-973) used Christianity as a unifying force to bring together a powerful German state.  In 962 he entered Rome an had himself crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by Pope John XII; but in a year he ousted the corrupt pope from the Papacy. 

   The European Christian world was pulling apart.  Otto I and his son Otto II tried to reunite the opposing groups but were unsuccessful.  In 999, when Pope Gregory V died, the emperor was the young Otto III (983-1002) who had succeeded his father Otto II to the throne as a child.  During the years of his rule, Otto III devoted himself to the empire centered in Rome and appointed to the papal throne the French churchman Gerbert of Aurillac, who had studied in Moslem Spain and who had become the greatest western scholar of his age.  Gerbert, who was Otto’s friend, tutor, and political mentor, became Pope with the name of Sylvester II.  Together they worked tirelessly toward the unification of Christendom.

   Pope Sylvester II was probably the person who had the most profound influence on the future of Italy.  As a peasant boy of twelve, Gerbert was accepted into the Abbey d’Aurillac in France and became a brilliant scholar.  As a young man he seemed to be fascinated by everything.  He built the most advanced pipe organs of his day, powered by steam.  He constructed one of the first pendulum clocks in history.  He learned to tell time by watching the night sky.  He was one of the great book collectors of the time, requesting copies of great classics, trading and swapping for every book he could find.  He loved the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, but to the tenth century Church, those writers were considered ungodly.  Not surprisingly, Gerbert came under attack by the Catholic Church who feared that the astrolabe and the abacus were tools of sorcery.  He was accused and vilified as a wizard of Satan who dabbled in magic. 
He was the perfect man to usher in the Second Millennium, bringing Italy and Western Europe to the dawn of an exciting new age.  He may have been the first to open the doors of the Renaissance in Italy.  Gerbert of Aurillac was recently voted by prominent American historians as “Man of the Year at the First Millennium.”

   The population of Italy was estimated at 5 million in the year 1000.  By Byzantine and Arab standards, Italy was crude and barbaric.  The social structure was divided into farmers, soldiers, laborers, and the aristocracy and the clergy, in whose hands lay all the power.  The average life span was between 28 and 30 years.  Wealth was determined by the size of land holdings and by the products of the land.  Rye was grown in the north and wheat was the staple of the south.  The economic system was based on barter, with wine, for example, being widely used for payment of rent.  The diet of the ordinary citizen consisted of fruits and vegetables and milk from sheep, goats and cows.  Forests were extensive and rich with game but hunting was exclusively the privilege of aristocratic landowners.  The Roman Catholic Church controlled education, which was essentially confined to churches and monasteries.  The Church was the single most important institution for keeping social stability, but problems did exist within the clergy, with simony, marriages, concubinage and lack of chastity among the monks ravaging the institution; however, the monastic system expanded considerably with the formation of two notable monasteries:  Montecassino, founded by St. Benedict, and Bobbio, founded by St. Columban. 

   A series of events occurred before the end of the millennium that brought fear of impending doom.  In 993 Mount Vesuvius erupted, in 969, an eclipse darkened the earth, in 989 a bright new star appeared in the sky (ultimately to be known as Halley’s comet), and in 998 two meteorites crashed to earth in northern Italy.  Although the majority of the population was not aware of the millennium, since few had knowledge of the calendar, the clergy, on the other hand were well aware of its approaching and took the opportunity to preach about the impending apocalypse. 
At the turn of the millennium cities were important assets.  Rome was considered the capital and center of western Christianity even though its population had dropped to less than 50,000 from a million at the time of Christ. 

   Venice, isolated from intruders because of its location, thrived and was Italy’s wealthiest city.  Genova, also an independent city, became a sea power to rival Venice.  Palermo, then known as Balerm, was the largest city in Italy with a population of 100,000 and was a center for education and scholarship.  Salerno had an outstanding school of medicine that still exists today.  Historians consider the first millennium a turning point in the history of Italy and of Europe. 


By Gene Mariani

We would like to welcome two new members to our Board of Directors. Gloria Etling was appointed as a Director and will serve the balance of Director Roger Gennari’s (who resigned for personal reasons) term of office. Dan Viele was appointed Assistant Treasurer. Dan, who is a CPA and Professor of Accounting at Webster University, will be responsible for the Club’s financial records and affairs during Treasurer Barbara Klein’s absence. 


Congratulations to Cav. Antonino Lombardo upon being awarded the prestigious Vastola Award by the UNICO National organization.  This is the highest award that UNICO bestows to any of its members throughout the United States and is given in recognition of extraordinary community service over a long period of years.  The award was presented at the 79th Annual UNICO National convention, which was recently held in St. Louis. Tony Lombardo is known throughout the United States and in Italy as publisher and editor of the Italian-American newspaper Il Pensiero as well as here in St. Louis for his tireless work on behalf of our Italian-American community and of many clubs and organizations.  He is an elected member of COMITES, a body of the Italian Government that acts as advisor to the Consul Generals of Italy.  Tony is a long-time member and supporter of the Italian Club and has served as President, Vice President, and Director.  Congratulations also to Tony’s wife Lina and to their family.


Congratulations to member Carla Bossola on winning the Club’s 2001 Italian Heritage Award, presented in recognition of extraordinary community service.  Born in Genoa, Italy, Carla moved with her family to Rome at age six.  She completed the Liceo Classico and then earned her Laurea at the University of Rome, receiving the Dottorato in Humanities.  She taught in Italy for several years and then qualified for the competitive Italian Foreign Ministry program, which sends talented young teachers abroad to bring Italian language and culture to the world.  Given a choice of some 48 locations worldwide, to our good fortune, she, and her husband Giuseppe, chose to come to St. Louis, where she took on a heavy teaching schedule at both WU and SLU.  Besides being a gifted teacher, she is also a popular one, winning a WU 2001 College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award.  She has also given generously of her time in many extra-curricular activities.  These include introduction of films at the Italian Club Film series at the Bocce Club; introduction of the Club’s tremendously successful showing of Il Gattopardo at The Saint Louis Art Museum; and teaching our Club’s recent Dante Seminar series.  In addition, Carla was instrumental in organizing the exhibit “Ferro e Stella” last year at SLU’s McNamee gallery.  She also provided valuable assistance to the FIAO, in the preparation of its application for Italian Government support for Italian classes at Shaw Community School including translating the entire proposal and the FIAO’s by-laws into Italian.  But, perhaps most important of all, Carla has been a kind, wise, patient, and good friend to all of us, showing, by example, the very best of Italy, its people, and its culture. 


   The Italian Club’s Classic Film Series, initiated about a year ago at the Italian-America Bocce Club, has been very successful.  For this year, we are planning to continue and expand the series by adding performances of Italian operas with English subtitles.  For our autumn series we hope to do a total of five programs:  three classic Italian films and two opera films.  The films will be introduced by Carla Bossola and the operas by Vito Tamboli and Dorotea Rossomanno-Phillips.  We are still in the process of working out the scheduling details but it looks like the first film (C’eravamo tanto amati) will be Friday, September 7 and the first opera will be Puccini’s Madama Butterfly on Friday, September 21.  More information later.  Hope to see you there. 


   The next Italian Club’s conversation group will meet on the 2nd  and 4th  Thursday at 7:00 p.m. at the St. Louis Bocce Club.  The next meeting will be August 9.  The Italian Conversation Table is intended for people who have studied some Italian, have a basic knowledge of the language, and would like to practice conversation in a small group setting with the help of an Italian-speaking facilitator.  For more information, call Audrey Giovanni at 863-8453 or by e-mail at

The Italian Club of St. Louis

President:  Gene Mariani
Vice-President: James Tognoni
Treasurer:  Barbara Klein 
Dan Viele
Secretary:  Marie Cuccia-Brand
Directors: Carolyn Stelzer
Vito Tamboli
Gloria Etling 
Program Committee: Gene Mariani
Tony Perrone
Pete Puleo
Vito Tamboli
Patty Viviano
Newsletter:  Luisa Gabbiani Flynn
Website: Franco Giannotti



I capolavori della poesia italiana

33.  Emilio Praga (Milano 1839 – 1875) faceva parte della Scapigliatura, un movimento polemico nei confronti del Romanticismo italiano e della cultura dell’epoca rappresentata specialmente dal Manzoni.  Preludio, che consiste di 32 versi, fa parte della raccolta Penombre.  La fede dei nostri antenati non esiste più, dice il poeta:  Dio è morto e con lui tutti gli idoli e i miti del passato. 

di Emilio Praga

Noi siamo figli dei padri ammalati;
aquile al tempo di mutar le piume,
svolazziam muti, attoniti, affamati,
             sull’agonia di un nume.
Nebbia remota è lo splendor dell’arca,
e già dall’idolo d’or torna l’umano1,
e dal vertice2 il sacro patriarca
             s’attende invano;
s’attende invano dalla musa bianca3
che abitò venti secoli il Calvario,
e invan l’esausta vergine4 s’abbranca
             ai lembi del Sudario…
Casto poeta5 che l’Italia adora,
vegliardo in sante visïoni assorto,
tu puoi morir!..degli antecristi è l’ora!
             Cristo è rimorto!
O nemico lettor, canto a la Noia,
l’eredità del dubbio e dell’ignoto,
il tuo re, il tuo pontefice, il tuo boia,
             il tuo cielo e il tuo loto6!
     (vv. 1-20)

1 l’umanità si è allontanata persino dagli idoli dorati.  2 dal monte Sinai. 
3 la musa cristiana. 4 la chiesa.  5 il Manzoni.  6 il fango.


(Continua dal numero precedente)

25.  Domiziano (51 - 96)  (Imperatore 81 - 96).  Tito Flavio Domiziano era figlio dell’imperatore Vespasiano e fratello dell’imperatore Tito, a cui succedette nell’81. 

Era un uomo che preferiva la solitudine e amava la raffinatezza e la cultura ma a cui mancava il carisma del padre e del fratello.  Di carattere introverso, era stato trascurato sia da Vespasiano, che non gli aveva mai conferito cariche di responsabilità, che da Tito, che non lo aveva mai messo alla prova durante le sue campagne militari.  Su di lui sono state formulate opinioni alquanto diverse, considerato un bravo amministratore e il salvaguardia delle virtù romane da alcuni, un autocrata crudele e licenzioso da altri.   Uno dei primi atti di Domiziano fu di costruire l’Arco di Tito in onore del fratello che non aveva mai amato, e questo lo fece certamente per assicurarsi l’appoggio dei senatori, come del resto avevano fatto i suoi predecessori; tuttavia non riuscì mai ad accattivarsi la loro approvazione, anzi si attirò l’odio dell’oligarchia senatoriale e aristocratica che lo accusava di aver sminuito il potere del Senato a favore di quello militare.

Da imperatore condusse diverse campagne ma la sua abilità militare non era certo paragonabile a quella di Vespasiano e di Tito.  Vinse contro i Catti nella Gallia e conquistò la Britannia.  Sotto il suo impero ebbero luogo diverse guerre contro la Dacia (l’attuale Romania) che fu sconfitta nel 93.  Al suo ritorno a Roma gli fu data una ovatio, il che è un po’ meno del trionfo dato ai vincitori, forse perché la guerra non era completamante finita e vi furono altre insurrezioni sul Danubio fino al 97. 
L’impero di Domiziano è caratterizzato da tendenze autocratiche che molto più tardi diverranno tipiche delle corti reali.  La sua corte consisteva di un piccolo gruppo di cortigiani suoi favoriti, con giocolieri, nani, buffoni e lottatori.  I senatori e l’aristocrazia ne erano esclusi.  Sotto di lui furono messi a morte 11 senatori, ma è da notare che sotto l’imperatore Claudio, che fu deificato dal Senato, ne furono messi a morte ben 35.  Il suo errore fu di non celare la sua antipatia per il Senato, che lo ricambiò rovinando la sua reputazione.

Domiziano aveva sposato Domizia Longina ma il solo frutto della loro unione era morto da giovane lasciandolo senza eredi, perciò quando Domiziano fu assassinato nel 96, il senato non perse tempo ed elesse imperatore Nerva, uno dei suoi amici.  Pare che l’assassinio fosse dovuto a un complotto interno ma non è chiaro chi fossero i colpevoli.
Molto è stato detto sulle persecuzioni degli ebrei e dei cristiani durante il suo impero, ma in effetti non ci sono prove che siano veramente avvenute.  Tra gli aspetti positivi del suo governo bisogna ricordare la sua buona amministrazione, la sua giustizia, le sue riforme fiscali, che risultarono nel rialzo del valore della moneta, e terriere, che risultarono nella distribuzione dei terreni lasciati incolti a chi voleva lavorarli.  Fu anche molto saggio nella scelta dei suoi collaboratori:  infatti i suoi successori, Nerva e Traiano, confermarono tutti i governatori da lui scelti. 

(continua al prossimo numero)