Carbonari (Italian for "charcoal makers") was an informal network
of secret revolutionary societies active in Italy from about 1800 to
1831. The Italian
Carbonari may have further influenced other
revolutionary groups in France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Russia,
Brazil and Uruguay. Although their goals often had a patriotic and
liberal basis, they lacked a clear immediate political agenda. They
were a focus for those unhappy with the repressive political situation
in Italy following 1815, especially in the south of the Italian
Peninsula. Members of the Carbonari, and those influenced by
them, took part in important events in the process of Italian
unification (called the Risorgimento), especially the failed
Revolution of 1820, and in the further development of Italian
nationalism. The chief purpose was to defeat tyranny and to establish
constitutional government. Though contributing some service to the
cause of Italian unity, historians such as Cornelia Shiver doubt that
their achievements were proportional to their pretensions. In the
north of Italy other groups, such as the Adelfia and the Filadelfia,
were more important.
2.2 1820 and 1821 uprisings
2.3 1831 uprisings
3 Prominent members
4.1 In Portugal
4.2 Elsewhere in Europe
4.3 South America
4.4 In literature
5 See also
8 External links
Carbonari were a secret society divided into small covert cells
scattered across Italy. Although agendas varied, evidence suggests
that despite regional variations, most of the membership agreed upon
the creation of a liberal, unified Italy. The
anti-clerical in both their philosophy and programme. The Papal
Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo and the encyclical Qui pluribus
were directed against them. The controversial document Alta Vendita,
which called for a liberal or modernist takeover of the Catholic
Church, was attributed to the Sicilian Carbonari.
Although it is not clear where they were originally established,
they first came to prominence in the
Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Naples during the
Napoleonic wars. Although some of the society's documents claimed that
it had origins in medieval France, and that its progenitors were
under the sponsorship of
Francis I of France
Francis I of France during the sixteenth
century, this claim can not be verified by outside sources. Although a
plethora of theories have been advanced as to the origins of the
Carbonari, the organization most likely emerged as an offshoot of
Freemasonry, as part of the spread of liberal ideas from the French
Revolution. They first became influential in the Kingdom of Naples
(under the control of Joachim Murat) and in the Papal States, the most
resistant opposition to the Risorgimento. The
probably an offshoot of the Freemasons, from whom they differed in
important particulars, and first began to assume importance in
southern Italy during the Napoleonic wars.
As a secret society that was often targeted for suppression by
conservative governments, the
Carbonari operated largely in secret.
Carbonari identified the members as rural
“charcoal-burners”; the place where they met was called a
“baracca”, the members called themselves “good cousin” while
people who did not belong to the
Carbonari were “pagani”. There
were special ceremonies to initiate the members.
The aim of the
Carbonari was the creation of a constitutional monarchy
or a republic; they wanted also to defend the rights of common people
against all forms of absolutism. Carbonari, to achieve their
purpose, talked of fomenting armed revolts.
The membership was separated into two classes—apprentice and master.
There were two ways to become a master: through serving as an
apprentice for at least six months or by already being a Freemason
upon entry. Their initiation rituals were structured around the
trade of charcoal-selling, suiting their name.
In 1814 the
Carbonari wanted to obtain a constitution for the Kingdom
of the Two Sicilies by force. The Bourbon king, Ferdinand I of the Two
Sicilies, was opposed to them. The Bonapartist
Joachim Murat had
wanted to create a united and independent Italy. In 1815 Ferdinand I
found his kingdom swarming with them. Society in the Regno comprised
nobles, officers of the army, small landlords, government officials,
peasants and priests, with a small urban middle class. Society was
dominated by the Papacy. On 15 August 1814, Cardinals Ercole
Bartolomeo Pacca issued an edict forbidding all secret
societies, to become members of these secret associations, to attend
their meetings, or to furnish a meeting-place for such, under severe
1820 and 1821 uprisings
Carbonari first arose during the resistance to the French
occupation, notably under Joachim Murat, the Bonapartist King of
Naples. However, once the wars ended, they became a nationalist
organisation with a marked anti-Austrian tendency and were
instrumental in organising revolutions in Italy in 1820–1821 and
The 1820 revolution began in
Naples against King Ferdinand I. Riots,
inspired by events in Cadiz, Spain that same year, took place in
Naples, bandying anti-absolutist goals and demanding a liberal
constitution. On July 1, two officers, Michele Morelli and Joseph
Silvati, (who had been part of the army of Murat under Guglielmo
Pepe), marched towards the town of Nola in Campania at the head of
their regiments of cavalry.
Worried about the protests, King Ferdinand agreed to grant a new
constitution and the adoption of a parliament. The victory, albeit
partial, illusory and apparent, caused a lot of hope in the peninsula
and local conspirators, led by Santorre di Santarosa, marched toward
Turin, capital of the
Kingdom of Sardinia
Kingdom of Sardinia and 12 March 1821 obtained a
constitutional monarchy and liberal reforms as a result of Carbonari
actions. However, the Holy Alliance did not tolerate such
revolutionary compromises and in February 1821 sent an army that
defeated the outnumbered and poorly equipped insurgents in the south.
In Piedmont, King Vittorio Emanuele I, undecided what to do, abdicated
in favor of his brother Charles Felix of Sardinia; but Charles Felix,
more resolute, invited an Austria military intervention. On April 8,
the Habsburg army defeated the rebels and the uprisings of 1820 -
1821, triggered almost entirely by the Carbonari, ended up
On September 13, 1821 Pope Pius VII with the bull Ecclesiam a Jesu
Christo condemned the
Carbonari as a Freemason secret society,
excommunicating its members.
Among the principal leaders of the Carbonari, Morelli and Silvati were
sentenced to death; Pepe went into exile; Federico Confalonieri,
Silvio Pellico, and Piero Maroncelli were imprisoned.
Carbonari were defeated but not beaten; they took part in the
revolution of July 1830 that supported the liberal policy of King
Louis Philippe of France on the wings of victory for the uprising in
Paris. The Italian
Carbonari took up arms against some states in
central and northern Italy, particularly the
Papal States and
Ciro Menotti was to take the reins of the initiative, trying to find
the support of Duke Francis IV of Modena, who pretended to respond
positively in return for granting the title of King of Italy: but the
Duke made the double play and Menotti, virtually unarmed, was arrested
the day before the date fixed for the uprising. Francis IV, at the
suggestion of the Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich, had
condemned him to death, along with many others among Menotti's allies.
This was the last major effort by the secret group.
In 1820, the Neapolitan
Carbonari once more took up arms, in order to
wring a constitution from King Ferdinand I. They advanced against the
capital from Nola under a military officer and the Abbot Minichini.
They were joined by General Pepe and many officers and government
officials, and the king took an oath to observe the Spanish
constitution in Naples. The movement spread to Piedmont, and Victor
Emmanuel resigned the throne in favour of his brother Charles Felix.
It was only through the intervention of Austria. The Carbonari
secretly continued their agitation against Austria and the governments
in friendly connection with it. They formed a vendita. Pope Pius VII
issued a general condemnation of the secret society of the Carbonari.
The association lost its influence by degrees and was gradually
absorbed into the new political organizations that sprang up in Italy;
its members became affiliated especially with Mazzini's "Young Italy".
From Italy the organization was carried to France where it appeared as
the Charbonnerie, which, was divided into ventes. Members were
especially numerous in Paris. The chief aim of the association in
France also was political, namely, to obtain a constitution in which
the conception of the sovereignty of the people could find expression.
From Paris the movement spread rapidly through the country, and it was
the cause of several mutinies among the troops; it lost its importance
after several conspirators were executed, especially as quarrels broke
out among the leaders. The Charbonnerie took part in the Revolution,
1830; after the fall of the Bourbons, its influence rapidly declined.
After this a Charbonnerie démocratique was formed among the French
Republicans; after 1841, nothing more was heard of it.
also to be found in Spain, but their numbers and importance were more
limited than in the other Romance countries.
Carbonari took part in the
July Revolution in France. This
gave them hope that a successful revolution might be staged in Italy.
A bid in
Modena was an outright failure, but in February 1831, several
cities in the
Papal States rose up and flew the
Carbonari tricolour. A
volunteer force marched on Rome but was destroyed by Austrian troops
who had intervened at the request of Pope Gregory XVI. After the
failed uprisings of 1831, the governments of the various Italian
states cracked down on the Carbonari, who now virtually ceased to
exist. The more astute members realised they could never take on the
Austrian army in open battle and joined a new movement, Giovane Italia
("Young Italy") led by the nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini. Independent
from French Philadelphians were instead the homonymous carbonara group
born in Southern Italy, especially in Puglia  and in the Cilento,
between 1816 and 1828. In Cilento, in 1828, an insurrection of
Philadelphia, who called for the restoration of the Neapolitan
Constitution of 1820, was fiercely repressed by the director of the
Bourbon police Francesco Saverio Del Carretto: among the atrocities we
remember the destruction of the village of Bosco.
This defeat made it clear to many
Carbonari (such as Giuseppe Mazzini,
one of the most acute
Carbonari leaders) that militarily, especially
if alone, they could not compete with Austria, one of the greatest
powers of the Old Continent. They founded a new secret society called
the Young Italy in which many members would trace their origins and
inspiration to the Carbonari. Rapidly declining in influence and
Carbonari practically ceased to exist, although the
official history of this important company had continued, wearily,
Prominent members of the
Silvio Pellico (1788–1854) and Pietro Maroncelli (1795–1846)
both were imprisoned by the Austrians for years, many of which they
Spielberg fortress in Brno, Southern Moravia. After his
release, Pellico wrote a book Le mie prigioni, describing in detail
his ten-year ordeal. Maroncelli lost one leg in prison and was
instrumental in translating and editing of Pellico's book in Paris
Marquis de Lafayette
Marquis de Lafayette (hero of the American and French Revolutions),
Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (the future French emperor
Almost certain but highly disputed.
French revolutionary Louis Auguste Blanqui.
Main article: Carbonária
Carbonari (Carbonária) was first founded there in 1822
but was soon disbanded.
A new organization of the same name and claiming to be its
continuation was founded in 1896 by Artur Augusto Duarte da Luz de
Almeida. This organisation was active in efforts to educate the people
and was involved in various antimonarchist conspiracies. Most notably,
Carbonária members were active in the assassination of King Charles I
and his heir, Prince Louis Philip in 1908.
Carbonária members also
played a part in the
5 October 1910 revolution
5 October 1910 revolution that deposed the
Constitutional Monarchy and implemented the republic. One
commonality among them was their hostility to the Church and they
contributed to the republic's anticlericalism.
Elsewhere in Europe
Two results of great importance in the progress of the European
Revolutions of 1848) proceeded from the events that
Naples in 1820-21. One was the reorganization of the
Carbonari, consequent upon the publicity given to their organization
when it had brought about the revolution (and the secrecy in which it
had hitherto been enveloped was no longer deemed necessary); the other
was the extension of the organization beyond the Alps. When the
Neapolitan revolution had been effected, the
Carbonari emerged from
their mystery, published their constitution statutes, and ceased to
conceal their programme and their cards of membership.
In particular, the dispersion of the
Carbonari leaders had, at the
same time, the effect of extending their influence in France. General
Guglielmo Pepe proceeded to Barcelona when the counter-revolution was
Naples and his life was no longer safe there; and to the
same city went several of the Piedmontese revolutionists when the
country was Austrianized after the same lawless fashion. The
Scalvini and Ugoni that took refuge at Geneva and others
of the proscribed that proceeded to London added to the progress which
Carbonarism was making in France, suggested to General Pepe the idea
of an international secret society, which would combine for a common
purpose the advanced political reformers of all the European
Giuseppe Garibaldi has been called the "Hero of the Two Worlds"
because of his military enterprises in Brazil,
Uruguay and Europe. In
1836, Garibaldi took up the cause of Republic of Rio Grande do Sul in
its attempt to separate from the Empire of Brazil, joining the rebels
known as the Ragamuffins in the
Ragamuffin War (1835-1845). In 1841,
Garibaldi moved to Montevideo, Uruguay. In 1842, he took command of
the Uruguayan fleet and raised an "Italian Legion" of soldiers for the
Uruguayan Civil War
Uruguayan Civil War (1839-1851). He aligned his forces with a faction
composed of the Uruguayan Colorados and the Argentine Unitarios. This
faction received support from the French and British Empires in their
struggle against the forces of the Uruguayan Government and Argentine
Vanina Vanini by
Stendhal involved a hero in the Carbonari
and a heroine who became obsessed by this. It was made into a film in
Robert Louis Stevenson's story "The Pavilion on the Links" features
Carbonari as the villains of the plot.
Katherine Neville's novel The Fire features the
Carbonari as part of a
plot involving a mystical chess service.
In Wilkie Collins' "The Woman in White" the character of Professor
Pesca is a member of 'The Brotherhood', an organisation placed
contemporaneously with, and similarly featured as, the Carbonari.
Clyde Hyder suspects that the model for Prof. Pesca was Gabriele
Rossetti, who was a member of the Carbonari, as well as an Italian
teacher resident in London during the 1840s.
Anton Felix Schindler's biography of
Beethoven as I Knew
Him" states that his close connection with the composer was begun in
1815 when the latter requested an account of Schindler's involvement
with a riot of Napoleon's supporters in Vienna, who were agitating
Carbonari uprisings. Schindler was arrested and lost a
year at college.
Beethoven was sympathetic and, as a result, became a
close friend of Schindler.
Carbonari are mentioned prominently in the
Sherlock Holmes short
story "The Adventure of the Red Circle" (1911), written by Sir Arthur
Carbonari are also mentioned briefly in the book "Resurrection
Men" by T. K. Welsh, in which the main character's father is a member
of the secret organisation.
They feature in Tim Powers'
The Stress of Her Regard
The Stress of Her Regard as opponents of
the vampire-backed Austrian Empire.
Mr. Settembrini's grandfather in Thomas Mann's
The Magic Mountain
The Magic Mountain is
said to be Carbonari.
Carbonari are mentioned in The Hundred Days by Patrick O'Brian,
part of the Aubrey-Maturin series.
The Cemetery of Prague
The Cemetery of Prague mentions the Carbonari, with the
main character joining them as a spy.
Committee of Union and Progress
^ a b c Galt 1994.
^ a b c Smith 1988.
^ a b Duggan 2008.
^ Cornelia Shiver, "The Carbonari." Social Science (1964): 234-241. in
^ a b c Rath 1964.
^ Rambler 1854.
^ a b Kirsch 1908.
^ a b Villari 1911, p. 307
^ a b c d Kirsch 1908.
^ George T. Romani, The Neapolitan revolution of 1820-1821
(Northwestern University Press, 1950).
^ Alan Reinerman, "Metternich and the Papal Condemnation of the"
Carbonari", 1821." Catholic Historical Review 54#1 (1968): 55-69
^ Cornelia Shiver, "The Carbonari." Social Science (1964): 234-241.
^ Robert Justin Goldstein (2013). Political Repression in 19th Century
Europe. Routledge. p. 149.
^ McCullagh 1910, p. [page needed].
^ Birmingham 2003.
^ Frost 2003, p. 1.
^ Frost 2003, p. 2.
Birmingham, David (2003), A Concise History of Portugal, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press
Duggan, Christopher (2008), The Force of Destiny
Frost, Thomas (2003), Secret Societies of the European Revolution,
Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7661-5390-5
Galt, Anthony (December 1994), "The Good Cousins' Domain of Belonging:
Tropes in Southern Italian Secret Society Symbol and Ritual,
1810-1821", Man, New Series, Vol. 29 (No. 4), pp. 785–807,
doi:10.2307/3033969, JSTOR 3033969
McCullagh, Francis (1910), "Some Causes of the Portuguese Revolution",
The Nineteenth Century and After, LXVIII (405)
Rath, John (January 1964), "The Carbonari: Their Origins, Initiation
Rites, and Aims", The American Historical Review, Vol. 69 (No. 2):
353–70, doi:10.2307/1844987, JSTOR 1844987
"The Life of a Conspirator", The Rambler, New Series, I, May
Reinerman, Alan. "Metternich and the Papal Condemnation of the"
Carbonari", 1821." Catholic Historical Review 54#1 (1968): 55-69. in
Shiver, Cornelia. "The Carbonari." Social Science (1964): 234-241. in
Smith, Denis Mack (1988) , The Making of Italy
Spitzer, Alan Barrie. Old hatreds and young hopes: the French
Carbonari against the Bourbon Restoration (Harvard University Press,
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Villari, Luigi (1911), "Carbonari", in
Chisholm, Hugh, Encyclopædia Britannica, 5 (11th ed.), Cambridge
University Press, p. 307
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Kirsch, Johann Peter (1908), "Carbonari", in
Herbermann, Charles, Catholic Encyclopedia, 3, New York: Robert
"The Carbonari". Encyclopædia Britannica. 5 (9th ed.). 1878.