On 5 September 1892, King Umberto I is expected in Spoleto to inaugurate a new monument to his late father, King Vittorio Emanuele II, who had died in 1878.
The marble effigy, created by Tuscan artist Urbano Lucchesi and dedicated to the Father of the Fatherland, was erected in the square by the same name (today Piazza della Libertà), in front of Palazzo Ancajani, and was just waiting to be inaugurated with a grand ceremony. The city prepared to welcome King Umberto with a parade of civil and military authorities and a first-class representation of institutions and associations, as can be seen in the two photographs from the G. Sordini archive taken in Via Filitteria and Viale Matteotti. On the eve of the big day, the city was plastered with posters emphatically inviting all citizens to take part in the event.
Umberto I – before the authoritarian drift that earned him the nickname ‘King Miter’ and led to his assassination attempt by an anarchist in 1900 – was in those days still a figure cloaked in general benevolence, so much so that – either for his personal participation in rescue operations during dramatic episodes such as the cholera epidemic in Naples, or for having signed the Zanardelli code which, among other things, abolished the death penalty – he was labelled the ‘Good King’.
Among the posters in the collection of the Carducci public library there are many public notices concerning the King’s arrival. There are those issued by the Town Hall, the Mutual Aid Society of veterans of the national army, the ‘Luigi Pianciani’ mutual aid workers’ society, the Dante Alighieri association, the Liberal Monarchist Union and the Society of veterans of the country’s battles. The material also included an identification card, which was needed to take part in the ceremony.
One of the city’s posters shows the route of the procession, the numerous security measures and the strict discipline required for the success of the ceremony: “At 8 a.m., traffic will be forbidden along the entire route of the Royal Procession. The street will also be cleared at 9 am. The Councillors of the Province and the City of Spoleto, the Mayors wearing tricolour scarves, the Judiciary, the Officers of the Army, the other Authorities that will be designated by the Commission, will be at the arrival of the King on Piazza V. E. At 10 a.m. the street that leads from Piazza del Mercato through the Archbishop’s Palace to the Town Hall and Piazza Bernardino Campello will be cleared. Along this route, the Associations and Representatives will take their places to form a wing for the passage of HIS MAJESTY when he goes to the Town Hall“.
Awaited at the station, the King and his large retinue paraded along Corso Garibaldi, Via Cecili, Via Pierleone, Piazza San Domenico, Via Umberto, Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, the scene of the royal celebration.
Heated with emotion and patriotic spirit, the mayor of Spoleto Fratellini put up, the next day, a poster of thanks by the following tenor: “The honours you gave yesterday to the memory of the FATHER OF THE FATHERLAND and the reception full of affection, sincerity and respect that Our King received from you, have greatly moved and satisfied the narrow mind of H. M. as we had the honour of hearing it repeatedly expressed from his own lips. I proudly comply with Your Majesty’s order to communicate these sentiments to you: may they be incentive and coveted reward to your patriotism“.
From the book “Spoleto formato cartolina” (Spoleto in postcard format) by Lamberto Gentili (from which the postcards from the Felici collection depicting Piazza Vittorio Emanuele at the beginning of the 20th century are taken), we learn that the statue of Vittorio Emanuele II, removed from the square on that day almost 130 years ago, was later found in the courtyard of the San Nicolò complex during works carried out in the 1980s, when “a large marble boulder” came to light, that was “what remained of a sculpture of the gallant King”.
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