Tricolour, shield, and Cross of Savoy: 'Sabaudian medievalism,' the Risorgimento, and neo-medieval architecture in Italy, c.1814-1864.
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2121
On 23 March 1848, the King of Piedmont-Sardinia released a celebrated proclamation to the people of Lombardy and Venetia, which was a manifestation of patriotic hopes that concluded by addressing the flag that Piedmontese troops would carry into the First Italian War of Independence (1848–1849). Comprising the Italian tricolour, emblazoned with the shield and the cross of Savoy, the flag (that would become the Kingdom of Italy’s in 1861) constitutes a visual analogy of the underlying forces behind medievalist rhetoric and Neo-Medieval architecture employed during the Risorgimento as a means of dynastic glorification. By exploring the dynamic balance between the crown’s quest for Italianità and the Sabaudisation of Italian nationhood, but also between the resurgence of Italy’s various Middle Ages (the assimilation of the tricolour) and the communication of military prowess (the shield) and Catholicism (the cross), this thesis reveals the Risorgimento phenomenology of the reworking of the Middle Ages as a tool for legitimation of the House of Savoy (‘Sabaudian Medievalism’) in the period from the Restoration on the Throne of Piedmont-Sardinia (1814) to the decision to transfer the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy to Florence (1864) and how these wider readings and uses of the Medieval past found architectural form and were employed as political instruments through ‘Sabaudian Neo-Medievalism.’ Challenging the historiographical topos according to which the Italian peninsula, especially in the pre-union period, engaged with medievalist architecture only rarely and with ‘scarce results,’ but also rejecting more traditional approaches to architectural history, this work sets out to explore the interplay of its subject matter with Medievalism and Risorgimento studies, claiming to be the first monographic work on Sabaudian Neo-Medieval architecture, the first on Sabaudian Medievalism, and the first on the role of mythic views of the Middle Ages in the political revision of the intertwined identities of crown and nation during the Risorgimento. It disentangles the contribution of a Political Medievalism — and of what will be presented as a ‘Royal Medievalism’ — to the making of a national monarchy, to the making of Italy, and to the making of the Italians. Chapter one defines ‘Sabaudian Medievalism,’ ‘Sabaudian Neo-Medievalism’ and other key critical terms, explores the aporias and historiographical paradoxes in the subject matters of architectural history, Risorgimento, and Medievalism studies, and proposes the foundation stones for the sub-field that is presented as ‘Neo-Medievalism studies’ — investigating the topical return of the Middle Ages in post-Medieval cultures through architecture and the visual arts. By focusing on the legitimation dynamics entwined with the Sabaudian Restoration and the period 1814–1834, chapter two considers the outline of a ‘Catholic-royalist Medievalism’ and, in architectural terms, the rise of the style that will be presented as ‘Savoyard Semi-Gothic.’ Turning attention to the reign of Charles Albert of Savoy-Carignan (1831–1849) and explicitly Risorgimento dynamics, chapters three and four explore how the idolisation of the Medieval ancestor of the King known as the ‘Green Count’ and, broadly, the definition of a ‘Neo-Guelph Medievalism,’ reveal themselves as political instruments underpinning the quest for Italianità and the need to communicate notions of militaristic power and Catholicism. In architectural terms, they discuss how the secular tradition of ‘Risorgimental Neo-Medievalism’ and the religious one of Savoyard Semi-Gothic reflected underlying medievalist narratives and how they propagandistically contributed to the revision of the identities of crown and nation in the making of the ‘Italian crusade.’ By focusing on the period 1842–1864, chapter five explores the Risorgimento roots of the medievalist mythopoesis of Victor Emmanuel II as ‘a knight of the Middle Ages,’ and how Risorgimental Neo-Medievalism and a militaristic and Italianised view of the Medieval past accompanied, in terms of monarchism and nationhood, his ascension to the Throne of Italy.