The anarchist worker Costantino Quaglieri died on February 12th, 1895, three days before his twenty-second birthday while he was detained in Regina Coeli jail in Rome. According to the official version of the police headquarters the young man died of "voluntary strangulation", but immediately many people suspected a murder by the police.
Costantino was born on February 15th, 1873 in Arpino, at the time in the province of Terra di Lavoro, (also called Caserta), currently in the province of Frosinone, to Domenico and Vincenza Loreta Vallucci. He wasn't a member of any political group and, besides working as a worker, he was a student of the Istituto di Belle Arti (Institute of Fine Arts), the current Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) of Rome, where he was regularly awarded at the end of the academic year.
of the end of 1800s
At the end of the nineteenth century, the subaltern classes suffered severe distress by unemployment, price increase and taxes rise. Socialists, anarchists and republicans organized protests across Italy, severely repressed. In 1882 Andrea Costa was the first socialist to be elected to the Chamber of Deputies, in 1892 the Italian Socialist Party and in 1895 the Italian Republican Party were founded.
In the first months of 1893 more than a dozen bomb attacks took place in the center of Rome, including one in the night between 13th and 14th February in front of the villa of the right-wing senator Corrado Tommasi Crudeli, in via Balbo (see news on Il Messaggero and on the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore romano), and another on February 20th in front of the house of the socialist deputy Enrico Ferri in via Cavour, 57 (see news on Il Messaggero). After a few days, on February 23rd, the police arrested seven anarchists: Umberto Pagliai, Emilio Pocorni, Michele Pulcini, Cesare Bensi, Domenico Fedeli, Raul Santiangeli and Gualtiero De Angelis (see news on L'Osservatore romano).The seven were accused of eight explosions occurred from January 22nd. Later Carlo Celli, Temistocle Monticelli, Giovanni Forbicini, Umberto Mancini, Alceo Latini, Giuseppe Innocenzi, Tito Lubrano, Giacomo Moretti, Ernesto Emiliani, Luigi Zecchini, Casimiro Chiocchini, Edoardo Orazi, Giuseppe Del Bravo, Filippo Troia, Vincenzo Vittorio Orazi, Adriano Vincenzoni and Emilio Paolini were arrested.
Starting from the end of 1893, the harsh living conditions of the subaltern classes of Sicily generated the movements of the Fasci dei lavoratori (Workers' Bundles), animated by laborers, sulfur miners, workers and miners, inspired by socialist ideas, which suffered a blood-soaked repression by the government leaded by the Sicilian Francesco Crispi. After the repression, a trial against the leaders of the riot was put on, which began on April 7th, 1894 in front of the first section of the Military War Tribunal of Palermo in via del Parlamento, 32 (see the plaque). The verdict, pronounced on May 30th, 1894, sentenced the Catania socialist deputy Giuseppe de Felice Giuffrida to 18 years in prison for conspiracy against the powers of the State and excitement to the civil war. Rosario Garibaldi Bosco, Nicola Barbato and Bernardino Verro were sentenced to 12 years, Giacomo Montalto to 10 years and three other defendants charged between 2 and 5 years.
The very hard verdict raised demonstrations of solidarity and protest throughout Italy. Many bomb attacks were also carried out, which triggered further arrests, that lacking real clues of guilt, involved people already known to the police headquarters, such as anarchists, socialists and republicans.
The Crispi government introduced harsh repressive measures to counter the wave of popular protests, including house arrest, established with law no. 316 of July 19th, 1894, imposed on subjects "deemed dangerous to public security", which forced the convicts to stay up to three years in places far from their residence and often remote (for example the islands of Lipari or Ponza) being deprived of any means of subsistence. The assignment to house arrest was decided by a provincial commission which for "serious reasons of public security" could also deliberate the preventive arrest of the person proposed for the restrictive measure.
On the night of May 31st, 1894, two bombs exploded at the Ministry of War (currently Minister of Defense) in via Firenze, on the corner with via XX settembre, and at the Ministry of justice, then in Odescalchi palace, at the corner between vicolo del Divino Amore and piazza Borghese, near Montecitorio palace (seat of the Parliament), where no person were injured and little material damage were done (see news on L'Osservatore romano). For these bombings on June 1st the police arrested Giovanni Forbicini, Giovanni Del Bravo, Umberto Faina and Costantino Ghiglieri (in reality he was probably Quaglieri). The investigations were conducted by police delegate (commissioner) Poli, notorious head of the Political Squad of the police headquarters, headed by commendator Siro Sironi.
in Regina Coeli
The sequence of events that brought Quaglieri to death began when his friend and workmate Giovanni Forbicini (1874-1955), an anarchist leader with origins from Romagna called him as a witness on his behalf, since he was investigated for the explosion of the two bombs of February 1893 at Tommasi Crudeli's and Ferri's houses. Forbicini had been referred to the provincial commission for house arrest, which at the end of the procedure acquitted him, as well as Quaglieri himself. After six months of detention, the notorious "black book" of the police headquarters laconically gave the news of Constantino's death. According to the official version between 11:00 and 12:00 Quaglieri was found hanged at the bars of the window of his cell, the number 4 of Regina Coeli intermediate wing, with a towel joined with a handkerchief. He was rescued and laid down on his plank bed, but he ceased to live shortly thereafter.
The newspaper "Per la libertà" ("For freedom") of February 14th, 1895, telling the story of Costantino Quaglieri gave credit to the thesis of suicide with a towel, being Costantino "impressed by his own physical deterioration and moral breakdown" also remarked by his mother when she visited him in prison. The newspaper, however, put the blame for suicide to the harassment suffered in prison and concluded the short news by writing: "To the Royal delegate Poli, murderer of the most vulgar, the curse of all honest people".
Even the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano briefly reported the news, attributing death to suicide, which occurred for unknown reasons, while the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero reported the news of the death with the heading "L'impiccato a Regina Coeli - Una vittima della polizia" ("The man hanged in Regina Coeli - A police victim"). The newspaper referred about rumors that instead justified the thesis of a murder by the police, as shown in the title, and promised a closer examination of the facts.
Just over two years later, on May 20th, 1897, the Socialist newspaper Avanti! resumed the case, which couldn't be able to deal with at the time, given that the first issue of the newspaper was published on December 25th, 1896. With a short article the newspaper hardly questioned the hypothesis of suicide, in conjunction with the controversies and investigations on the death of the Socialist carpenter from Jesi Romeo Frezzi (see my webpage on him) murdered by the policeman in San Michele a Ripa jail in Rome. Avanti! explained that Quaglieri's mother had shuttled between the jail and the mortuary for two days to see the body of her son, but she wasn't allowed to, they hadn't told her if the autopsy had been performed, neither by whom, and even less its outcome. In addition, according to the Police Headquarters, Quaglieri would have written with his blood on the cell wall the sentence: "Mi ammazzo, addio!" ("I take my life, farewell!"), but his mother wasn't allowed to see the writing. According to the newspaper, the motive for the murder was the revenge of delegate Poli against Quaglieri, for defending Giovanni Forbicini, providing him a credible alibi, given the seriousness of Quaglieri himself. However, shortly after the young man's death, Poli had been transferred (Avanti!, May 20th, 1897, p. 3). Four days later Avanti! published a new recall to the case Quaglieri, with further details, reiterating doubts about the alleged suicide, and confirming the thesis of revenge (Avanti!, May 24th, 1897, p. 2).
According to Il Messaggero of February 13th, the day before his death Quaglieri had met his mother and his sisters Francesca and Cecilia, to whom he had appeared calm and not giving any hint of dejection that could lead him to take his life. Costantino told his mother that "when he was released, he would have wanted to erase by so many kisses and caresses the wrinkle of tears dug by his arrest ". Moreover, Constantino was aware that his family needed his material help and would not deprive him of his support.
In the register of Regina Coeli jail in Rome, at number 10648, a brother of Costantino, Ettore Quaglieri, was reported as arrested on September 14th, 1894 at 6:20 AM. He was born in Arpino in 1879, and therefore he was fifteen, he lived in Rome in viale Margherita, 20, he was a locksmith by trade, non-propertied and catholic, arrested the day before for violation of articles 258 and 263 of Criminal Code. Article 258 punished those who spent or anyway put false currency into circulation. Article 263 equalized public credit cards to currency, in particular those with legal tender status as currency, bearer bond coupons with status of negotiable securities and all other legal tender or commercial certificates issued by institutions authorized to issue them. Ettore was sentenced to four months and twenty days of imprisonment on May 17th, 1893, including the period he served from April 21st to May 21st, 1893, and consigned to the Carabinieri on October 14th, 1894 to serve the rest of the sentence in the Frascati jail. The mildness of the verdict suggests that Ettore had received the fake currency in good faith (penalty of up to six months according to article 258) and not in a malicious manner (penalty from 1 to 7 years or from 3 to 10 years in the most serious cases).
Another data sheet from the register, bearing no number, concerns the same Ettore, with the same arrest date of September 13th and the same date of entry into prison, but at 8:00PM instead of at 6:20AM, reporting his domicile again in Viale Margherita, but at number 300 instead of 20, with the charge of "spending fake banknotes" instead of indicating the articles of the Criminal Code.
Another Costantino's brother who appears in the registers of the prison of Regina Coeli is Cicerone, born in 1880, living in Viale Margherita 306, painter by trade (in Rome this term also means a construction painter), who was arrested on December 2nd, 1894, then at the age of fourteen, for theft and two days later he entered Regina Coeli. The boy was released on December 12th of the same year so as not to proceed, on the orders of the Royal Prosecutor.
Costantino Quaglieri died while in law enforcement custody, as happened two years later to Romeo Frezzi, in 1901 to the anarchist regicide Gaetano Bresci (see my webpage on him), in 1903 to the Sicilian sailor Giacomo D'Angelo (my webpage on him is under construction), in 1930 to the young Calabrian communist Rocco Pugliese (see my webpage on him), and to the anarchist railway worker Giuseppe Pinelli, thrown from a window of the Milan police headquarters on December 16th, 1969.
On Costantino Quaglieri's case apparently no investigation was started, no policeman was investigated, indeed, the names of the guards involved were not even published, and only the delegate Poli was transferred.
Costantino Quaglieri was buried on February 13th in the "new sector" in Campo Verano cemetery of Rome. Ten years after his death, on February 19th, 1905, his body was cremated and the urn with its ashes, bearing the number 1137, was transported by his comrades to the municipal cinerary service, located inside the cemetery itself, where Michele Pulcini for the socialists, P. Gibertoni for the republicans and Giovanni Forbicini for the anarchists gave speeches. Costantino's mother was present and deeply touched thanked the participants.
A socialist-anarchist group from the Borgo-Prati districts was named after Constantino, which according to a report from the Prefecture already existed in March 1906. The "Costantino Quaglieri" group presented to the Italian Anarchist Congress in Rome on 16th-20th June, 1907 the motion Gli anarchici e il movimento antimilitarista ("The anarchists and the anti-militarist movement"), and published an article with the same title in the newspaper "Il Pensiero" ("The Thought") of July 1st, 1907. The group, on February 17th, 1907, the 307th anniversary of the murder of Giordano Bruno, edited the publication of the special issue "Per Giordano Bruno : la parola dei liberi" ("For Giordano Bruno: the talk of free men") (link).
In addition, the group participated in the protests against the visit of Tsar Nicholas II to Italy, and together with others signed the document Contro la venuta dello zar ("Against the coming of the tsar"). The emperor, given the high risk of unrest due to the protests of the Roman citizens, was forced to give up the visit to the capital, and arrived by train from France, welcomed by king Vittorio Emanuele III. The two sovereigns on October 23rd, 1909 together reached Racconigi castle near Turin, where they signed a bilateral treaty.
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CODICE PENALE per il Regno d'Italia. Stamperia Reale, Roma, 1889. Pubblicato a cura dell'Università degli Studi di Brescia, Facoltà di Giurisprudenza.
DA PASSANO Mario (2005) Il «delitto di Regina Cli». Diritto e Storia, n.4 - In memoriam - Da Passano link
FORBICINI Giovanni (1910) Memorie di uno sciagurato. Libreria Editrice Libertaria, Roma.
GRELLA Pasquale (1987) Appunti per la storia del movimento anarchico romano dalle origini al 1946. De Vittoria, Roma
IL MESSAGGERO raccolta digitale della Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma.
LISANTI Francesco (2014) Apologia di Gaetano Bresci. Booktime, Milano.
PER LA LIBERTÀ (1895) anno I, n. 6, 14 febbraio 1895, p.4.
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Giovanni Forbicini (vida y obra) - link
Il libro del passato - link
Isole nella rete - link
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Raccolta digitale di periodici della Biblioteca di Storia Moderna e Contemporanea di Roma (La Domenica del Corriere)
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Law Central Library, Rome (Biblioteca Centrale Giuridica - Roma)
Municipal Library Guglielmo Marconi, Rome (Biblioteca Comunale Guglielmo Marconi - Roma)