Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Revolutionary: Eleonora Pimentel Fonseca

The Odious Women Tour: Executed by hanging for writing pamphlets that denounced the Bourbon Queen Maria Carolina for lesbianism, Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel calmly stepped up to the gallows on August 20, 1799 and quoted Virgil: "Perhaps one day this will be worth remembering."

Eleonora was born in Rome. Her father was Portuguese and moved the family to Naples when Eleonora was nine years old. There, she learned Greek and Latin and by the age of sixeen published a nuptial hymn written for the marraige of King Ferdinand and Queen Maria Carolina, which celebrated the accomplishments of the Bourbon dynasty. Her success catapulted her into the intellectual circles of Naples, where she wrote sonnets, cantatas, and oratorios.

She married the Marquis Fonseca, but the union was a disaster. The Marquis had no compassion for her upon the death of their infant son and he beat her so badly that she miscarried two other children. According to court documents, he also forced her to sleep in the same bed with him and his mistress. They separated and thereafter, Eleonora thrust herself headlong into the ideals of the French Revolution, becoming a Jacobin.

The Jacobins fought against royalist forces in the city in 1799 and won. They proclaimed the Parthenopean Republic at the Charterhouse of Saint Martin (Certosa di San Martino) and created a government modelled along French lines, citing liberty and equality for all. But the republic survived only five months.

The Charterhouse of Saint Martin

Eleonora fought for Jacobin ideals through her writings. She translated books and articles into the Neapolitan dialect, hoping to incite the staunchly pro-monarchist lazzaroni (the poor of Naples) to overthrow the King. To that end, she also wrote for more than thirty issues of the newspaper Monitore Napoletano, the mouthpiece of the Parthenopean Republic. But the Republic had many problems and the Bourbon monarchy soon re-took control of the city. Eleonora was one of many Jacobins who were executed at that time.

Today, several plaques can be seen dedicated to Eleonora (one across from the Santa Chiara church in the center of Naples and a plaque dedicated to the martyrs of the Parthenopean Republic along the road from Castel St. Elmo going toward the Charterhouse).

Getting There: The Certosa di San Martino is located down the hill from Castel St. Elmo. (Address: Largo San Martino, 1 -- Naples) Founded in 1325, this Charterhouse has a lavish church, a museum which includes the best exhibition of nativity precipe, and a large garden overlooking stunning views of the city.

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