Forgot?

Login
Skip to Content

Staten Island, Garibaldi and Italian Protestants

During our census this week, we visited the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, which is their old house dating from the 1850s. It is run by the Sons of Italy but has a female curator. Of course, we asked about Garibaldi’s faith. Guiseppi Garibaldi was a Staten Island resident that returned to help create the modern Italy that we […]

By Print Preview

Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, Staten Island, NY

Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, Staten Island, NY

During our census this week, we visited the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, which is their old house dating from the 1850s. It is run by the Sons of Italy but has a female curator. Of course, we asked about Garibaldi’s faith.

Guiseppi Garibaldi was a Staten Island resident that returned to help create the modern Italy that we know today. He was cooling his heels here at inventor’s Antonio Meucci’s house after an earlier unsuccessful revolution.

The curator had not deeply considered the faith aspect of Garibaldi. In our census we often run across people, religious or non-religioius, who have no idea how thick NYC culture is with religious faith. We hope that by showing the incredible variety and number of faith details about the city that people will understand more deeply how such details contribute to the excitement to the city.

We are like the animators at Pixar studio. They are pushing constantly to increase their ability to digitally increase the details in animation. The more small, invisible to the eye, details that are included, the more that the eye unconsciously ”sees” the animation as having a supple, natural reality. On the big picture screen you may not be able to see the nose hairs, but their presence is processed by the mind into a feeling of naturalness.  We too hope to paint into the city picture the thick faith details of the city so that people will “see” the natural, spiritual excitements of the city.

So, we knew a little tiny bit about Garibaldi, that he was a Mason, to share with the curator.  Masonry has a strong religious theme in its teachings and practices.

Her eyes brightened with recognition, saying, “Yes, he and Meucci used to hold monthly Masonic meetings here!” In fact the founder of the Sons of Italy, which runs the museum, was also a Mason.

In Europe Masons were an Enlightenment influenced secret network of modernizers and democratic activists. Often, they, like American Mason Thomas Jefferson, were deists, not believing that Jesus was divine, and saw God as the Rationality behind the world. Modernization is the bringing about the rationality of God into politics and society. In Catholic Europe, however, they also were sometimes Protestant in their thinking.

Could the Garibaldi-Meucci house be the historical site of early Italian Protestant meetings? We decided to investigate.

In their edition on  October 2, 1867 the New York Times noticed this religious dimension of the city’s former citizen in their story “Garibaldi’s New Religion.” They reported on a speech that Garibaldi gave to an International Congress for Peace that was meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

Garibaldi said, “I propose that this present Congress formally adhere to the religion of God, by which I mean those elements of religion that are demonstrably true and reasonable (Scripture alone), and we should pledge ourselves to propagate it.”

Sounds like those meetings in Staten Island may have had a religious caste, maybe even a Protestant-like one. Could the Garibaldi house be one of the first Italian Protestant sites in the city? Garibaldi’s chaplain in Italy, Alessandro Gavazzi, went onto founding The Free Church of Italy, which later merged with the Methodists. Most of the early Methodists were Garibaldi followers.

Garibaldi was a master propagandist, so it is not always clear what were his real beliefs. Much of his religious thinking was couched in terms against a Catholic hierarchy that supported authoritarian government and a divided Italy. Garibaldi had to fend off attacks that he was anti-religious. In 1870 he wrote, “It is in vain that my enemies try to make me out an atheist. I believe in God. I am of the religion of Christ, not of the religion of the Popes.”

8 Responses to “Staten Island, Garibaldi and Italian Protestants” Leave a reply ›

  • I like what you guys are usually up too. Such clever work and
    coverage! Keep up the good works guys I've included you guys to my
    personal blogroll.

  • Thank you for the terrific remembrance!

  • Hello!
    My Gt. Gt. Grandfather Giovanni Domenico Mariani, born 1805 Milan Italy, a son of a silk merchant, died Brooklyn NY 1894. He was a talented Violin/Viola player, played La scala Opera House and taught from 1824-1844. Being an Nationalist he spoke out against the Austrian occupiers of his country, he was considered a dangerous person because of who he had influence over and a arrest order was on him and he had to flee his Italy to England in 1844.

    In 1846 he and other members of La scala were hired to play the winter months at Tecon Opera House in Havana, Cuba, this is where he met and became good friends of Antonio and Ester Meucci. In the spring in 1850 when the Havana Opera Company came to New York City they disbanded. Giovanni known to his friends as Domenico Mariani and the tenor Lorrenzo Salvi whom Domenico was his secretary and bodyguard took up residence at Rallo's Italian boarding house on Lenard Street, Manhattan, NY.

    Around May of 1850, both Mariani and Salvi went to meet the Meucci's when the ship arrived in New York City, they brought them back to Rallo's to stay. Soon General Garibadli arrived in New York City and all met and looked for a country house on Staten Island, Meucci told both Salvi and Mariani of the plans of a sausage and Candle factory which would help those of the Italian colony in New York. Mariani had influence over Salvi and persuaded him to contribute to the building.

    The Meucci house now a museum, had is four bedrooms then meant for the Meucci's, General Garibaldi, Salvi and Mariani to stay in. Lorenzo Salvi decided he would rather live in New York City, Mariani stood there on and off from 1850-1855 when opera season was over and work slow. The General and his aid stood on an off from 1850-1853, but when all were present they helped build furniture together Antonio, The General and Domenico Mariani.

    When asked if he was hungry, General Garibaldi would say "I wont eat unless Mariani cook's it."

    Domenico Mariani got to see him off from Baltimore, the night before the General went to an opera in Washington and spotted Domenico in the orchestra pit and held out "Hey Mariani!" and told him that he was leaving.

    The next day Domenico presented one of four belt's that he made for each of his brother's, Antonio Meucci, Lorenzo Salvi, Giuseppe Garibaldi and himself to the General at his ship, Garibaldi in return gave Mariani his own belt.

    In 1855 Domenico Mariani married an Irish women Julia Mary McCabe in New York City and first born son that year they named Giuseppe "John" Garibaldi Mariani in honor of the General, Domenico Mariani would vistit the Meucci's from time to time when work was slow or for a few years when Domenico found work in Boston MA. but when seeing Antonio he would love reading the letter's the General would write.

    Question is was he or all Protestants or RC?

    I can speak for my family line, I'm not sure how my John Domenico Mariani believed in religion but his wife an Irish gal and children were Roman Catholic. Not sure about the Meucci's but when Domenico Mariani would witness the experiments of Antonio he often would say it was witchcraft.

    As the saying goes "Bird's of a feather flock together" but I would think they were all anti-pope, Being northern Italian's all were big men, The General was tall and so was Mariani big with military appearance. all were Free Mason as I know Mariani was when he was given a silver cup in Richmond VA in 1859 by the Freemasons while he was the Drum Major of Patrick S. Gilmore Brass Band that paraded there then.

    Regards Barry Allen Hoff a gt. gt grandson of GD Mariani

  • It is Clear from the above article...that although he did not admit himself to be one, his mentality and beliefs are of Protestant Values. People should have " Right Attitude" towards " Truth". Especially Catholics.

    "I am of the religion of Christ but not of the religion of Pope "

    Many of Garibaldi followers were Methodist.

    Due to geographic locations not of its free conscious, France, Italy, and parts of Germany having easy access to the Papal authority failed largely in finding Jesus Christ.

    Garibaldi is a Nationalist and anti Pope, values which are reflected in Protestant reformation histories.

  • Hi JOhann,

    Thank you for your comment.

    The quote from Garibaldi came from the NY Times. If there is an interpolation with "Scripture alone," it was done by the Times in 1867. The revolutionary often said contradictory things according to whom he was speaking. Back then, the Times was more supportive of religion. Later today, I will go back and check the quote and let you know in this comment.

    Was he secular? Certainly, many people, including his friends, accused him of being that. However, he denied it on several occasions. I wonder why so many people around him in Italy became Methodists. At that time weren't Methodists revivalists? Do you know anything about this part of the Garibaldi story? Of course, we have no evidence that Garibaldi became a Methodist, and his life was full of contradictions.

    Our point is that there was a major religious dimension to Garibaldi and his activities (even Masonism has a type of religiosity), not that he was exemplary of any particular faith. Too often, the religious dimension of the history of New York City is forgotten.

  • Why do you need to put words in Garibaldi's mouth with the 'Scripture Alone" interpolation?

    Garibaldi said, “I propose that this present Congress formally adhere to the religion of God, by which I mean those elements of religion that are demonstrably true and reasonable (Scripture alone), and we should pledge ourselves to propagate it.”

    He was a secular humanist. By true and reasonable, he did not mean Protestantism, but some humanist perversion of Scripture.

  • Grreat article. didn't know. Yeah SI!

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Sign up for Journey newsletter!

Privacy by SafeUnsubscribe

Upcoming Features