As scheduled, on Saturday, February 12th, the celebration of the 161st Anniversary of the end of the Siege of the “Fedelissima” (faithful) Gaeta of 1860 – 1861 was held, in whose defence, together with the Neapolitan army, T.M. King Francis II and Queen Maria Sofia of Bourbon Two Sicilies took part as well.
Among the participants at the ceremony, we mention: H.H. Prince Don Lelio Niccolò Orsini d’Aragona, Delegate for Rome and Latium of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George, together with the Vice Delegate, Count Riccardo Langosco di Langosco, the Representative for the City of Gaeta Comm. Esq. Salvatore Scafetta, the Counsellor of the Ceremonial of the Sacred Functions, Knight Officer Dr. Rocco Marco Massara Ferrari, the Vice Prior for the City of Rome, Father Ettore Capra and the Vice Prior for Latium, Father Teodoro Beccia; Counsellor Dr. Cristian Leccese, representing the Mayor of the Municipality of Gaeta; Col. Ermanno Lustrino, Commander of the “Nunziatella” Military School; Dr. Giuseppe Catenacci, Hon. President of the “Nunziatella” ex-students Association together with Gen. Antonio Ricciardi, President of the regional section. Moreover, the Commander of the Company of the Carabinieri of Formia Maj. Michele Pascale, Ten. Franco Franchi as well as the representative of the Port Authority of Gaeta C.F. Angelo Napolitano participated, too.
The Rector, Father Nevio Viganò welcomed the numerous participants at the Sanctuary of SS. Trinity at the “Montagna Spaccata” at 11 am. After recalling all the victims of the Siege, the Prayer for Peace written by His Holiness Pope Francis was read out.
Afterwards, the participants in the event went up, along the garden overlooking the stands of the “Trinità Superiore” Battery, towards the southern end of the Gaeta promontory, reaching the pitch overlooking the sea where the Transilvania Battery exploded on February 13, 1861 under the Piedmontese fire.
In that highly suggestive place from a religious, historical and naturalistic points of view, Counselor Dr. Cristian Leccese welcomed the participants and spread the Mayor Dr. Cosimo Mitrano’s greetings; Esq. Salvatore Scafetta, Prince Orsini d’Aragona and Gen. Antonio Ricciardi then took the floor and recalled the moments of the defense of Gaeta underlining the high values of unconditional loyalty, heroism and love for the homeland that animated the Neapolitan soldiers, including several students of the “Nunziatella”, and the citizens of Gaeta. It was highlighted how the citizens of Gaeta, although King Francis asked them to leave the city during the bombing, bravely decided to stay within the walls of the fortress to share their tragic fate during 103 days of the Siege.
At the end of the speeches, the now thirty-year ceremony of the re-enactment of the flag-raising was carried out and the subsequent throwing into the sea of the wreath offered by “Nunziatella” ex-students Association, previously blessed by Vice Priors Father Ettore Capra and Father Teodoro Beccia.
During the afternoon the participants were received at the Diocesan Museum by the Director Gennaro Petruccelli, who described the main works exhibited in the museum, including the banner of the Battle of Lepanto on 7 October 1571, hoisted on the flagship of the papal fleet which left the harbour of Gaeta, which after the victory was donated to the City Cathedral.
At the end of the day, the Holy Mass in suffrage of the Fallen of 1860-61 and of T.M. the Servant of God King Francis II and Queen Maria Sofia of Bourbon Two Sicilies was celebrated at 5:30 pm at the Cathedral by H.E. the Archbishop of Gaeta Msgr. Luigi Vari.
The liturgy was concelebrated by the parish priest Father Antonio Centola and by Father Alessio Tomao, assisted by Father Ettora Capra and Father Teodoro Beccia. During the homily, while emphasizing the current need for peace, the Celebrant also highlighted the Christian virtues of the Sovereigns and their sincere love for the people. At the end, a suffrage prayer was read in front of the Neapolitan Officers’ Shrine kept in the Cathedral. Among the Constantinian Knights who attended, we mention Knight of Justice Nob. Massimo Patroni Griffi Duke of Roscigno, Comm. Pres. Vincenzo Zottola and Esq. Giuseppe Gallinaro.
An indelible memory of the day remained in the hearts of all the participants. All the events took place in the name of sobriety and respect for those who, thanks to their actions, left to future generations a perennial patrimony of spiritual, human and military values 161 years ago.