Reginaldo Giuliani, O.P.
28 August 1887 - 21 January 1936


A brief biography.

 

Reginaldo Giuliani was born on 28 August 1887 in Torino. Already, being still very young, he chose for the life of a Dominican Friar.

 

During the Great War (1914-1918) Italy joined the Allied Powers (Triple Entente: Great Britain, France and Russia)  against Austria and Hungry on 23 Mai 1915. General Luigi Cadorna (1850/1928' was given command on the Austro-Italian frontier. While maintaining a defensive posture in the Trentino, he mounted a series of offensives along the Isonzo River that incurred heavy casualties and gained little ground. His principal military successes were the blunting of the Austrian offensive in the Trentino (spring 1916), the capture of Gorizia (August 1916), and the victory at Baensezza (1917).  But the entry of Germany into the Austro-Italian theatre in 1917 turned the balance of forces decisively against Italy. After the overwhelming defeat of the Italian army on the Isonzo front at the Battle of Caporetto (October 24, 1917), Cadorna was removed as chief of staff and transferred to the Allied military council at Versailles.

In all these battles Reginaldo Giuliani was with the troops as military chaplain in this area.  He often replaced the officials when the unit was found cut with a scythe  from the enemy. 10.000 Italian soldiers met their dead. Giuliani became famous in Italy because of his role as a chaplain to the Armed Forces and his heroic behaviour during the battles.

 

Already in 1922 he took part in the march on Rome, but had never political ambitions beyond being a preacher in the church of Saint Dominic in Torino. He was a very pious man, but at the same time taken in by the person of Mussolini and his ideology.

 

Reginaldo Giuliani in Ethiopia.

 

The opening (1869) of the Suez Canal increased the strategic importance of Ethiopia, and several European powers (particularly Italy, France, and Great Britain) sought influence in the area. In 1889  the King of Shoa (who had Italian support) was crowned Emperor as Menelik II . After his death in 1913 he was succeeded by his grandson Lij Iyasu, who alienated his fellow countrymen by favouring Muslims, and antagonized the British, French, and Italians through his support of the Central Powers (which included the Muslim Ottoman Empire) in World War I. Lij Iyasu was deposed in 1916 and Judith (Zawditu), a daughter of Menelik II, was made empress with Ras Tafari Makonnen as regent and heir apparent. In the 1920s, there was tension with Italy and Great Britain, as each tried to extend its influence in Ethiopia. Ras Tafari was given additional powers by the empress in 1928, and on her death in 1930 he was crowned Emperor as Haile Selassie I. Almost immediately he faced threats from Italy's ruler, Mussolini, who was determined to establish an Italian empire and to avenge the defeat at Adwa. A border clash at Welwel in southeast Ethiopia along the border with Italian Somaliland on Dec. 5, 1934, increased tension, and on Oct. 3, 1935, Italy invaded Ethiopia.

 

Reginaldo Giuliani had the dream of the old Spanish history of the Christians who drove away the Muslims from Spain. The ‘natives’ of Ethiopia were anxiously waiting to receive the generous gift of the Italians in bringing culture and civilisation. He volunteered to be a chaplain to the Italian forces during the Ethiopian war. Nevertheless, he had the idea to come back to Ethiopia as a missionary. Being assigned to the army of General Diamanti, he was killed on the battlefield of the pool Uar Rieu on 21 January 1936, the only chaplain in 122 colleagues to die during battle. He administered the last rites to many Italian soldiers, never afraid for his own life.

For his bravery he received the medal of Military Honour in Bronze , Silver and Gold and the War Cross with the insignia 2nd and 4th Battalion Medal of Silver and the 1st and 3rd Battalion Medal in Bronze.

Many Italian cities called Giuliani in  street names, Via Padre Reginaldo Giuliani: Firenze, Sorrento, Torino, Venetia, Capri Island.  The Italian Navy had the submarine R.SMG. Reginaldo Giuliani, commissioned by the Germans as UIT-on 23, Sep 10 1943.  Arrived at  Singapore, July 26 1943 and  sunk by HMS Tallyho, Feb 14, 1944 in Straits of Malacca. There was the 3 Legione Reginaldo Giuliani.

Several books have been written on his life and a film was made, inspired by his behaviour on the battlefield. 

 

Sources: José en Régina Bogaert -Van Wayenberge

             : Keegan, John: The First World War. 1998.

             : Internet, summary by  Carlos Spoor, O.P.


 

 Philately

 

Portrait of Reginaldo Giuliani (28.08.1887-21.01.1936)

in the Dominican habit with the medals.

 

Italy 2006. Postmark Torino 03.06.2006. 70th day of death

of Padre Reginaldo Giuliani. Portrait and contour of Africa.
 


 

 


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