The Carbonari ("charcoal burners""CARBONARI (an Italian word meaning charcoal-burners)" from the [ Carbonari article] in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica] ) were groups of secret revolutionary societies founded in early 19th-century Italy. Their goals were patriotic and liberal and they played an important role in the Risorgimento and the early years of Italian nationalism.


They were organized in the fashion of Freemasonry, broken into small cells scattered across Italy. They sought the creation of a liberal, unified Italy.

The membership was separated into two classes—apprentice and master. There were two ways to become a master, through serving as an apprentice for at least six months"apprentice could rise to the grade of a master before the end of six months." From [ Carbonari] in the Catholic Encyclopedia] or by being a Freemason on entry."Freemasons could enter the Carbonari as masters at once." From [ Carbonari] in the Catholic Encyclopedia] Their initiation rituals were structured around the trade of charcoal-selling, hence their name.


Although it is not clear where they were originally established"It is not certain whether the Carbonari, as a political society, had its first organization in France or Italy." From the [ Carbonari] article in the Catholic Encyclopedia] , they first came to prominence in the Kingdom of Naples during the Napoleonic wars."The Carbonari were probably an offshoot of the Freemasons, from whom they differed in important particulars, and first began to assume importance in southern Italy during the Napoleonic wars." From the [ CARBONARI] article in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica]

They began by resisting the French occupiers, notably Joachim Murat, the Bonapartist King of Naples. However once the wars ended, they became a nationalist organisation with a marked anti-Austrian tendency and were instrumental in organising revolution in Italy in 1820–1821 and 1831. The 1820 revolution began in Naples against King Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies, who was forced to make concessions and promise a constitutional monarchy. This success inspired Carbonari in the north of Italy to revolt too. In 1821, the Kingdom of Sardinia obtained a constitutional monarchy as a result of Carbonari actions. However, the Holy Alliance would not tolerate this state of affairs and in February, 1821, sent an army to crush the revolution in Naples. The King of Sardinia also called for Austrian intervention. Faced with an enemy overwhelmingly superior in number, the Carbonari revolts collapsed and their leaders fled into exile. In 1830, Carbonari took part in the July Revolution in France. This gave them hope that a successful revolution might be staged in Italy. A bid in Modena was an outright failure, but in February 1831, several cities in the Papal States rose up and flew the Carbonari tricolour. A volunteer force marched on Rome but was destroyed by Austrian troops who had intervened at the request of Pope Gregory XVI After the failed uprisings of 1831, the governments of the Italian states cracked down on the Carbonari, who now virtually ceased to exist. The more astute members realised they could never take on the Austrian army in open battle and joined a new movement, Giovane Italia ("Young Italy") led by Mazzini.

Relations with the Church

The Carbonari were anti-clerical in both their philosophy and program. The Papal constitution Ecclesiam a Jesu Christo and the encyclical Qui Pluribus were directed against them. The controversial document, the Alta Vendita, which called for a modernist takeover of the Catholic Church, was attributed to the Sicilian Carbonari.

Prominent Carbonari

Prominent members of the Carbonari included:
*Silvio Pellico (1788–1854) and Pietro Maroncelli (1795–1846) :both were imprisoned by the Austrians for years, many of which they spent in Spielberg fortress in Brno, Southern Moravia. After his release, Pellico wrote a book "Le mie prigioni", describing in detail his ten-year ordeal. Maroncelli lost one leg in prison and was instrumental in translating and editing of Pellico's book in Paris (1833).
*Giuseppe Mazzini,
*Marquis de Lafayette (hero of the American and French Revolutions),
*Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (the future French emperor Napoleon III)
*French revolutionary Blanqui.

The Carbonari in Portugal

The Carbonari (Carbonária) was first founded in Portugal in 1822 but was soon disbanded. It was founded again in 1896 by Artur Augusto Duarte da Luz de Almeida. This organization was active in efforts to educate the people and was involved in various antimonarchist conspirations. Most notably, Carbonari members were active in the murder of King Carlos I of Portugal and his heir, Prince Luís Filipe, Duke of Braganza in 1908. Carbonari members also played a part in the republican revolution of October 5, 1910

Carbonari in Literature

The story Vanina Vanini by Stendhal involved a hero in the Carbonari and a heroine who became obsessed by this. It was made into a film in 1961.

Robert Louis Stevenson's story "The Pavilion on the Links" features the Carbonari as the villains of the plot.

Katherine Neville's novel The Fire (book) features the Carbonari as part of a plot involving a mystical chess service.

The carbonari are also mentioned briefly in the book "Ressurection Men",by T. K. Welsh, where the main character's father is a carbonari.


the carbonari are also mentioned briefly in the book "Ressurection Men", where the main character's father is a carbonari

See also

*Communist League

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Carbonari — • The name of a secret political society, which played an important part, chiefly in France and Italy, during the first decades of the nineteenth century Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Carbonari     Carbonari …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Carbonāri — (»Köhler«), Name einer geheimen politischen Gesellschaft in Italien, die in der Zeit der französischen Herrschaft über Neapel entstand und mit dem Freimaurerbund zusammenhing, von dem sie manche Formen ihrer Organisation entlehnte. Ihr Ritual war …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Carbonāri [1] — Carbonāri (ital., d.i. Kohlenbrenner), geheime politische, um 1820 bes. im Königreich Neapel u. von dort aus in ganz Italien, selbst in Frankreich verbreitete Gesellschaft (Carbonaria), angeblich von Maghella, einem Genueser, Polizeimeister der… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Carbonāri [2] — Carbonāri (Carbonarimantel), weiter ärmelloser, bis zu den Knöcheln reichender Männermantel, blau u. roth (meist mit Carmoisinsammt) ausgeschlagen; um 1822 stark Mode …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Carbonari — (ital. Kohlenbrenner), die, geheime ital. Gesellschaft, C. genannt, weil sie vom Köhlerhandwerk ihre Symbole führen. Als ihren Zweck bezeichnen sie »die Reinigung des Waldes von den Wölfen« d.h. Vertreibung der Fremden; sie entstanden in Neapel… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Carbonari — Carbonari,   die Mitglieder des italienischen Geheimbundes Carboneria …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Carbonari — [kär΄bō̂ nä′rē] pl.n. sing. Carbonaro [kär′bo nä′rō̂] [It, pl. of carbonaro, charcoal burner (< L carbonarius < carbo: see CARBON): said to be so named from meeting among the charcoal burners and using their jargon] an Italian… …   English World dictionary

  • Carbonari — Die Carbonari (italienisch für Köhler) waren der bedeutendste der an der Fortentwicklung der italienischen Einigungsbewegung des Risorgimento in den italienischen Staaten des 19. Jahrhunderts beteiligten Geheimbünde. Sie entwickelten als… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Carbonari — Drapeau de Carbonari Carbonaro, c à d. charbonniers, société politique et secrète qui parait s être formée en Italie au commencement du XIXe siècle, après la chute des nouvelles républiques italiennes et se rattachant au courant du… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Carbonari — Carbonaro Car bo*na ro, n.; pl. {Carbonari}. [It., a coal man.] A member of a secret political association in Italy, organized in the early part of the nineteenth centry for the purpose of changing the government into a republic. [1913 Webster]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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