Michele Angiolillo

Michele Angiolillo
Michele Angiolillo.

Michele Angiolillo Lombardi (5 June 1871 – 20 August 1897) was an Italian anarchist, born in Foggia, and murderer of Spanish Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas in 1897.


Barcelona bombing and Montjuïc repression

In June 1896, a bomb was thrown at the Corpus Christi procession in Barcelona. The attack precipitated an aggressive reprisal against Spanish anarchists, socialists and republicans—four hundred alleged revolutionaries were jailed at Montjuïc Fortress, many of whom died due to subsequent torture. The prime minister Antonio Cánovas del Castillo himself ordered the repression and torture:

During a religious procession in 1896, at Barcelona, a bomb was thrown. Immediately three hundred men and women were arrested. Some were Anarchists, but the majority were trade unionists and Socialists. They were thrown into that terrible bastille, Montjuich, and subjected to most horrible tortures. After a number had been killed, or had gone insane, their cases were taken up by the liberal press of Europe, resulting in the release of a few survivors.

The man primarily responsible for this revival of the Inquisition was Canovas del Castillo, Prime Minister of Spain. It was he who ordered the torturing of the victims, their flesh burned, their bones crushed, their tongues cut out. Practiced in the art of brutality during his regime in Cuba, Canovas remained absolutely deaf to the appeals and protests of the awakened civilized conscience.[1]

Of the 87 prisoners taken to the tribunal, eight received death sentences and nine were condemned to long imprisonment. The other seventy-one were declared innocent but were deported to Río de Oro, a Spanish colony in West Africa, on the orders of Antonio Cánovas, Spain’s Prime Minister.

The assassination

Tomb of Cánovas at the Panteón de Hombres Ilustres, Madrid.
New York Times headline after his execution.

Using a false identity, Angiolillo traveled to Spain from Paris (via London) to avenge the Montjuïc persecutions. There is some evidence that he originally planned to kill one or two young members of the Spanish royal family, but was dissuaded by Puerto Rican revolutionary leader Ramón Emeterio Betances, who suggested Cánovas del Castillo as a target instead. Betances provided logistical assistance for Angiolillo's safe travel into Spain, as well as some money.[2] Angiolillo found Cánovas alone at the thermal bath resort of Santa Águeda (now a psychiatric hospital) in Mondragón, Guipúzcoa, on 8 August 1897, and shot him dead. The Prime Minister’s wife hurried to the scene, shouting “Murderer! Murderer!” after the gunman. Angiolillo, in turn, bowed and declared, “Pardon, Madame. I respect you as a lady, but I regret that you were the wife of that man.” The repression and mass torture at Montjuich was a direct factor behind Michele Angiolillo's decision to assassinate Cánovas:

Angiolillo soon became familiar with the detailed accounts in the press. He read of the great wave of human sympathy with the helpless victims at Montjuich. On Trafalgar Square he saw with his own eyes the results of those atrocities, when the few Spaniards, who escaped Castillo's clutches, came to seek asylum in England. There, at the great meeting, these men opened their shirts and showed the horrible scars of burned flesh. Angiolillo saw, and the effect surpassed a thousand theories; the impetus was beyond words, beyond arguments, beyond himself even.[1]

Angiolillo allowed the authorities to capture him and vehemently denied other parties' involvement in the assassination. He was executed by garotte in the nearby town of Vergara.[3]


  1. ^ a b Goldman, Emma. "The Psychology Of Political Violence". Anarchism And Other Essays. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2162/2162-h/2162-h.htm#violence. 
  2. ^ Ojeda Reyes, Félix, El Desterrado de París: Biografía del Dr. Ramón Emeterio Betances (1827–1898), Ediciones Puerto, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2001, pp. 356-359
  3. ^ "Angiolillo Died Bravely". The New York Times. August 22, 1897. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9506E3DE153DE633A25751C2A96E9C94669ED7CF. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 


  • F. Tamburini, Michele Angiolillo e l’assassinio di Cánovas del Castillo, in “Spagna contemporanea”, Torino, n.9, 1996.
  • F. Tamburini, Michele Angiolillo el anarquista que asesinó a Cánovas del Castillo, in “Historia 16”, Madrid, 1997
  • F. Tamburini, Betances, los mambises italianos y Michele Angiolillo, in Pasión por la libertad, Actas del coloquio internacional “El independentismo puertorriqueño de Betances a nuestros días”, París septiembre 1998”, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 2000

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