Protesters march on Italian monastery where Steve Bannon plans to train nationalist leaders

Giada Zampano
Protesters say the 800-year-old Trisulti charterhouse represents ideals of European openness and have called on the Italian government to cancel Bannon's lease - Giada Zampino

Around 200 protesters marched to the Italian village of Collepardo this weekend to protest Steve Bannon’s takeover of a monastery where he plans to train the next generation of nationalist leaders.

Mr Bannon, who is credited with masterminding Donald Trump’s electoral success, has rented the 800-year-old Carthusian monastery as a training centre for his political network, The Movement, which aims to forge a pan-European rightist movement ahead of May’s European elections.

The deal for the lease was struck at a concession with the Italian government.

But Mr Trump’s former adviser has faced increasing resistance from a network of local activists. =

On Saturday protesters marched to the Trisulti monastery with banners reading “Stop Bannon, Free Europe” and “Trisulti, European Land.”

They say that the monastery founded in 1204 is a European outpost that embodies “ideas that are not inclusive and do not shut out the world.”

Mr Bannon’s British colleague, Benjamin Harnwell, lives in the monastery alongside the last 83-year-old monk and leads the project.

In an interview in the garden of the medieval charterhouse, which nestles in woodland surrounded by mountains, Mr Harnwell told the Telegraph that the institute aims to defend the “Judaeo-Christian values of Western civilisation.”

For more than eight centuries, monks have lived in Trisulti in total seclusion, praying, reading and preparing medicinal remedies - and the famous Sambuca liquor - with herbs from the surrounding forest.

Mr Harnwell’s Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), which is the “cultural arm” of Bannon’s political movement, plans to offer classes of history, philosophy and theology at the monastery and transform what was once “a university of herbal knowledge into a laboratory of ideas,” he said.

However, since the agreement between DHI and the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage was reached, the charterhouse has been less accessible, and only through guided tours.

This enrages locals. “The Trisulti monastery, which is a common good, has been awarded to the far right,” said Daniela Bianchi, a former regional councillor with the center-left Democratic Party and one of the main organisers of the protest.

“This is a place that symbolises dialogue and union, not conservative closure,” she added, vowing that the community revolt against Bannon and his associates “won’t be stopped.”

The local activists are now hoping to revoke the government concession based on the argument that Mr Bannon’s populist academy does not meet the terms of the lease.