The Italian government approved the long-term lease of a thirteenth-century monastery to a right-wing religious organization connected to Steve Bannon, the ex-chief strategist of President Donald Trump and former executive chairman of Breitbart News, then blamed the move on staff shortages. According to the Art Newspaper, the culture ministry is now trying to evict the British conservative group from the historic site, which it has occupied since April.
Called the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (Institute for Human Dignity), the organization was founded by Benjamin Harnwell in 2008 as a kind of academy that offers courses in theology, philosophy, history, and politics to “institutionalize the thoughts and political insights of Steve Bannon.” The organization finalized its contract with the ministry, which allows it to reside in Certosa di Trisulti, a former Carthusian monastery located in a forest near the town of Collepardo, so long as it invested more than $2 million in restoring the abbey, in January.
Upon learning that a group with political affiliations was awarded a nineteen-year lease of the cultural landmark, Nicola Zingaretti, the secretary of the Democratic Party and president of the Lazio region, wrote to the ministry to denounce the decision, citing the institute’s plans to engage in “openly xenophobic” activities in the place of prayer. The complaint combined with Italian media reports which allegedly found irregularities with the institute’s lease application prompted former culture minister Alberto Bonisoli to begin the eviction process.
While Antonio Lampis, the director general of museums at the ministry, issued a document annulling the lease in October, the institute is currently trying to appeal the decision. In response to the ministry’s backpedaling, Harnwell said that the group was properly vetted by the ministry when it bid for the building and that he looks forward to taking the ministry to court.