1865 - 1920
Raffaele Mariotti was born in Bologna on 2 July 1867, the second son of a family originally from the Toscan-Emiliana mountains. Ordained in 1887, after about two years outside of the city, he returned to Bologna as the Chaplain for the church of Santa Maria Maddalena to take care of the youths of the festive congregation of the Blessed Virgin of Good Will. Eager to remedy the discomfort that threatened the peace and the order of the society of that period, Don Mariotti developed a project aimed to give moral, as well as physical, shelter to many youths who needed some relief and a passtime after work. His concept was a Ricreatorio (the first, very primitive, was started in 1890 on Via Zamboni), where it was possible for boys, who enjoyed throwing stones at passerbys on the road to gather. His idea was an immediate success because the youths could satisfy their natural inclinations to play and have fun in a healthy environment. Their numbers multiplied.
After being transfered to different zones of the city, Don Mariotti found the place most dignified for his project. In 1902 he purchased the land for the Ricreatorio of Via San Felice, which for its position and large space it soon became the headquarters of the General Directorate of the Opera dei Ricreatori. The year before, in May of 1901, Bologna hosted the 5th Federal Gymnastics Competition and for the occassion, in the Piazza 8 August, they built a “Greek Stadium”. The perfect execution of exercise, the waving of the banners of the different gymnastic societies and the colors of the uniforms of the athletes as they marched through the long streets, contributed to making this event solemn and festive. Don Mariotti witnessed, together with his group, the event and understood all of the implications of the spectacle and the capabilities of such a demonstration to such a point that a couple of months later, on 3 October 1901, the Opera dei Ricreatori added the Reale Federazione Ginnastica d’Italia, known as the Gymnastic Society Fortitudo.
The priest died in 1920. He is buried in the First Room of the Recinto Monaci and Cappuccini of the Certosa cemetery in Bologna. His epigraph reads: To Father Raffaele Mariotti, generous apostle to young, founder of the popular Catholic male recreational center and the Gymnastics Society “Fortitudo”. Admirers and Disciples always mindful of his works, with affective gratitude give tribute and the honor of this memorial stone. N. MDCCCLX-M. MCMXX”
Translation from italian language by Holly Bean.