Lanza del Vasto
Lanza del Vasto
Giuseppe Giovanni Luigi Enrico Lanza di Trabia-Branciforte

(1901-09-29)29 September 1901
Died5 January 1981(1981-01-05) (aged 79)
Occupation(s)Philosopher, poet, artist, and nonviolent activist.

Lanza del Vasto (born Giuseppe Giovanni Luigi Maria Enrico Lanza di Trabia-Branciforte;[1] 29 September 1901 – 6 January 1981) was an Italian philosopher, poet, artist, Catholic and nonviolent activist.

He was born in San Vito dei Normanni, Italy and died in Murcia, Spain.

A western disciple of Mohandas K. Gandhi, he worked for inter-religious dialogue, spiritual renewal, ecological activism and nonviolence.

Youth in Italy

His father, Don Luigi Giuseppe Lanza di Trabia-Branciforte, was Sicilian and his mother, Anne-Marie Henriette Nauts-Oedenkoven,[1] was born in Antwerp, in Belgium. Very early he traveled in Italy and Europe. He entered the University of Pisa in 1922.

Meeting Gandhi

In December 1936, Lanza went to India, joining the movement for Indian independence led by Gandhi. He knew of Gandhi through a book by Romain Rolland. He spent six months with the Mahatma, then in June 1937, went to the sources of the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers in the Himalayas, a famous pilgrimage site. There he saw a vision which told him "Go back and found!"

He then returned to Europe. In 1938, he went to Palestine, then in the midst of civil war, to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, "between two lines of tanks".

He came back to Paris at the time when the Second World War started. He wrote some books of poetry and in 1943 published the story of his trip to India, Return to the Source, which became a huge success.

Foundation of the Ark

He founded the Community of the Ark in 1948 which first met with many difficulties. In 1954, he returned to India to participate in nonviolent anti-feudal struggles with Vinoba Bhave.

In 1962 the Community of the Ark settled in Haut-Languedoc, in the south of France, at "La Borie Noble", near Lodève, in a deserted village. After numbering over a hundred members in the 1970s and 1980s, some communities were closed in the 1990s due to conflicts, ageing population (under thirty members) and a lack of interest in their work and lifestyle. Since 2000, groups are present in a few regions of France, in Belgium, Spain, Italy, Ecuador and Canada.[2]

Nonviolent activism

In 1957, during the Algerian War, del Vasto started with other well-known people (General de Bollardière, François Mauriac, Robert Barrat, etc.) a movement of protest against torture. He fasted for 21 days. In 1958, he demonstrated against the nuclear power plant in Marcoule, France, which produced plutonium for nuclear weapons.

In 1963, he fasted for 40 days in Rome during the Second Vatican Council, asking Pope John XXIII to stand against war - "Pour demander au Pape de prendre position contre la guerre."

In 1965 he was at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina, talking about non-violence during weeks with the students.

Left to right, Jean-Marie Muller, Lanza del Vasto, Jacques de la Bollardière on the Larzac during the struggle against the military camp extension.

In 1972, he supported the farmers of the Larzac plateau against the extension of a military base while fasting for 15 days. In 1974 a community of the Ark settled in the Larzac in a farmhouse bought by the army.

In 1976, he participated in the demonstrations against the building of the fast breeder reactor Superphénix at Creys-Malville, Isère (France).


In January 1981, del Vasto was working to found a new community in Elche de la Sierra, in the spanish province of Albacete, when on January 5, he had a brain hemorrhage and was taken to the hospital of Ciudad Sanitaria Virgen de La Arrixaca in Murcia.[3][4][5][6] He died there on Jan 6.[7]

See also


Books in English

Essays on Lanza del Vasto


  1. ^ a b "Anne-Marie Henriette Nauts-Oedenkoven, * 1874". Retrieved 2022-08-31.
  2. ^ Régions Archived 2011-10-31 at the Wayback Machine Community of Ark website.
  3. ^ Maristany 2002, p. 83.
  4. ^ Saverio 1980, p. 187.
  5. ^ Colesanti & De Nardis 1987, p. 273.
  6. ^ Galiana 1981.
  7. ^ A Fondo 1980.