Ugo Bassi (1800-1849), Italian patriot, was born at Cento, and received his early education at Bologna. An unhappy love affair induced him to become a novice in the Barnabite order when eighteen years old. He repaired to Rome, where he led a life of study and devotion, and entered on his ministry in 1833. It was as a preacher that he became famous, his sermons attracting large crowds owing to their eloquence and genuine enthusiasm. He lived chiefly at Bologna, but travelled all over Italy preaching and tending the poor, so poor himself as to be sometimes almost starving. On the outbreak of the revolutionary movements in 1848, when Pope Pius IX. still appeared to be a Liberal and an Italian patriot, Bassi, filled with national enthusiasm, joined General Durando's papal force to protect the frontiers as army chaplain. His eloquence drew fresh recruits to the ranks, and he exercised great influence over the soldiers and people. When the pope discarded all connexion with the national movement, it was only Bassi who could restrain the Bolognese in their indignation.
At Treviso, where he had followed Guidotti's volunteers against the Austrians, he received three wounds, delighted to shed his blood for Italy (12th of May, 1848). He was taken to Venice, and on his recovery he marched unarmed at the head of the volunteers in the fight at Mestre. After the pope's flight from Rome and the proclamation of the Roman republic, Bassi took part with Garibaldi's forces against the French troops sent to re-establish the temporal power. He exposed his life many times while tending the wounded under fire, and when Garibaldi was forced to leave Rome with his volunteers the faithful monk followed him in his wanderings to San Marino. When the legion broke up Garibaldi escaped, but Bassi and a fellow-Garibaldian, Count Livraghi, after endless hardships, were captured near Comacchio. On being brought before the papal governor, Bassi said: "I am guilty of no crime save that of being an Italian like yourself. I have risked my life for Italy, and your duty is to do good to those who have suffered for her." The governor would have freed the prisoners; but he did not dare, and gave them over to an Austrian officer.
They were escorted to Bologna, falsely charged before a court martial with having been found with arms in their hands (Bassi had never borne arms at all), and shot on the 8th of August, 1849. Bassi is one of the most beautiful figures of the Italian revolution, a gentle unselfish soul, who, although unusually gifted and accomplished, had an almost childlike nature. His execution excited a feeling of horror all over Italy.
Countess Martinengo gives a charming sketch of his life in her Italian Characters (2nd ed., London, 1901); see also Zironi, Vita del Padre Ugo Bassi (Bologna, 1879); F. Venosta, "Ugo Bassi, Martire di Bologna," in the Pantheon dei Martiri Italiani (Milan, 1863).