ROME—Steve Bannon’s dream to open what he calls a “gladiator school” to train nationalist leaders in an old monastery near Rome is in jeopardy. Late Friday, Italy’s culture ministry announced that it had found critical discrepancies in the paperwork for the lease from the Italian government for the Certosa di Trisulti and must therefore revoke the lease.
Bannon, along with his partner in the project Ben Harnwell, won a 100-year lease for the 800-year-old walled property near Rome when the Italian government put the monastery up for rent to raise funds in 2017. Harnwell, who runs the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, has been living there full-time with a handful of elderly monks who tend the expansive gardens.
“We have sent all the documentation acquired to the State Attorney General for an opinion, which was sent to us two days ago and according to which there are all the conditions to proceed with the revocation of the concession to the association Dignitatis Humanae Institute,” the culture ministry, which oversees historic property, said in its statement. “As a result, we immediately started the [revocation] process.”
A culture ministry spokesperson told The Daily Beast that Bannon’s plans to convert the ancient property to a teaching facility did not include adequate plans for preservation and protection. Either Harnwell or Bannon would have had to be certified with at least five years of documented experience in “the field of collaboration for the protection and enhancement of cultural heritage.” Instead, neither had come up with the documentation required.
In addition, Dignitatis Humanae Institute “has failed to comply with the obligation to pay the concession fee, the ordinary and extraordinary maintenance obligations, as well as those of custody and supervision,” according to the ministry official.
Local citizens have protested Bannon’s plans for the ancient site, insisting that such an important piece of Italian cultural heritage should not be used to teach hate.
“Political opinions have nothing to do with us,” according to the statement from the cultural ministry. “We are interested in respecting the law and protecting the national cultural heritage, of which the Certosa is obviously a part.”
Bannon told The Daily Beast earlier this year that he planned to teach at the school, and that he has invested some of his own money in its restoration, which is now underway. Harnwell told The Daily Beast that they would appeal the decision.