He was born to a prominent aristocratic family mother was Giulia Carafa and father was the Duke Luigi Serra of Cassano. As a young man, he traveled with his elder brother Giuseppe, the Marquis of Trevi, to study in Paris. There, however, he became attached to revolutionary republican ideas.
Returning to Naples in 1795, he was soon arrested for distributing copies of the Declaration of the Rights of Man. He was freed along with Mario Pagano and Ignazio Ciaia on July 25, 1798 after the intervention of members of the court.
In January 1799, when the French army of General Championett and a rebellion in Naples forced the King Ferdinand IV of Naples to scurry to safety in Sicily. Serra was among the young nobles who joined the effors to defend the Parthenopean Republic. His father was invited to participate in the city council, but turned down the offer. Giuseppe took his place. Gennaro was made captain of the National Guard established to defend the city.
When the directory commissioned Serra to establish a cavalry unit to help defend the city, the pamphletist Eleonora Pimentel critized the goal as elitist: Only young men of fortune conveniently have horses, who exercised them at the races, at games, and in horse riding: (we should) also invite young people from less fortunate who can not have them to join the cavalry. Serra, as head of the National Guard, seeing the precariousness of the situation, opined that before we can reach the good of existing perfect, we wish to start with existing; and a good body of cavalry will further the existence of the Republic.
By early summer, the French had retreated, and the Republic collapsed under the assaults by the Sanfedisti under Cardinal Ruffo. Gennaro was among the last resistors who held the Palace of Capodimonte. While he had surrendered to Ruffo under terms that spared his life, Ferdinand did not respect the terms, and ordered Gennaro and many other republicans beheaded. His last word at the his public execution in mercato were.:
I have always desired their welfare, and they are rejoicing at my deathEleonora Pimentel; Giuliano Colonna; Filippo Marini; the priest Nicola Pacifico; and the Bishop of Vico, Michele Natale was executed on the same day. Only Colonna and Serra were beheaded.
Like many young persons caught up in the counter-reveolutionary purges, such as Luisa Sanfelice and Ettore Carafa, his courage and idealism reverberated with future aspiring patriots. It is said that at the Palazzo Serra di Cassano in Naples, the door facing towards the Royal Palace was walled off by Gennaro's mother in protest of the execution of her son.
- ^ Vol. 13 - Raccolta Rassegna Storica dei Comuni - Anni 1996-98 By Aa. Vv., page 43.
- ^ Constance H. D. Stocker Giglioli (1903). Naples in 1799: an account of the revolution of 1799 & of the rise & fall of the Parthenopean Republic. John Murray, Albermarle Street, London, England, Printed by Hazell, Watson, and Vinet.. p. 47. http://books.google.com/books?id=bZYuAAAAYAAJ.
- ^ Biography in Repubblica Napoletana 1799 website.
- ^ Benedetto Croce (1897) (in Italian). Studii storici sulla rivoluzione napoletana del 1799. Ermano Loescher, Rome. pp. 59–60. http://books.google.com/books?id=p-8-AQAAMAAJ.
- ^ B. Croce, page 59-60: che i giovinetti di cosi comoda fortuna che il possono, abbiano cavallo o cavalli, se no esercitino alle corse, a’giuochi, a’maneggi: v’invitino pure i giovani di minor fortuna che non possono averli.
- ^ B. Croce, page 59-60:che prima del ben essere perfetto bisognava cominciare dall’essere; e un buon corpo di cavalleria sarebbe stato assai proficuo all’esistenza della Repubblica.
- ^ C. H. D. Stocker Giglioli, page= 352: B. Croce (Italian) Ho sempre desiderato per il loro bene ed essi Gioiscono della mia morte.
- ^ C. H. D. Stocker Giglioli, pages 352-354
|ALTERNATIVE NAMES||Gennaro Serra, Duke of Cassano|
|SHORT DESCRIPTION||Neapolitan patriot|
|DATE OF BIRTH||September 30, 1772|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Portici, Naples, Italy|
|DATE OF DEATH||August 20, 1799|
|PLACE OF DEATH||Market Square, Naples, Italy|