Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former political strategist, is to start enrolling candidates for a “gladiator school” for Right-wing populists after winning a legal battle in Italy over the lease of an ancient monastery.
Mr Bannon and his British acolyte were granted a 19-year lease on the 13th century abbey in the mountains south of Rome but it was rescinded last year by the Italian culture ministry, which accused them of failing to carry out promised improvements to the large complex.
That decision was overturned this week by a regional court in the nearby town of Latina, meaning that Mr Bannon and his British assistant, Benjamin Harnwell, can resume their plans to turn the monastery into what they call the Academy for the Judeo-Christian West.
Enrolments will begin on Monday and Mr Bannon, who has denied being a white nationalist, will be involved in courses that will cover politics, philosophy, history and economics.
“We stood by the monastery, the community and Italy during this pandemic when it would have been easy to walk away,” Mr Bannon said from Washington DC, where he is based.
The courses will initially be taught remotely, due to the coronavirus epidemic, but the aim is for the Trisulti monastery to host students from early next year.
Mr Bannon, a founder of Breitbart News, the Right-wing news and commentary website, has been accused of being racist and a white supremacist. He once said that “darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”
There has been trenchant local opposition to the monastery being turned into a college for the nationalist alt-Right.
“We’re very pleased with the court’s ruling,” Mr Harnwell, a former political secretary to a Conservative MEP, told The Telegraph. “We’ve not yet been able to work on the restoration of the monastery because we have been working 100% to defend ourselves legally.”
The €101,000 annual rent on the property has now been paid and there are funds to start the restoration, he said.
The culture ministry has announced it will appeal the court’s decision to a higher tribunal known as the Council of State. The appeal will be heard later this year.
“The restoration work will start when the legal process is exhausted,” said Mr Harnwell, who lives in the monastery near the village of Collepardo.
After masterminding the successful 2016 election campaign, Mr Bannon fell out with President Trump and was banished from the White House.
In early 2018, he was quoted in a book criticising the president's children. The comments completed his departure from Mr Trump's orbit.
An increasingly isolated figure on the political scene, Mr Bannon has been rebuilding his influence through a podcast, WarRoom, alongside other conservative figures in the last year.
He has remained a vocal supporter of the President's 'America First' agenda and there have been reports that he still talks to figures inside the White House about issues such as immigration.
However his relationship with Mr Trump, who dubbed him "Sloppy Steve" on account of his beard and untucked shirts, has shown few public signs of thawing.
Since leaving the administration, Mr Bannon has sought to bolster nationalist, populist parties in Europe, including the hard-Right League in Italy, the National Rally in France, Alternative for Germany and Fidesz in Hungary.