In the fourth chapter of Manzoni's novel we meet Frate Cristoforo and get his back story. He is a cappuccino friar who was the son of a rich merchant. Cristoforo had killed an aristocratic man in a street fight and lost his own retainer Cristoforo in the process. He changed his name from Ludovico to Cristoforo upon joining the order, in honor of the dead man.
His passion is to be the protector of the weak and oppressed, so I have the feeling the novel is setting him up to be the counterweight to the priest Abbondio. The helper who can actually help, unlike everyone else from whom Renzo and Lucia have requested aid so far.
I find that I understand when I want to. In other words, I understand less when I am skipping through a part I don't really care about in the first place. If I slow down enough I understand almost everything. If I actually used an Italian dictionary I would understand everything, but then I would never finish the novel.