Saturday, 1 October 2011

The end of the Papal States

This is an account of the capture of Rome in 1870 from The Last Days of Papal Rome by Raffaele De Cesare.  The city was captured by the Italian army under King Victor Emmanuel from the meagre forces of Pope Pius IX.  The decisive developments were the decision of the French Emperor, Napoleon III, to deploy his troops elsewhere in order to fight the Franco-Prussian War, the defeat of the French forces by the Prussians at the Battle of Sedan, and the subsequent replacement of the Napoleonic regime with the Third French Republic.

"After the declaration of war, the Emperor... recalled the troops from Civitavecchia. Nevertheless, he required a written promise from Victor Emmanuel, besides the formal assurance of the Ministry, that the Convention would be observed....

The last of the French troops were embarked at Civita Vecchia on August 5. The Empress Eugènie, acting as regent, sent the man-of-war Orènoque to Civita Vecchia to defend the Pope, but this did not suffice to stifle the fears of the Pontifical government, which, as the French defeats followed one upon the other, beheld a terrible storm gathering over its head....

On August 10 Cardinal Antonelli sent for Rivalta and inquired of him if, in the case of a probable invasion by the revolutionary insurgents, it would be wiser to station the whole army at the frontier or to concentrate it in Rome, to attempt a last defence. Rivalta replied that both plans were defective. To send the troops to the frontier would be to provoke an insurrection in Rome and give the Italian government an excuse for intervention under the plea of re-establishing order. To concentrate the troops in Rome would be to invite invasion, for the towns, deprived of their garrisons, would rise and furnish a pretext for intervention. The best advice, concluded Rivalta, was to defend both the frontier and Rome, instructing the various garrisons, to yield only when resistance was obviously impossible, and to retire in order upon Rome. Antonelli was convinced.

Twenty-seven days elapsed between the departure of the French from the Pontifical States and the battle of Sedan. The sensation created in Rome by the catastrophe of September 2 was tremendous.... [T]he impression produced upon the clerical world was not one of regret, sentiments of joy were even openly manifested, and the joke attributed to Pius IX., that France had lost her teeth (ses dents) was spread abroad.

The Holy See was now without defenders. It was felt and feared that the September Convention would not this time be destroyed by revolutionist bands and by Garibaldi, but by the Italian army and government. The Pontifical army, 13,157 strong, composed of the most varied nationalities and containing 1,200 horse, could offer little resistance.

On September 8 Count Ponza di San Martino arrived in Rome as bearer of the noted letter from the King to Pius IX. He sent an official communication to Cardinal Antonelli announcing his arrival and explaining his mission. The answer came immediately. It was courteous in form, and made an appointment with the Count for the same evening.... Antonelli received him politely and told him he had obtained the Pope's orders for an audience on the morning of the 10th. He declared his conviction that the Pope would never invite the Italians to occupy Rome, the more so that the population was quiet, the troops numerous, disciplined, and faithful, and the Pontiff enjoying ample liberty.

The Pope's reception of San Martino was unfriendly. Pius IX. allowed violent outbursts to escape him. Throwing the King's letter upon a table, he exclaimed, "Fine loyalty! You are all a set of vipers, of whited sepulchres, and wanting in faith." He was perhaps alluding to other letters received from the King. After, growing calmer, he exclaimed : "I am no prophet, nor son of a prophet, but I tell you, you will never enter Rome!" San Martino was so mortified that he left the next day.

It was on September 10 that Pius IX. left the Vatican for the last time as a sovereign, in order to inaugurate the Acqua Marcia. Few persons had been invited to the ceremony, but the streets were crowded, and as Pius IX. passed cheers were raised of "Viva Pius IX! King, King, King!" Flowers were thrown, and hands clapped; Pius IX. appeared in good spirits, drank a cup of the water, and praised its purity and freshness.

The next day, the Pope replied to the King in the following haughty terms:

"Sire, — Count Ponza di San Martino has delivered to me a letter which Your Majesty was pleased to send me; but it is unworthy of an affectionate son who boasts of professing the Catholic faith and glories in his kingly loyalty. I will not enter into the particulars of the letter to avoid renewing the pain which its first perusal occasioned me. I bless God, Who has suffered that Your Majesty should fill the last years of my life with bitterness. For the rest I cannot admit the requests contained in your letter nor give my adhesion to the principles propounded therein. I once more turn to God and place my cause, which is His, in His Hands. I pray Him to grant to Your Majesty abundant grace to preserve you from every peril and to render you a participant in the mercies of which you have such need.

"From the Vatican, September 11, 1870.

(Signed) "Pius P.P. IX."

Since the end of the previous November preparations had been made for a defence. Piazza Colonna, considered the centre of the town, was to become a small entrenched camp. These preparations were deemed advisable for fear of an insurrection. But when it was no longer doubtful that the Italian government intended to march upon Rome and invest it at various points, they had to be greatly modified.... Kanzler ordered all the gates to be barricaded, more especially Porta Pia and Porta San Pancrazio and effected other works of defence. Places of observation were established upon the walls and the cupola of St. Peter's, communicating by telegraph with the Ministry of War.

On the 11th notice arrived that the Italian army had crossed the frontier, and a state of siege was at once proclaimed. In the evening, after Ave Maria, the city became yet more gloomy, only patrols of police and soldiers were seen. The Pope ordered a three days' intercession before the image of the Madonna della Colonna in the Basilica of St. Peter. His conviction that the Italians would not dare attack Rome, or daring, that Divine help would not fail the Pontiff, seems almost inconceivable. His impulsive character had grown calmer. The last Pontifical Mass at which he assisted was that for the Birth of the Virgin on September 8, in S. Maria del Popolo. On the morning of the 10th he visited the Aracoeli to adore the miraculous image....

On August 29 Visconti-Venosta sent a circular to the Italian agents abroad, in which he declared it to be the constant aim of the Italian government to reassure the Catholic world concerning the guarantees, which it, more than any other State, could furnish to the Holy See.... The Roman Court had assumed the attitude of an enemy established in the centre of the peninsula, which reckoned upon interventions to restore statu quo ante. The circular concluded thus: "The moment has come when we cannot recede before a problem connected with the destiny of a people and the greatness of the Catholic Church." It was an able preparation for all that was to take place within a few days....

[T]he moment the Empire had fallen and the Republic been proclaimed, one of those exceptional cases had arisen in the event of which Italy had reserved to herself, upon signing the September Convention, the right to resume her liberty of action. It must further be borne in mind that a Republic in France created a danger of revolution or, at least, of risings in Italy and in Rome itself....

An enormous collection of memoirs, recollections, letters and revelations of every kind have been issued bearing on those days. All show the general anxiety that prevailed....

The Ministry's great desire was to demonstrate to the civilised world and to all Catholics, that it did not enter the Pope's little State with violence, but that it was called there by the will of the people. It counted, up to the last, on an insurrection in Rome or the neighbouring towns. Meanwhile Ricotti, the new Minister of War, ordered Cadorna to encamp within sight of the city and, in case of a rising favourable to Italy, to penetrate into Rome by surprise and even by force....

The Pope went out, for the last time, in the afternoon of the 19th, accompanied by his Camerieri segreti. He proceeded to the Scala Santa, which he ascended, kneeling. Arrived at the top, he prayed in a loud voice, broken by emotion. He left by the side door, and, pausing under the Byzantine niche, surveyed the troops encamped upon the open space between the Basilica and the walls. The colonel begged for the Papal blessing. He gave it in a loud voice, the soldiers responding with cheers, and presenting arms. He returned to the Vatican before nightfall. Groups of women and peasants called out, seeing the carriage, "His Holiness is not gone," for the rumour had spread that, as a protest against what was happening, the Pope had left Rome to embark on board the Orènoque.

Foreseeing that the attack of the Italian troops was imminent, Cardinal Antonelli notified the Diplomatic Corps. It was arranged that, at the first cannon shot, the Diplomatic Body should resort to the Vatican and remain near the Pope during the military action.

An important point in the history of these days is that which refers to the resistance offered by the Pontifical troops. The true version seems to be that the Pope wished to demonstrate unmistakably that he was the victim of violence, but he did not wish to prolong a useless defence. Instructions to that effect were given by him to Kanzler on that same day, the 19th.

Had these peremptory and Christian orders been obeyed hostilities would not have lasted five hours....

If curiosity conquers fear it is nevertheless true that many citizens barricaded themselves in their houses as if barbarians might be looked for at any moment. They had stored the chief necessaries of daily life, invited friends to spend the day, and at night played at tombola and supped gaily. Their terror was more conventional than real. Over the palaces of the nobles, the dwellings of the Diplomatic Corps and the Consular body, the flags of their respective countries were flown. Almost all the princely palaces were barricaded inside; the female convents were rigidly closed, and closed, too, were the churches and oratories annexed.

These were strange days, when tragedy and comedy went side by side. Unrest reigned supreme, but no action was taken. Meanwhile Cadorna's Staff were waiting for confirmation of reports of a rising in the city, of a declaration on the part of the Pontifical troops, or of the desertion of some military chief. All these rumours were without a shadow of foundation, for the Romans did not dream of rising nor the Papal troops of treason. At the Club of San Carlo, on the evening of the 19th, news spread that the attack would take place on the following day....

At 5.15 a.m. of September 20 the Committee of Defence and the Ministry of War received notice from the observatory of S. Maria Maggiore that the enemy had opened fire upon the Tre Archi, Porta Maggiore, and Porta Pia. At 5.55 the Vatican observatory notified that the fire was more intense between Porta Salaria and Porta S. Giovanni, and at 6.35 that firing had begun also between Villa Pamphili and Porta San Pancrazio. The news was confirmed, ten minutes later, by the observatory of S. Maria Maggiore. The greatest anxiety prevailed in the Vatican, for the firing had dissipated the Pope's last illusions. He had risen early and showed an unwonted calm until 6.30 — that is, until the Janiculum was cannonaded.... The Swiss Guard and the gendarmes were stationed before the Bronze Doors and other ingresses of the Apostolic Palace, in full fighting order, as though fearing to be attacked, and refusing admission to everyone, no matter under what pretext.

According to arrangement, the Diplomatic Corps, in full dress and in gala carriages, arrived at the Vatican. Monsignor De Bisogno, charged with their reception, was already awaiting them to do the honours. The carriages drove into the Courtyard of San Damaso, between half-past six and seven. The diplomats were invited to enter the Pope's private chapel and assist at the Mass. During the Office the cannon thundered against the besieged walls, and the grenades of the Janiculum, bursting with a loud noise, shook the glass of the windows and the loggia. Pius IX. showed no sign of emotion. The Mass over, he received the diplomats in his private library, and Arnim, speaking in the name of all, declared that the Ambassadors and Ministers of the Powers recognised the duty of shielding the Pontiff with their persons at this hour. The Pope thanked them, and, in a loud voice and in bitter phrases, inveighed against the violence of which he was the victim, protesting to the whole world against this "sacrilegious action." Meanwhile nine o'clock struck. The cannonading at Porta Pia and Porta San Giovanni became louder. Pius IX. could not understand why his orders had been disobeyed, and grew angry. In the absence of Kanzler, he sent peremptory orders that the white flag should be raised at once over the cupola. It was half-past nine. A soldier hurried to transmit the order, which was carried out before ten struck. Ten minutes later firing ceased all along the line.

The firing having ceased, the Diplomatic Corps took leave of the Pope....

At half-past ten the Diplomatic Corps left the Vatican. After their departure the Pope resumed his easy good humour, and seating himself at his writing-table, composed, in all tranquillity, a charade in three verses upon the word tremare (to tremble)....

The firing had scarcely ceased when a crowd of curious onlookers flocked to Porta Pia. The lower city remained deserted. Though the guns ceased firing at ten, the Italian troops did not begin to arrive till shortly before midday. The rumour spread that they would enter after the visit of the Diplomatic Corps to Villa Albani. Instead, the latter arrived at Porta Pia when the Italian troops, entering by gate and breaches, were already within the walls....

The capitulation was signed at three, in the central hall of Villa Albani.

The capitulation had been drawn up by Cadorna, but Kanzler brought his own scheme, prepared in concert with the Pope and Antonelli. The two Commanders, with their respective Staffs, were seated round the large table near the window, and Kanzler presented his proposals.... Cadorna, in his turn, read his conditions, pointing out that some were more liberal than those presented by Kanzler, and urging that it was needful to come to a speedy understanding in the interest of public order. A short discussion followed, an additional article was added, conceding that the Noble Guard, Palatine and Swiss Guards, should be recognised as specially attached to the person of the Pope, to be transferred, however, temporarily, to the Leonine city. The capitulation was signed by the two Chiefs of the Staffs and ratified by the two Commanders-in-Chief.

Some disorder and tumults followed upon the entry of the Italian troops into the city, but fortunately they were quickly suppressed. The populace showed good sense, but nevertheless some disagreeable scenes took place.

The behaviour of the Roman municipality at that time was not without blame. Neither the Senator Marchese Cavalletti-Rondanini nor any of the Conservators, of either the first or second class, presented themselves at the Vatican to comfort the old Pope.... The Campidoglio awoke again on the 24th, when the Junta of Government, nominated by Cadorna, took its seat there.

The Junta of Government of Rome and its Provinces, as it was called, was chosen by Cadorna from the best members of the nobility and citizens....

On the morning of September 21 Pius IX., informed that the disarming of the troops was accomplished at Porta San Pancrazio, that the Papal flag was lowered at Castel San Angelo, that his army and his State no longer existed, wrote this letter to his nephew Luigi, at Senigallia:

"From the Vatican, September 21.

"Dear Nephew, — All is over ! Without liberty it is impossible to govern the Church. Pray for me, all of you. I bless you.

"Pius P.P. IX."

....With the taking of Rome the Papal States ceased to exist, and the epic period of the National Rising was terminated.