150 years ago today, a Papal army marched into Rome

The Battle of Mentana was fought on November 3, 1867 near the village of Mentana, just outside Rome, [about three miles]   between French-Papal troops and the Italian volunteers led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, who were attempting to capture Rome, which was not unified to Kingdom of Italy until three years later. It was the last battle the Popes won.

The entry of the Pontifical troops into Rome, after their victory at Mentana 1867.

— We have received the following from our Roman Correspondent, under date of Rome, November 15.—

The entry of the Pontifical troops after their victory at Mentana took place last Wednesday. [13th November] Nothing could be more imposing than the spectacle, and it offered the most convincing proof possible that the Roman population considered the triumph of the army as their own, and was resolved to show their feeling on the matter. The Porta Pia was the gate by which the troops were to arrive, and long before the hour fixed every window was filled, every balcony draped, and stores of autumn flowers laid up, to shower on the victorious troops.

Porta Pia, Rome.

They entered with banners displayed, trumpets sounding and the Commander-in-Chief, General Kanzler, who had gone outside the gate to meet them, at their head. His Excellency was accompanied by the French General de Failly, and on reaching the Piazza Pia they drew up, surrounded by their respective staffs, and the long line of troops defiled before them. The Zouaves came first and were cheered again and again by the crowd. The great Roman families joined heartily in the demonstration, and the French General appeared as much excited as any one, and repeatedly turned to General Kanzler and pressed his hand, as company after company of the flower of the French Catholic youth passed, victorious, before them. The Legion, too, were admirably received, and so were the gallant Swiss Chasseurs, whose conduct at Mentana under Colonel Jeannerot and Major Castella was beyond praise.

Madame Kanzler’s carriage driving up at the same moment, her Excellency was received with a very warm demonstration, and no wonder, for, from the first arrival of the wounded of Bagnorea and Monte Libretti, she has consecrated herself with unwearied energy to the care of the hospitals, and has devoted her entire time to the consolation and nursing of our brave soldiers. A Roman by birth, her danger, in case of a reverse, would, from the courageous and active part she has taken in the cause, and from her husband’s position, have been greater than that of any other person, but this consideration, fully weighed and met, has never deterred her from her noble task.

It is one of the most curious signs of the present time the military enthusiasm which has seized on the Roman people and the pride it feels in its army. The lists of subscriptions for the wounded, for the soldiers and their families, are rapidly filling, each offering being in the Italian fashion generally accompanied by a sentence in praise of the Pontifical troops.

It is only now we are beginning to realise what we have escaped from. The recent perquisitions made have brought to light some terrible revelations of the intentions of the sect. Five hours’ pillage was to have been allowed by the Garibaldian army. The churches and convents were to have been sacked, the priests massacred, the nuns insulted. Hundreds of barrels loaded with shot were found ; and ” pour comble ” [to cap it all]  a well made guillotine, with axe, rollers, pulley, and all, “en regle”, [ready for use]  was among the moral forces discovered in the search for arms.

Five cases of guns addressed to Mr. Odo Russell [ From 1858 until August 1870,  the real, though unofficial, representative of Britain at the Vatican. He was the nephew of Lord John Russell, Prime Minister between 1846 – 1852, and again 1865 -1866 ] were recently seized by the police, a circumstance at least awkward for a diplomatic agent, and of which it is to be hoped some satisfactory explanation will be afforded.

It was arranged that on a certain day, the 30th of October or 1st of November, the column of Garibaldi, numbering 15,000, the column of Acerti, 15,000, the column of Pincigiacci, 15,000, were to concentrate their collective force of nearly 60,000 men on Rome from ten different points of Monte Rotondo, Viterbo, Velletri, and Froeinone. The Finanziere or custom-house officers of the Porta San Paolo had been bought over, and all was prepared for the supreme attack. Had not the French landed in time, it is difficult to realise what would have been the end. It was-resolved, in case of the worst, that all who wished to share the fate of the Holy Father and his defenders should cross the Tiber, and St.Spirito and the bridge of St. Angelo being blown up, the Leonine city was to have been defended to the very last, all being ready to have died on the very staircases of the Vatican, if need were,, round the throne of Pius IX. The fort could have held out eight days at least, and in that interval help might arrive from France. The army numbered 10,000, and was ready to fight à l’outrence under the conduct of its heroic and devoted general. Surrender under any circumstances was not spoken of. It was a word erased from the vocabulary while a single Garibaldian remained on the Pontifical territory, and had the French delayed their arrival, Europe would have heard of a wholesale martyrdom, but not of a capitulation.

His Holiness celebrated Mass in the Sixtine Chapel on Friday, the 8th, for the repose of the souls of those who fell in battle since the beginning of the campaign. He was so deeply moved that he could scarcely continue the concluding prayers.

On Saturday, the 9th, we celebrated the obsequies of Julian Watts Russell at the English College. I can add nothing to the beautiful notice by Padre Cardella, his confessor, which I enclose, and which I feel sure you will give a place to in your columns. It was to all present a source of hope and trust for England, that she has given two glorious martyrs to the Temporal Power since the beginning of the present campaign, and the names of Alfred Collingridge and Julian Russell will never be forgotten by English Catholics, when they recall the memory of Monte Libretti and Mentana.

At the same hour as the requiem in the English College another on a far larger scale was performed at San Lorenzo, for the souls of MM. De Veaux and Deodat Dufournel. As your readers will remember, his younger brother, Emmanuel Dufournel, was killed in battle at Farnese. Deodat, who was attached to the staff of the Zouaves, was shot down at Villa Cecchina, while conducting a perquisition in one of the houses filled with Garibaldians, and died, after linger-ing a week, in the hospital of St. Spirito. He was universally beloved and deplored, and the entire corps of officers followed his remains and those of the gallant De Veaux to the grave.

The Zouaves, I am happy to say,are daily increasing, and the certainty which exists in the minds of all classes here that the meeting of the Chambers in Florence will hurry on the catastrophe in which the Pontifical army must again be called into action, is acting as a spur to the recruitment in every country and to the movement in favour of the increase and armament of the Pontifical forces. The third battalion of’ Zouaves will be formed to-day under the conduct of Captain D’Albions, one of the oldest and most experienced officers in the regiment, and who previously served in the French army. The recruits at the depot were 1,100 yesterday, and among them are the Baron De Farelle, the Comte De Montmorin, Mr. Vavasour, of Hazelwood, Mr. Hansom, M. Henri de Riancey (son of the Catholic journalist), and an immense number of young men belonging to the first French and Belgian families. It is considered impossible that the status quo can be maintained in Italy. It is most uncertain whether the French will remain – if they do it will only be to make an end of the Italian kingdom, whose state is a perpetual menace to the cause of order in Europe; and it is more than probable that in such a case the Pope’s troops would be called on to reoccupy Umbria and the Marches. At all events, the Papal army must be rendered sufficiently strong to occupy the territory of the Pope as it stands at present, and this cannot be done save by the united action of Catholics in every country.

The points most important are the enrolment of volunteers and the purchase of the very beat arms of precision. The Meyer rifle, with an improvement firing eighteen shots per minute, has been accepted, and the funds are now being raised as fast as possible in France and Belgium. “Bis dat qui cito dat “  [he gives twice, who gives promptly,] was never so completely exemplified as in the present case. We cannot wait for arms, for the attack will be renewed in the spring, and breechloaders are essential. Had the Pontifical army been armed with them at Mentana, not a Garibaldian could have escaped. The Chassepot, too, far from the best rifle invented, did wonders in the hands of the French reserve ; but the Zouaves had only the Minie of 1856 and the bayonet to rely on, and what they did with them proves what they would have done had they been properly armed.

I enclose General Kanzler’s official report of the battle, from which you will see what a decisive action Mentana was.

The police of Florence are, it appears, in jubilation since Mentana. There are neither thefts nor murders in the city, which has been emptied of its dangerous elements since the battle. The Pope, who received the French officers in audience on Wednesday, told them that Italy, of all countries, ought to be grateful to them for having rid her of a revolution more dangerous to her than to any other.

It is uncertain what dispositions will be taken in regard of the Garibaldian prisoners, and the opinion that the French Government will charge itself with their deportation to Cayenne is that most in favour. It would be the most prudent, as, in spite of the kindness with, which they have been treated, the antecedents and characters of the greatest proportion are such as to forbid any hope of honour or gratitude, and they would return to their life of pillage and rapine at the first opportunity.

The above text was found on p.1, 23rd November 1867 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

An English response to the Battle of Mentana 1867

I find the tone in both of these quite extraordinary, but then at the time of the first article, the Church had been a temporal power for almost 1500 years.

The Roman Question.

” The King is not saved by much valour: and the giant will not be saved in the multitude of his power. Vain is the horse for safety?? : but in the abundance of his might he shall not be saved. Behold, the eyes of the Lord are on them that fear him; and on them who hope in his mercy. Psalm xxxii.”

Will you reproach us that, writing from Rome, and in these days, we note the song of the shepherd King? They were not clad in coats of mail, no pennon dangled on their lance, but those youths with the down of manhood hardly on their face wore as true crusaders as ever died in Palestine. They were as modest and as resolute as ever was David when Saul said to him, “Thou art not able to withstand this Philistine nor to fight against him, for thou art but a boy; but he is a warrior from his youth.” And who has wept the death of one of the Zouaves? A tear no doubt has stood in the brother’s eye: the sister and the mother will say he is gone before ; but those tears are the incense of love and not the pining of regret, If the coat of Nelson is preserved at Greenwich,and lights burn at the tomb of Wellington, will you blame us that we hold that plain grey uniform in honour; and if we do not place it in glass cases, that we reverence the names of those who wore it, and hold up our hands at the altar of Christ gladly on their behalf?

Will you tell us that his Church militant upon earth has no country and is a mere myth ? Here at least in Rome you cannot, for we kneel by the sepulchres of his prophets, and the voice of St. Paul answers, ” All who will live piously in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution: but evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse, erring and driving into error.”

Here you cannot, for the Church had no sooner celebrated the chains of St. Peter than she says Mass in honour of the martyrs of the Maccabees. They were Jews; but they were true to their God. Shall the Church, which has not forgotten them, forget to celebrate her champions now? St. Gregory, of Nanzianzum, says well, ” Though among many they are not held in honour that they did not undertake that contest after Christ, yet are they worthy to be honoured by all, because they showed themselves strong and constant for their country’s laws and institutions.”

To what else have the Romans now been true, and for what else defended their city?  ” And Judas and his brethren saw that evils were multiplied, and that the armies approached to their borders, and they knew the orders the king had given to destroy the people and utterly abolish them ; and they said every man to his neighbour. Let us raise up the low condition of our people, and let us fight for our people and our sanctuary.”   And now the Romans have done it, and you cannot deny that they had a right to do it.

But will you say that the Catholics of every nation who fought by their side were needy adventurers who had no right to be there ?  Yes, they were adventurers; adventurers in the fields of honour and of duty ; adventurers for religion on the walls of the chosen city. For Rome is the city of all Catholics ; there they have a right to their Father’s blessing, and how much more if they died defending him to his prayer for their souls. For these are no common rights, but immeasurably greater than the rights of nations ; and yet it was not until the law of nations was cast to the winds that Catholic Rome vindicated her honour in the courage of her sons.

But still will you say that the French had no right to come? Every man has a right to resist injustice; and it is only a question of prudence if he does not. Were the Catholics of the world to’ wait till Piedmont had done in Rome what. she has done in all her usurpations : stripped the altars, emptied the convents, melted the sacred vessels, cast venerable men into prison, driven out religious women to starve ? The ideas of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth have not yet reduced Romans to that. Why were Frenchmen to wait? You can give no reason except your own wish. And France was more bound to interfere, because by a mistaken policy she had let the mischief loose upon Italy, because no faith had been kept with her, and her honour was at stake. We say nothing of her traditions and her Catholic name.

God knows how much France has suffered. He knows how her faith will be revived. Do we not grieve, then ? Not for the dead, but for the living. They are at peace, and the torment of malice can reach them no more. But Europe is not at peace; and how can it be,? You will say that it is the princes who are to defend the Church if they think it worth defending. But the princes have not defended the Church, and the Church has a right to defend herself. Do you think that be-cause the Catholics of Europe are disunited, because they are peaceable, and weak to resist aggression, that you can ride over them as you please ? They have hearts and hands and swords. In your insane bigotry and injustice will you seek by diplomatic intrigue to do what by the sword you dare not do ? And if you think you could persuade men to please you by making the Sovereign Pontiff a puppet, will you not see on a larger scale what we have just seen on a smaller one ?

You will; for the Pontiff has rights which you do not understand, but which the Church throughout the world understands and cherishes. And if obedience is impaired it still exists, and the Catholic people will hear their pastor again if you compel him to say as he has said now, “Venerable brethren, by this race of abandoned men we are surrounded on every side.” For nothing that you can do will ever destroy the temporal power of the Church ; no art or menaces induce the Pope to remain in Rome in the condition to which you seek to reduce him. If, then, you are not prepared for war, it is your part first to set the example of peace. For it is your continual hounding on of the dogs of Piedmont which has brought about the present crisis. And if you think it pleasant to fiddle while Rome is burning, we do not; and Europe will not submit to your dictation. Lead civilised lives yourselves before you undertake to reform your neighbours.

And if you do not believe in the providence of God, which has given the Church a civil principality, remember that even in this world He seldom suffers flagrant violations of public right to go unpunished. Here in Rome, freed at least for the time from your machinations, we will pray for the conversion of your country, and that the Almighty will cease to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him.

AN ENGLISH PRIEST,

Rome, Octave of All Saints. [ which would have been the 9th November 1867]

The above text was found on p.7, 23rd November 1867 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

 

And then 100 years later in The Tablet, almost as strong a view

Papal Guards

The year 1967 is not quite so rich in.centenaries as 1966 was, but it has one outstanding one. It is the centenary of the last victory of the Church in arms, in the series which began with the Milvian Bridge, includes Lepanto and Vienna, and had added to, it in 1867 the victory over the Garibaldian invaders of papal Rome at Mentana. The thirty thousand Garibaldians who marched on Rome in three great bands in 1867, faced only by the twelve thousand defenders of the papacy, must have imagined that Rome was well within their grasp. If they suffered a check from the Catholic Zouaves at San Francesco in their opening moves, their overwhelming force brought them eventually to the bridges over the Teverone, a bare three miles from Rome, ten thousand strong against General Kanzler’s papal army of three thousand. This, though it included some of the Pope’s own Romans, counted as its best elements young men, and old men, drawn from every province in Christendom. Collingridge, the heroic young Londoner, and Peter Yong, the virile young Dutchman, who fell together at Monte Libretti; Bach the Bavarian, a leader of Ney’s quality: these were typical of those Catholic volunteers ” prepared, like Jacob, to wrestle with the angel “ in a far more literal sense than most of us. Alas that the final battle was not ornamented by the kilts of the regiment of Glasgow Highlanders that Scotland contributed to the cause! But these, as unpaid as the other volunteers, had less financial capital to keep their unit in being, and disappeared in the ranks of the papal forces, to live on soup and macaroni, deprived of the garb of Old Gaul.

The sudden appearance of Napoleon III’s French-men in support of the “papalisti” ended the Garibaldian hopes, as admirers of Lothair will remember, the new French breechloader ” doing marvels “ and causing that strange cessation in the battle remembered by one volunteer on the papal side. Then the Garibaldians surrendered or fled, and Julian Watts-Russell, little more than a boy, fell in the moment of victory, among his fellows of the papal Zouaves. The House of Savoy, which had eaten up Italy ” like an artichoke,” had to wait three years before Rome, the last leaf, was swallowed, apart from that undigestible morsel of the Vatican; and where is that ancient house today?

The above text was found on p.11, 7th January 1967 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .