Procession of Pope Pius IX

The Ohio Chapter

This work by Michelangelo Pacetti documents the historical event of Pope Pius IX “taking possession of Rome.” Pope Pius IX and his entourage are seen in procession as they traverse the Roman Forum to arrive near the Coliseum.

Among pontifical ceremonies, the “taking possession” is of particular importance. With this ceremony, the recently-elected pontiff, immediately following his solemn coronation Mass, takes “possession” of his episcopal seat in the pontifical cathedral of St. John Lateran, Mater et Caput of all the churches of the city and by extension of the world.

This ceremony, which still takes place today, has origins from the time of Pope Boniface VIII in 1295. Winding through the streets of Rome, the procession commenced with the exit of the Pope from the Vatican Palace on the Quirinale, heralded by a cannon shot fired from Castel Sant’Angelo. The procession reached the territory of the Capitol where the Pope, arriving at the top of the hill, received homage from the Senate of Rome. He then descended to the Roman Forum and continued around the Coliseum through the ancient triumphal arches of Titus and Constantine.

At the end of the Via Sacra, the procession then followed the Via Merulana, ending with the arrival at the Lateran and the entrance to the Basilica.

The procession marched in the following order: a picket of dragoons on horseback, a unit of carabinieri on horseback, two other groups of dragoons, a column of grenadiers, the equestrian lancers, the bussolanti on horseback, two lay manservants with swords and capes, and two Secret extra muros Manservants in red dress and hoods. They were followed by all the other Lay Manservants in black uniforms, by the secret manservants unit and the honor guard. The commander of the Swiss Guard rode on horseback, with armor, and the governor of Rome, in the dress of a prelate, on a horse with a violet-colored blanket was followed by the noble guard. Pope Pius IX blessed the people from the doors of the grand gala carriage.