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Pius IX
Papacy began 16 June 1846
Papacy ended 7 February 1878
Predecessor Gregory XVI
Successor Leo XIII
Personal details
Birth name Giovanni Maria
Born 13 May 1792(1792-05-13)
Senigallia, Papal States
Died 7 February 1878 (aged 85)
Apostolic Palace, Rome, Italy
Other Popes named Pius

The Blessed Pope Pius IX (13 May 1792 – 7 February 1878), born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was the longest reigning Pope in Church history, serving from 16 June 1846 until his death, a period of nearly 32 years. During his pontificate, he convened the First Vatican Council in 1869, which decreed Papal infallibility. The Pope defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, meaning that Mary was conceived without original sin and that she lived a life completely free of sin.


Politically, the pontificate after 1848 was faced with revolutionary movements not only in Italy but throughout Europe. Initially Pius was very liberal, freeing all political prisoners of his predecessor, and granting Rome a constitutional framework under guidance of his friend, philosopher-prince Antonio Rosmini-Serbati. He turned conservative after assassinations (e.g. of his Minister of the Interior, Pellegrino Rossi), terrorist acts, and the 1848 revolution in Italy, France and Germany. He had to flee Rome in 1848 for a short time and lost the Papal states permanently to Italy in 1870. He refused to accept a Law of Guarantees from Italy, which would have made the Vatican dependent on Italian financiers for years to come. His Church policies towards other countries, such as Russia, Germany and France, were not always successful, due in part, to changing secular institutions and internal developments within these countries. However, concordats were concluded with numerous states such as Austria-Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Tuscany, Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti.

Contemporary Catholic scholars generally agree that Pope Pius was a deeply revered and even beloved Pope by Catholics worldwide in his time.[1][2] However he was truly disliked, and even hated as well, by Masonic forces of his time, which may have contributed after 1848 to anti-Catholic persecutions and legislation in several countries.[3] Hostility towards him continues today in the evaluations by some Church historians[4] and journalists.[5] His appeal for public worldwide support — Peter's Pence — after he became "The prisoner of the Vatican" was sufficient to support the papacy for over a century to come. The money, still collected each year, is today used by the Pope for philanthropic purposes.[6] In his Syllabus of Errors, highly controversial at the time, Pius IX stood up against what he considered heresies of secular society, especially relativism.

He was a Marian Pope, who in his encyclical Ubi Primum defined in Mary as a Mediatrix of salvation. In 1854, he promulgated the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, articulating a long held Catholic belief that Mary, the Mother of God, was conceived without original sin. In 1862, he convened three-hundred bishops to the Vatican for the canonization of Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. His most important legacy is the First Vatican Council, which convened in 1869. It discussed a number of issues, defined the dogma of papal infallibility, but had to be interrupted indefinitely as anti-Catholic military forces moved on the Vatican. The council is considered to have contributed to a strengthening and centralization of the Catholic Church.[7] Pius IX, a most conservative pope is paradoxically considered the first modern pope, as the papacy grew in importance and relevance after the 1870 fall of the Papal States, a process, which began in the last years of his pontificate. He contributed to this development with his irreproachable lifestyle and clear teachings. Pius IX is considered the most beloved and popular pope of the 19th century.[8]

Pius IX, who suffered from epilepsy, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 3 September 2000. His Feast Day is 7 February.

Early life and ministry


An 1829 picture showing Mastai-Ferretti at his first Holy Mass

Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti was born in Senigallia into the noble family of Girolamo dei conti Ferretti, and was educated at the Piarist College in Volterra and in Rome. As a theology student in his hometown Sinigaglia he met in 1814 Pope Pius VII, who returned from French captivity. In 1815 he entered the Papal Noble Guard but was soon dismissed after an epileptic seizure. He threw himself at the feet of Pius VII who elevated him and supported his continued theological studies. The Pope originally insisted that another priest should assist Mastai during Holy Mass, a stipulation which was later rescinded, after the attacks became less frequent.[9] He was ordained in April 1819. He worked initially as the rector of the Tata Giovanni Institute in Rome. Shortly before his death, Pius VII sent him as Auditor to Chile and Peru in 1823 and 1825 to assist the Apostolic Nuncio, Monsignore Giovanni Muzi, in the first mission to post-revolutionary South America.[10] The mission had the objective to map out the role of the Catholic Church in the newly independent South American Republics. He was thus the first pope ever to have been in America. When he returned to Rome, the successor of Pius VII, Pope Leo XII appointed him head of the hospital of San Michele in Rome (1825–1827) and canon of Santa Maria in Via Lata.

Pope Leo XII appointed Father Mastai-Ferretti Archbishop of Spoleto, his own home-town in 1827, at the age of 35.[9] In 1831 the abortive revolution that had begun in Parma and Modena spread to Spoleto; the Archbishop obtained a general pardon after it was suppressed, gaining him a reputation for being liberal. During an earthquake, he made a reputation as an efficient organizer of relief and great charity.[9] The following year he was moved to the more prestigious diocese of Imola, was made a cardinal in pectore in 1839, and in 1840 was publicly announced as Cardinal Priest of Santi Marcellino e Pietro. As in Spoleto, his episcopal priorities were the formation of priests through improved education and charities. He became known for visiting prisoners in jail, and for programs for street children.[11] According to historians, Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti was considered a liberal during his episcopate in Spoleto and Imola because he supported administrative changes in the Papal States and sympathized with the nationalist movement in Italy.

Papal election


A ‎1846 picture of Cardinal Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti

The conclave of 1846, following the death of Pope Gregory XVI (1831–46), took place in an unsettled political climate within Italy. Because of this, many foreign Cardinals decided not to attend the conclave. At its start, only 46 out of 62 cardinals were present.

Moreover, the conclave of 1846 was steeped in a factional division between conservatives and liberals. The conservatives supported Cardinal Luigi Lambruschini, Gregory XVI's secretary of state. Liberals supported two candidates: Cardinal Pasquale Tommaso Gizzi and the 54 year-old Cardinal Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti.[12] During the first ballot, Mastai-Ferretti received 15 votes, the rest going to Cardinal Lambruschini and Cardinal Gizzi.

Faced with deadlock, liberals and moderates decided to cast their votes for Mastai-Ferretti—a move that was certainly contrary to the general mood throughout Europe. By the second day of the conclave, on 16 June 1846, during an evening ballot, Mastai-Ferretti was elected Pope. He was a glamorous candidate, ardent, emotional with a gift for friendship and a track-record of generosity even towards anti-Clericals and Carbonari. He was a patriot, known to be critical of Gregory XVI [12] Because it was night, no formal announcement was given, just the signal of white smoke. Many Catholics had assumed that Gizzi had been elected successor of St. Peter. In fact, celebrations began to take place in his home town, and his personal staff, following a long-standing tradition, burned his cardinalatial vestments.

On the following morning, the senior Cardinal-Deacon Tommaso Riario Sforza, announced the election of Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti before a crowd of faithful Catholics. When Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti appeared on the balcony, the mood became joyous. Mastai-Ferretti chose the name Pius IX in honor of Pope Pius VII (1800–23), who had encouraged his vocation to the priesthood despite his childhood epilepsy.

However, Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti, now Pope Pius IX, had little diplomatic and no curial experience, which did cause some controversy. In fact, the government of the Empire of Austria as represented by Prince Metternich in its foreign affairs objected to even the possible election of Cardinal Mastai-Ferretti. Thus, Cardinal Gaisruck, Archbishop of Milan, was sent to present the official veto of Mastai-Ferretti. However, Cardinal Gaisruck arrived too late; the new Pope was already elected. Pius IX was crowned on 21 June 1846. After the coronation mass, he received the insignia of Pontiff and King.[13] He chose Cardinal Gizzi as his Secretary of State.



Pope Pius IX

Styles of
{{{papal name}}}
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style Blessed

The election of the liberal Pius IX created much enthusiasm in Europe and elsewhere. Celebrations and ovations were offered in several countries. Although he was not really known and had done nothing on an administrative level before his election, and although there were no utterances from him, he was soon the most notorious and popular person in the world. English Protestants celebrated him as a friend of light and a reformer of Europe towards freedom and progress.[14] It was noted that he was elected without political influences from outside, in the best years of his life, pious, progressive, intellectual, decent, friendly, open to everybody.[15]

Daily schedule

His daily schedule was very frugal and almost monastic. After getting up at 5:30 AM every morning, he spent time in contemplation, followed by a Holy Mass which he celebrated and a Holy Mass which he attended. He received the Cardinal Secretary of State every morning, followed by other guests. He undertook walks in the Vatican gardens, at times taking along his visitors. At 2 PM, the Pontiff had lunch, after which he prayed the rosary or the breviary. After additional audiences at five, he had a small dinner at nine and went to bed at ten.[16]

Liberal reforms


St.Peter's Plaza before Pius IX added statues of Peter and Paul

‎As liberal Europe applauded his election, he introduced political reforms on a broad scale. He initiated the construction of railways, and the installation of street lighting throughout Rome. He improved agricultural technology and productivity via farmer education in newly created scientific agricultural institutes. He abolished the requirements for Jews to attend Christian services and sermons and opened the papal charities to the needy of them.[12] He gave much to charities, living like a pauper. The new pope freed all political prisoners by giving amnesty to revolutionaries, which horrified the conservative monarchies in Austria-Hungary and elsewhere[12] Within one year of his election, he appointed an assembly of lay people to assist in the governing of the Papal States. His actions were applauded by Protestant statesmen. He was celebrated in New York, London and Berlin as a model ruler.[12]


Pius IX was the last pope who was also a secular ruler as monarch of the Papal States. As sovereign-ruler of the Papal States, he ruled over 3,000,000 people and conducted diplomatic relations with other states, the most important of which was Italy, which in 1870 ended the independent Papal States and reduced the papacy to a spiritual force.



As a liberal and aware of the political pressures within the Papal States, his first act of a general amnesty for political prisoners did not consider its potential implications and consequences: The freed revolutionaries merely resumed their previous activities and his concessions only provoked greater demands as patriotic Italian groups sought not only a constitutional government, which he was sympathetic to, but also the Unification of Italy under his leadership and a war of liberation against Catholic Austria, which claimed the northern Italian provinces as its own.[17]

By early 1848, all of Western Europe began to be convulsed in various revolutionary movements. The Pope, claiming to be above national interests, refused to go to war with Austria, which totally reversed the up to now popular view of him in his native Italy.[17] In a calculated, well-prepared move, Rossi was assassinated on November 15, 1848, and in the days following, the Swiss Guards were disarmed, making the Pope a prisoner in his Quirinal.[18]

A Roman Republic was declared in February 1849. The Pope responded from his exile by excommunicating all active participants

The statue of Saint Peter was placed in the basilica by Pope Pius IX

He visited the hospitals to comfort the wounded and sick but he seemed to have lost both some of his liberal tastes and his confidence in the Romans, who had turned against him in 1848. Pius decided to move his residence from the Quirinal inside Rome to the Vatican, where popes lived ever since.[19] He reformed the governmental structure of the Papal States on 10 September 1850 and its finances on October 28 in the same year.


Inside of Saint Peter's around 1870 ‎

End of the Papal States

After defeating the papal army on 18 September 1860 at the battle of Castelfidardo, and on 30 September at Ancona, Victor Emmanuel took all the Papal territories except Latium with Rome.In 1866 he granted Pius IX the Law of Guarantees (13 May 1871) which gave the Pope the use of the Vatican but denied him sovereignty over this territory, nevertheless granting him the right to send and receive ambassadors and 3.25 million liras a year. Pius IX officially rejected this offer (encyclical Ubi nos, 15 May 1871), retaining his claim to all the conquered territory.


When Pius IX assumed the papacy in 1846, French Catholics were divided into a liberal fraction under Charles Forbes René de Montalembert and an conservative fraction under Louis Veuillot. They agreed on right to private schools, freedom of instruction, financial support by the State and a rejection of gallicanism.[20]


With Napoleon III's establishment of the Second Mexican Empire and Maximilian I of Mexico as its ruler in 1864, the Church was looking for some relief from a friendly government after the anti-Catholic actions of Benito Juarez. Juarez had recently suspended payment on foreign debt and seized Church property.

Pope Pius IX had blessed Maximilian and his wife Charlotte of Belgium before they set off for Mexico to begin their reign. But the friction between the Vatican and Mexico would continue with the new Emperor when Maximilian insisted on freedom of religion. Something the Vatican was opposed to. Relations with the Vatican would only be resumed when Maximilian sent a recently converted American Catholic priest Father Fischer to Rome.

But, contrary to Fischer's reports back to Maximilian, the negotiations did not go well and the Vatican would not budge.[21] Maximilian sent his wife Charlotte to Europe to plead against the withdrawal of French troops. After an unsuccessful attempt at negotiating with Napoleon III, Charlotte then turned to the Vatican to plead with Pope Pius IX in 1866. In their first meeting Charlotte whispered to the Holy Father that she was worried someone was trying to poison her. As the days passed Charlotte's mental state became overtly paranoid.

She sought refuge with the Pope himself, and on whom she barged in several times so as to eat and drink only the food that was prepared for him; fearful that everything else might be poisoned. The Pope though flabbergasted was very accommodating to her and even agreed to let her stay in the Vatican one night after she voiced anxiety about her safety. She and her assistant were the first women to stay the night inside the Vatican.[22]

England and Wales

England for centuries was labelled missionary country for the Catholic Church[23] Pius IX changed all that with the Bull Universalis Ecclesiae (29 September 1850). He recreated a Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales, under the newly appointed Archbishop and Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman with twelve additional Episcopal seats to start with. Southwark, Hexham, Beverly, Liverpool, Salford, Shrewsbury, Newport, Clifton, Plymouth, Nottingham, Birmingham and Northampton.[24] The Church had become extinct with the death of the last Marian bishop in the reign of Elizabeth I. Some violent street protests against the papal aggression resulted in a law passed by the parliament on 2 August 1851, which at penalty of imprisonment and fines forbade any Catholic bishop in England or Ireland to take the title of his See.[25] However the opposition was noise only and soon disappeared. The law stayed in the books but was not enacted.[26]


A similar pronouncement followed for the Netherlands in 1853 After the Dutch government had reinstituted religious freedom in 1848. In 1853, Pius created an archdioceses in Utrecht with four dioceses in Haarlem, Den Bosch, Breda and Roermond under it. As in England, this resulted in a popular outburst of anti-catholic feeling among liberals, which as in England, soon subsided.[27]


The traditionally Catholic Spain offered a challenge to Pius IX as anti-Catholic governments were in power since 1832, resulting in the expulsion of religious orders, the closing of convents, the closing of Catholic schools and libraries, the seizure and sale of churches and religious properties and the inability of the Church to occupy vacant bishop sees.[28] In 1851, Pius IX concluded a concordat with Queen Isabella II, which stipulated that unsold Church properties were to be returned, while the Church renounced properties which already had passed owners. This flexibility of the Pope was responded to by Spain with articles guaranteeing the freedom of the Church in religious educations in schools and seminaries.[28]

United States


Pius IX elevated John McCloskey as the first American to the College of Cardinals on March 15, 1875

Due to the famine in Ireland, a large influx of immigrants from that country came to the USA in the years 1845-1847. Together with German and Italian immigrants, the Catholic population increased from 4 per cent at the beginning of the pontificate of Pius IX to 11 per cent in the year 1870.[29] Some 700 priests existed in the US in 1846 compared to 6000 in the year 1878.[29] Pope Pius IX is credited with much of this positive development, because of his innovative foundations of new Church regions and the installation of excellent American bishops.[30]


Under Pius IX, the Church expanded in Canada with equal success as in the USA. He increased Canadian dioceses from four to twenty-one dioceses with 1340 churches and 1620 priests in 1874.[31] As in the USA, he supported regional councils and the erection of Catholic schools and health facilities, which were largely undertaken by female religious orders.[31]


Pius signed a number of concordats with Spain, Austria, Tuscany, Portugal, Haiti, Honduras, Ecuador, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the above described Russia.[29]



The Foro Romano around 1870 ‎

During the pontificate of Pius IX, the Catholic Church began to flourish and expand after the 1848 revolution resulted in additional religious freedoms in Protestant areas. The German lay people formed Pius Vereine and numerous other organizations loyal to the papacy and willing to put into practice Catholic teachings in everyday life.[32] The German bishops formed one of the first Catholic Bishop Conferences, which since 16 November 1848, met annually ever since.


The 1848 revolution had a mixed results on the Catholic Church in Austria-Hungary. It freed the Church from the heavy hand of the State in its internal affairs, which was applauded by Pius IX. Similar to other countries, Austria-Hungary had significant anti-Catholic political movements, mainly liberals, which forced the emperor Franz-Joseph I in 1870, to renounce the 1855 concordat with the Vatican. Austria already in 1866 had nullified several of its sections concerning the freedom of Catholic schools and education and civil marriages.[33] Pius IX after diplomatic approaches failed, responded with an encyclical on March 7, 1874, demanding religious freedom and freedom of education. despite of these developments, there was no equivalent to the German Kulturkampf in Austria, and Pius IX was able to create new Episcopal sees throughout Austria-Hungary.[34]


In Switzerland, the freedom of Catholics was curtailed after 1847. Jesuits and other religious were expelled on 20 July 1847. Several institutes of education of Religious were closed as well as monasteries and convents. The 1848 law guaranteed religious freedom but the establishment of new Catholic monasteries and convents was outlawed.[35] In some parts, it was illegal to read papal announcements, bishops and priests were to be elected by the local populations, Church properties were confiscated.[36] The protests of Pius IX did not have any effects on the Swiss authorities at the time.


The Pontificate of Pius IX began in 1847 with an Accomodamento”, a generous agreement, which allowed the Pope to fill vacant Episcopal Sees of the Latin rites both in Russia (Baltic countries) and the Polish provinces of Russia. The short-lived freedoms were undermined by jealousies of the rival Orthodox Church, Polish political aspirations in the occupied lands, which often used Church buildings as cover and vehicle, and the tendency of imperial Russia, to act most brutally against any dissension. Pope Pius IX, who faced his own problems with revolutionary movements in his Church State, first tried to position himself in the middle, strongly opposing revolutionary and violent opposition against the Russian authorities, and, appealing to them for more Church freedom. After the failure of the Polish uprising in 1863, Pope Pius IX sided with the persecuted Poles, loudly


A 1870 German drawing shows Pius IX as Papst und König, Pope and King

protesting their persecutions, infuriating the Tsarist government to the point that all Catholic episcopal seats were closed by 1870.[37] Pius loudly attacked the Tsar, without naming him for expatriating whole communities to Siberia, exiling priests, condemning them to labour camps, abolishing Catholic dioceses. He pointed to Siberian villages Tounka an Irkout, where in 1868, 150 Catholic priests were awaiting death.[38]

Sovereign of the Papal States

Pius IX was not only Pope, but until 1870 also the Sovereign Ruler of the Papal States. His rule was considered secular and as such he was occasionally accorded the title "king". However whether this was ever a title accepted by the Holy See is unclear. One of the most fervent contemporary critics of his infallibility dogma, Ignaz Döllinger, considered the political regime of the pope in the Papal States as wise, well-intentioned, mild-natured, frugal and open for innovations.[19] Yet there was controversy. In the period before the 1848 revolution, Pius IX was a most ardent reformer advised by such innovative thinkers as Rosmini who were able to reconcile the new 'free' thinking concerning man's human rights with the classical natural law tradition of the Church's dogma in political affairs and economic order, henceforth spoken of as her social justice teachings. After the revolution however, his political reforms and constitutional improvements were considered minimalist, remaining largely within the framework of the 1850 laws mentioned above[39] Indeed, the recently emancipated English Catholic aristocracy were fearful of losing their hard-fought and long-sought liberties. The Whig Lord Acton was aghast at the imprudence of declaring a new doctrine on papal infallibility during such unsettled times, coining his pithy aphorism "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" in an attempt to dissuade theologians from proceeding further down a now discredited, as he and many European political leaders saw it, path of absolutism.

Governmental structure

The governmental structure of the Papal States reflected the dual spiritual-secular character of the papacy at the time. The secular or lay persons were strongly in the majority with 6850 persons versus 300 members of the clergy. But the clergy occupied the key decision making positions and every job applicant had to present a character evaluation from his Parish priests in order to be considered.[40]


The financial administration in the Papal States under Pius IX were increasingly put in the hands of lay persons. The budget and financial administration in the Papal States had long been subject to criticism even before Pius IX, and did not end with his papacy. In 1850, he created a governmental finance congregation consisting of four lay persons with finance


A view of the pastoral setting in the centre of Rome showing the Coloseum and Foro Romano around 1870

background for the twenty provinces.

Commerce and trade


Pius IX is credited with systematic efforts to improve manufacturing and trade by giving advantages and papal prizes to domestic producers of wool, silk and other materials destined for export. He improved the transportation system by building roads, viaducts, bridges and sea ports. A series of new railway links connected the Papal States to northern Italy. It became soon visible, that the Northern Italians were more adapt to exploit economically the modern means of communication that the inhabitants in central and Southern Italy.[41]


The justice system of the Papal States was subject to numerous accusations at the time, not unlike the justice systems in the rest of Italy. There was a general lack of legal books and standards and accusations of partiality of the judges. Throughout Italy but also in the Papal States, mafia-type criminal bands threatened commerce and travellers in several regions, engaging in robbery and murder at will.[42]



Papal soldiers around 1860

A unique position was granted to the papal army, consisting almost exclusively of foreigners, since the Roman Black Nobility was not willing to serve, and the population resisted military service as well, despite a decent salary structure and the potential for promotion. A main, but not the only element, of the papal army was the Swiss Guard. The number of papal soldiers amounted to 15.000 in 1859.[43]


Liberals attacked Pius IX for his educational policies, which largely were a continuation of traditional Catholic education priorities with an accompanying neglect of the natural sciences on the primary and secondary level. Education was not mandatory in the Papal States, a fact which some attributed to the low educational standards in comparison to other countries. Secondary education was largely in private hands or in the control of Catholic institutes and Religious orders.



An hagiographic presentation of Pius IX from 1873

The two papal universities in Rome and Bologna suffered much from the revolutionary activities in 1848 but their standards in the areas of science, mathematics, philosophy and theology were considered adequate.[44] Pius recognized that much had to be done and instituted a reform commission in.[45]

Social life

There one newspaper Giornale di Roma and one periodical, Civilta Cattolica, run by Jesuits.[44] When Marcantonio Pacelli, the grandfather of Eugenio Pacelli, approached Pius regarding an official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano which actually printed what the Pope said and did the previous day, Pius turned him down. Pacelli published anyway, and Leo XIII bought it from him a few years later.



A 1870 view of the Lateran

Pius IX was a patron of the arts like most of his predecessors. The two theatres in Rome were popular in part because he exempted them from any papal censorship. He generously supported all expressions of art, architecture, painting,sculpture,music, goldsmiths, coppersmiths and more, and handed out numerous rewards to its representatives.[46] Much of his efforts were oriented to the Roman Churches but also in the Papal States, many of which were renovated and improved.

Restorations and discoveries

Great efforts were undertaken to restore historic walls, fountains, streets and bridges. He ordered the excavation of Roman sites, which led to several major discoveries. He ordered the strengthening of the Colosseum which was threatening to collapse at the time.[47] Huge sums were spent in the discovery of Christian catacombs, for which Pius created a new archaeological commission in 1853.

Protestants and Jews

The Papal States were a theocracy in which the Catholic Church and Catholics had more rights than members of other religions. Pius IX's policies changed over time: At the beginning of his pontificate, together with other liberal measures, Pius opened the Jewish ghetto in Rome. After returning from exile in 1850, during which the Roman Republic issued sharp anti-Church measures,[48] the Pope issued a series of anti-liberal measures, including re-instituting the Ghetto.[49]

In 1858, in a highly publicized case, a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, was taken from his parents by the police of the Papal States. He had reportedly been baptized by a Christian servant girl of the family while he was ill, because she feared that otherwise he would go to Hell if he died. At that time, the law did not permit Christians to be raised by Jews, even their own parents.

Governing the Church


Cardinal Secretary of State Antonelli


The end of the Papal States was an important but not the only important event in the long pontificate of Pius IX. His leadership of the Church contributed to an ever-increasing centralization with Rome and the papacy as the centre of the Catholic Church. While his political views and policies were hotly debated, his personal life style was above any criticism, he was considered to be a model of simplicity and poverty in his every day affairs.[50] More than his predecessors, Pius IX uses the papal pulpit to address himself to the bishops of the world. In 1862, some 300 bishops followed his invitation for the canonization of 26 martyrs of Japan.[50] The papacy as a spiritual force was clearly stronger in 1878, when Pius IX died. His reforms and the first Vatican Council, which he convened were considered milestones not only in his pontificate but also for Church history.[7]

Church rights

The Church policies of Pius IX were dominated with a defence of the rights of the Church and the free exercise of religion in countries like Russia and the Ottoman Empire, and, an attack against what he perceived to be anti-Catholic philosophies and actual infringements in countries like Italy, Germany and France.


He celebrated several jubilees such as the 300th anniversary of the Council of Trent, and his own Golden Jubilee in 1868. A big event was the 1800th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Apostle Peter and Apostle Paul on June 29, 1867, which he celebrated with 512 bishops, 20 000 priests and 140 000 lay persons in Rome[51] already a prisoner in the Vatican, a large gathering was organized in 1871, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his papacy. The Italian government, intervening in Church affairs, had outlawed in 1870 a number of popular pilgrimages. The faithful of Bologna organized a nationwide spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Father and the tombs of the apostles in Rome, which became a smashing success in 1873.[52] For 1875, Pius IX declared a Holy Year which was celebrated throughout the Catholic world. At the 50th anniversary of his Episcopal consecration, people from all parts of the world came to see the old pontiff from 30 April 1877 to 15 June 1877. The Pope was a bit shy on himself, but he valued initiative within the Church and created several new titles, rewards and orders to elevate those, who in his view deserved merit for their Church engagement.[53]



The Lateran Basilica

Pius IX created 122 new Cardinals — the limit of the College of Cardinals was seventy — of which 64 were alive at his death. Noteworthy elevations included Vincenzo Pecci, his eventual successor Leo XIII, Nicholas Wiseman of Westminster, Henry Edward Manning and John McCloskey, the first American ever to be elevated into the College of Cardinals.[29]


Pius was aware and convinced about his role as the highest teaching authority in the Church.[54] He promoted the foundations of Catholic Universities in Belgium and France and supported Catholic associations with the intellectual aim to explain the faith to non-believers and non-Catholics. The Ambrosian Circle in Italy , the Union of Catholic Workers in France and the Pius Verein and the Deutsche Katholische Gesellschaft inGermany all tried to bring the Catholic faith in its fullness to people outside of the Church.[55]


Pope Pius IX was deeply religious and shared a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary with many of his contemporaries, who made major contributions to Roman Catholic Mariology. Marian doctrines featured prominently in 19th century theology, especially the issue of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. During his pontificate petitions increased requesting the dogmatization of the Immaculate Conception. In 1848 Pius appointed a theological commission to analyze the possibility for a Marian dogma.[56]

Thirty-eight Encyclicals

In a record 38 encyclicals he took position on Church issues. They include: Qui Pluribus (1846) dealt with faith and religion; Praedecessores Nostros (1847) with aid for Ireland; Ubi Primum 1848 with The Immaculate Conception; Nostis Et Nobiscum 1849 with the Church in the Papal States; Neminem Vestrum 1854 with the bloody the Persecution of Armenian; Cum Nuper 1858 with the care for Clerics; Amantissimus 1862 with the Care of the Churches; Meridionali Americae 1865 with the Seminary for the Native Clergy; Omnem Sollicitudinem 1874 |about the Greek-Ruthenian Rite; Quod Nunquam 1875 the Church in Prussia. On 7 February 1862 he issued the papal constitution Ad Universalis Ecclesiae, dealing with the conditions for admission to religious orders of men in which solemn vows are prescribed. Unlike popes in the 20th century, Pius IX did not use encyclicals to explain the faith in its details, but to show problem areas and errors in the Church and in various countries.[57]

First Vatican Council

The First Vatican Council presided by Pius IX

Pius IX was the first pope to popularize encyclicals on a large scale to foster his views. He decisively acted on the century-old struggle between Dominicans and Franciscans regarding the Immaculate Conception of Mary, deciding in favour of the latter ones.[58] However, this decision, which he formulated as an infallible dogma, raised the question, can a Pope in fact make such decisions without the bishops? This foreshadowed one topic of the Vatican Council which he later convened for 1869.[59] The Pope did consult the bishops beforehand with his encyclical Ubi Primum (see below), but insisted on having this issue clarified nevertheless. The Council was to deal with Papal Infallibility not on its own but as an integral part of its consideration of the definition of the Catholic Church and the role of the bishops in it.[59] As it turned out, this was not possible because of the imminent attack by Italy against the Papal States, which forced a premature suspension of the First Vatican Council. Thus the major achievements of Pius IX are his Mariology and Vatican I.[59]

Renewal and reforms


Council Fathers of Vatican One‎

Contrary to stiff ultra-conservative sterility, which some attempted to associate with Pius IX, an extraordinary renewal of Catholic vigour and religious life took place during his pontificate: The entire episcopate was reappointed, and religious orders and congregations experienced a growth and vitality, which was not anticipated by anyone at the beginning of his papacy in 1846.[60] Existing orders had numerous applications and expanded, sending many of their “excess” vocation to missionary activities in Africa and Asia. Pius IX approved 74 new ones for women alone.[60] In France, where the Church was devastated after the French Revolution, there were 160.000 Religious when Pius IX died in 1878, in addition to the regular priests, working in the parishes. Pius created over 200 news bishop seats, oversaw an unprecedented growth of the Church in the USA and created new hierarchies in several countries.[60]

Last years and death


Pius IX in 1877

Pius IX lived long enough to witness the death of his old adversary, Victor Emmanuel II of Italy in January 1878. As soon as he learned about the seriousness of the situation of the king, he absolved him of all excommunications and other ecclesiastical punishments. Pius IX died one month later on 7 February 1878 at 5.40 PM, of epilepsy which led to a seizure and a sudden heart attack, while praying the rosary with his staff.[61]

Since 1868, the Pope was plagued first by facial erysipelas and then by open sores on his legs.[62] Nevertheless, he insisted on celebrating his daily mass and made fun of himself because of his slow movements. The extraordinary heat of the summer of 1877 worsened the sores to the effect that he had to be carried. He underwent several painful medical procedures, which he undertook with great stoicism. He spent most of his last few weeks in his library, where he received cardinals and held audiences.[63] On 8 December the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which he had dogmatized in 1854, his situation improved markedly to the point that he could walk again. By February he could say mass again on his own in standing position, enjoying the popular celebration of the 75th anniversary of his first communion throughout Rome. He joked that Pope Pius IX borrowed the legs from Signore Mastai. Bronchitis, a fall to the floor, and rising temperature worsened his situation after 4 February 1878. He continued joking about himself, when the Cardinal Vicar of Rome ordered bell-ringing and non-stop prayers for his recuperation. Why do you want to stop me from going to heaven?, he asked with a smile. But he told his doctor, that his time had come.[64] Pope Pius IX died on 7 February 1878 aged eighty-five, concluding the longest pontificate in papal history. His last words were "Guard the church I loved so well and sacredly" as recorded by the Cardinals kneeling beside his bedside. His body was originally buried in St. Peter's grotto, but was moved in a night procession on 13 July 1881 to the Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls. The event was disrupted when a mob of Italian nationalists tried to seize the body and throw it into the Tiber River. When his tomb was opened in 2000 to verify his remains in the Rite of Recognition, an important step in the process of beatification, his body was found to be perfectly preserved.


Card. Pecci (Leo XIII) certifies the death of Pope Pius IX

The process for his beatification, which in the early parts was strongly opposed by the Italian government, was begun on February 11, 1907, and recommenced three times. The Italian government had since 1878 strongly opposed any beatification of Pius IX in the past. Pascalina Lehnert reports that Pope Pius XII restarted the beatification process in the 1950s. For this occasion, the body of Pius IX was exhumed and found to be in perfect condition. Pius IX was dressed with the papal clothing of his successor.[65] This time, without any Italian opposition, Pope John Paul II declared him venerable on 6 July 1985, and beatified him on 3 September 2000 (his Feast Day is 7 February). This latter ceremony also included the beatification of Pope John XXIII (1958–63).

The beatification of both popes was a subject of controversy in light of some of their policies. On the other hand, there is a wealth of information on his personal piety, holiness and generosity.[66]


Tomb of Blessed Pius IX

Pius IX celebrated his silver jubilee in 1871, going on to have the longest reign in the history of the post-apostolic papacy, 31 years, 7 months and 23 days. As he lost temporal sovereignty, the Roman Catholic Church rallied around him, the papacy became more centralized, to which his personal life-style of simplicity and poverty is considered to have contributed.[67] From this point on, the papacy became and continues to become more and more a spiritual, and less a temporal, authority. Pius IX's pontificate marks the beginning of the modern papacy.

After starting out as a liberal, Pius IX turned conservative after being thrown out of Rome. Thereafter, he was considered politically conservative, but a restless and radical reformer and innovator of Church life and structures. Church life, religious vocations, new foundations and religious enthousiasm all flourished at the end of his pontificate.[60][68] Politically, his pontificate ended with the isolation of the papacy from most major powers of the world: "The prisoner of the Vatican" had poor relations with Russia, Germany, and the United States, poor relations with France and open hostility with Italy. Yet he was most popular with the faithful in all these countries, in many of which Pope Pius associations were formed in his support. He made lasting Church history with his 1854 infallible decision of the Immaculate Conception, which was the basis for the later dogma on the Assumption. His other lasting contribution is the invocation of the ecumenical council Vatican One, which promulgated the definition of Papal infallibility.

The Prophecy of the Popes, attributed to Saint Malachy, is a list of 112 short phrases in Latin. They purport to describe each of the Roman Catholic popes. It describes Pius IX as Crux de Cruce, Cross of the cross.

Plans to leave Rome

Several times during his pontificate, Pius IX considered leaving Rome. One occurrence was in 1862, when Giuseppe Garibaldi was in Sicily gathering volunteers for a campaign to take Rome under the slogan Roma o Morte (Rome or Death). On 26 July 1862, before Garibaldi and his volunteers were stopped at Aspromonte:

Pius IX confided his fears to Lord Odo Russell, the British Minister in Rome, and asked whether he would be granted political asylum in England after the Italian troops had marched in. Odo Russell assured him that he would be granted asylum if the need arose, but said that he was sure that the Pope's fears were unfounded.[69]

Two other instances occurred after the Capture of Rome and the suspension of the First Vatican Council. These were confided by Otto von Bismarck to Moritz Busch:

As a matter of fact, he [Pius IX] has already asked whether we could grant him asylum. I have no objection to it--Cologne or Fulda. It would be passing strange, but after all not so inexplicable, and it would be very useful to us to be recognised by Catholics as what we really are, that is to say, the sole power now existing that is capable of protecting the head of their Church. [...] But the King [William I] will not consent. He is terribly afraid. He thinks all Prussia would be perverted and he himself would be obliged to become a Catholic. I told him, however, that if the Pope begged for asylum he could not refuse it. He would have to grant it as ruler of ten million Catholic subjects who would desire to see the head of their Church protected.[70]

Rumours have already been circulated on various occasions to the effect that the Pope intends to leave Rome. According to the latest of these the Council, which was adjourned in the summer, will be reopened at another place, some persons mentioning Malta and others Trient. [... ] Doubtless the main object of this gathering will be to elicit from the assembled fathers a strong declaration in favour of the necessity of the Temporal Power. Obviously a secondary object of this Parliament of Bishops, convoked away from Rome, would be to demonstrate to Europe that the Vatican does not enjoy the necessary liberty, although the Act of Guarantee proves that the Italian Government, in its desire for reconciliation and its readiness to meet the wishes of the Curia, has actually done everything that lies in its power.[71]

Photos of Pope Pius IX

The art of photography developed during Pius IX's pontificate, and he was the first pope to be photographed, mainly in his later years.

Some contemporaries of Pius IX like Cardinal Giuseppe Pecci considered photography to be inferior to painting and refused to be photographed. Pius was open to the new form of art.


  • In two nights after his 1846 pardon freeing all political prisoners, thousands of Romans with torches roamed to the Quirinal Palace, where Pius IX lived, celebrating the pope with Evviva’s, speeches and music through both nights. The Pope went several times to the balcony to give his blessing. On the third day, when his horse-drawn carriage left the Palace to move to the Vatican, Romans disconnected the horses and pulled the papal carriage on their own[72]
  • On 16 November 1848, an excited mob of revolutionaries moved to the Quirinal and the Parliament, to present to the Pope their demands, especially war against Austria. The Pope reportedly replied, his dignity as Head of state and of the Church does not permit him to fulfil conditions of rebels. Following this the Quirinal was covered by cannon fire, which caused several deaths. After that, in order to save lives, the Pope agreed to a list of proposed ministers, although stating that he himself would abstain from any cooperation with them.[73]
  • After the French troops, which protected the Papal States left Rome, an Italian army with 60 000 men approached the Eternal City, which was defended by only 10 000 papal soldiers. The Pope instructed his soldiers to give only token resistance and to enter into an armistice after the first defeat because the Deputy of Christ does not shed blood. When the old Porta Pia was bombarded, opening a huge hole for the invaders, the Pope asked the white flag to be shown. It was his last act as King of the Papal States.[74] The very last papal shot at the Porta Pia was fired by an Jesuit Austrian alumnus of the Stella Matutina (Jesuit School)[75]
  • Pius IX was lampooned by reference to the Italian version of his name (Pio Nono), as Pio No No.
  • His occasional mood changes and emotional outbursts have been interpreted as symptoms of his epilepsy.[76][77]
  • One enduring popular touch lies in Pius IX's artistic legacy as author of the Italian-language lyrics of Italy's best known indigenous Christmas carol, Tu scendi dalle stelle ("From starry skies descended"), originally a Neapolitan language song written by Saint Alphonsus Liguori.
  • During his stay at the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, on 8 September 1849, Pope Pius IX had the experience of a train trip from Portici to Pagani, so he became enthusiastic about this modern invention. When he went back to his seat in Rome, he promoted the growth of a railroad network, starting in 1856 with the Rome and Frascati Rail Road. By 1870 the total length of railway lines built in the Papal States was 317 km. He also introduced gas lighting and the telegraph to the Papal States.
  • To commemorate his term as pope, there is a street in Montreal called Pie-IX (Pie-Neuf), French for Pius IX. There is also a stop on the Montreal Metro system called Pie-IX serving the street, located at the foot of the Olympic stadium. Also, there are streets in Santiago, Chile and Macon, Georgia (U.S. state) called Pío Nono, Spanish for Pius IX and a secondary school with the same name (Pio IX) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Pope Pius IX died aged 85 on 7 February 1878 after a pontificate of thirty-two years. It was his last wish, to be buried not in the Vatican but in the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, his casket to be ornated with a simple cross which was not to cost more than 400 Scudi. At the request of Italian authorities, the funeral took place three years later in the middle of the night. On 12-13 July 1881. It was accompanied by the clergy and Roman society. The houses along the streets were illuminated with torches, and people threw flowers from the window on the horse-drawn carriage. A gang of anti-Catholic leftists screaming, Long live Italy! Death to the Pope! Death to the Priests! tried to steal the body of the pope and throw it into the Tiber river.[78] The simple grave of Pius IX was changed by his successor[79] after his beatification.


This page uses content from the English Wikisource. The original article was at Pope Pius IX. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Religion wiki, the text of Wikisource is available under the CC-BY-SA.
  • Acta et decreta Pii IX, Pontificis Maximi, VolI-VII, Romae 1854 ff
  • Acta et decreta Leonis XIII, P.M. Vol I-XXII, Romae, 1881, ff
  • Actae Sanctae Sedis, (ASS), Romae, Vaticano 1865
  • Barwig, Regis N. (1978). More Than a Prophet: Day By Day With Pius IX. Altadena: Benziger Sisters. 
  • L. Boudou, Le S. Siege et la Russie, Paris, 1890
  • De Cesare, Raffaele (1909). The Last Days of Papal Rome. London: Archibald Constable & Co. 
  • Duffy, Eamon, Saints and Sinners, a History of the Popes Yale University Press, 1997
  • Franzen, August, Papstgeschichte, Herder, Freiburg, 1988 (cit.Franzen)
  • Franzen, August, Kleine Kirchengeschichte Herder, Freiburg, 1991 (cit.Franzen, Kirchengeschichte)
  • Hasler, August Bernhard (1981). How the Pope Became Infallible: Pius IX and the Politics of Persuasion. Doubleday. 
  • Hasler, August Bernhard (1979). Wie der Papst unfelhlbar wurde: Macht und Ohnmacht eines Dogmas. R. Piper & Co. Verlag. 
  • Kertzer, David I. (2004). Prisoner of the Vatican: The Popes' Secret Plot to Capture Rome from the New Italian State. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-618-22442-4. 
  • Martina, S.J. Pio IX (1846-1850) Roma: Editrice Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, Vol I-III, 1974-1991
  • Rapport, Mike, 1848,Little & Brown, 2008
  • Pougeois, Histoire de Pie IX, son pontificat et son siecle, Vol I-VI, Paris, 1877
  • Schmidlin, Josef, Papstgeschichte, Vol I-IV, Köstel-Pusztet München, 1922-1939
  • John Gilmary Shea, The Life of Pope Pius IX, New York, 1877
  • Sylvain, Histoire de Pie IX le Grand et de son pontificat, Vol I,II, Paris, 1878


  1. John Gilmary, The Life of Pope Pius IX, Thomas Kelly, New York, 1877 pp 3,9-13, 302,
  2. Anton De Waal, Benedict XV,Hamm, 1915, p 19
  3. Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Italy, Gilmary, 379-424
  4. Eamon Duffy, 222-235
  5. Van Biema, David "Not So Saintly?" TIME magazine, August 27, 2000
  7. 7.0 7.1 Franzen 363
  8. Franzen 367
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Schmidlin 8
  10. El Papado y la Iglesia naciente en América Latina (1808-1825) -
  11. Schmidlin 10
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Duffy 222
  13. Shea 66
  14. Pougeous I, 215
  15. Schmidlin 23
  16. Schmidlin 23-24
  17. 17.0 17.1 Duffy 223
  18. Schmidlin 35
  19. 19.0 19.1 Schmidlin 45
  20. Schmidlin 120-121
  21. The Cactus Throne; the Tragedy of Maximilian and Carlotta
  22. Prince Michael (2002). The Empress of Farewells. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 9780871138361. 
  23. Franzen. 363
  24. Shea 195
  25. Shea 196
  26. Shea 197
  27. Shea 205-206
  28. 28.0 28.1 Shea 204
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 Franzen 364
  30. Schmidlin 207
  31. 31.0 31.1 Schmidlin 212
  32. Franzen 365
  33. Franzen 362
  34. Schmidlin 141-143
  35. Schmidlin 190
  36. Schmidlin 190-193
  37. Shea 274 ff.
  38. Shea 277
  39. Schmidlin 47
  40. Stehle 47
  41. Schmidlin 52
  42. Schmidlin 49
  43. Schmidlin 50
  44. 44.0 44.1 Schmidlin 53
  45. 1851
  46. Schmidlin 55
  47. Schmidlin 61
  48. Pougeois II, p. 429.
  49. Pougeois III,258
  50. 50.0 50.1 Franzen 357
  51. Schmidlin 294
  52. Schmidlin 297
  53. Schmidlin 299
  54. Schmidlin 313
  55. Schmidlin 313-315
  56. Bäumer 245
  57. Italy, Switzerland, Prussia and others
  58. Franzen, 340
  59. 59.0 59.1 59.2 Franzen 340
  60. 60.0 60.1 60.2 60.3 Duffy 234
  61. Schmidlin 100-102
  62. see Martina III, and (German)
  63. Schmidlin 101
  64. Schmidlin 102
  65. Pascalina Lehnert, Ich durfte ihm dienen, Würzburg, 1988, 163
  66. Pougeois, Histoire de Pie IX, son pontificat et son siecle, Vol I-VI, Paris, 1877, and, Sylvain, Histoire de Pie IX le Grand et de son pontificat, Vol I,II, Paris, 1878
  67. Franzen Kirchengeschichte 336 ff
  68. Schmidlin pp292 ff
  69. [Jasper Ridley, "Garibaldi," Viking Press, New York (1976) p. 535
  70. Moritz Busch Bismarck: Some secret pages of his history, Vol. I, Macmillan (1898) p. 220, entry for 8 November 1870
  71. Moritz Busch Bismarck: Some secret pages of his history, Vol. II, Macmillan (1898) pp.43-44, entry for 3 March 1872
  72. Schmidlin 26
  73. Schmidlin 29ff
  74. Schmidlin 89.
  75. Josef Knünz SJ 100 Jahre Stella Matutina 1856-1956 J.N.Teutsch, Bregenz 1956;
  76. Pope Pious IX, epilepsy. Famous people who suffered from epilepsy. Pious IX
  77. Rita Watson, MPH, Joseph I. Sirven, MD, Talks About the Epilepsy of Pope Pius IX.
  78. Schmidlin 103-104
  79. John Paul II

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Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Mario Ancaiani
Archbishop of Spoleto
1827 – 1832
Succeeded by
Ignazio Giovanni Cadolino
Preceded by
Giacomo Giustiniani
Bishop of Imola
1832 – 1846
Succeeded by
Gaetano Baluffi
Preceded by
Gregory XVI
1846 – 1878
Succeeded by
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