Littell's Living Age/Volume 131/Issue 1688/The Pope's Daily Life

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From The Westminster Gazette.


Pius IX., writes a distinguished correspondent to a French paper, like the greater number of his ecclesiastics, is an early riser. At an hour when all in Rome are asleep, lights are already seen behind the high windows of the Vatican. It is half-past five. The pope's bedroom door suddenly opens, and his Holiness appears. "Buon giorno," says the pope in a clear, distinct voice to his aged valet-de-chambre, Signor Zangolini, who is dressed in a violet-colored robe, and who occupies his leisure moments in disposing of unheard-of quantities of snuff. Signor Zangolini then enters the pope's room, shaves him, dresses him, and then leaves him in his privacy till seven o'clock. At seven o'clock the pope repairs to his chapel, where he celebrates and also hears mass. It is at this morning mass where he administers the sacrament to foreigners of distinction visiting Rome. It is considered a very high honor to receive the sacrament from the hands of his Holiness; but in order to partake of this privilege one must be up and stirring by five in the morning. Every person must he present at the celebration of the two masses—domestics, Swiss Guards, Palatine Guards, etc. Service being concluded, Pius IX. passes into the refectory, where already smoking on the table stands a tureen of soup, in which are seen floating the fine patés of Genoa. The pope qualifies the soup with a glass of Orvieto wine, eats four or five moistened biscuits; and now it is almost nine o'clock, he passes into his business room. He is seated at his table—before him are the crucifix and the image of the Holy Virgin. Cardinal Antonelli, exhausted and shattered by his long illness, but in whose eyes that singular brightness cannot be quenched, seats himself opposite his sovereign. He wears the court dress of the Vatican, a soutane, a black, tight-fitting, robe, fringed with red, with small red buttons, and a red silk cloak. The cardinal discusses with his Holiness grave questions of State policy, exhibits to him the despatches that have arrived the previous evening, and takes his departure. The functionary who is next ushered into the pope's business-room is a layman, Signor Giacomo Spagna, prefect of the Apostolic Palace, whose function among others consists in the management of the sums derived from St. Peter's penny. These funds amount yearly to twenty million francs. A portion is absorbed by the numerous attendants, guards, servitors, gendarmes, who live in the Vatican, by pensions and the expenses of nuncios at foreign courts. The rest is capitalized, and it is said that, the day will soon come when the Vatican will possess a revenue equal to the sum which the Italian government places at its disposal—three million francs—but which the pope has hitherto refused to accept.

Then comes the hour of the arrival of the post. Pius IX. opens some letters, then hastily makes himself acquainted with the contents of the newspapers. The hour for reception sounds, the solemn time when the pope grants audience. The hall of the Countess Mathilda is filled with ladies, mostly foreign, in the strict attire required at the Vatican—a black silk dress, the head covered with a black veil, and no jewellery. Gentlemen must be in strict evening costumes, with a white cravat. A noise is heard of the tramp of armed men. The Swiss Guards line the hall; then enters a long array of prelates and other dignitaries of the Church—last of all the pope. These audiences are often marked by touching incidents. The audience is over. It is now twelve o'clock. The pope walks in his garden accompanied by five or six cardinals and other familiars of the palace. It is during this promenade that the pope hears all that takes place in the city. Nothing of the least importance is concealed from him. He is made aware of all the doings and sayings of the inhabitants. Two hours are thus passed. He is then reconducted to his private apartments, and the cardinals and others take their leave. Dinner is served. Do you wish to know what it consists of? There is seldom any change, and I will take upon myself to inform you. The repast, which is invariably the same except on fasting days, consists of soup, something boiled, a side dish, and some vegetables. Ordinarily the pope contents himself with soup, some vegetables, and some fruit, without touching the remainder. Pius IX. dines alone, and with the appetite of a man whose life is well regulated. Dinner over, it is time for the siesta. This lasts about an hour. Towards four o'clock the pope goes to the library, accompanied by his particular friends. Amongst these, since the death of Duke Massimo, who was never absent from the pope, the most important is the archæologist Visconti, not less famous for his wit and repartee than for his learned illustrations of the ancient monuments. On his way to the library the pope blesses the mountains of rosaries, chaplets, crosses, and scapularies which every day are sent from Rome to the five parts of the globe. Those accompanying the pope to the library do their utmost to divert and interest their master, who is always of an easy, accommodating temper. The pope enjoys an epigram, especially if it is neatly turned in verse, and he is not the last to add the spur of his wit to those satirical hits launched at the head of those oppressors, the Piedmontese, and other barbarians. When he has dismissed his attendants the pope returns again to work. He occupies himself now with religious affairs, with the secretaries of the Congregation of Briefs. The day at last comes to an end. It is now eight o'clock; the hour for supper has come. His supper is like that of an anchorite—a little bouillon, a couple of boiled potatoes, water, and a little fruit. The pope, however, does not yet go to bed. He is closeted with a prelate in his private library. If he has a discourse to deliver—an occupation to which he devotes himself very willingly, for the pope is an excellent orator—he causes the gospel of the day to be read to him, and picks out the passage which is to be the subject of his text, and immediately improvises an allocution, the groundwork of the discourses to be delivered. If he has nothing particular on hand, the prelate who is with him seeks a book in the library and begins to read. The Holy Father soon discovers that sleep is gathering on him. The prelate stops reading, and kneels. "Holy father, your benediction." The pope lifts his hand, pronounces the benediction. It is now ten o'clock. A quarter of an hour later, with the exception of those prelates who have vigils to perform, all are asleep in the Vatican. In the corridors no one is to be seen but the Swiss Guard, habited in his mediæval costume, and a Remington rifle on his shoulder. Outside the wind whistles through the immense porticos of the square of St. Peter, and the cold night wind flutters the green plumes in the hat of the Bersaglieri sentry watching from afar the entrance to the Vatican.