The Pope's Noble Guards, on Duty in a Beautiful Loggia
( Originally Published 1907 )
A loggia in Italy is a balcony under the main roof of a building. In the present instance the loggia has long been enclosed with glass so as to give it the character of an apartment or corridor rather than of a balcony. The Noble Guards on duty have assembled here to await the next call for service, and consequently we have a fine opportunity to study them at close view. Their uniform is simple but effective—trousers of dark blue, black coats with gold epaulets, helmets of steel with crests of gold, and a band of gold across the breast with three letters on the band indicating their title in Italian: The Noble Guard of the Pope. As we can see, they are picked men, of fine stature and distinguished bearing. As a matter of fact they are the sons of the old nobility, who jealously guard for their descendants the privilege of this service. In ancient times they numbered a whole regiment, constituting a royal guard, and had precedence in all royal and military gatherings. At present they number between sixty and seventy. They no longer live in the Vatican, or in barracks, but at home, receiving no salary, but serving simply for the honor. The Pope has had no army since the Italians took possession of Rome on the 20th of September, 187o, and deprived him of all temporal power.
That was the concluding act of a movement for the unification of Italy. It might well have been omitted. Italy had secured its unification without disturbing the papal territory, and there was tremendous discussion at the time among the diplomats of the world as to the propriety of absorbing the States of the Church. Napoleon III upheld the Pope, but the Radical and Anarchistic wings of the Italian movement, desiring the gradual and sure extinction of all religion, insisted on the occupation of Rome. King Victor Immanuel was therefore forced, when Napoleon III withdrew his troops from Rome for service in the Franco-Prussian war, to enter Rome. The Pope retired to the Vatican territory, and the King took possession of the city, and as already stated lives now in the palace of the Quirinal. The Italian Parliament decreed the sovereignty of the Vatican, provided an annual payment of $100,000 for the Pope as some return for his confiscated territory, and treated him as a monarch. The Pope declined the money, and declared himself a prisoner in the Vatican, a position which he has since held. For over thirty years the two powers have held this hostile attitude, with great detriment to the religious condition of Italy. A great part of the Church property was seized by the Italian government; pious foundations were confiscated and their funds devoted to State purposes, dioceses were left without bishops, and great confusion prevailed. In the last few Years, however, there has been a softening of the old rancors. The progress of the Radical and Anarchistic groups in Italy became at one time so great that the Monarchists were somewhat at their mercy. To offset this condition, which promised evil for the kingdom, the supporters of the Pope, who had always abstained from voting, from office holding and from political life generally, entered the field against the Reds and supported the King at the polls with fine results in behalf of conservatism.
Observe the beauty of this loggia with its polished colored: marbles, the work of famous artists and skilled artisans. The colonnade and the Piazza of San Pietro are only a few hundred feet away straight ahead beyond several palace rooms. Sturdy and ancient as these buildings are, time has been busy with them. Recently it was discovered that this loggia, rising over the Court of San Damaso, showed signs of sagging, and instant repairs had to be made. The expense of keeping these buildings in good condition is enormous.
Our next position will be in the apartment of Monsignore Bisleti, the Master of the Chamber to Pius X. Find the figure 19 on the map for the precise location of our standpoint, near a turn in a long staircase which leads to the Court of San Damaso.