Pope Pius X Bestowing His Benediction as Supreme Pontiff
( Originally Published 1907 )
The temporary throne-room is in the near neighborhood of the usual throne-room which we saw a few minutes ago. The throne has been placed in position, and behind it hangs a rich tapestry.
Here is a vivid description of a private audience at which an American gentleman and his wife assisted :—"The guests invited to the audience with ourselves are only five in number, all gentlemen of distinction. One of them stands a little in advance of the others, noticeable by his gloved hands. All the others are ungloved like ourselves according to the Vatican etiquette. The lavender gloves of this gentleman are hardly more conspicuous than the distinction of his manner, the marble-like calm of his features, the perfect ease with which he speaks, listens, moves about. He is a prince of the blood royal somewhere, not a Catholic, who has come to pay his respects to the most ancient line of kings in Europe. In a few minutes the door opens and the usual procession enters, last of all the Pope in his robes of snow. He has added to his costume a lace surplice, a cape of red silk and a stole of the richest embroidery. Before he sits, the prince of the blood advances and kisses his hand. Then Pius takes his chair and the two chat in easy fashion in Italian which the foreigner speaks with the ease of a native. After a moment the prince presents his four companions in turn, and they kneel at the feet of the Pontiff. They are Catholics, full of veneration for their aged leader. In spite of his white hair and his pallor, Pius X does not look old at this moment. His smiling face is full of vigor and the joy of life. He speaks with animation to the little group for a time, and then laughingly points to us. "These are Americans," he says to the prince of the blood royal, and the courtly group acknowledge the informal introduction with profound bows. America has become at last a great name to the European leaders of the more serious type. We advance to greet the Pontiff with beating hearts. It is a father welcoming his children, not a king receiving homage from his subjects. and yet we are nervous as if going through the ordeal of a presentation at Windsor with its terrific array of princes and nobles and sphinx-faced attendants. How can the prince of the blood royal look so composed through such a scene? He has been passing through such or-deals from babyhood, has lived in the atmosphere of ceremony, and has seen the great at close range until they were great no longer in his mind. And here we are, looking at last into the kindly face of Pius X and answering his questions in broken Italian. Why do we feel tremulous? It is only an old man in beautiful and wonderful robes talking to us as a good father might. It was he who said to an enthusiastic delegation that could not re-cover from their emotion: `My dear people, your kindness towards me gives me much pleasure; but you must not forget that I am only a poor man, and that Jesus Christ is all.' It is difficult to say just what causes this emotion. Perhaps it is too complex in its sources to be analyzed. While the old monarchies are passing away with the old order, the Pope remains. He seems to be like the man of prophecy, destined to survive all changes and dynasties; for Christ said to Peter: `Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' It is a curious phenomenon, worth anyone's consideration, that while the Pope's externals of power crumble and his very palaces decay and the world shifts about him like quicksand, yet his feet remain fixed upon the hills of the Eternal City, as if it had been decreed that one principle of society, one form of government, one great ruler, should be everlasting on earth, as a surety for the ideas themselves.
"Pius X is very kind to us, asks us kindly questions, blesses the pious objects we have brought in quantity; and then the audience is brought to a close with a blessing for the prince of the blood, his party, and the plain republicans."
The costume of the Pope on this occasion is different from usual. The zuchetto and robe are white as a matter of course, but the cape and stole are of red. So is the upholstery of the throne. Red is a symbolic color, signifying the power of the Holy Ghost, readiness for martyrdom, and royal power. Upon the shoe or slipper worn by the Pope on the right foot a raised golden cross is embroidered.
Our next position is to be in the larger Court of the Belvedere, the more southern of the two great open spaces between the walls of the Vatican. Find on the map the figure 27 for our exact point of view, from which we shall get a close look at some officers of the military guard of the Vatican, who perform within the palace the duty of watching over the life and safety of the inmates.