Today in Catholic History – Transferal of the Body of Pius IX and an Incident Involving the Tiber

On 13 July 1881, the body of Pope Pius IX was transferred from St. Peter’s Basilica to the the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura.

Pius IX’s body was moved to San Lorenzo because he had been responsible for its restoration in 1870 and during the reconstruction had a mausoleum built for his tomb.

On the night of the 13th of July, the body of Pius IX was moved to its permanent resting place in utmost secrecy because the Italian government believed that permitting any sort of ceremony would only serve to strengthen the support of the papacy in its struggle against the Italian government. However, people did find out about the transfer and a large crowd of one hundred thousand gathered to pay their final respects with flowers and lit candles.

However, not everyone in Rome came to show their devotion. Anti-clerical Italians, angry at the Pope’s hostility to the new government and to the forces of secularism, attacked the procession by throwing stones and even attempted to toss the body of Pius IX into the Tiber River before they were driven away by those devoted to Pius.

After Pope Leo XIII, the successor of Pius IX, dies, concern that a similar attack might take place will lead Pope Pius X to order that the transfer of Leo’s body to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran also be made in utmost secrecy.


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