Cover image for Prisoner of the Vatican : the popes' secret plot to capture Rome from the new Italian state
Prisoner of the Vatican : the popes' secret plot to capture Rome from the new Italian state
Kertzer, David I., 1948-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, [2004]

Physical Description:
x, 357 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
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DG798.7 .K47 2005 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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We think of Italy as an ancient nation, but in fact the unified Italian state was born only in the nineteenth century -- and only against the adamant refusal of the pope to relinquish his rule of Rome. In this riveting chronicle of international intrigue, the renowned historian David Kertzer delves into secret Vatican archives to reveal a venomous conflict that kept the pope a self-imposed prisoner of the Vatican for more than fifty years.
King Victor Emmanuel, his nemesis Garibaldi, the French emperor Napoleon III, England, Spain, Germany, Austria, and even America play a part in this astonishing drama. On September 20, 1870, the king's battle to unite the disparate Italian states came to a head when his troops broke through the walls of Rome, which the pope had ruled for centuries. Pope Pius IX, ensconced with the Vatican Council, denounced the usurpers and plotted with his advisers to regain power or else flee Italy altogether. A dramatic struggle unfolded over the next two decades, pitting church against state and the nations of Europe against one another. This is a story of outrageous accusations, mutual denunciations, raucous demonstrations, frenetic diplomacy, and secret dealings. Rocks were hurled along with epithets, and war across Europe seemed inevitable.
The antagonists were as explosive as the events. Pius IX, the most important pontiff in modern history, engineered the doctrine of papal infallibility but ended his days reviled and denounced. The blustering Victor Emmanuel schemed behind the backs of his own ministers. Garibaldi, Italy's dashing national hero, committed naive and dangerous mistakes. Beyond Italy, the pope's main protector, Napoleon III, was himself being taken prisoner.
This devastating conflict, almost entirely unknown until now, still leaves a deep mark on the Italian soul. No one who reads David Kertzer's revelatory account will ever think of Italy or the Vatican in quite the same way again.

Author Notes

He is a professor anthropology & history at Brown University. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

(Publisher Provided)

David I Kertzer won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 2015 with his title The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Modern Italy was founded... over the dead body of Pope Pius IX," writes Kertzer, author of the National Jewish Book Award-winning The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (also a National Book Award finalist), in this riveting and fast-paced chronicle of the rise of the Italian state and the Vatican's forgotten battle against the nationalists to retain power over Rome. In 1870, Victor Emmanuel II, king of a newly united Italy, sought an agreement with Pius IX in which the pope would rule the Tiber's right bank while the king would govern the left bank. When the pope rejected this arrangement, Italian troops seized power in Rome and Pius IX sought refuge in the Vatican palaces, declaring himself a prisoner. Led by Garibaldi and aided by Catholic France, the nationalists gained control in 1878, and so angered were nationalists at Pius IX that in 1881 protesters almost succeeded in dumping his corpse into the Tiber. The animosity between the pope and the state continued until 1929, when Mussolini and the Vatican signed a concordat in which the Vatican recognized the legitimacy of the Italian state and the Vatican was granted the rights of a sovereign state. Kertzer, given access to newly opened Vatican archives, tells a first-rate tale of the political intrigues and corrupt characters of a newly emerging nation, offers history writing at its best, and provides insight into a little-known chapter in religious and political history. 16 pages of b&w photos, 5 maps. Agent, Ted Chichak. (Nov. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Another illuminating papal chronicle from the author of The Popes against the Jews (2001).When the Papal States were conquered and Italy was first unified as a nation in 1861, the pope, and consequently the Roman Catholic Church, lost land, influence, and power. Basing his research on recently recovered Vatican documents, Kertzer recounts how both Pope Pius IX and his successor, Pope Leo XIII, colluded with other members of the clergy and with rival European powers in an unsuccessful effort to dismantle the new Italian State and seize Rome. Proclaiming himself a prisoner of the Vatican in 1870, Pius IX undertook what would become for himself and subsequent pontiffs a 59-year exile within the confines of the Vatican. Populated with a colorful cast of authentic historical figures, this fascinating slice of papal and Italian history will intrigue and enlighten both scholars and the merely curious. --Margaret Flanagan Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

How the Vatican challenged the newborn Italian state; from a National Book Award finalist. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Introduction:Italys Birth and Near DemiseModern Italy, it could be said, was founded over the dead body of Pope Pius IX. Although Italy had been a geographical label since Roman times, the idea that a distinctive Italian people inhabited the boot-shaped peninsula and its islands was more recent, and the notion that they should have an independent state of their own more recent still. Only with the French Revolutions attack on the principles of absolutism and divinely ordained hierarchy could such an idea gain ground, and only with the rise of nationalism as the political creed of the nineteenth century could "Italy for the Italians" become the new watchword. But creating a sense of common Italian identity among the people of the peninsula was no easy matter. Not only were they not accustomed to being part of the same country, few of them spoke Italian, 97 percent speaking a kaleidoscope of dialects and languages that were in good part mutually unintelligible.In the aftermath of Napoleons defeat in 1814, the Italian nationalist movement faced a peninsula that was divided into a patchwork of states and duchies propped up by foreign forces, the Austrian empire foremost among them. But the nationalists were not entirely discouraged, for they knew that autocratic mini-states were vulnerable to the wrath of their subjects from within and to armies from without. Assorted dukes and kings had painfully learned the latter lesson when Napoleons armies had, not many years earlier, swept through the peninsula and deposed them all. For Italys nationalists, then, the most daunting obstacle was not the Austrian occupation of northeastern It- aly, nor the tottering Bourbon monarchy that ruled all of the South and Sicily, nor the assorted dukes and their duchies. No, there was a far greater power, a far more imposing foe, one that cut the peninsula in two, blocking North from South, its capital the legendary city of Romulus and Remus, the symbol of Italys ancient greatness.For more than a thousand years the popes had ruled over these Papal States, a swath of territory that extended from Rome northward through Umbria and the Marches to Ferrara and Bologna. Deposing the duke of Modena or the grandduke of Tuscany, or even driving the Austrians out of Lombardy and Veneto, was one thing. Deposing the pope from his thousand-year earthly reign was something very different, for the pope, though having little in the way of military might, had weapons that no other ruler could ever hope to wield.What the pope had was the belief - enshrined in official Church dogma and pronounced by parish priests throughout the land - that he ruled over a divinely ordained kingdom as Gods representative on earth. The creation of a unified Italian state, the pope insisted - and in this he had centuries of Church teachings to back him up - was contrary to Gods wishes. It could only be accomplished by force, and anyone taking part in such an assault would be throwing in h Excerpted from Prisoner of the Vatican: The Popes' Secret Plot to Capture Rome from the New Italian State by David I. Kertzer All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

List of Maps and Illustrationsp. vii
Prologuep. ix
Introduction: Italy's Birth and Near Demisep. 1
1 Destroying the Papal Statesp. 9
2 The Pope Becomes Infalliblep. 22
3 The Last Days of Papal Romep. 33
4 Conquering the Holy Cityp. 50
5 The Leonine Cityp. 59
6 The Reluctant Kingp. 73
7 Pius IX in Exile Again?p. 85
8 The Papal Martyrp. 100
9 Anticlericalism in Romep. 109
10 Two Deathsp. 123
11 Picking a New Popep. 137
12 Keeping the Bishops in Linep. 159
13 The Pope's Bodyp. 179
14 Rumors of a French Conspiracyp. 198
15 Preparing for Exilep. 207
16 Hopes Dashedp. 214
17 The Bishops' Lamentp. 229
18 Fears of a European Warp. 239
19 Giordano Bruno's Revengep. 258
20 The Pope's Secret Planp. 272
Epilogue: Italy and the Popep. 286
Acknowledgmentsp. 299
Notesp. 301
References Citedp. 334
Illustration Sourcesp. 343
Indexp. 345