Pope Pius VII began his Pontificate in 1800 at Venice, where the Conclave met after the death in captivity of Pope Pius VI (they crowned their new pope with a papier mache tiara ... it would, surely, show both style and wit if that piece of gear were yanked out of the Papal Treasury and used at the next "Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry"). Pius VII tried to coexist with the Enlightened Corsican; but in 1809 he was arrested and imprisoned. As Gueranger puts it with Gallic melodrama, he was "dragged [away], during the night, by the soldiers of an ambitious tyrant".
Regular and sympathetic readers of this blog will be intrigued by the word I have marked in red in my next quotation from Gueranger: "He had been a captive for five years, during which the spiritual government of the Christian world had suffered a total suspension." Ahaa! (arcta custodia ... viis omnibus penitus interclusis, ne Dei Ecclesiam regere posset ...)
Towards the end of 1813, Napoleon had agreed to the return of the Pope to Rome. Pius VII took his time; indeed, he turned the event into a triumphant progress, moving in short stages to receive the plaudits of armies and potentates.
Did I write "triumphant"?
Indeed: "As the triumphal chariot, on which he had been placed, came near the Flaminian Gate, the horses were unyoked, and the Pontiff was conveyed by the people to the Vatican Basilica, where a solemn thanksgiving was made, over the Tomb of the Prince of the Apostles." How the Grilli of that time must have enjoyed fixing all the tiniest liturgical details! I wonder if they made this triumphator paint his face red!
So Papa Chiaramonti goes down in History ... I like to think ... as the last person to enter the Eternal City as a Triumphator. "Io Io Triumphe!!!" This happened on 24 May 1814.
To celebrate it, and to mark such a happy day, the Feast of our Lady Help of Christians was instituted. Gueranger is a little irritated to have to admit that the Feast is not of universal observance; it is in aliquibus locis. But I guarantee you that his pages covering May 24 are among the most gloriously triumphant and triumphalist in all the sheets that ever the learned Benedictine penned.
(In the old Calendar for England [granted when?], the Feast appears as a duplex maius. In the differentiated Calendars for each individual diocese which came later [when?], only Shrewsbury and Menevia retained it.
The Office Hymns, in the Sapphic metre, reveal that the SRE Hymnographi [who?] did not resist the temptation afforded by the adonius Urbis et Orbis; and, like the Augustan poets of ancient Rome, were not averse to making pius square up against scelestus.
I wonder exactly what French term Gueranger used for Suspension.)