Porta Pia Roma 21 September 1870


This posed photgraph celebrates the taking of Porta Pia, the Pius Gate at Rome, by five Italian divisions lead by the liberal catholic Count Raffaele Cadorna, father of Luigi Cadorna, who after a four hour bombardment charged at the head of his Bersaglieri [Sharpshooters] through a breach out of shot to the viewer's right. The opportunity for this coup arose as a result of the defeat of the Second French Empire at Sedan and the withdrawal of French troops from Rome. It is absolutely certain that at no time did Italian troops expose themselves above their breast works to exchange fire with the defenders of the gate: at best this posed photograph recaptures the moment of surrender of the gate after it was outflanked by the successful storming of the breach. The extinction of the Vatican's claims to temporal authority over Rome cost nearly two hundred lives. The seizure of the city was subsequently ratified by a popular vote of its citizens.The Pope declared himself a prisoner in the Vatican, and forbade catholics to participate in Italian political life until Giolitti struck the antisocialist and nationalist Gentiloni Pact of 1913.

Photo from Gersheim `Historic Events 1839-1939' Longmans London 1960

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