The Capture of Rome
(20 September 1870) was the
final event of the long process of Italian unification
known as the
, which finally unified the Italian peninsula
under King Victor Emmanuel II
the House of Savoy
Trentino and Alto Adige were still under the Austrian rule, and
they were annexed to Italy after the First World War.
Second Italian War of Independence
Second Italian War of
Independence, much of the Papal States had been conquered by the Piedmontese Army, and the
new unified Kingdom
of Italy was created in March 1861, when the first Italian
Parliament met in Turin.
On 27 March 1861, the Parliament
declared Rome the Capital of the Kingdom of Italy. However, the
Italian government could not take its seat in Rome because of the
French garrison maintained there by Napoleon III of France
, which propped
up Pope Pius IX
, who was determined to
retain temporal power
in the States
of the Church.
In July 1870, at the very last moment of the Church's rule over
Rome, the First Vatican
was held in the city – defiantly affirming the doctrine
of papal infallibility
In July 1870, the Franco-Prussian
began. In early August, Napoleon III recalled his garrison
from Rome. Widespread public demonstrations demanded that the
Italian government take Rome. The Italian government took no direct action
until the collapse of Napoleon at the battle of Sedan.
Letter to the Pope
King Victor Emmanuel II sent conte Gustavo Ponza di San Martino
Pius IX with a personal letter offering a face-saving proposal that
would have allowed the peaceful entry of the Italian Army into
Rome, under the guise of protecting the pope.
According to Raffaele De Cesare:
The Pope’s reception of San Martino [10 September 1870]
Pius IX allowed violent outbursts to escape
Throwing the King’s letter upon the table he exclaimed,
You are all a set of vipers, of whited sepulchres, and
wanting in faith."
He was perhaps alluding to other letters received from
After, growing calmer, he exclaimed: "I am no prophet,
nor son of a prophet, but I tell you, you will never enter
San Martino was so mortified that he left the next
Advance of the Italian army
The Italian army, commanded by General Raffaele Cadorna
, crossed the papal
frontier on 11 September and advanced slowly toward Rome, hoping
that a peaceful entry could be negotiated. The Papal garrisons
had retreated from Orvieto, Viterbo, Alatri, Frosinone and other strongholds in the Lazio, Pius IX himself being convinced of the
inevitability of a surrender. When the Italian Army
approached the Aurelian
Walls that defended the city, the papal force was
commanded by General Karl Kanzler, and was composed of the Swiss Guards and a few "zouaves"—volunteers from France,
Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and other
countries—for a total of 14,000 men against the c.
Rome under siege
Italian army reached the Aurelian Walls on 19 September and placed Rome under a state of
The intransigent Pius IX decided that the surrender
of the city would be granted only after his troops had put up a
token resistance, enough to make it plain that the take-over was
not freely accepted. On 20 September, after a cannonade of three
hours had breached the Aurelian Walls at Porta Pia, the crack Piedmontese infantry corps of Bersaglieri entered Rome.
In the event 49
Italian soldiers and 19 papal Zouaves
The day's events are memorialized throughout Italy in the
via XX Settembre
in virtually every town of any
size. Rome and the region of Lazio
annexed to the Kingdom of Italy after a plebiscite.
Occupation of the Leonine City
City, including the Vatican, seat of the
Pope, was occupied on September 21.
The Italian government
had intended to let the Pope keep the Leonine City, but the Pope
would not agree to give up his claims to a broader territory.
The Via Pia
, the road departing from Porta Pia, was
rechristened Via XX Settembre
Subsequently, in numerous Italian cities the name Venti
was given to the main road leading to the local
Writer Edmondo De Amicis
in the capture of Rome as an officer in the Italian army.
Reconciliation by the Church
For many years afterwards, the Catholic Church remained obdurate
in rejecting the
results of 1870. This ended with the Concordat of 1929, where the Church renounced
its claims over most of the city of Rome in return for Italy's
recognition of the Vatican
On 20 September 2000, there was an item in the Catholic publication
- See Timeline of Italian
- These words are derived from the Biblical Book of Amos 7:14 where the
Prophet defies the emmissary of the King of Israel 
- De Cesare, 1909, p. 444.
- Rendina, Enciclopedia di Roma, p. 985
- For the Vatican during
the Savoyard Era 1870–1929, see also "prisoner
in the Vatican" and the Roman Question.