Francis Bergoglio’s Day Off? Seriously… Francis walks in empty Rome to venerate the famous Plague Crucifix of 1522

These are serious days, but I hope a little humor can be applied.

Francis Bergoglio’s Day Off!

A day well spent.

It would have been better to have a procession, but… hey!  I’ll take it!

BTW… this is the Ides of March.  Another famous day in Roman history.

You will read that Francis went to a church in Rome to venerate a famous crucifix once carried in a procession against the plague in 1522.

As if I were in Rome right now, I’ll give as I usually do, a little history.

The reign of the Medici Pope, Leo X was over. It was the Pontificate of Adrian VI. He reigned from 9 Jan 1522 to 14 Sept 1523, Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Adrian, who tomb is in Santa Maria dell’Anima, was the last non-Italian elected Pope untill John Paul II. When he was elected, Adrian had never been to Rome and was elected in absentia. The Roman people were not happy and the pasquinades were vicious. A protester put a “For Sale” sign up at the Vatican. Apparently, Adrian was pious and brilliant, but his Latin sounded rather too German, rather like Ratzinger.

Adrian arrived in Rome in 1522. The Plague gripped the city. People were fleeing in droves. One priest, taking possession of his new church in the Via del Governo Vecchio – where seminarians from the North American College often walk to and from classes – Santa Cecilia de Turre Campi, later razed to build the Oratory, could get up to the upper floor because there were so many bodies in the place. Dislike for Adrian was so bad that, rather like Pres. Trump, he was blamed for the plague that was already there. A poet named Antonio Tebaldeo, secretary to Lucrezia Borgia and official under Leo X, mocked Adrian with the epitaph: “Here lies Adrian. Whoever succeeds him, don’t touch his throne. He was a plague.” Antonio would later lose everything in 1527 Sack of Rome. “Who bites the Pope dies”, I guess.

When Adrian arrived in Rome, he was brought an image of Mary that was carried in procession against the plague. That image is now in Sta. Maria in Campitelli. A couple years ago, for the Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage, we venerated the image and it is, occasionally processed in the streets even today. I posted some images and, perhaps, video on the blog of one of these.

San Marcello al Corso, one of the Roman Stations during Lent, had burned in 1519, but the large 14th c. Sienese wooden crucifix was miraculously undamaged. The new church was built by Sansovino with a facade by Carlo Fontana.

However, in 1522, Guglielmo Raimondo Card. de Vico, held a procession – over 16 days – 4-20 August in the midst of the real summer heat – against the plague from San Marcello al Corso, to St. Peter’s Basilica. It went through all the rioni of the City.  It took so long, because where the Cross went, the plague dissipated, so people tried to keep it in their area as long as they could. Nobles and citizens, barefoot, alike dressed in black habit and ashes, marched through the different districts chanting “Mercy, Holy Crucifix!”

Even then public authorities worried that crowds would increase the contagion.  Instead, the plague rapidly ended.

There is an archconfraternity, one of the first ever raised to that status, which cares for and venerates the crucifix used in the procession. It’s membership eventually grew to some 1800 men, which was a large percentage of tiny and bedraggled Rome of the day, and members from the greatest Roman families belonged. They, like some other powerful confraternities, was given the privilege of pardoning one prisoner condemned to death per year, on 14 September. Chapters spread all through Europe. Back in the day, people didn’t depend on the “state”. The archconfraternity, as all of them did in Rome, was dedicated to works of mercy, in this case taking care of poor girls and visting the sick and prisoners. The crucifix was eventually hidden from view for much of the year, but there would be solemn unvelings and processions with it four times a year, on Good Friday, the Finding of the Cross in May, Corpus Christi, and the Exaltation of the Cross in September, with sackcloth habits and unbleached candles with great lanterns and torches. Dozens of men carried a platform with the venerated Cross. Musical pieces were commissioned and choirs from the great churches participated.

Back to Francis Bergoglio’s Day Off.  This is true lío!

No crowd at the Angelus.

So, he had a little trip across Rome to the Esquiline Hill and the great Basilica of St. Mary Major to venerate the icon of Mary, Salvation of the Roman People, Salus Populi Romani.

Inspired bu that procession in 1522, he then went to San Marcello al Corso.  I don’t know if he actually walked all the way. But he did walk part of the way up an abandoned Via del Corso to the church.

This is one of the most striking photos I’ve seen in a while.

I wonder what was going on in that cyclist’s mind.

Francis venerated the very Crucifix that had been carried in procession from San Marcello in 1522.

I suppose he could ask for a new procession, now, from San Marcello to San Pietro.

Meno chiacchiere… più processioni!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Just Too Cool, Si vis pacem para bellum!, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. KWhelan says:

    I watched the video of Pope Francis. He seemed lost? …overwhelmed? He definately needs prayer.

  2. I am happy to see this. I always pray for him.

  3. I just watched the video and noticed that Francis cross himself with his left hand? I thought that even if you are left handed that you still cross yourself with your right hand. ????

  4. Joy1985 says:

    Shouldn’t you get off your bike if the Pope is walking on the opposite side of the street?

  5. anthtan says:

    Was that a Ferris Beuller reference? Now I have actor Ben Stein in my mind saying repeatedly: “Bergoglio?… Bergoglio?…”

    Surreal. As is this entire pandemic.

    I apologise if this is too irreverent. If considered inappropriate, please delete.

  6. KateD says:

    Did they cancel the Mass during the plague?

  7. monstrance says:

    Is the Holy Father on his knees before the Crucifix ?
    Not sure I’ve seen him in this posture.

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  9. Mariana2 says:

    Good of him to walk. Seeing the way he moves, I’m sure his back hurts.

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  11. Sandy says:

    This is very touching, somber, sad. No matter how much he frustrates us, I pray Mother Mary to hold him close, and mold him to God’s perfect will.

  12. chantgirl says:

    He is in our prayers.

    I’m going to see if I can find a high resolution image of that crucifix to print out and put up in my house.

  13. Pingback: ROME: Famous 1522 Plague Procession Crucifix moved to St. Peter’s | Fr. Z's Blog

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