The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 9/37 – Pope Saint Pius VII and General Napoleon Bonaparte

Salus Popoli Romani – Rome – Santa Maria Maggiore

Our Lady of Loreto

General Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769, Feast of the Assumption. This fact would lead one to believe that in his life, Napoleon would hold the Blessed Virgin highly, however, throughout his life Napoleon did not exhibit any devotion to the Blessed Mother. On the contrary he was probably initiated in Freemasonry on June 12-19, 1798, into the Army Philadelphe Lodge, in Malta. His Masonic membership is disputed, however, as a sure fact Napoleon Bonaparte was the protector of Freemasonry and experienced at least one ‘dark’ supernatural episode, whilst visiting the ancient pyramids at Giza, Egypt. When the Duke of Orleans died, Freemasonry in France needed a Grandmaster. They invited General Bonaparte to fill this post, the General demanded: “…a memoir on the objects and principles of the association.”(1) The memoir presented explained that, since the burning at the stake of Jacques de Molay, Grandmaster of the Knights Templars, the: “… vengeance alluded to in the Elu degrees and in Kadosh was that which the Templars formerly swore to execute upon King Philip the Fair, the destroyer of the Order, and upon his successors, but this vengeance was accomplished by the accession of Napoleon to the imperial throne.”(2) Napoleon nominated his brother, the King of Spain, as Grandmaster and invited many both in the military and government officials to join the Craft. Thus, the power of Freemasonry grew much. Not that the Craft needed further power and influence, for the sect had already succeeded at bringing about the French Revolution. The French authorities had indeed already carried out their antichristian persecution of the religious houses, blaming the cleric’s unswerving loyalty to the Pope. French Kings Louis XVI and his son Louis XVII, were assassinated during the ‘Reign of Terror,’ and the Masonic pledge of vengeance upon the descendents of King Philip the Fair, against Monarchy and Religion, had been accomplished in the foulest of ways.

In 1796, the French Army crossed the Alps into Italy. The intention was to march on Rome, conquer the ancient city of the Empire and take hostage the Pope; this sounded like a perfect plan for the child of the enlightenment, the French Masonic General Bonaparte. Nevertheless, Napoleon had not considered the fine details, such as the fact that the Blessed Virgin, the protector of the Roman Pontiff and the Church of Jesus Christ, was about to pit her supernatural strength and favor before the Lord, against the earthly powers and their gods of illuminism, science, war and reason. On June 25, 1796, the picture of the ‘La Madonna del Duomo’ or ‘Blessed Virgin Queen of All Saints,’ in the Cathedral of Saint Cyriacus, Ancona, Italy, miraculously came to life. The Blessed Virgin moved her eyes and arms and wept, also changing the color of her visage. Many people including the parish priest Father Candelabri, witnessed the phenomenon. Three days earlier the Napoleonic French signed a ‘Treaty’ with the Papal representative at Bologna, authorizing the French to occupy Ancona. The painting of the Blessed Virgin repeated the miraculous movements and was studied by architects, engineers and painters. The sacred Icon was carried in solemn processions across the city, people ran to witness the prodigy, conversions occurred by the dozen and the church sacristies where full with penitents seeking and receiving the sacrament of reconciliation. The people repented of their evil deeds and sought to make amends, once again they gave their hearts to the God of the Christians and deserted the new gods of the Revolution.

On February 10, 1797, Napoleon entered Ancona, declared that the local governing body was dissolved and imposed a high ransom, confiscating all the treasures of the churches. He was made aware of the miraculous painting by the local Jacobins and immediately made up his mind to stop this lie, which he presumed was purposely circulated by the tricky clergy. He ordered the priests to bring the painting before him, to inspect it personally. Napoleon intended to destroy the Icon of the Blessed Virgin, Queen of All Saints and stop the people’s hope in such fantastical notions, which as he concluded would: “…damage the well being of the citizens.” The following day the painting was removed and taken to the General, it was placed upon a table before the Corsican. The enlightened General Bonaparte hoped to provide a logical, natural reason for the phenomenon, he said: “Dear clergy, I am surprised at your ignorance, if you were to know minimally the laws of Physics, I am referring to the laws of reflection and refraction of light, the phenomenon of the reflections on the face of the Virgin caused by candle light.” Napoleon hoped to imitate Marat’s description on the manner light passes, reflects and is refracted through soap bubbles. Indeed, the spiritual insight of such was as shallow as the soapy water Marat placed himself before being assassinated by a woman. Our Lady was now the Woman who would tackle Napoleon. Father Candelabri, whose very name denotes a deep understanding of the nature of candlelight, replied: “Permit me, General. I am Father Candelabri. I myself have seen the prodigy and there was no flickering candlelight to confuse my sight. I used a lens and saw the prodigy occurring and can confirm the event! To confirm what I am saying you can ask the lawyer Bertrando Bonaria a well known Jacobin who has also witnessed the miracle.”(3)

General Napoleon Bonaparte did not reply, his attention was drawn to the necklace of pearls, which adorned the Blessed Virgin’s neck. He said: “This shall be sold and the funds recovered will be given to charity. The funds shall be used for the wedding expenses of an orphaned girl.”(4) General Napoleon Bonaparte reached out to remove the necklace. At that very moment, Napoleon froze, both his expression and countenance shockingly changed. The people present in the room knew too well what had just transpired, General Bonaparte witnessed the miraculous prodigy. The French General sat down and on the spot decided that the painting should be burnt. If it were not for Father Candelabri who convinced him otherwise, pointing out that such a gesture would surely incite the people to revolt and pledging to keep it covered at all times, the General’s soldiers would have surely burned the Holy Icon. Thankfully, Father Candelabri saved the Image of Our Lady, which served to direct once again the people towards the light of Our Lord. It can still be venerated today at Our Lady’s church in Ancona, Italy.

In 1845, the miraculous event was canonically confirmed and Our Lady dell Duomo, was proclaimed the Patroness of Ancona. If the events at Ancona are considered incredible, then the following is definitely more so. On July 9, 1796, and continuing for many months, starting in Rome and then Frosinone, Veroli, Torrice, Cepano Urbania, Frascati, Todi and Rimini, the images of the Blessed Virgin were (if not all but most) repeating the prodigy as the painting in Ancona had done. The testimonies to these miraculous events were so numerous that on February 28, 1797, the events were declared as ‘true and factual,’ and a Feast on July 9 was instituted in remembrance of these prodigies. The Madonna del Conforto (Our Lady of Consolation) had a special Feast, which occurred on February 15 in Tuscany. The Italians were told that the French were to destroy this painting, which was so dear to them. This was one of the many acts of violence perpetrated against Tuscany; the French had destroyed churches and forced the clergy into the army. The populace arose and with their battle cry “Viva Maria!” (Hail Mary) the revolts began. During those days, in Siena a blackened statuette of the Blessed Virgin called ‘Madonna di Provenzano di Siena,’ turned luminous white before a crowd of prayerful devotees. On May 6, 1799, the revolt against the French in Arezzo was successful, also were successful the revolts in Rome and the other Italian cities. In 1799, on orders of General Bonaparte, Pope Pius VI died virtually as a prisoner in the Directory of Rome. The battle was not over.

On March 14, 1800, His Holiness Pope Pius VII was elected. Due to the potential Catholic support from the French peasantry, Napoleon decided to establish an agreement with the Pope. Notwithstanding the fact that he had no particular love for Christianity, he desired to restore the Church in France. Negotiations for an agreement were held in Paris between Napoleon’s representatives, Bernier and Talleyrand, and the Pope’s emissary, Archbishop Spina of Corinth. Following eight months of negotiations, a threatened military occupation of Rome and much bluff on Napoleon’s side, the agreement was signed on July 15, 1801. Napoleon Bonaparte recognized the Roman Catholic Faith as the religion of the majority of the French people. In return for the oath of loyalty to the French state, the clergy were to receive salaries. ‘The Concordat’ as the agreement came to be known, was considered by Pope Pius VII as a great triumph. The Concordat was ratified on August 15, 1801, Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and Napoleon’s birthday. The many diverse factions in France reacted terribly to Bonaparte’s Concordat. The royalist Joseph de Maistre wrote: “With all my heart I wish death to the Pope in the same way and for the same reason I would desire death to my father were he to dishonor me tomorrow.”(5) However, Napoleon wanted to pacify the people. The French Council of State, the Tribunate, the Senate and the Army, all voiced their disapproval to the Concordat. The Jacobins and their Masonic allies viewed the Concordat as the final betrayal of the Revolution. With the reopening of churches for public worship, the Jacobins reasserted themselves with Voltaire’s principle to: “…wipe out the infamy of religion!” Following the Mass on Easter Day April 18, 1802, General Delmas to General Bonaparte said: “Pretty monkish mummery…. The only thing missing were the million men who died to overthrow what you are now setting up again.”(6) Due to his newly found popularity with the masses, Napoleon managed to introduce a new tax, the imposition was accepted without much fuss and the economic situation in France began to recover. Napoleon clearly understood the political benefits of being recognized as Emperor, however he could not fathom the spiritual aspect of such a position, whereby the Emperor would be guided by God and the Mother Church. Indeed, he was not capable of being an Emperor such as Charles the Great had been. For how can a child of the enlightenment, a Freemason, be God’s chosen Holy Emperor (a claim which Napoleon evidently made when writing to His Holiness Pope Pius VII)? While a true and honest conversion is done in secret, such as Emperor Constantine’s Baptism by Pope Sylvester at the Lateran Baptistry, political public conversions to Catholicism, in order to politically lead Catholics, equates to a spiritual farce and is evident political maneuvering, doomed for failure from the outset.

In 1806, Pope Pius VII was not playing ball with the French self-declared Emperor; he disregarded Napoleon’s orders and refused to submit his Church to Bonaparte’s whims. The Roman Pontiff particularly opposed the Napoleonic elected King Joseph of Naples. His Holiness refused to garrison Ancona and allowed British spies to roam unhindered, also opening Papal ports to the British Navy. Napoleon wrote angrily: “For the Pope I am Charlemagne…. I therefore expect to be treated from this point of view. I shall change nothing in appearance if they behave well; otherwise I shall reduce the Pope to be merely Bishop of Rome.”(7) Following letters to the Pope insisting that he is the Emperor and his enemies are the Papal enemies, the Pope replied: “There is no Emperor of Rome.”(8) The Napoleonic regime forced the Church in France to commit schism with Rome. The rewritten Catechism of the Catholic Church in France, read in the seventh lesson: “Why do we owe all these duties to Our Emperor? Firstly, because God…. Plentifully bestowed gifts upon our Emperor, whether for peace or for war, has made him the minister of his power and his image upon earth…”(9) The Pope remained undeterred and refused to implement the Continental Blockade in his territories. Napoleon’s next move was to order the take over of the administration in the Papal States, thereby the Pontiff responded by issuing a bill of excommunication against the ‘Emperor.’ The General ordered his troops to storm the Quirinal Palace, he attempted to force Pope Pius VII to renounce his temporal power, which the Pontiff adamantly refused. On July 5, 1808, on Napoleon’s orders, Pope Saint Pius VII was arrested and detained for three years, first at Savona Italy, then at Fontainbleau. Napoleon Bonaparte was not the first to have kept a Roman Pontiff in jail, Philip the Fair and Charles V had dared arrest Popes previous to these terrible days.

The title ‘Our Lady the Help of Catholics’ (Auxilium Catholicorum) has been adopted for veneration since the sixteenth century. On October 7, 1571, the triumphant Christian warriors returning from Lepanto, visited the Sanctuary of Loreto and saluted the Holy Virgin with the title of Our Lady Help of Catholics. Following the Battle of Lepanto, Pope Pius V had inserted this title within the litany of Loreto. In January 1814, as the Battle of Leipzig was over, Pope Pius VII was brought back to Savona and was set free on March 18, 1814, the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, the Patroness of Savona. The return journey to Rome, was a Papal pilgrimage along many prominent Marian Shrines. The Pontiff attributed his release, as a victory owed principally to the Blessed Virgin’s intercession. He crowned the ‘Madonna del Monte’ at Cesena (Our Lady of the Mountain), the ‘Madonna della Misericordia’ at Treja (Our Lady of Mercy), the ‘Madonna della Colonna’ (Our Lady of the Pillar) and the ‘Madonna della Tempesta’ at Tolentino (Our Lady of the Storms). The picture of the Blessed Virgin in the Cathedral of Saint Cyriacus at Ancona, the Roman Pontiff crowned under the title of ‘Regina Sanctorum Omnium.’ Throughout his pilgrimage, the crowds pressed forward to view the Pontiff who withstood Napoleon. In May 24, 1814, Pope Saint Pius VII, entered Rome and in commemoration for the sufferings His Holiness and the Church had endured, the Pontiff extended the Feast of the ‘Seven Dolours of Mary’ to the Universal Church. The following year on March 22, 1815, when Murat intended to march upon the Papal States from Naples, Pope Pius had to flee to Savona. On May 10, 1815, in Savona the Pope crowned the picture of ‘Our Lady of Mercy.’

On July 7, 1815, following the Battle of Waterloo, the Roman Pontiff returned to Rome. He gave thanks to God and Our Lady and on September 15, instituted the Feast of ‘Our Lady Help of Catholics’ for May 24. On May 5, 1821, Napoleon Bonaparte died whilst exiled on the Island of Saint Helen in the South Atlantic Ocean, probably a victim of arsenic poisoning and betrayed by his own officers.




  1. […] Napoleon and the Kingdom of Italy (early 19th century) many monasteries were confiscated. San Nicolo passed into private hands; the […]

    Pingback by Proud Ruins « An Expatriate in Rapallo — June 14, 2010 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

  2. […] … for a general read on the miraculous phenomena exhibited in those days, please proceed to …… […]

    Pingback by A possible miracle | The Catholic Southern Front — July 25, 2015 @ 8:17 am | Reply

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