Rome 1870 What happened in the city

This year Florence is still Italy’s capital, but Rome will take over that role after its liberation from papal dominion on 20 September. The law formalising the transfer came into force on 3 February 1871. The year 1870 may well be called very eventful. On some of its thirty-two days, the future of the country was decided. Below is the overview ‘Rome 1870 what happened in the city’.

In spring, the architect Antonio Manno renovates the façade of the basilica Santa Pudenziana. In October, a wall is built around the cemetery for non-Catholics, also known as the Protestant cemetery.

6 January

  • In St Peter’s, the second session of the First Vatican Council opens. The Consilia began on 8 September 1869 and would last until 20 September 1870.

17 February 

  • Pope Pius IX opens the Exhibition of art works executed in all artistic forms inspired by and dedicated to Catholic faith. The exhibition was held in the convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

9 March

  • The Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando IV (1835-1908) arrived for his visit to the city.

21 April

  • The third session of the First Vatican Council opens in St Peter’s.

Rome 1870 what happened in the city

6 May

  • At Villa Barberini in Monte Mario, the Trigonometric sign was inaugurated to measure the arc of the European meridian. See more about it here.

14 June

  • Pope Pius IX unveiled in the Basilica Papale di San Lorenzo fuori le mura (Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls) the monument to the soldiers who fell during the battle for the defence of the Ecclesiastical State in the autumn of 1867.

18 July

  • The First Dogmatic Constitution “Pastor Aeternus” was issued this day. It  affirms papal infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The proclamation takes place during the First Vatican Council. See above 6 January.

7 September

  • King Vittorio Emanuele Il sends a letter to all political powers. In it, he announces the intention to move his government from Florence to Rome. In the document he also sets out what measures will guarantee the pope and his independence.

9 September

  • Count Gustavo Ponza of San Martino (1810-76) arrives in Rome. He is the extraordinary ambassador of King Vittorio Emanuele Il. He is the author of the king’s letter to Secretary of State Giacomo Antonelli. The letter contains “the guarantees necessary for the spiritual independence of the Holy See, which are also the basis for future negotiations between Italy and the interested powers”.
  • The count hands the pope a letter from the king “with love of a son, with the faith of a catholic, with the loyalty of a king and with the spirit of an Italian.” The king further declares that he is “moving his troops to Rome to prevent the violence of the revolutionaries”.

10 September

  • Pius IX inaugurates the Fontanone deL’Acqua Marcia. The fountain is located in front of the buildings of the Termini granaries.
  • In a letter to the king, Pius IX expresses his sorrow at what was communicated to him.

12 September

  • Italian troops, led by General Raffaele Cadorna (1815-1897), enter the region of Latium.
  • The general of the papal army Hermann Kanzler (1822-1891) addresses the Romans to let them know that Italian troops will take Lazio.

18 September

  • Italian troops take possession of Tivoli and Monterotondo and advance towards Rome along the Via Nomentana.

19 September

  • General Cadorna orders to attack Rome near Porta Pia.

20 September

  • At 5.15 am, artillery opens fire on the Aurelian wall not far from Porta Pia. Italian troops move into the city through the breach in the wall at 9.45 am. At 10.00 am, Pope’s troops surrender. The signing of the capitulation takes place at 2 pm at villa Albani Torlonia. The signatories of the act are generals Cadorna and Kanzler.

21 September

  • The newspaper La Capitale, The Capital, begins to appear. Its editor-in-chief is Raffaele Sonzogno (1836-1922).

22 September

  • The first issue of the La Gazzetta del Popolo, The People’s Gazetteer, is published. Its editor-in-chief is Edoardo Arbib (1840-1906).

Rome 1870 What happened in the city

23 September

  • General Cadorna appoints an Administration of Rome. Michelangelo Caetani (1804-1882) becomes its president.

2 October

  • On this Sunday a referendum is held in Rome and the provinces of Latium. The only question is whether residents want to belong to the Italian kingdom.

9 October

  • The results of the plebiscite are presented to King Vittorio Emanuele Il who resides in Florence. After all, the city is where the government sits. By decree, the king adds the city of Rome and its provinces to the kingdom. Parliament subsequently enables the royal decree into a law.
Rome 1870 What happened in the city
Oil panting by Cesare Maccari (1840-1919)

11 October

  • The king appoints general Alfonso La Marmora (1804-1878) as commander-in-chief of Italy.

15 October

  • Commander La Marmora appoints a new City Council chaired by Francesco Pallavicini Rospigliosi (1810-1878).

20 October

  • Pius IX suspends the First Vatican Council. He declares that “the participants of the Council lack the necessary freedom, security and tranquillity”.

1 November

  • Pope Pius IX publishes the encyclical Respicientes EA in which he defines the “occupation” of Rome as “unjust, violent, void and invalid”. See the Italian text here.

9 November

  • The Quirinale Palace is occupied. Reconstruction begins under the direction of architect Antonio Cipolla (1822-1874).

13 November

  • Rome’s first elections are held.

20 November

  • The first national elections in the kingdom of Italy after the Capture of Rome are held.

29 November

  • The new City Council is installed. Giuseppe Lunati is its president. He exercises the office of mayor.

2 December

  • The Bank of the Ecclesiastical State is henceforth called Banca Romana.
  • The new State of Italy acquires the Farnese Gardens, the Orti Farnesiani, on the Palatine hill.

15 December

  • Alderman Filippo Andrea Doria Pamphilj (1813-1876) takes over as mayor.

16 December

  • The City Council of Rome organizes the first two public schools for primary education. One for boys in Via dei Fienilie and the other for girls in the Tor de’ Specchi neighbourhood.

28 December

  • Major flooding in the city. The districts Borgo, Campo Marzio, Colonna and Sant’Eustachio flood. The ghetto almost disappeared under the waters of the Tiber. After this day’s floods, a commission was set up to draw up the plan for the construction of the quay walls along the Tiber. The walls would protect the city from the water but at the same time give it a completely different look.
Rome 1870 wat gebeurde er in de stad
A picture of the river without the walls we know today.

31 December

  • King Victor Emmanuel Il arrives in Rome to bring comfort to flood victims. At the Campidoglio he is welcomed by the people of Rome with cheers.

Go to 1871
To all calender years

Notes on Rome 1870 What happened in the city

  • See this article on the Capture of Rome.
  • For the outcome of the elections, see here.