My word! What a day! All of Venice is celebrating the return of Giuseppe Melchior Sarto. He was born in the nearby village of Riese. Now he returns to Venetia as Cardinal Sarto, the Patriarch of Venice.
This is more than just a celebration of “local boy makes good.” Venice is a no longer the powerful city-state that it was. It’s no longer a power at all. That Sarto has been allowed to enter the city is a triumph for Venice.
Venice started out as a refuge for nearby towns trying to escape the barbarian invasions in the 5th century. They began creating islands out of the marsh to build on. It slowly developed into a trade center and acquired an impressive navy to protect itself from pirates. By the 12th century, Venice had become a “super-power.” It was so powerful, it paid for a 4th Crusade that never made it to the Holy Land, but instead sacked it’s former master, Constantinople, and carted off a good many artworks as plunder. (I’m not sure if Venice ever came up with a believable excuse for that one.) They also acquired a lot of land.
|The Republic of Venice and it's empire|
(click on to enlarge map)
|Italy in the 16th century|
(click on to enlarge)
Which brings us to why Cardinal Sarto was denied entry into Venice. When Pope Leo XIII appointed Sarto Protectorate of Venice last year, King Unberto I protested, saying he had the right to appoint the position. So the King refused to let Cardinal Sarto into Venice until today. Politics! They can get messy.
|Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto|
This event is the major focus of my trip. You may wonder why the University of Venice would pay for me to come here to bring back recordings of this happy but seemingly minor incident? That’s because in 1903, Giuseppe Sarto will be sent on a new assignment by the Vatican when he is elected pope. He will take the name Pope Pius X not because he thinks he’s more pious than anyone else, but because he will hope he can live up to the name.
Pope Pius X will be a bit controversial. Perhaps in reaction to the power the Kings of Italy have taken, or because he is from conservative working class roots, Pius will try to bring back the good old days by trying to eradicate modernism in the church and reinstate old traditions. He will go so far as to revive Gregorian chants. He will however renovate communion to include children as young as seven.
|Pope Pius X|
Despite all the pomp surrounding him, Sarto did not strike me as an arrogant man. He seemed to pay less attention to the wealthy in the crowd and more to the underprivileged. I don’t think this was for show. He has a kindly, if serious, face. I’m not at all sure how this canonization thing works. I had a priest explain to me once that the Church does not have the power to create saints--it can only acknowledge them. Cardinal Sarto looks pretty saintly to me.