Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Tuesday 21 September |
The Feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Did you know? An American brought the first car to the Vatican

© Musei Vaticani | Antoine Mekary for Aleteia

I.Media for Aleteia - published on 08/24/21

The car arrived in the Vatican in 1909, but like many of the first popemobiles, stood still for twenty years.

The Vatican always has delicious surprises in store. In the middle of the smallest state in the world, under the perfectly manicured lawns of the magnificent gardens, hides…a garage.

After having strolled for hours in the splendid galleries of the Vatican Museums, visitors can continue their visit down a ramp and reach the Carriage Pavilion. Inaugurated in April 1973 by Paul VI, it contains a marvelous collection of vehicles used by the sovereign pontiffs. There are sedan chairs, protocol or travel coaches, but also motor cars.

Archbishop Farley gifts car to Pope Pius X

An American brought a motor vehicle into the Vatican for the first time. In 1909, the Archbishop of New York, Bishop John Farley, in fact donated a 20/30 Itala to Pope Pius X. With this car produced by the young Italian firm—which went bankrupt in 1934—the Pope could now travel at a speed greater than that of a coach.

But Pius X refused the experience. At 74, the pontiff preferred to walk through the Vatican Gardens in a quieter and more comfortable horse-drawn carriage.

Elegant horse-drawn carriages on display

Among the coaches on display is the so-called “travel” one made by Roman craftsmen in the previous century. Elegant, it was used until the pontificate of Benedict XV (1914-1922) since the coat of arms of the 258th successor of Peter remains on both doors. But it was above all Pius IX (1846-1878) who used it, notably during his visit in 1857 to the Legation of Romagna, north of the Papal States. According to the Vatican Museums, this trip is said to be “the last visit of a Pope-King.”

Prisoners of the Vatican

World events completely shake up the course of papal history, and, indirectly, of papal movements. Although Pius X did not seem to bother to take an interest in his Itala 20/30, it was probably because of the situation of the papacy at this time. Since 1870 and the capture of Rome by Italian troops, the popes claimed to be prisoners in the Vatican. Not recognizing the new Italian state, they refused to go out, not even to travel a few kilometers to their cathedral, Saint John Lateran.

The first popemobiles stood still

In this context, and in a space reduced to a few hectares of the Vatican, the use of a popemobile appears to be of little interest. However, in 1896, on the very first film in history showing a pope, we can still see Leo XIII in a coach wandering through the Vatican Gardens.

The Italian manufacturer Bianchi offered Benedict XV a car in 1922 and then another car four years later, but the pontiff would not use them.

Thus: the first popemobiles actually stood still. This situation would last until December 22, 1929, a historic day during which Pius XI climbed into a black Graham Paige type 837 to go to the Lateran.

Tags:
PopeVatican
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
ARGENTINE CHILDREN
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
3
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
4
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
5
PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
6
Visalia CHURCH
J-P Mauro
The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in Cali...
7
CHAPEL OUR LADY MIRACULOUS MEDAL
Zelda Caldwell
A pilgrimage to Paris’ Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.