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Colorized: Amazing restoration of 1896 film of Pope Leo XIII

Zelda Caldwell - published on 11/20/21

Pope Leo XIII (b. 1810- d. 1903) lived at the same time as Napoleon Bonaparte, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

There’s something about the colorization process that makes the subjects of old photos and movies seem closer to us.

According to an article at, David Martin, has taken film footage of the earliest-born person ever filmed and colorized it. That person happens to be Pope Leo XIII, also the first pope ever captured on film.

The newly restored film was originally recorded by William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, the Scottish inventor of an early motion picture camera, and former employee of Thomas Edison. Dickson traveled around the world with his camera, which he called “The Biograph,” filming several important historical events including Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebration that year, the Boer War battles in 1899 and 1900.

“I chose this particular film because of the historical fact of being the earliest-born person ever filmed,” Martin told 

“This video of Pope Leo XIII was indeed a bit more challenging, since the original footage was more deteriorated than usual and this implied further processing,” Martin said.

Set to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Jesu, der du meine Seele,” the restored film shows three scenes: Pope Leo XIII in the Vatican gardens, on a horse-drawn carriage, and then taking a seat.  

The film also features what must be the first ever papal blessing to be captured on film.

Just how old was Pope Leo XIII? 

To put it in perspective, he lived at the same time Napoleon Bonaparte ruled, he was born the same year as the composer Chopin, a year after Abraham Lincoln, and lived at the same time as American founding fathers John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

Pope Leo XIII, the “Rosary Pope”

Known as the “Rosary Pope,” Leo XIII issued 11 papal encyclicals on the Rosary, and was a great proponent of Marian devotions.  He is also the author of the Prayer to St. Michael. His 1891 encyclical Rerum novarum advocated for the rights of workers.

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