Oldest Vatican Film, Dated 1896, Features Pope Leo XIII in the Rose Garden

In 1896, Pope Leo XIII became the first pope ever to be captured on film.

Clearly, His Holiness did not understand the film industry.  You can see him respond to an off-screen reminder that this is not a still-life photo, but a real moving picture.   Back and forth, he waves his hand stiffly in the air–playing for the camera.

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Some years ago, while serving as conference director for Legatus, I took our group of pilgrims to visit the offices of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.  There, we sat in the PCCS’s theatre as the late Archbishop John Foley, then Prefect of the PCCS, shared a series of historic Vatican films including this, the oldest known footage of a Pope.

You can view this and other historic films, including live footage from the Second Vatican Council, at the Vatican Film Library website.


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