Most people don’t realize that for over a thousand years, the Pope was a political (temporal) ruler as well as a spiritual one, complete with his own army. The Papal States covered a fairly sizeable chunk of central Italy. Temporal rule ended in 1870 as Italy was united into one nation. But the Papal States didn’t end without a fight. Charles Coloumbe’s new book The Pope’s Legion tells the story of the men in Pope Pius IX’s army who fought to preserve the “temporal power.” Catholic volunteers from all over the world joined the Papal Zouaves (seen on the right in the baggy pants): Americans, French, Irish, English, seventeen countries in all. Some of these men became famous elsewhere, like Myles Keogh. An Irish solder of fortune, Keogh went on to fight in the Civil War and was killed at Custer’s Last Stand. His horse Comanche was the sole survivor of the battle. All in all, this is a fascinating, albeit little known, aspect of Catholic Church history that’s worth a look, even if you don’t share the author’s monarchist predilections. I for one enjoyed this book a lot!
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