The Traditional Papal Corpus Christi Procession in Rome Prior to the End of the Papal States Described

Up until 1870, with the end of the papal states, the popes led a grand Corpus Christi procession through the streets of Rome, beginning at St. Peter's Basilica. (It wouldn't be until almost 100 years later, under Pope John Paul II, that this tradition would be revived, though more recently it has taken another turn under Pope Francis who last led it in Ostia rather than Rome. Regrettably too, rather than utilizing the traditional method of carrying the Pope and Sacrament, a far less ceremonious vehicle -- a truck -- is now used in modern times; but I digress.) 

As many today are eager to recover a sense of their patrimony, I thought it might be of interest to show the traditional papal procession of Corpus Christi as it would have appeared prior to the 1870's.  Salvatore Busuttil produced a very fine depiction of this grand para-liturgical event between 1837-39, thus helping to inadvertently preserve our own understanding and sense of the vent just a few decades before it was lost. The work was produced in the form of a scroll that could be rolled out uninterrupted by page breaks. 

The following shows images taken from that work. For those interested in this subject, these images were published in the book, La Processione del Corpus Domini Nelle Tavole Di Salvatore Busuttil in 2008 by the Fondazione Marco Besso. 

The procession begins with some of the gardeners of the Papal Palace spreading small branches of myrtle (mortella) along the path of the procession (you can see them indicated in all of the images below). You can see two gardeners carrying baskets of them at the very beginning of the procession. Following them are three platoons of soldiers in full dress uniform; the Granatieri, Carabinieri and Scelta Civica. These are then followed by the processional cross flanked by two acolytes, the cantors and the rectors. Following these are members of the Discalced Augustinians, each carrying a cross.  A papal ceremoniere can be seen supervising the procession, wearing his purple cassock and wearing cotta. 

Next in the procession we find various representatives of the religious orders in order of precedence. Various processional banners are carried between these various religious orders. 

We see here a continuation of the representation of the religious orders, including Benedictines, then follow (see right) by Canons of the Lateran wearing surplice over rochet. 

Next come two cantors vested in copes, followed by five students of the seminary of Rome, then the 54 parish priests of the city of Rome wearing stole over surplice, followed by the parish priests of the three patriarchal basilicas of S. Maria Maggiore, St. Peter's and St. John Lateran.  Following these are various canons.

As the procession of canons continues, we are then met by the symbols of the minor basilicas of Rome, the tintinnabulum and ombrellino, each followed by a crucifer with two acolytes along with the acolytes and canons of the basilicas.

Beginning at the end of the preceding illustration and continuing below come the symbols and representatives (acolytes, cantors canons, etc.) of the patriarchal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, followed by the same for St. Peter's Basilica, including students of the seminary of St. Peter's.  

Next follow various canons of the chapter of St. Peter's, followed by the Canon Archbishop and the Vicar of the Vatican chapter, both wearing mantelletta, and the Canon Patriarch in mantelletta and mozzetta -- all carrying torches.  They are in turn followed by the symbols of the Lateran Archbasilica.

The vicar and canons of the Lateran follow next as well as the papal Master of Ceremonies, the Confessore della Familia Pontificia, the Apostolic Preacher, four Bussolanti (papal attendants) and so on. 

Hereafter follows the Procurator Generals of the various religious orders and the Camerieri. The Cappellani Comuni carries the mitra pretiosa and tiara.

Next follow the cantors of the papal chapel, students of the English college who will carry the canopy,  the Master of the Apostolic Palace,  the Auditor of the Rota vested in tunicle and carrying the papal cross, surrounded by seven acolytes made up of the Votanti de Segnatura.  

It is at this point that we now begin to hit the heart of the procession. Two clerics carrying bouquets of flowers can be seen on the very left, followed by the penitentiaries of the patriarchal basilicas carrying their penitential "wands" or rods and wearing chasubles. Following these are mitred abbots in copes and the Eastern patriarchs of Armenia, the Greeks, Syria, Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem vested in their respective vestments, followed by various vested archbishops. 

Next follow the Cardinal-Deacons, vested in their mitres, dalmatics and choir cassocks, with their chaplains and gentiluomo (gentlemen) to assist, followed by the Cardinal-Priests, vested similar to the Cardinal Deacons but in chasuble rather than dalmatic. (In what may be an inside joke of the artist, three Jesuits, vested in their usual black garb, chat amongst themselves, effectively ignoring the procession.)  Next follow the Cardinal-Bishops, wearing mitre, cope and choir cassock, along with their respective chaplains and gentlemen. 

At this point one will note that the trains of the cardinals' choir cassocks and down, carried by the caudatario (train-bearers). Various representatives of Rome are now in evidence, include senators of Rome (seem in yellow and red garb) and the Monsignor Governor of Rome,  Following these are the Cardinal Deacons of the throne, vested in their mitres, dalmatics and choir cassocks.  Two of the Votanti de Segnaturi, wearing cotta over rochet, carry thuribles and incense boats, followed by the papal ceremoniere, followed by the Mazzieri Pontifici, Swiss Guard and Noble Guard.  The rods of the canopy covering the Blessed Sacrament and the Pope are carried by eight Prelati Referendari di Segnatura. The Pope himself kneels before the Sacrament which he holds in the monstrance. The Camerieri Segreti carry the flabelli behind the pontiff  

Following the pope come Protonotaries Apostolic, various members of the pontifical household, religious orders and Swiss Guard. Mounted on horseback are various members of the Noble Guard. 

Following the Noble Guard are various other high ranking officers of the papal armies. 

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