At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Pope John XXIII


Farmer’s son went on to become ‘the Good Pope’


Pope John XXIII was born on this day in 1881 at Sotto il Monte near Bergamo.

He was originally named Angelo Roncalli and was part of a large farming family but he went on to become a much loved Pope and respected world leader.

Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII links Bergamo's railway station with Porta Nuova
Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII is one
of Bergamo's main streets

Angelo was tutored by a local priest before entering the Seminary in Bergamo at the age of 12. He went on to study theology in Rome and rose to become Cardinal Patriarch of Venice before being elected Pope in 1958.

His religious studies had been interrupted by a spell in the Italian army, but he was ordained in 1904. He served as secretary to the Bishop of Bergamo for nine years before becoming an army chaplain in World War One.

After the war he worked in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece on behalf of the church helping to locate and repatriate prisoners of war.

In 1944 he was appointed nuncio to Paris to help with the post war effort in France. He became a Cardinal in 1953 and expected to spend his last years serving the church in Venice.

But when he was elected Pope by his fellow cardinals in the conclave of 20 October 1958, it was a turning point in the church’s history.

Although he was Pope for less than five years, John XXIII enlarged the College of Cardinals to make it more representative, consecrated 14 new bishops for Asia and Africa, advanced ecumenical relations and worked for world peace.

He is known to the Italians as ‘il Papa Buono’, ‘the Good Pope’, and, since his death on 3 June 1963, his birthplace, and the museum set up to commemorate his life, have become popular destinations for pilgrims.



Travel Tip:
The Biblioteca Civica houses works by Pope Giovanni XIII
The Biblioteca Civica in Bergamo's Piazza Vecchia

There is a permanent reminder of Pope John in Bergamo’s lower town where the main thoroughfare from the railway station to Porta Nuova has been renamed Viale Papa Giovanni XXIII. In the upper town there are works by Pope John XXIII in the Biblioteca Civica, the white marble Civic Library, in Piazza Vecchia and you can see the Seminary he attended at the end of Via Arena.


Travel Tip:

Now renamed Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, Pope John’s birthplace is a short bus or car journey to the west of Bergamo . You can visit the house where he was born in the hamlet of Brusicco and the summer residence at Camaitino that he used when he was a cardinal is now a history museum dedicated to him.
Opening hours: Casa Natale (birthplace) at Brusicco 8.30 am to 5.30 pm; Museo di Papa Giovanni (Pope John Museum) at Camaitino 8.30 am to 11.30 and 2.30 pm to 6.30.

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