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, 18 January 2017

Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster – Cardinal

Blessed monk who tried to preach humility to Mussolini


Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster: a photograph taken in 1930
Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster: a
photograph taken in 1930
Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, who was a Benedictine monk and served as Cardinal and Archbishop of Milan during World War II, was born on this day in 1880 in Rome.

Towards the end of the war, Schuster attempted to arrange a truce between Mussolini and the partisans, but failed because Mussolini refused to accept the demands for total surrender made by the partisan delegates.

More than 40 years after his death, Cardinal Schuster was beatified on 12 May 1996 by Pope John Paul II.

Schuster was the son of a Bavarian tailor who had moved to live in Rome and he served as an altar boy at a German Church near St Peter’s Basilica.

In 1898 he joined the Order of Saint Benedict and took the name Ildefonso before entering the monastic community of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

He studied while he was a monk and graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy in 1903, later receiving a Doctorate in Theology.
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Schuster was ordained as a priest in Rome in 1904 and then returned to his community of Saint Paul Outside the Walls where he became Master of Novices.

The statue of St Paul at the church of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome
The statue of St Paul at the church of
St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome
He held various pontifical offices between 1914 and 1928 and toured the country visiting Catholic seminaries.

After being elected Archbishop of Milan in 1929 he took the oath of loyalty to the Italian state in front of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, the first Italian bishop to be required to do so by the Lateran Treaty.

He was created Cardinal Priest by Pope Pius XI in 1929, receiving the Church of Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti. He was consecrated in the Sistine Chapel by Pope Pius XI personally.

Despite claims during the process for Schuster’s beatification that he had been sympathetic to Italian Fascism, he had in fact denounced the anti-Christian element of Fascism. He is reported to have refused to participate in any ceremonies involving Mussolini and to have condemned racist legislation during the period.

He had supported the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 by asking God to protect the Italian troops, ‘as they opened the door of Ethiopia to the Catholic faith’.

Benito Mussolini rejected Schuster's attempt to broker a truce with partisans
Benito Mussolini rejected Schuster's attempt
to broker a truce with partisans
But in 1938, after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, Schuster’s views changed sharply.

During the unsuccessful meeting between Mussolini and the partisans in the Archbishop’s Palace in Milan, Schuster is reported to have made an attempt to preach humility to the Fascist leader.

After the war, Cardinal Schuster frequently emphasised the danger of totalitarianism, whether inspired by fascism or communism.

Schuster died in 1954 at Venegono Inferiore near Milan. Cardinal Angelo Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII, celebrated his funeral and afterwards Schuster was buried in the Cathedral of Milan.

Travel tip:

The Sistine Chapel, where Schuster was consecrated as Cardinal Priest by Pope Pius XI, is in the Apostolic Palace, where the Pope lives, in Vatican City. The chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, the uncle of Pope Julius II, who had it restored during his papacy. Between 1508 and 1512, Michelangelo painted the ceiling at the request of Pope Julius II.  His amazing masterpiece, now a popular tourist attraction, is in bright colours, easily visible from the floor, and covers more than 400 square metres.

Rome hotels by Hotels.com

The carving over the Altar of the Madonna at the Duomo in Milan, beneath which Schuster was buried
The carving over the Altar of the Madonna at the Duomo
in Milan, beneath which Schuster was buried
Travel tip:


Schuster was buried in the Duomo of Milan, Milan’s cathedral, which is the largest church in Italy and the fifth largest in the world. Construction of the Duomo began in 1386 using marble brought into the city along Milan’s Navigli canals. Although it was consecrated as a Cathedral in 1418, building work on the Duomo was not finally completed until the 19th century when Napoleon organised the façade to be finished before his coronation there.

Milan hotels by Expedia

More reading:


How the Lateran Treaty recognised the Vatican as an independent state

Overthrown Mussolini meets his fate at the hands of the partisans

Angelo Roncalli - the farmer's son who became pope



Also on this day:


1543: The birth of madrigal composer Alfonso Ferrabosco


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