29 November 2016

Agostino Richelmy – Cardinal

Former soldier sent priests to say mass for troops

A photograph of Richelmy  as Archbishop of Turin
A photograph of Richelmy
as Archbishop of Turin
Cardinal Agostino Richelmy, who fought for Garibaldi as a teenager, was born on this day in 1850 in Turin.

He joined the Garibaldi Volunteers during the war of 1866 and is said to have worn his red shirt under his cassock for years afterwards.

When Italy entered the First World War in 1915, Richelmy organised priests to serve as army chaplains in the mountains of Trentino, where they had to carve altars out of snow and say mass in temperatures below zero.

Richelmy was born into an ancient, noble family and his father, Prospero was a hydraulic engineer.

He was educated at the Liceo Classico Cavour and the Archiepiscopal Seminary in Turin and gained a doctorate in theology in 1876. He became a professor of moral and dogmatic theology and then a professor in the faculty of canon law.

Richelmy was elected Bishop of Ivrea in 1886 and named as the Archbishop of Turin in 1897.

He was created cardinal priest of Sant’Eusebio in Rome in 1899 and was then transferred to Santa Maria in Via in Rome in 1911.

The marble sarcophagus in the Santuario della Consolata in Turin, containing the remains of Cardinal Richelmy
The marble sarcophagus in the Santuario della Consolata
in Turin, containing the remains of Cardinal Richelmy
Richelmy supported all the social directives of Pope Leo XIII, who worked to encourage understanding between the Church and the modern world during his papacy.

The Cardinal then participated in the papal conclaves of 1903, 1914 and 1922.

During the First World War Richelmy dedicated himself to organising assistance for the people most affected, after more than 300,000 Italian soldiers had been killed in the early battles.

He died after surgical intervention for kidney stones in Turin in 1923 at the age of 72 and his funeral was attended by the Duke of Aosta, representing the King of Italy.

The Cardinal was initially buried at the chapel for the clergy in the cemetery in Turin but his remains were transferred in 1927 to the Santuario della Consolata, where they now lie in a pink marble sarcophagus.

Travel tip:

The Santuario della Consolata in Turin, the final resting place of Cardinal Agostino Richelmy, is a minor basilica in the centre of the city known to locals as La Consia. A church has stood on the site from Roman times and by the 12th century it was claimed that a blind pilgrim had his sight restored by an icon of the Virgin in the church. Construction of the present church building was commissioned in 1678 to be designed by architect Guarino Guarini and it now serves as a burial place for several saints connected with Turin. A procession of the icon of the Virgin passes through the streets of Turin every year on 20 June.

Santa Maria in Via, Richelmy's second church in Rome
Santa Maria in Via, Richelmy's
second church in Rome
Travel tip:

Santa Maria in Via, Cardinal Richelmy’s second church in Rome, has existed since the ninth century. The words ‘in Via’ mean ‘on the way’ and are a reference to nearby Via Flaminia. It is claimed that in the 13th century a well in the stables of a Cardinal’s house overflowed and a picture of Our Lady was seen floating on the waters. Pope Alexander IV declared it a miracle and ordered the construction of a chapel on the site. The chapel is the first on the right in the current church and still houses the well of the miracle. The current church building was erected in 1491 and now serves as the national church in Rome for the Ecuadorian community.

More reading:

How the ideology of Giuseppe Mazzini inspired the battle for Italian unification

Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour - Italy's first prime minister

How the capture of Rome completed Italian unification

Also on this day:

1797: The birth of Gaetano Donizetti

(Picture credit: Richelmy sarcophagus by Geobia via Wikimedia Commons)


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