La nona crociata: I volontari di Pio IX in difesa di Roma [The Ninth Crusade: The Volunteers of Pius IX in Defense of Rome], is the title of a book by Piero Raggi (Libreria Tonini, Ravenna 2002). Raggi is a scholar who has gathered a great quantity of biographical and iconographical material in order to preserve for memory the names of those who defended the Church and the Pope in the decade stretching from 1860 to the breach of the Porta Pia on September 20, 1870.
In 1860, with the support of Count Cavour and the British government, Giuseppe Garibaldi was preparing his “Expedition of the Thousand” to conquer the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In the same year, Pius IX entrusted the armed defense of the Papal States to Monsignor Francesco Saverio de Mérode (1820-1874), who came from a distinguished Belgian family and had been an official of the Foreign Legion in Algeria before following his religious vocation. Msgr. de Merode created a corps of French and Belgian volunteers to serve alongside the reuglar papal troops. He placed these volunteers under the authority of General Christophe de Lamoricière (1805-1865), who had commanded the corps of Zhouaves in Africa, and so in his honor the corps of “Franco-Belgian Riflemen” came to be known as the “Papal Zouaves.”
General Lamoricière launched an appeal to young Catholics all over the world, who responded generously to the call to arms in defense of Pius IX. The volunteers came from 25 different countries, but the majority came from two Catholic countries, Austria and Ireland. Many others came from England, Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Canada, and the United States...
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