“German home in golden rome”

Anton de Waal died 100 years ago. The priest from the Lower Rhine experienced the downfall of the Papal States in Rome, relied on the Prussian king and expanded the "German Swallow's Nest at St. Peter's".

It is a tranquil, almost paradisiacal place in the shadow of St. Peter's Basilica – the Campo Santo Teutonico. On the grounds of the "Cemetery of the Germans and Flemings," as it is officially called, there are not only graves, but also a church and other buildings. Already in the 8. There is said to have been a pilgrim hostel here in the nineteenth century. The property still exists today. It is located barely 100 meters from the "Casa Santa Marta", where Pope Francis lives.

Archconfraternity is the sponsor of the Campo Santo

The Campo Santo is run by a foundation founded in the 15. Archconfraternity founded in the nineteenth century. It cares for the cemetery and German-language services in Rome, and looks after pilgrims from German and Dutch cultures. "A swallow's nest by the giant dome, a German home in Golden Rome" – this saying was in the 19. Century above the entrance.

Attached by the institution's longtime rector, who died in Rome 100 years ago: Anton de Waal (1837-1917). On the occasion of its 100th. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his death, numerous historians are currently meeting in Campo Santo for a conference. De Waal took over management of the institution in 1873 and basically reinvented it. He was not only intensively concerned with German pilgrims and the colony of German Catholics in Rome, but also founded a "scientific priests' college" in 1876: German priests were to come to Rome in order to be able to live together and conduct scientific research here. In 1881 Pope Leo XIII opened. the Vatican archives, which attracted many historians to Rome. And Christian archaeologists took a burning interest in the Roman catacombs.

German presence during difficult times

In 1888, the "Roman Institute of the Gorres Society" was also founded as a scientific institution at Campo Santo. Both institutions – the Priests' College and the Institute – still exist today. While de Waal was organizing the German presence in Rome, the Church was going through difficult times, as was made clear in various contributions at the meeting.

A priest from the Lower Rhine, de Waal had lived in Rome since 1868 and witnessed the conquest by Italian troops there. The Papal States went under; the popes remained "prisoners in the Vatican" for the next decades. In Germany, the Kulturkampf between the Prussian state and the Catholic Church was raging at the same time. Catholics were torn between "popery and patriotism".

Enthusiasm for the papacy

This applied not least to the German Catholics in Rome. De Waal tried to combine both, as Potsdam historian Thomas Brechenmacher explained. So de Waal wrote popular life descriptions of the popes of his time, with which he wanted to inspire his countrymen for the papacy. Especially after the diplomatic settlement of the Kulturkampf, however, a Prussian patriotism emerged in him as well. De Waal hoped, for example, that the Hohenzollerns could contribute to the solution of the unresolved "Roman question": that is, to assist the pope in his dispute with the Kingdom of Italy – which, of course, was completely illusory.

The church historian Georg Kolb went into the literary work of de Waal. For the German "Catholic journeymen's association" in Rome, the priest wrote edifying plays, which, for example, had as their subject the heroic struggle of German soldiers in the papal army against the Italian conquerors. He prepared the same topic in his novel "The 20. September" – the date of the conquest of Rome by Garibaldi's troops – also appealed to an educated middle-class audience.

Multi-talented in the shadow of St. Peter's Basilica

But De Waal was also enthusiastic about German colonial efforts in East Africa and the related activities of the then newly founded Missionary Benedictines; he published the play "Tim, the Negro Boy". De Waal, according to Viennese ethnologist Peter Rohrbacher, was "entirely a child of his time" here. Anton de Waal, as the Roman conference shows, was a multitalented man: theologian, historian, archaeologist, scientific organizer, propagandist for the pope and writer. He had a decisive influence on Campo Santo Teutonico.

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Christina Cherry
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