Popes of the Twentieth Century

Today’s news is full of stories about the Pope’s resignation. After eight years, Benedict XVI will step down due to ill health. He will be the first pope to relinquish the position since Gregory XII in 1415. This was the statement that was released by the Vatican:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonisations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

The British Pathé archive holds a great deal of material related to the papacy and to many of the previous popes who served during the Twentieth Century.

Benedict XV

The earliest footage of a pope in the archive dates from 1922. Benedict XV died in this year and newsreels announced his death. His twenty-first century namesake called him a “prophet of peace” for his role in the First World War.

"Requiescat in Pace. Late Pope Benedict XV lying in State", 1922 newsreel.
“Requiescat in Pace. Late Pope Benedict XV lying in State”, 1922 newsreel.

Pius XI

British Pathé filmed the election of Benedict XV’s successor, who served from 1922 until his own death in 1939. During his tenure, he presided over the transformation of Vatican City into a sovereign state. Click here to view a selection of news stories from his reign.

Pope Pius XI has a public appearance after recovering from a heart attack, 1938.
Pope Pius XI has a public appearance after recovering from a heart attack, 1938.

Pius XII

Pope Pius XII was on the Vatican throne from 1939 until 1958, serving notably during the years Second World War.

Pope Pius XII is crowned, 1939.
Pope Pius XII is crowned, 1939.

John XXIII

“Good Pope John” served from 1958 until 1963.

Pope John XXIII prays in the Vatican Grottos.
Pope John XXIII prays in the Vatican Grottos.

Paul VI

Pope Paul VI (r. 1963-1978) was the first Pope to visit the United States. The archive contains footage of the visit, as well as other events from his tenure.

The Pope visits Uganda, 1969.
The Pope visits Uganda, 1969.

John Paul II

When Paul VI died in 1978, he was succeeded by John Paul I. Sadly, 33 days after his succession, John Paul was discovered dead in his bed. John Paul II replaced him, the first non-Italian pope for more than 400 years. He died in 2005 and an episode of A Day That Shook The World documents the funeral.

Search for more footage at www.britishpathe.com

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From the Dark Ages

King Arthur and his legendary Knights of the Round Table; the heroic King of Wessex, Alfred the Great; hordes of Viking invaders – there’s nothing like a good early-medieval tale. Nostalgia for the Dark Ages is nothing new and we’ve put together a collection of material on people revelling in the trappings of that period and culture.

Strictly speaking, there weren’t really any “Dark Ages”. They are more a creation of popular culture than any historical reality and academics today discourage use of the term as judgemental and inaccurate. Indeed, many inventions of the so-called Dark Ages are still in use today, so there’s much to celebrate in the era after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

In this post, we celebrate just a few things that have survived from the Dark Ages into the Twentieth Century through footage within the British Pathé archive. More clips can be found in our collection here.

1. The foundation of the English language

It wouldn’t be easy for us to pick up a 5th-century Old English manuscript and read it like we would a modern-day novel. Indeed, here is a short passage from Beowulf, written some time between the 8th and the 11th centuries:

Hwæt. We Gardena    in gear-dagum,
þeodcyninga,     þrym gefrunon, hu ða æþelingas     ellen fremedon.

Translated, this would be:

What. We of the Spear-Danes  in old days of the people-kings,    power heard, how the princes    brave deeds did.*

It is hard to believe that this Old English passage bears much relation to our own language, but this is the root of the way we write and speak; a language which would evolve over the centuries; a language of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens, and Dan Brown.

Ernest Hemingway, a 20th century author making use of a language invented during the "Dark Ages", in a still from a newsreel announcing his suicide. Click the still to view the 1961 film.
Ernest Hemingway, a 20th century author making use of a language invented during the “Dark Ages”, in a still from a newsreel announcing his suicide. Click the still to view the 1961 film.

2. English Christianity

In 597 AD, the Benedictine monk Augustine arrived on the pagan shores of early-medieval Britain on a mission to spread Christianity on behalf of the Pope. Augustine is known as the first Archbishop of Canterbury, a position that has survived to the present day.

Dr. Geoffrey Fisher blesses the congregation following his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1945. Click the still to view the film.
Dr. Geoffrey Fisher blesses the congregation following his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1945. Click the still to view the film.

3. The Blast Furnace

The first to invent the Blast Furnace were the Chinese in the 5th century. Western Europe, on the other hand, would not catch up until the 12th century. But the “Dark Ages” did introduce something similar and very close to it. That was the Catalan forge, created in Catalonia, Spain during the 8th century.

This 1940s education film details the workings of the blast furnace, an invention of the "Dark Ages". Click the still to view the film.
This 1940s education film details the workings of the blast furnace, which was preceded by a similar invention from the “Dark Ages”. Click the still to watch.

4. The Horseshoe

Nailed horseshoes were an innovation of the “Dark Ages”, possibly from the 9th century, allowing horses to more easily traverse difficult territory without causing harm to their hooves.

A look at the work of village blacksmith Arthur Booth. Near Darlington, Durham, 1943. Click the still to view the film.
A look at the work of village blacksmith Arthur Booth. Near Darlington, Durham, 1943. Click the still to view the film.

5. The English Navy

The earliest references to ships used by English kings in battle come from the “Dark Ages”. It was the threat of Viking invaders that propelled the formation of a navy on a large scale during the course of the 9th century, particularly under King Alfred the Great. Over the centuries, Britain grew into the world’s greatest maritime power, before declining significantly in influence during the 20th century.

'"Rule Britannia!" Pictures to thrill every British heart (taken by special permission) during Atlantic Battle Fleet Manoeuvres.' Click the still to view this 1928 newsreel.
“Rule Britannia! Pictures to thrill every British heart (taken by special permission) during Atlantic Battle Fleet Manoeuvres.” Click the still to view this 1928 newsreel.

6. Sheriffs

The office of sheriff has had a varying meaning depending on the period and the particular country. In England it is now a ceremonial position, but in the 10th century it was a “keeper of the peace” appointed by the king and was known as a “shire reeve”, somewhat akin to the modern-day American police officer.

Almost every Sheriff in Britain is at the ceremony of Exeter's 400th anniversary in this 1937 film. Click the still to view it.
Almost every Sheriff in Britain is at the ceremony of Exeter’s 400th anniversary in this 1937 film. Click the still to view it.

7. The English Monarchy

Alfred the Great was the first to style himself as “King of the English”, but it was King Aethelstan in the 10th century who really ruled what we would consider to be an English kingdom. Polls show that the British have no desire to rid themselves of this historic institution.

The Queen is crowned in this colour footage of the coronation. Click the still to view the film.
The Queen is crowned in this colour footage of the coronation. Click the still to view the film.

Can you think of any more? Object to any of our choices? Leave us a comment.

You can find all of the above films and many more in this collection.

* Source: http://www.nvcc.edu/home/vpoulakis/Translation/beowulf1.htm