On June 16th, 1871, Pius IX (r. 1846-78) became the first pope to reign for twenty-five years. The achievement was duly commemorated in St Peter's Basilica when his portrait (in mosaic) was placed above a much venerated bronze statue of St Peter.
The inscription reads: "The Vatican clergy embellished the sacred seat for Pius IX, Pontifex Maximus, who alone in the Roman pontificate equalled the years of St Peter on the sixteenth day before the Kalends of July, 1871."
At the time the monument was erected, St Peter, held by the Catholic Church to have been the first pope, was believed to have reigned for twenty-five years.
In addition to Pius IX, only two other popes have reigned for twenty-five years or more: Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903) and John Paul II (r. 1978-2005).
Pius IX, however, also holds the record for being the longest-reigning pope. When he died on February 7th, 1878, he had been head of the Catholic Church for 31 years and 236 days.
His body was originally buried in St. Peter's Basilica, but on July 13th, 1881, it was moved in a night procession to the church of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura.
On September 3rd, 2000, Pius IX was beatified by Pope John Paul II (r. 1978-2005).
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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