Pontifical Anthem

Pontifical Anthem and March
Sheet music for the Papal Anthem.

National anthem of   Vatican City
Also known as Marche Pontificale
English: Pontifical March
Music Charles Gounod, 1869
Adopted 1949
Audio sample
"Inno e Marcia Pontificale" (instrumental)
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The "Pontifical Anthem and March" (Italian: Inno e Marcia Pontificale), also known as the "Papal Anthem", is the anthem played to mark the presence of the Pope or one of his representatives, such as a nuncio, and on other solemn occasions.[1] When the Vatican's flag is ceremonially raised, only the first eight bars are played.[2]

While the Papal Anthem also serves as the national anthem of the Holy See and the Vatican City State, the Vatican stresses that it "is not to be understood as a national anthem"; it is a composition whose words and music "speak to the heart of many throughout the world who see in Rome the See of Peter."[1]


The music was composed in 1869 by Charles Gounod, for the celebration on April 11, 1869 of Pope Pius IX's golden jubilee of priestly ordination. The purely instrumental piece in three parts,[3] originally called "Marche pontificale" (French for "Pontifical March"), became extremely popular from its first performance.[1][2]

On October 16, 1949, Pope Pius XII declared it the papal anthem, replacing Viktorin Hallmayer's "Marcia trionfale" (1857), which, being still the papal anthem when the Vatican City State was founded in 1929, had been treated also as the new state's anthem. Gounod's "Marche Pontificale" was first performed in this new role during a ceremony on Christmas Eve of 1949, one day before the opening of the Holy Year 1950. The old anthem too was played for a last time, almost as a token of respect.[1]

At that time, Antonio Allegra (1905–1969), who was then one of the organists of St. Peter's Basilica, wrote Italian lyrics[4] for Gounod's music. Other lyrics have been composed for the music in various languages and by different authors.[4] In 1991, Raffaello Lavagna of Savona (born 1918) wrote Latin lyrics for a four-voice choir, on an arrangement by Alberico Vitalini.[3]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 Pontifical Anthem and its History. From the official site of Vatican City State. Accessed on 2009-06-21.
  2. 1 2 Pontifical Anthem and its History (in Italian). From the official site of the Holy See. Accessed on 2009-06-21.
  3. 1 2 Score for choir of four voices by Alberico Vitalini with original Latin text by Monsignor Raffaello Lavagna. From the official site of the Holy See. Accessed on 2009-06-21.
  4. 1 2 Inno Pontificio lyrics, with brief historical notes and MIDI file. From the official site of the Holy See. Accessed on 2009-06-21.


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