Music

Marches Madness: Heralding The Pope

NPR | March 15, 2013 5:56 a.m.

Contributed By:

Mark Mobley

A marching band perfroms before the introduction of Pope Francis at St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday in Vatican City.

A marching band perfroms before the introduction of Pope Francis at St. Peter's Basilica on Wednesday in Vatican City.

Getty Images, Joe Raedle

The Argentine pope who made history yesterday was introduced by not one but two Frenchmen.

French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran announced the selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as the 266th pope — the first from the Western Hemisphere — as well as the name Bergoglio had chosen, Francis.

Moments before, a band played the Marche Pontificale by French composer Charles Gounod, who wrote it for an 1869 celebration of the ordination anniversary of Pope Pius IX. In 1950, it became the anthem of the Vatican state.

The march is commanding yet serene, fit to honor someone who is both head of state and a shepherd. Shortly after it became the Vatican anthem, a bandleader noted that this music “reveals the strong personality of the author of Faust.” Like all of us, composers can pivot between the sacred and profane.

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