Vatican Corner 07-14-2019

… continued One of the strangest spectacles that was ever seen at the Vatican took place in 1890 when William Cody – (Buffalo Bill) was invited there. Two years earlier, he and his Wild West Show had traveled for the first time to Europe, having great success, and captivating audiences. He and his troop of performer along with the livestock traveled from city to city by train, setting up their show in big open spaces. Queen Victoria of England had even summoned the Show to perform at Windsor Palace. The highlight of that particular show was when out of the audience the Prince of Wales and the Kings of Denmark, Greece Belgium and Saxony climbed aboard the Deadwood Stagecoach with Buffalo Bill driving. They raced around the arena with Indians chasing them in a mock attack. On Cody’s second trip to Europe, he was invited to the Vatican to attend the 12th celebration of the coronation of Pope Leo XIII. He and his troop set up the Indian camp near the Vatican and the Roman citizens could hardly wait to see the show and visit the camp, even though the 5-lira ticket was very expensive. Cody wanted to bring his entire troop of nearly 200 performers into the Vatican to have an audience with the Pope. Initially that idea was rejected but eventually he was able to bring in a sizable portion of them. Through the austere walls of the Vatican, amid the gathered princes and princesses and the aristocracy of the ancient noble families of Rome, dress in their nicest finery, and the clergy with their silk robes and gold and the lines of Swiss Guard ,Palatine Guards, Papal gendarmes and private chamberlains in their glistening uniforms came the dramatic entrance of Cody “Buffalo Bill”. With a big sweep of his sombrero he was followed by his cowboys and his Indians with their war painted faces, covered with feathers and armed with axes and knives. This was that strangest of spectacles. The fearsome looking Indians first greeted the Pope’s arrival by shouting, knelt to ask for his blessing, and then as he rose they screamed again. Pope Leo XIII probably didn’t know that most of the Indians were Catholics. Some reports say the Pope had a slightly puzzled smile, while others said he became briefly pale. Cody presented the Pope with a bouquet and a pillow of flowers in the shape of the Pope’s coat of arms. The Pope gave out rosaries and medals of the pontificate. “Rocky Bear” knelt and made the sign of the cross, and as the Pope went by a squaw fainted. After the Thanksgiving Mass the great audience poured out of the Vatican to see the Wild West Show. The Prince of Sermoneta had brought some wild horses to test Cody’s cowboys. The Italian cowboys competed against the American’s in a huge 500 lire bet. The Italian cowboys were declared the winners, but Cody did not agree, and he skipped town without paying and the next day was in Florence. By advertising a genuine experience of the American frontier, few people did more to fuel the image and myths of the “Wild West” than Cody. For three decades Cody entertained audiences around the globe and became the American entertainment industry’s first international star and one of the most-recognized persons in the world. He continued to perform in his show until 1916, although at the age of 71 he often had to be helped onto his horse backstage. Due to bad investments, he lost the fortune he had made in show business. Possible the greatest gift he had received when he met Pope Leo XIII was evidenced the day before Cody died on January 9, 1917. He asked for and received a Catholic baptism from Father Christopher Walsh.