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The Tomb of Pius XI

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Pius XI Monument

The first niche (from the Confessio) in the left (south) aisle holds the tomb of Pius XI, Achille Ratti from Desio, who was elected 1922 and died on February 10, 1939. He was laid to rest here on February 14. Among the papal sepulchers in the grottoes, this one is the most ornate and its design is based on that of a small mausoleum. The pink marble sarcophagus is made of the same stone used to build the Duomo in Milan and it copies the early Christian style. It has a strigilled front with a laurel wreath and the monogram of Christ in the center. On the corners are the symbols of the Evangelists while on the edge of the lid is the inscription: PIVS XI PONT. MAX. and the heraldic symbol in relief.












The serene figure of the pope was sculpted with extreme realism by Giannino Castiglioni (1884-1971). The pope is lying in state, his head rests on two cushions and is slightly turned toward the viewer. All the papal vestments are faithfully reproduced, including the striking perforated lace. His feet are covered with a thin veil called falda.

The ample arcosolium (arched recess for a sarcophagus) is entirely decorated in Ravenna-style mosaic, made by the Studio della Fabbrica di San Pietro following the design by the painter Pietro d'Achiardi. In the upper lunettes on a golden background, are: in the center Christ Pantocrator, inside a clipeum (a medallion portrait) held by two angels. The inscription above says: REX REGVM, PRINCEPS PACIS (The King of kings, the Prince of peace).

To the left is St Ambrose, the Patron of Milan, to the right is St Theresa of the Child Jesus, who was canonized by the pope. On the vault, on a blue background are coils of foliage and, inside a circle in the center, are the letters Alfa and Omega. On the bases of the arch are the symbols of Milan, to the left, and Desio, to the right. On the outer edge of the low vault are the programmatic words of the pontificate of Pius XI: PAX CHRISTI IN REGNO CHRISTI (The peace of Christ in the kingdom of Christ).

The figure of Pius XI on his sarcophagus in the Vatican Grottoes
The figure of Pius XI on his sarcophagus

St Ambrose - Left Wall
St Theresa - Right Wall of the Pius XI tomb niche
St Theresa - Right Wall
Right Angel holding the image of Christ Pantocrator
Angel holding image of Christ
Tomb of Pius XI - Coat of Arms of Milan- Right Side
Pius XI Tomb - Coat of Arms of Milan
Source: Roma Sacra The Vatican Grottoes, Fabbrica of St. Peter's, June 2003

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