Ultramontanism

A movement of Catholic revival, especially after the French Revolution, which rediscovered and hoped to reimplement the unity and independence of the Roman Church under the papacy. This reassertion of Catholic Christian faith found inspiration in the pre-Renaissance Christian Commonwealth and the Catholic Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The motifs of Romanticism, especially the new awareness of the medieval, were contributory. The movement, situated mainly in France but also in S Germany and England, wanted to terminate the power over the church of Enlightenment rationalism, especially as this was realized in the secularist state domination of the church since Louis XIV's time. This implied a renunciation of Gallicanism.*

The French Revolution was the decisive moment. Structurally Ultramontanism meant centralization of the church under absolute papal authority, coupled by independence of the Roman Church from state control and where possible subordination of the state and the rest of society to papal Catholic dogmatic and moral principles. The term, used derisively since the seventeenth century, implied attachment to Rome i.e., “beyond the mountains” (the Alps). The movement was shaped by the resistance of Pius VII* to Napoleon, by the support of subsequent popes, and public figures such as Joseph de Maistre* and Louis de Bonald, and Cardinal Manning* in England, by the reestablishment of the Jesuits* (1814), and the establishment of new orders, but especially by the singular devotion of countless parish clergy and faithful.

Because of its antirevolutionary role, Roman Catholicism was linked to hierarchical and legitimist societal ideals, the alliance of Throne and Altar. Pius IX* led the movement by his obvious Catholic devotion, exemplified by the dogma of the Immaculate Conception* of Mary (1854), by his resistance to the attacks on his temporal (political) power (1859-70), and especially by the dogma of papal infallibility* (1870). Vatican I* (1869-70) meant the official triumph of Ultramontanism as the church's stand and showed its view of the proper relation between pope and general council. The newfound spiritual power was the sine qua non of Leo XIII's* profound social encyclicals.

E.E.Y. Hales, Pio Nono (1954) and Papacy and Revolution, 1769-1846 (1966); K.S. Latourette, Christianity in a Revolutionary Age, I (1958); R. Aubert, Le pontificat de Pie IX (2nd ed., 1964).