Hat tip to Kathy Schiffer at Seasons of Grace blog for making me aware of this.
Who knew Vatican City had a National Anthem, but it is its own country, so one shouldn’t be surprised. Well, it’s not like they win medals in the Olympics for us to hear of it. The current National Anthem, the Inno e Marcia Pontificale, was actually composed in 1869 by Charles Gounod, a French composer (who also composed Ave Maria), but it did not officially become the Vatican City anthem until 1949, replacing the previous anthem of 1829, the Marche trionfale, composed by the Austrian Vicktorin Hallmayer.
Actually let’s compare the two. Let me first post the earlier Hallmayer composition.
Now here is the current Anthem, the Gounod.
Which do you prefer? I think both are characteristic of the national origins of the respective composers. Remember both are Marches, which means they are intended for a formal procession. Hallmayer has a 19th century Austrian military bearing. The Gounod, with its brass flourishes, has an air of French ceremony.
However, the Gounod music had lyrics composed by Antonio Allegra (later translated to Latin by Raffaello Lavagna) and a chorus has been added to the March. Without any lyrics and chorus, I would say that I prefer the previous Hallmayer, Marche trionfale. But Allegra’s chorus adds a layer to the Gounod Marche Pontificale that I can only describe as “churchy music.” To my ear it takes the March and makes it a hymn.
What do you think?
Both versions are not exactly brilliant compositions. They sound rather routine as far as Marches or National Anthems go. Most national anthems are quite boring actually. I think we’re spoiled in the US with our Star Spangled Banner.
It will probably be a rare day when we hear the Vatican City National Anthem again. Unless of course the cardinals field a super basketball team—they don’t seem tall enough though—or the Holy Father is able to win the 100m backstroke. Both unlikely.