Cornelia’s Europe 1835-1837

Cornelia circa 1836 Crayon sketch and oil painting of Cornelia. Sketch done as a pair with one of Pierce; "reputedly done by Princess Sciarra Colonna, it would more likely to be done within the Shrewsbury circle, perhaps by a Donna Chiara Colonna Doria di Caretto." Modern oil version done by Irene Dee Schachter.

The Connellys traveled to Europe first for barely a year between February 1836 until April 1837. They left the United States from New Orleans, LA on 12 December 1835 and arrived in Marseilles on 07 February 1836. They then traveled, most likely by coach, to Rome by the end of February.  The family stayed initially at the Hotel Spillman on the Via della Croce from February 25 - April 1 1835. At that time the family consisted of Pierce, Cornelia, Mercer, and Adeline. They also had the assistance of a nurse or servant. At the Hotel Spillman they rented three bedrooms, a dining room, sitting room, anteroom, with all their meals included. Additionally they paid a daily fee to hire a piano.This hotel no longer exists but it is known that it was located in the heart of Rome near the Spanish Steps. While staying in Rome, Pierce and Cornelia took language lessons, French and Italian for Cornelia, and Italian for Pierce who already knew French. They both took painting lessons in the Via Babuino, visited studios in the Via Margutta and became acquainted with the work of Overbeck and the Nazarei based at St Isidore’s, Via degli Artisti. Cornelia studied singing.

Sketch of Cornelia at age 28, Rome, 1836-7; done by Chiara Colonna; matching sketch of Pierce was also made.

Pierce had a letter of introduction for Cardinal Fransoni which allowed the couple to meet other important and influential priests and Vatican officials. They befriended Catholic English aristocrats who had residences in Rome, most notably the Earl of Shrewsbury and his family. Rome gave them the opportunity to become more familiar with the Catholic Church as they had access to spiritual direction and the ability to listen to many clergy. In March 1836 Pierce was received by Cardinal Odescalchi following his abjuration from the Anglican faith. They were both confirmed on 31 March 1836 by Cardinal Weld.

In Rome, Pierce spoke with Cardinal Odescalchi about the possibility of being ordained a Catholic priest. In May 1836 Pierce travelled to England with Lord Shrewsbury while Cornelia went with the children, Mercer and Adeline, and stayed at the Palazzo Simonetti, Corso 307, the residence of Lord Shrewsbury’s family in Rome. Here Cornelia could focus on her children and continue to pray and reflect on her new faith.

She would also visit the major churches of Rome.

Sketch of Pierce Connelly at age 32-33, Rome, 1836-7; done by Chiara Colonna; matching sketch of Cornelia was also made.

Pierce reunited with his family in Rome around August 1836 and the entire family were received in a private audience by Pope Gregory XVI on 25 April, 1837. A few days later the family left the city to travel through Europe. They traveled to Vienna where Cornelia gave birth to their third child and second son, John Henry on 22 June, 1837. They had originally planned to spend a few years abroad but were forced to return to the United States as a result of the Panic of 1837. They no longer had the financial resources and returned to the States to straighten out their finances.

Click here to download a detailed timeline of Cornelia in Europe juxtaposed with then-current events.

Churches and Other Significant Places Cornelia and her Family Visited

Cornelia was probably a frequent visitor at Propaganda Fide, Piazza di Spagna, where her spiritual director, Msgr. von Reisach, was rector of the College. There she met Cardinal Fransoni who became a friend of hers, he was prefect of the Congregation, and John McCloskey was a student priest.

She visited S Maria Maggiore to worship at the high altar where the supposed relic of the crib enshrined, taking her children with her, and by special invitation was there for the consecration as bishop of Msgr. von Reisach by Pope Gregory XVI.

In the Palazzo Odescalchi, Cornelia and the family visited Cardinal Weld. In this chapel Pierce was received into the Church and both Connellys were confirmed.

Cornelia prayed in the Church of the Gesu, where the tomb of Ignatius, the high altar and the chapel of Our Lady of the Way were already there as they are now.

Sant'Andrea delle Fratte

Franciscan Church Aracoeli

Chiesa di Sant' Ignazio di Loyola, at the altar of S. Aloysius Gonzaga under whose protection she put her son Mercer.

During the Octave of the Epiphany she followed daily homilies in S. Carlo al Corso to celebrate the Incarnation. In 1837 Cornelia attended a week of liturgical celebrations of the Epiphany, including sermons by Joacchino Venture, which were hugely popular and were based at this church on the Corso.

She attended the services of Holy Week conducted by the pope in the Sistine Chapel, and watched the Easter firework display over the Castel S. Angelo from rooms on the Tor di Nona bank of the Tiber.

Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran - The Cathedral of Rome, first established during the 4th century, and the most important of the major Roman basilicas.

Sant’ Andrea Della Vale - Cornelia absorbed theology and spirituality of the Incarnation from the Epiphany sermons of Gioacchino Venture, a Theatine father at this church. She kept a copy of his sermons all her life.