Documentary 4min

Pope Leo XIII (1898 - 1903)


+ 1 image
Director William K.L. Dickson
Countries Italy United Kingdom United States Vatican City State
Language English
(Country Spesific) SS Papa Leone XIII
(Five or Six titles.) British Mutoscope & Biograph Company
Actuality Film Black and White Catholic Church Documentary History Pope Pope Leo XIII Short Silent Film Vatican

American and British Mutoscope & Biograph Company, with William K.L. Dickson, got in 1898 special access to follow Pope Leo XIII around in his daily tasks, and by that, they created an abundance of scenes. He claimed that he spent four months negotiating with the Vatican to get access. Dickson managed to convince the Pope to go out in the sun for better lighting for the camera. Pope Leo XIII was 78 years old at the time. The Italian version claims this to be from 1896.

The film was viewed with the Mutoscope viewer, where each frame was printed on paper and showed in fast succession to produce a moving picture. In 1958 the images were photographed one by one and transferred to film, and what we have today is a digitalized version of some of the resulting films from these paper cards. Pope Leo XIII was the first Pope to be recorded on film. These films were made between 1898 and 1903, with most done in 1898 and the three 1903 films almost certainly 1898 titles reissued to commemorate the Pope's death.

29 titles are usually listed, here combined into one entity as they were filmed around the same time for the same project.

Distributed titles
The collection of films made of Pope Leo XIII were distributed in about 30 known titles.
His Holiness, Leo XII in the Gardens of the Vatican
Being Photographed by the American Biograph Camera.
H. H. Pope Leo in Chair
Pope Leo XIII and Count Pecci
Pope Leo XIII Approaching Garden
Pope Leo XIII Attended by Guard
Pope Leo XIII Being Carried in Chair Through Upper Loggia
No. 101
Pope Leo XIII Being Seated Bestowing Blessing Surrounded by Swiss Guards
No. 107
Pope Leo XIII Blessing in the Garden
Pope Leo XIII Giving Blessing from Chair
Pope Leo XIII in Canopy Chair
No. 100
Pope Leo XIII in Carriage
Pope Leo XIII in Carriage
No. 1
Pope Leo XIII in Carriage
No. 102
Pope Leo XIII in Sedan Chair
No. 1
Pope Leo XIII in Vatican Garden
No. 1
Pope Leo XIII Leaving Carriage and being Ushered into Garden
No. 104
Pope Leo XIII
No. 57-82
Pope Leo XIII
No. 106
Pope Leo XIII
No. 31-56
Pope Leo XIII Passing Through Upper Loggia
No. 1
Pope Leo XIII Preparing to Give Blessing from Chair
Pope Leo XIII Seated in Garden
Pope Leo XIII Seated in Garden
No. 105
Pope Leo XIII Walking at Twilight
No. 1
Pope Leo XIII Walking before Kneeling Guards
Pope Leo XIII Walking in the Garden
H. H. Pope Leo XIII in Chair
Pope Leo XIII in His Carriage
Pope Leo XIII Passing through Upper Loggia
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Leo XIII - Self
William K.L. Dickson - Director
Historical value as first film of Pope

This set of films are the first-ever shot of a Pope, namely Pope Leo XIII. William K.L. Dickson apparently used a lot of time getting the permission to do so, and I'm happy he did not give up because it gave us this early example of a historical film of great importance. It is not much, the clips that survive, and they are a bit repetitive in the sense that the Pope always gives his blessing - but then, what else could he do. I have visited the Vatican and seen the horse carriage myself, so it was cool to see it present on film.