Birthday of Pio Nono, the Pontiff Pope
By ZeEster Clyatt
Pio Nono Avenue, as far as many locals are concerned, is just another street name, but it was actually designated in honor of the great Pontiff Pope, Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, otherwise known as Pope Pius IX.
Pio Nono (Pee-O-Nono) is commemorated annually in the Catholic Church on February 7, and today, May 13, happens to be his birthday.
Born in 1792, he served from 1846 –1878, a total of 31 years, 7 months and 23 days. Pio Nono is the longest -reigning pontificate of the Catholic Church to this date.
“I think it’s interesting to know the history of Macon’s streets,” said Sam Henderson, Executive Assistant to Mayor Robert Reichert.
“I think that the public will also be interested in knowing more about Macon’s history,” he said.
Although the Pontiff Pope has made many contributions, he is primarily responsible for defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, with overwhelming support by Roman Catholic Bishops of the day.
However, there were naysayers. “… if this doctrine be a vital article of the Christian faith, the sleepy-headed church of Rome has been nearly 1,800 years discovering it,” wrote Reverend Cumming in his editorial which was published in the New York Times in 1854.
The rest is now history and the Pope is highly recognized for his spiritual insights.
Four years before his death, Rev. W.H. Gross, Bishop of Savannah, founded Pio Nono College in the pope’s honor in 1874. It was located in Stanislaus Circle at the intersection of Vineville, Pio Nono and (Bishop) Pierce avenues.
Immediately after his election, his first act was to free all political prisoners held by his predecessor. In celebration, thousands of Roman citizens, bearing torches, traveled to the palace where he was staying temporarily until he could move in at the Vatican.
They celebrated for three days. On the third day, Pio Nono boarded the horse-drawn carriage which would carry him into the city, only to be stopped by Roman soldiers who unhitched the horses, draped the ropes over their shoulders, and towed the carriage into the Vatican on their bare backs.
Pio Nono was honored by Pope John Paul II in 1985 and in 2000 the Pope beautified him, meaning that he has died and gone to heaven and can now intercede and pray on the behalf of others.
Locally, Pio Nono is written in Italian, the pope’s nationality. There are less than ten street names and locations throughout the world designated in honor of him, including the one in Macon.
There is street named Pie-IX (Pie-Neuf) in Montreal, Canada, a Metro system stop, at the foot of the Olympic Stadium, a street in Santiago, Chile and a secondary school which bears the name in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“It’s an icon in the Catholic community, located in the deepest of the Deep South,” said Marty Willett, local historian and Chairman of Fort Hawkins Commission. “It’s a rarity that most folks haven’t heard.”
In fact, the name is even misspelled at one point along the avenue. Instead of Pio Nono, it is spelled Pionono, which happens to be a battered and fried Spanish finger food often stuffed with cheese or plantains.
Willet, who is also a Sydney Lanier Tour guide, went on to say that Macon’s history is actually full of interesting facts. He said he is constantly encouraging locals to expose themselves to as much of the city’s rich history as possible.
“Macon’s history is more mesmerizing and outstanding than most cities in America,” he said. “That’s juicy history.”
Pio Nono achieved many milestones throughout his lengthy career. For instance, during his pontificate, he convened the First Vatican Council in 1869.
He was head political ruler of the city of Rome, capital of the Papal States, a significant track of land in what is now Italy. Occasionally, the Pope was referred to as “King.”
He ruled over 3 million people until 1870, when the Papal States were terminated, and the position was designated as a spiritual force.
For more Information and better insight into this and other aspects of Macon’s history logon to exploregeorgia.org and sign up for Stanislaus Christmas tours. Tickets are $20. Also, visit the Vineville Neighborhood Association’s website at vineville.org and historicmacon.org.