A corps of Catholic volunteer soldiers who served in the papal army under this name (1861–70). The army was formed at the beginning of 1860, when the very existence of the states of the church was menaced by the new Kingdom of Italy, determined to unify politically the entire peninsula. Pius IX chose one of his close friends, Monsignor de mÉrode, a former Belgian army officer who had become priest, as minister of arms, with the task of reorganizing the papal army. De Mérode immediately placed in command of these forces Louis de lamoriciÈre, former general of the French army in Africa, war minister during the Second Republic, and an admitted political foe of Napoleon III. With an entourage of several legitimist French officers, such as the Marquis de Pimodan, De Charette, Chevigné, and Bourbon-Chalus, he organized in five regiments some 5,000 Austrian light-infantrymen, redistributed the 4,000 Swiss soldiers, formed St. Patrick's battalion of 3,000 Irish volunteers, and formed the French volunteers into a squadron of guides and a half-battalion of infantry. Belgian volunteers were incorporated into this last group. Under the leadership of Cathelineau, who was descended from a hero in the war of the Vendée, there arrived a little later a rather tumultuous French band wearing large crosses on their breasts and called "crusaders." Belgian "crusaders" accompanied them. They were incorporated into Franco-Belgian groups already constituted. This heterogeneous army received its baptism of fire at Castelfidardo (Sept. 18, 1860), where La Moricière maneuvered his troops very poorly and met defeat. His army was disbanded and the Marquis de Pimodan was killed.
The Franco-Belgian volunteers officially assumed the title of papal zouaves on Jan. 1, 1861, thanks to La Moricìre, who took the name from that of a light-infantry corps created for the Algerian wars. After Castelfidardo French Catholic opinion became more and more passionately eager to defend the Pope and his territories. The fallen at Castelfidardo were glorified as heroes and martyrs. Some overzealous bishops who blundered into making martyrs out of the living drew the mockery of the anti-Catholic press.
A lively recruiting program increased zouave members. Some came from as far away as Canada. After the capitulation of Ancona La Moricìre resigned and returned to France. Mérode fell into disgrace and quit his "ministry" in 1865. The papal army was then reorganized in 1865 by General Kanzler, a German. Zouaves were sufficiently numerous to form a regiment under Colonels Alhet and de Charette. Their mission was to prevent the outbreak of revolution in the States of the Church while they awaited the attacks of the Italian armies. This task they fulfilled. New recruits, notably Spanish Carlists, arrived between 1866 and 1870. After the surrender of Rome (Sept. 16, 1870) the papal zouaves were repatriated.
During the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), De Charette came from Civitavecchia to Marseilles, offered to form a French corps in support of France, and succeeded in organizing the legion of volunteers from the west that fought courageously at Orléans, Patay, and Loigny. In western France the papal zouaves long retained the aureole of crusaders. Catholics had a custom of dressing children as zouaves for Catholic celebrations and processions.
Bibliography: l. a. de becdeliÈvre, Souvenirs de l'armée pontificate (Paris 1867). o. de poli, Les Soldats du pape (4th ed. Paris 1868). f. russell-killough, Dix années au service pontifical (Paris 1871). a. c. m. charette de la contrie, Souvenirs du régiment des zouaves pontificaux: Rome 1860–70, France 1870–71, 2v. (Paris 1877–78). r. bittard des portes, Histoire des zouaves pontificaux (Paris 1894). Matricule des zouaves pontificaux: Liste des zouaves, 2 v. (Lille 1920). g. f. berkeley, The Irish Battalion in the Papal Army of 1860 (Dublin 1929). h. de moreau, Le R. P. Hildebrand de Hemptinne (Maredsous 1930). Intermédiaire des chercheurs et curieux 12 (1962) 440, 1072, 1178; 13 (1963) 54, 709; 14 (1964) 830, 1167, uniforms, families of the zouaves.