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Life of St. Pius X

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Translation by Nausica Bonaldo


The Sartos settled down in Riese in the 1763, coming from the neighbouring community of Castello di Godego, situated in the province and in the diocese of Treviso.

This branch, which belongs to Giuseppe Sarto, the pope Pio X, died out in the 1930, with the death of Maria Sarto, the last of his unmarried sisters.

The researches, which were led by Francesco Franceschini[1], Angelo Marchesan[2] and Antonio Gheno[3], show that the Sartos came from Villa Estense (Padova): they cite a documentations, which isn’t always exact, that dates back to the end of the XIV century.

A branch of the family’s, whose intermediate vicissitudes are almost known, moved to San Giorgio in Brenta, a village near Cittadella, in the province of Padova and in the diocese of Vicenza.

Here Anzolo Sarto was born (1721?-1784), and he married in 22nd May 1761 in Castello di Godego Antonia Liviero, the widow of Zamaria Fratin.

From their marriage Giuseppe Sarto was born (1762-1841): he is the only of their sons whose news is found by the documents of Castello di Godego and Riese[4].

The next year, in 1763[5], the family moved definitely to Riese.

In this community Giuseppe Sarto, a landowner, was the town bailiff and he married Paola Giacomello (1765-1837).

From 1784 to 1809 11 sons (6 girls and 5 boys) were born. Only six of them outlived.

The fourth-born was Giovanni Battista (or Gianbattista or Gio:Batta) Sarto (1792-1852), the future pope’s father[6].

Giuseppe Sarto and Paola Giacomello lived in his mother-in-law’s house, Angela Girardi, the proprietress of the pope Pio X’s native house.

The family wasn’t poor, because it had several properties: two houses and two hectares land[7].

Giovanni Battista, after the division of the family real inheritance, was given a house ( that one where pope Pio X was born) and two lands.

Giovanni Battista was 41 years old when he married, the 13th February 1833, Margherita Sanson (1813-1894): the bride was only 20, and their marriage was consecrated by the chaplain Father Pier Paolo Pellizzari (S.Vito d’Asolo, 1807-Vallà, 1875).

The husband was, like his father, a landowner and the town bailiff, while the young wife, born in Vedelago, near Riese, was Melchiore Sanson’s illiterate daughter (1786-1870) and was, like her mother, Maria Antonini, a seamstress.



Between 1834 and 1852 11 sons were born (the future pope was the second-born).

In almost all the biography only 10 are cited, in the following order: Giuseppe (31st January 1834- 6th February 1834), Giuseppe Melchiore (2nd June 1835- 20th August 1914, the future pope), Angelo (26th March 1837- 9th January 1916), Teresa (26th January 1839- 27th May 1920), Rosa (12th February 1841- 11th February 1913), Antonia (26th January 1843- 2nd March 1917), Pierluigi ( o Pier Luigi, 26th January 1845- 6th February 1845), Maria (26th April 1846- 30th March 1930), Lucia (29th May 1948- 19th June 1924), Anna (4th April 1850- 29th March 1926), Pietro Gaetano (30th April 1852- 30th October 1852).

Giuseppe Melchiore Sarto was born on 2nd June 1835 and the following day, on 3rd June 1835, was baptized by the chaplain Father Pier Paolo Pellizzari, who married his parents two years before.

Giuseppe Sarto was born in the Austrian Veneto, assigned to the Austrian empire according to the decisions of the Congress of Vienna (1815). He was very good at school: sometimes he took the place of his teacher, Francesco Gecherle. He was very keen and he had a lively, impulsive and precise character and, apart from knowing to write and read, he “learned to answer to the mass, to go to the choir, in one word to go to the church. He went always to the catechism and to the other teachings”[8].

Every day he went to pray to the sanctuary of the Cendrole, the parish matrix of all the parish community of the surroundings and he had called to the priesthood since his childhood.

The priest Father Tito Fusarini (Mestre, 1812-Venice, 1877), the priest of Riese between 1842 and 1853, besides the study of the Christian doctrine, drove him to the study of the Latin, perhaps in the 1844, language taught by the chaplain Father Luigi Orazio, died in the 1884 in Santandrà (Treviso).

He was received the Confirmation (in those times it preceded the Communion) in Asolo, when he was 10, the 1st September 1845 by the bishop Giovanni Battista Sartori Canova, and he received the Communion, when he was 11, the 6th April 1846[9].

The 22nd August 1846 he took, as an external candidate, the last examination of the primary cycle of the studies at the high primary school of Treviso and then he attended the grammar school in Castelfranco.

Every day he went to the chief town, 7 km from Riese, on foot (sometimes with his clogs on his shoulders, for not to consume them) or by cart. Each semester he took an examination at the seminary of Treviso and he was always the first.

He attended the school of Castelfranco from the autumn 1846 to the summer 1850. He had his lunch by Giovanni Battista Finazzi’s family (he was a tax collector of the district): he sometimes slept there and he gived private lessons to the children.

At the end of the forth grammar-school course he was the first again: he finished his studies in the 1850 at the seminary of Treviso ( the only institute of the diocese that could certify the legal validity through examinations) with flying colours, the first of the 43 private candidates coming from the province.

He will be always the first in the class.

His family, poor like the other, but not the poorest in Riese, was an united, patriarchal family: one of the numerous Catholic family of Riese who formed the parish community of St. Matteo and who lived intensely their creed.

This was one of the most homogeneous parish for the Christian faith, “full of observances and devotions that grow between the families”; it boasted the supremacy of having a very low percentage of people who never took the sacraments not even for the Easter: the 1%. It distinguished itself for the religious mercy:”In Riese the net of the confraternities is very dense”[10].

His father, the town bailiff Giovanni Battista Sarto, didn’t want his son to follow the priestly vocation and to continue his studies[11].


IN THE SEMINARY OF PADOVA (13th November 1850-14th August 1858)

The cardinal and poet Jacopo Monico, from Riese, helped Giuseppe Sarto with the continuation of his studies. The cardinal was Adamo Monico, a blacksmith, and Angela Cavallin’s son: he was first a professor of the seminary of Treviso, then he was the parish priest of S. Vito d’Asolo ( he was elected in the 1818 by all the patriarches); he was elected bishop of Ceneda on 16th March 1826 by Pio VII, then he became the patriarch of Venice in 1827 ( he entered there on 8th September) and he stayed there until the 1851, the year of his death[12].

On 28th August 1850 a message which informed that Giuseppe could enter the Seminary of Padova and take the free seat offered by the college Tornacense Campion was sent to the family Sarto[13].

On 19th September 1850, when he was 15, he wore the clerical habit and on 13th November 1850 he entered the seminary, reformed by St. Gregorio Barbarigo (1625-1697), the bishop of Padova from 1664 until his death.

The seminarist wrote always to his ecclesiastical educators in Riese, in particular with Father Pietro Jacuzzi (Artegna, 1819-Treviso, 1902).

After the first year of the seminary school he was considered “the first with all the eminences”: the same school situation happened from 1850 to 1858, during all the curriculum of his grammar school, high school and theological studies.

Apart from his intellectual capacity, he distinguished himself for his strong personality:when he was 19 he was called to be the “first prefect” of the school fellow for the priests from 1854 to 1858. In this authority he had to give brief judgements about his vocation-fellows, by putting in evidence the essential aspects of their temperament: the historians detected a remarkable capacity of understanding the human mind[14].

In this seminary he paid attention particularly to the Latin and the holy music. His interest for this music was considerable: he wrote 15 pieces for the Holy Week, he was choosen as the priests’ music teacher and was elected the conductor of the Musical Chapel of the seminary[15].

He was an excellent student, in particular in Latin and in Mathematics, a little in Philosophy: he had to be good at Latin in a school illuminated of Egidio Forcellini’s humanistic genius (Campo, Alano di Piave, Belluno, 1688-1768), the author of the “Lexicon totius latinitatis”, came out posthumous in 1771.

Six years before receiving the order sacrament, his life suddenly became more difficult because of his father’s death, on 4th May 1852. That year he was sad because of his last-born brother’s death, Pietro Gaetano, born 4 days before his father’s death and dead only six months later, the 30th October 1852.

Between 1855 and 1858 he was promoted to the various degrees of the ecclesiastical orders, in the seminary of Treviso, by the bishop Farina: at first to the smallest orders (1855-1857), then to the greatest orders (1857-1858).

He was received the holy order sacrament on 18th September 1858, in the cathedral of Castelfranco Veneto by the bishop of Treviso, Giovanni Antonio Farina (Gambellara, 1803-Vicenza, 1888), the founder of the dorotee nuns, who was transfered to Vicenza in the 1861. He was about 23 and for becoming a priest he had to ask to the Holy See the permission because he was young. The day after, the 19th September, he celebrated his first mass in Riese.

He had a nice memory of the seminary: in Venice, in December 1894, when he was already a cardinal and a patriarch, he described those years as “the best years in all my life”, quite like Galileo Galilei considered the period he lived in Padova (1592-1610) “the best 18 years in all my life”[16].

The rural life in Riese. On the background Pio X's birth house.

The rural life in Riese. On the background Pio X’s birth house.


View of Riese Pio X

View of Riese Pio X.


Giuseppe Sarto's birth house

Giuseppe Sarto’s birth house. He was born in it on 2nd June 1835; he was Giovanni Battista (1792-1852), the town bailiff, and Margherita Sanson’s son. In the courtyard, in the south, a museum, which keeps some Pio X’s relics, was built in the 1935.


[1] FRANCESCHETTI F., “The Pope Pio X’s ancestors. Historical and genealogical memoirs”, by the Collegio Araldico, Rome, 1903, page 21.

[2] MARCHESAN A., “Pope Pio X in his life and in his words”, establishments Benziger a Co.S.A., Einsiedeln, 1905, pages 23-25; the Sarto’s family tree, page 17.

[3] GHENO A., “Pio X’s country”, drawn from the “Review of the Collegio Araldico”, year I, n° 11 and 12, by the Collegio Araldico, Rome, 1903, page 14.

[4] Consult a recent reconstruction of the vicissitudes of Sarto in the volume BORTOLATO Q., “Pio X’s birth house and the museum. Historical outlines and catalogue of the museum”, Foundation G. Sarto, 1992, pages 9-24.

[5] The note is in a canonical register, without title and date of compilation, kept in the Parish Archives of Riese Pio X.

[6] The small town of Jemielnica, in the High Slesia, has been vouched for Giovanni Battista Sarto’s birth (he is Giuseppe Sarto’s father) in this village since 1996: according to the local press, “Panorama” (n°33, 18th August 1996) and also the “Schlesisches Wochenblatt” (n° 45, 8th –14th November 1996), Jan Krawiec ( that means Sarto) would be emigrated to Italy when this country annexed to the Prussia ( the place-name Jemielnica is Himmelwitz), and here he found asylum, in Castello di Godego before and then in Riese, where the Sarto’s were born. I was given these news by Jörg Horn from Koblenz, who sent me some journalistic material and told me the study from which the news has been taken (MALACHI M., “The Keys of This Blood The Struggle for World Dominion Between Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Capitalist West” New York 1990, page 535). All these references are false, seeing that the certificates concerning Giovanni Battista Sarto (of birth, marriage and death) and his family are kept in the Parish Archives of Riese.

[7] A “List of the poorest families in the parish of Riese” is kept in the Parish Archives of Riese: in it 132 families are listed with a total of 538 people out of 1848 people (29.11%); a note informs that “it is possible to add the following”: 10 families and 42 people, for a total of 142 families and 580 poor (31.39%). Among them none of the Sartos are cited: all that means that the Sartos weren’t a poor family, as a legend says. It declares that this family has begun to become poor since 1852, when Giovanni Battista Sarto died and his wife, Margherita Sanson, had to maintain the family with the proceeds of her job (she was a seamstress) and with the products of the agricultural activity on her fields. It is documented that her son, already a priest, wasn’t rich. In fact Father Giuseppe Sarto thanked, in a letter of 1875, Mr. Antonio Monico for the deferment of a debt of “1000 Austrian Lire at 6% to return within the 1868”: even if it incured in 1867, it hadn’t paid yet. And the properties in Riese? “The two hectares of the paternal inheritance were sold on 2nd December 1877, to Monico Antonio and to Montin Pietro. The house too, threatened of sale, had been rescued at the last moment.” (SARTO G., “St. Pio X’s letters”, edited by Nello Vian, Gregoriana Editrice, Padova, 1958, page 72. Between 1886 and 1888, already the bishop of Mantova, he had some problems with debts. In 1886 “he sold, with his brothers, the last remnant of the family properties, 34 perchs of land, corresponding at about 3 hectares of land, that came from the division with an oncle” (SARTO G., “St. Pio X’s letters”, edited by Nello Vian, Gregoriana Editrice, Padova, 1958, page 139; see also pages 55, 57, 138-139, 167-169, 263). G. Romanato, by citing a letter written by Sarto to his cousin from Venice in the april 1866, concludes that “until their father’s death, the Sartos could have a quite tranquil economical situation. However Gianbattista hadn’t been a wary administrator and before his death he incured a lot of debts. After the disappearance of them, they crushed the family, and in 1866, when the cited letter was written, that is 14 years later, the situation hadn’t balanced yet, and it continued for another decade.” (ROMANATO G., “Pio X Pope Sarto’s life”, Rusconi, Milan, 1992, page 66).

Any biographer has talked about Mr. and Mrs. Sarto’s eleventh son, who lived only 12 days.

“Register of death Second Book Parish of Riese from 1st January 1829 to 10th February 1845”, n° 11: he died of “spasmodic disease on 8th February 1845 at 5 p.m. in his own house”.

[8] MARCHESAN A., “Pio X in his life and in his words”, Benziger & Co. S. A., Svizzera, 1904-1905, page 26.

[9] The historics and some hagiographic studies report the date, deferred of an year, of 6th 1847, but Alessandro Favero (S. Zenone degli Ezzelini, Treviso, 27th July 1916- Riese Pio X, 25th January 1990) published the results of his researches ( “Ignis ardens”, two-monthly bulletin of Riese Pio X, XIII year, n° 2, March-April 1965, pages 13-14). The list of the confirmeds in the cathedral of Asolo by Father Sartori Canova on 1st September 1845 is kept in the “Book of the confirmeds from 7th June 1777 to 28th September 1871”, where 140 children of Riese are registered; at the n° 58 is written “ Sarto Giuseppe, Giovanni Battista and Margherita Sanson’s son, 10 years old. Godfather: Francesco Trinca from Vallà”. At the n° 59 his brother Angelo, 8 years old, is registered with the same godfather. There is a list of 1846 where there are 13 boys and 17 girls “to admit to the Communion of 1846”: at the top of the boys there is “Sarto Giuseppe, Giovanni Battista’s son - 11 years old – admitted”.

[10] GAMBASIN A., “Parish priests and peasants in the Veneto at the end of the XVIII century”, Ed. Di Storia e Letteratura, Rome, 1973, pages 192-193.

[11] His sister Lucia in her evidence at the canonical case, declared that her father was “a good Christian” but emphasized that “he wasn’t satisfied his son to be a parish priest and sometimes mum and dad argued. [...] He had to fight with dad that didn’t want him to have an ecclesiastical career”. ROMANATO G., “Pio X Pope Sarto’s life”, Rusconi, Milan, 1992, page 26.

[12] See the volumes MARCHESAN A., “Pio X in his life and in his words”, Benziger & Co. S. A., Einsiedeln, 1904-1905, pages 50-57, and “The pastoral visits of Jacopo Monico in the diocese of Venice (1829-1845)”, edited by Bruno Bertoli and Silvio Tramontin, Ed. Di storia e letteratura, Rome, 1976, page CXCVII-407 for the bibliographical news about Jacopo Monico.

[13] The college Tornacense Campion was an institution founded by Pietro di Cambio de’ Boateri who provided at the maintain of six poor priests so that they could study canonical right in hte University of Padova. Albicio dei Brancasecchi from Lucca, the canon of Tournai (Tornacensis) was the organizer of the college: the institution was opened in Padova near the wel called Campion (the second name), which corresponding at the actual CUAMM (university college of the candidate missionary doctors); they must come from the dioceses of Padova, Treviso, Venice and Tournai in Belgium (DANIELE I., “St. Pio X student of the episcopal seminary of Padova (13th November 1850-14th August 1858)”, Institut for the Ecclesiastical History of Padova, Padova, 1987, page 13 n° 7).

[14] VIAN N., “Hail Mary for an old priest Interval during St. Pio X’s life”, Marton Editore, Treviso, 1977, pages 5-18.

[15] ZAGGIA G., “A collection of Giuseppe Sarto’s holy musics, a priest in the seminary of Padova”, in “Sources and researches for the ecclesiastical history of Padova”, Antoniana, Padova, 1969, pages 339-345.

[16] ROMANATO G., “Pio X Pope Sarto’s life”, Rusconi, Milan, 1992, page 38.

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