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Napoleon’s Holy Week

Napoleon’s last moments of earthly life wereaimbued with a conscious exercise of faith: the revolutionary turning point showed man the chance to redefine priorities even in the face of immortality. The exile in Santa Elena was defined by the desire to promote the word of God: here Napoleon revealed the catechism to the sons of prison guards and asserted “Do you want something sublime? Recite the Pater noster”.

In 1819 the order to recite the mass from the next morning reached the priests Buonavita and Vignali sent to the Atlantic island to satisfy the illustrious exile. Anxiety induced Napoleon’s incisive response to the reproach of others: “It is a long time that I lack so much luck. Should I not enjoy it immediately?”. The Abbot Vignali imparted more Catholic sacraments (the Eucharist was irreconcilable with stomach cancer) to the dying hero, conscious of representing the misery in front of the eternal Christ’s  kingdom.

Also, fate unites the highest solemnity for Christianity to the grandeur merged with the General: the narrated story exalts the suggestive episode and separated from the presumption of suggesting bold exegesis.

It was 1815 and Holy Week (20 – 26 March) closed Napoleon’s glorious escape from Elba Island to Paris: the Emperor came home to the Palais des Tuileries the day after Palm Sunday.

The Corsican leader chose, thus, the best outcome for the Elba exile: the First Consul had installed the official residence and, later, the imperial seat in the ancient palace. Tuileries was the palace of the first Bourbon ruler Henry IV called “the Great” (Pau, 13 December 1553 – Paris, 16 May 1610) to the throne of Louis Philippe I of Orleans (Paris, 6 October 1773 – Claremont House, 26 August 1850) and the new wing built to join the palace to the Palais du Louvre was the Napoleonic innovation. The meticulous study for escape captured events.

The frigate Inconstant, already stranded at the harbor of Portoferraio, was repainted to imitate the British ships and equipped with cannons and food needed to sail and drop the anchor on the Côte d’Azur (1. March 1815). The Scottish Colonel Sir Neil Campbell, appreciated by the illustrious exile and delegated by the coalition (Austria, Great Britain, Russia, Prussia) to watch over the Tuscan island, who had gone to Florence, facilitated Napoleon’s escape (26 February 1815) together with the small army of 673 soldiers and the offspring of wealthy families of Elba greeted by the honors conferred by the crowd of citizens.

Thus began the period of the Hundred Days (20 March – 22 June 1815) from the return of Napoleon to Paris to the restoration, decisive for the Corsican General, of the Bourbon dynasty of King Louis XVIII. The epilogue is similar to the disaster of the Palais des Tuileries injured by the blaze (1871) and demolished (1883). The pile of rubble was absorbed to build the castle of Punta di Ajaccio. Today the ancient Parisian palace is restricted to the Marsan and Flore pavilions (Palais du Louvre).