Il Cannone at Noon

October 15, 2007 / Local Interest
Clockwork. Everyday the cannon blast marks noon. After jumping out of your skin (it gets you every time!), you look around and see an exclusively Roman mass Pavlovian response. Everyone raises their wrists and checks that their watches are set to the right (?) time. (If not the right time, then at least Roman’s watches are all exactly wrong!)

Nothing new really, as that was exactly what Pope Pius the 9th was thinking when he started the tradition back in 1847 to synchronize the church bells of Rome. Initially the cannon was fired from elsewhere. What’s eerily ironic however, (and few realize, much less remember) is that it is now fired from the same area from which pro-papacy French troops, under that same pope’s orders, bombarded pro-republican Rome during the battles for the unification of Italy. For many years Romans referred to cannonballs as “Pius the 9ths”.

Today, fortunately, the only thing being fired are blanks, and the only thing struck is children’s imaginations. Seven days a week at noon, the military makes a great show of the ritual, to the point that it is a common destination particularly on weekends for families with kids. Understandable really . . . with this view!


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

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