In 1859–60 the Risorgimento culminated in the unification of Italy under King Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont-Sardinia. Irish public opinion watched the process of unification with intense interest, largely because of the papacy’s involvement. The movement for unification directly threatened Pope Pius IX’s hold over the Papal States, and by 1860 he had lost all his dominions but Rome. As a result, Irish public opinion on the Risorgimento divided along the religious fault-line. Protestant identification with the struggle for unification was mirrored by passionate Catholic support for Pius IX, and Ireland’s longstanding religious animosities were projected onto the struggle between the pope and the Piedmontese. Perugia became Scullabogue, Spoleto Limerick. This sense of identification explains why events in Italy resonated so powerfully in Ireland. For religious ultras on both sides, the Risorgimento was essentially a religious struggle, a strategically important battle in the ongoing war between true religion and the powers of darkness.
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