All good things must come to an end! The image above is from Fabiola (1918) when the titular character is baptized in the end. I thought it fitting to wrap up Fabiola’s story with the second half of her legacy in film. As I’ll be studying in Rome next year, I looked to the very academic source of Italian for Dummies for help to say goodbye. I was told arrivederci means goodbye, as well as Ciao! Ciao! It was tough writing a 25+ page paper but, I am happy to summarize my findings below.
Persecution is a worldwide phenomenon but, how it is remembered and retold in literature has a direct effect on the social imaginary constructed around it. By examining the impact of Fabiola; or, The Church of the Catacombs (1854) by Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman on Catholic literary history, this project aims to show how over a century of dialogue surrounding his work, and the use of saints to illuminate early Christian persecution, aides modern readers’ cultural understanding of the time. The convergence of archeological voyages into the Roman catacombs, the establishment of the modern historical novel with Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Series, and the Victorian era’s shift towards producing novels directly influenced the creation of Fabiola. Nineteenth-century literature upheld in the Great American and English literary canons have largely been protestant themed texts. All time bestsellers like Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ (1880) by Lew Wallace are prime examples. However, stories like Fabiola that explore a minor narrative in the established canon, like the contribution of Catholic writers, enriches the whole. This research shows how the shift from textual representation to visualization in the twentieth century of Fabiola’s narrative was increasingly focused on the role of the saint. Consequently, Fabiola is pushed to the margins of her story. Her legacy carried on, however, as new artist capitalized on Wiseman’s interpretation of saints, using Fabiola allegorically to address political and religious issues of their time.