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Cisalpinism (derived from "this side of the mountains") was a movement among English Roman Catholics arguing that Catholicism should respect the supreme authority of the Pope while not being based on his dominance.

This traditionalist but non-authoritarian view of Catholicism was common in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and stressed the English as well as the Roman dimension to the Roman Catholic Church in England. In particular, this view held that allegiance to the Crown was not incompatible with allegiance to the Pope. Cisalpinism sought accommodation of the English Roman Catholic Church within the Protestant State in the 18th century, when the Penal Laws persecuting the Catholic Church were still in place. Thirty Catholic laymen met in 1782 to elect a "Catholic Committee" of five.

Although it looked like a way to safeguard the English Catholic population, Bishop Charles Walmesley (1722-1797), the Vicar Apostolic of the west of England, thought Cisalpinism would mean a new oath of allegiance that would "exclude the Pope's spiritual jurisdiction" and "diminish our dependence in spirituals on the Church in Rome, and by degrees to shake it off entirely; likewise to take off the abstinence of Saturday, to reduce Lent to a fortnight before Easter, and to have the Liturgy in English."

The publication of the "Staffordshire Creed" by some Staffordshire clergy to Bishop Walmesley complained about the excommunication of the Benedictine Joseph Wilks. The creed also contained the Rights of the Priesthood against the Episcopacy, and this at a time when many Catholic laity were still been accused of treason.

In 1797 Bishop Walmesley publicly excommunicated the signatories of the "Staffordshire Creed." One of the defenders of the Cisalpine tradition who even objected to the Asperges (sprinkling of Holy Water) before Mass was John Lingard, author of the hymn Hail Queen of Heaven the Ocean Star and first Rector of Ushaw College Seminary. Father Daniel Rock, chaplain to Lord Shrewsbury of Alton Towers from 1827 to 1841, continued for a short time elements of the Cisalpine tradition. It was the chance meeting at Alton Towers of Lord Shrewsbury with Father F. W. Faber that promoted Ultramontanism.


  • J A Hilton, Catholic Lancashire (1994)
  • The London Oratory Centenary (1884-1984) Published 1984
  • Fr Faber by G Chapman
  • P McPartland, The Eucharist Makes the Church, published by T and T Clark 1983

See also

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