The French Revolution and Napoleonic wars had swept away the old aristocratic-clerical dominance of the hierarchy, and Catholics all over Europe looked once again to the ultimate authority of the pope. The papacy regarded the upsurge of liberal and nationalist movements in the 19th century with great suspicion. 1848 was a year of revolutionary fervour, when a series of Republican revolts against constitutional monarchies started in Sicily and spread to France, Germany, Italy and the Austrian Empire. The revolts all ended in failure and repression, leading to a strong anti-liberal backlash. As the movement for Italian unification gained momentum the Catholic church, and its control of territories in central Italy, was seen as a major obstacle. Liberal revolutionaries defeated the papal army in 1860 and Victor Emmanuel II, the king of Sardinia, took most papal territories, only excluding Rome itself and its hinterland, and became king of a united Italy. Against this background of nationalist uprisings and constitutional reform traditional Catholic beliefs were passionately asserted. The 19th century was a time of Marian visions (visions of the Virgin Mary) throughout Europe. In 1884 Pope Pius IX how declared in the bull Ineffabilis Deus that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was revealed by God, and therefore to be believed by all Catholics.
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