Russia’s Catholic Tsar

Just before he died in 1825, Alexander I, Emperor of Russia, was converted to the Catholic Faith. A Catholic aide-de-camp of the Tsar, General Michaud, had heard a vague rumor of Alexander’s death while he was in Rome at the time and hastened to the Russian embassy to see if it was true. The embassy, which had not yet received the news, told the General that the rumor was false. His fears still not dispelled, the aide went to see the holy visionary, Blessed Anna Maria Taigi. She confirmed the rumor and told him that indeed the Tsar had died and that the news would reach the embassy the next day. Then she consoled him saying, “The Emperor died a Catholic, and is in Purgatory. He is saved for his charity to his neighbor, and for protecting the Pope and the Church.”

According the the Italian paper Civilta of November, 1876, General Michaud had actually been sent by the Tsar to Rome for the special purpose of discussing with Pope Leo XII the Tsar’s own conversion and the return of Russia to the Faith. When Michaud returned to Saint Petersburg for the funeral, he learned from the confidential witnesses that Blessed Anna Taigi was right, that Alexander had in fact abjured his schism on his deathbed. This conversion had troubled the court so much that they kept the Tsar virtually incommunicado up to the day he died. The faithful General Michaud then approached Emperor Nicholas with the information of his brother’s conversion in the hopes of inducing him to follow his example. Unfortunately, Nicholas did not have the same courage of conviction as his brother.

A proof of the “charity” of Alexander for his neighbor was his treatment of the defeated Napoleon. The Tsar was the only ruler in Europe who showed any concern for the well-being of the humiliated tyrant in his exile, often inquiring after his health and offering him assistance. Yet practically no one was more ill-treated by the warring Corsican. No one, that is, except the Pope. And again, strange to say, other than the Tsar, the only friend Napoleon had in his demise was the Church of Rome that he had so cruelly mistreated. The mother of Napoleon, Laetitia Bonaparte, was given asylum in Rome. In fact, she lived only one block away from Blessed Anna Taigi and was regularly seen with the saint when the latter appeared publicly for the Stations of the Cross devotions in the Colosseum. The devotions were often conducted by Cardinal Fesch, the brother of Napoleon’s mother. The Cardinal had personally asked Blessed Anna Maria to pray for his sister and to advise him as to her state of soul. The holy woman responded to the Emperor’s mother, through Fesch, with these words, “Yes, I will pray for your sister, and will let her know what light I receive concerning her. Meanwhile let her meditate upon what she has been, what she is, and what she is soon to become, and let her make ready for death which will not be long in coming.”

Tsar Alexander I, painted by George Dawe in 1824