Did the Catholic Church Oppose Road Lights?

The Catholic church at the time formally opposed road lights for spiritual explanations, and Pope Gregory XVI banned gasoline lighting.


In the spring of 2022, we obtained inquiries from Snopes viewers about an intriguing on line meme that claimed that the Catholic Church had the moment opposed the provision of road lights and, particularly, that Pope Gregory XVI had banned fuel lights for the duration of the 19th century due to the fact the fashionable innovation “flew in the confront of God’s regulation.” 

That meme contained a kernel of fact, due to the fact a ban on gas-fueled road lights was in put temporarily in Rome, towards the end of Gregory’s time as pope, in the 1840s. On the other hand, the prohibition was primarily based on concerns more than air pollution, and there was no church-huge doctrinal or theological opposition to fuel lights. As a final result, the meme terribly misrepresented the historic history, and we are issuing a score of “Mostly False.”

The meme was first posted by the humor website Cracked.com, and contains the following text:

The Catholic Church opposed street lights.

In 1831, Pope Gregory XVI even banned gas lights in Papal states.

The church argued that God quite obviously founded the delineation between night and day, and placing lights up just after sunset flew in the encounter of God’s legislation.

Some of the very same language made use of in that meme also appeared in a 2015 Cracked.com put up entitled “8 Hilarious Historic Fears That Significantly Delayed Progress.” The section on avenue lights study:

… Then, there was the Catholic Church, who opposed road lighting on the grounds that God extremely clearly founded the delineation in between evening and day, and putting lights up just after sundown was like spitting appropriate in Jesus’ confront, when cats chase puppies and huge wieners ladle mustard more than screaming human beings. In 1831, Pope Gregory XVI went so significantly as to ban fuel lighting in Papal states, fearing that the additional several hours of visibility may allow rise up against the church.

That 2015 article contained two resources for the “street gentle ban” claim. The 1st was a 1983 e book about Paul Cullen, the very first Irish cardinal and an influential conservative figure in the Catholic church of the 19th century. The meme itself also cited this reserve in little kind, at the bottom.

In one particular segment of that do the job, writer Desmond Bowen wrote about Gregory’s zeal in suppressing rebellions from church rule in the Papal States (now northern Italy), and what he explained as “papal triumphalism”:

“… Much more ancient church buildings and monuments had been restored, new palaces have been designed, and the Vatican was further more enriched with valuable collections of art. At the very same time the people today of Rome were being denied avenue lights, and the pope refused to make it possible for the coming of the railway to the metropolis.”

As we can see, that supply presented no elaboration or element, and did not specify no matter whether the denizens of Rome were “denied” street lighting for cultural explanations, source causes, due to their own poverty, or by regulation. 

The next supply talked about was a 2013 e-book entitled “A Corrupt Tree: An Encyclopedia of Crimes Committed by the Church of Rome From Humanity and the Human Spirit.” Volume I of that tome introduced Gregory as an ultra-conservative traditionalist who turned down progress and modernization. The ebook stated that:

“Gregory even went so much as to ban steamboats and railways in the Papal States. He also banned avenue lights on the grounds that folks may assemble underneath them to plot against papal authority. He also refused to acknowledge gasoline into the Papal States, as that would indicate that the Devil had obtained his foot in the door.”

So significantly, we have two sources cited, neither of which gives a deeper resource, and two purported rationales for the supposed church ban on, or opposition to, road lights: that it went in opposition to God’s legislation and that the pope feared it would aid rebellion from his rule. 

In a 2016 post about the meme, Christian blogger Roger Pearse presented quite a few applicable resources, most of which provided intriguing contextual qualifications. People up to date sources introduced the pope, in that part of the 19th century, as a distinctly mundane political executive overseeing bureaucratic control over the improperly-run Papal States in northern Italy, as opposed to the present day-day pontiff, who tends to concern moral and philosophical direction instead than signing off on neighborhood administrative ordinances.

In unique, that blog site put up factors to two resources that produce the summary that gasoline-fueled street lights ended up briefly forbidden under Gregory’s rule, but authorized once once more, especially following the election of Gregory’s successor, Pope Pius IX.  

To start with, an April 4, 1845 letter published by the Irish journalist Francis Sylvester Mahony to Charles Dickens. Mahony, who was living in the Eternal City at the time, bemoaned what he described as “the attempts of governing administration to arrest the development of those people modern day enhancements which need to definitely ultimately be adopted even in Rome.”

In specific, Mahony highlighted a new regulation, posted to the walls of the metropolis, which “denounces the modern day innovation of gasoline light-weight,” and dictates that “all personal gasworks of this nature are suppressed.”

Secondly, a March 1846 get, prepared by the Governor of Rome Pietro Marini, which set out specific regulations and conditions for the use of gas-fueled avenue lights, correctly reversing the previously outright ban, but raising what would now probable be explained as “public health” issues in excess of the use of the lights. The title of the purchase study (translated from Italian): “Provisions on gasoline lights released in some properties, and other spots in the funds with gasses set up inside of the city.”

Dependent on the proof offered, we can access the next conclusions:

  • Gasoline avenue lights ended up banned in Rome for at minimum a part of Gregory’s tenure (1831-1846)
  • It is not distinct to what extent Gregory himself, as opposed to some subordinate bureaucrat or official, imposed the ban
  • Opposition to fuel lights was dependent on worries more than air pollution and respiratory wellbeing, and the church hardly ever issued any doctrinal or religious ruling on the matter, contrary to the promises contained in the meme. 



Bowen, Desmond. Paul Cardinal Cullen and the Shaping of Modern-day Irish Catholicism. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Push, 1983.


Carnell, Pat. “8 Hilarious Historical Fears That Critically Delayed Progress.” Cracked.Com, 11 Mar. 2015, https://www.cracked.com/write-up_22224_8-plainly-silly-fears-that-held-back-human-progress.html.


Mahony, Francis Sylvester. Points & Figures from Italy. R. Bentley, 1847.


Pearse, Roger. “Did the Catholic Church Oppose Street Lights? Some Notes on the Papal States in the 1830s.” Roger Pearse, 18 Aug. 2016, https://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/2016/08/18/did-the-catholic-church-oppose-avenue-lights-some-notes-on-the-papal-states-in-the-1830s/.


Raccolta delle leggi e disposizioni di pubblica amministrazione nello stato pontificio. Stamp. della R. C. A., 1849.


Stockwell, Antony, and A. S. A Corrupt Tree: An Encyclopaedia of Crimes Committed by the Church of Rome In opposition to Humanity and the Human Spirit. Xlibris Company LLC, 2014.