At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Pope Pius VII

Compromise candidate elected by conclave-in-exile in Venice


Pope Pius VII, a portrait by Jacques-Louis David, which can be seen in the Louvre in Paris
Pope Pius VII, a portrait by Jacques-Louis David,
which can be seen in the Louvre in Paris
Pope Pius VII was born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti on this day in 1742 in Cesena in Emilia-Romagna.

He was elected Pope in a conclave that was forced to meet on the island of San Giorgio in Venice in 1799 because Rome was occupied by the French.  He was crowned with a papier mâché version of the Papal tiara in 1800 because the French had seized the original.

It was the last conclave to be held outside Rome.

Chiaramonti was a monk of the order of Saint Benedict as well as being a distinguished theologian. He was granted the title, Servant of God, by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

Chiaramonti had joined the order of Saint Benedict at the age of 14. He was later ordained as a priest and went on to teach at Benedictine colleges in Parma and Rome.

After one of his relatives was elected Pope Pius VI, Chiaramonti had a series of promotions that resulted in him becoming a Cardinal.

The island of San Giorgio in the Venice lagoon, where the papal conclave of 1799 took place
The island of San Giorgio in the Venice lagoon, where
the papal conclave of 1799 took place
When the French revolutionary army invaded Italy in 1797, Cardinal Chiaramonti advised people to submit to the newly-created Cisalpine Republic, set up to rule in northern Italy by the French.

Following the death of Pope Pius VI while he was in French captivity, Chiaramonti became the compromise candidate for the papacy after others in the running were unacceptable to the Austrian cardinals.  He was elected in March 1800, taking the name of Pius VII to honour his predecessor.

He opposed the slave trade and condemned freemasons. He had the Arch of Constantine restored in Rome and enriched the collection in the Vatican library with manuscripts and books, although much of his papacy was spent trying to remain on good terms with France and prevent further conflict.  He was himself imprisoned for a while in 1809.

In July 1823 he fractured his hip in a fall in the papal apartments and became bedridden. He died the following month and is now buried in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

The reading room at the Biblioteca Malatestiana in Cesena
Travel tip:

Cesena, the birthplace of Pope Pius VII, is a city in Emilia-Romagna, south of Ravenna and west of Rimini. One of the main sights in the town is the 15th century Biblioteca Malatestiana, which houses many valuable manuscripts and was the first public library in Europe. It is now a listed UNESCO World Heritage site.

Travel tip:

After being briefly interred in the Vatican grottoes, Pope Pius VII was buried inside a tomb in St Peter’s Basilica and had a monument created for him by the Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen.

(Photo of Biblioteca Malatestiana by Sailko CC BY-SA 3.0)

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