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
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
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|
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.
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)