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.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Pope Benedict XIV

Erudite, gentle, honest man was chosen as a compromise


Pope Benedict XIV succeeded Clement XII as a compromise candidate after a six-month conclave
Pope Benedict XIV succeeded Clement XII as a
compromise candidate after a six-month conclave
Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini began his reign as Pope Benedict XIV on this day in 1740 in Rome.

Considered one of the greatest ever Christian scholars, he promoted scientific learning, the baroque arts and the study of the human form.

Benedict XIV also revived interest in the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas, reduced taxation in the Papal States, encouraged agriculture and supported free trade.

As a scholar interested in ancient literature, and who published many ecclesiastical books and documents himself, he laid the groundwork for the present-day Vatican Museum.

Lambertini was born into a noble family in Bologna in 1675. At the age of 13 he started attending the Collegium Clementianum in Rome, where he studied rhetoric, Latin, philosophy and theology. Thomas Aquinas became his favourite author and saint. At the age of 19 he received a doctorate in both ecclesiastical and civil law.

Benedict XIV's monument by Pietro Bracci in  St Peter's Basilica in Rome
Benedict XIV's monument by Pietro Bracci in
St Peter's Basilica in Rome
Lambertini was consecrated a bishop in Rome in 1724, was made Bishop of Ancona in 1727 and Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in 1728.

Following the death of Pope Clement XII, Lambertini was elected pope on the evening of August 17, 1740, having been put forward as a compromise candidate after a papal conclave that had lasted six months.

During his reign he carried out many religious reforms and issued a papal bull against the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

He also set in motion the cataloguing of the contents of the Vatican Library.

At the University of Bologna, he revived the practice of anatomical studies and established a chair of surgery and he was one of the first popes to voice displeasure about the use of castrated males in church choirs.

After a battle with gout, Benedict XIV died in 1753 at the age of 83. His final words to the people surrounding his deathbed were: ‘I leave you in the hands of God.’ He was buried in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Horace Walpole later described him as ‘a priest without insolence or interest, a prince without favourites, a pope without nephews.’

The anatomical theatre in the Archiginnasio at the University of Bologna
The anatomical theatre in the Archiginnasio
at the University of Bologna
Travel tip:

The world’s first university was established in Bologna in 1088 and attracted popes and kings as well as students of the calibre of Dante, Copernicus and Boccaccio. Benedict XIV revived anatomical studies and established a chair of surgery there while he was pope. You can visit the university’s former anatomy theatre in the oldest university building, the Archiginnasio, in Piazza Galvani. It is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 1pm, admission free.

Travel tip:

The monument to Benedict XIV in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome was created by Pietro Bracci in 1769 in the late baroque tradition. It shows the Pope standing and blessing his flock with statues of Wisdom and Unselfishness at his feet, to reflect his character.


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