Pius VII

Pius VII

pope from 1800 to 1823, was successor of the preceding. He was originally called Gregorio Bernabat Chiarumonti, being also of noble descent, and was born in 1742 at Cesena. He first studied in the college of Ravenna, and subsequently entered the Order of Benedictines in 1758. He was appointed lecturer on philosophy, and afterwards on theology, to the novices of his order, first at Parma and then at Rome. Pius VI appointed him bishop of Tivoli and in 1785 made him a cardinal and bishop of Imola. When Bonaparte took possession of the legations, and annexed them to the Cisalpine republic, cardinal Chiaramonti in a homily exhorted his flock to submit to the new institutions, and to be faithful to the state of which they had become a part. This conduct is said to have gained the approval of Bonaparte. When the news of the death of Pius VI, in his exile at Valence, in August 1799, came to Italy, the conclave was summoned to assemble at Venice, then under the dominion of Austria, as Rome was in a state of anarchy. Thirty-five cardinals accordingly assembled in the Benedictine convent of St. Giorgio Maggiore, in order to elect one of their number to the papal office, a dignity apparently not very enviable in those troubled times. The deliberations of the conclave lasted several months, and at last, on March 14, 1800, cardinal Chiaramoiti was chosen, and crowned pope on the 21st of the same month, under the name of Pius VII. In the following July the pope made his entrance into Rome, and soon after appointed cardinal Consalvi his secretary of state, or prime minister. In the following year the peace of Luneville, between France and Austria, was made, and Bonaparte, first consul of France, ordered his troops to evacuate the papal territories, with the exception of the legations, which had been formally incorporated with the so called "Italian Republic." Meantime the ecclesiastical affairs of France were in a state of the greatest confusion. France was still nominally Roman Catholic, but the clergy were no longer in communication with the see of Rome, and were divided into parties. In the midst of this confusion about one half of the population of France followed no mode of worship, and professed no religion whatever. A vast number of parish churches were shut tip, and had been so for ten years. Bonaparte saw clearly that a nation could not subsist without a religion, and that the genius of the French demanded it rather as an institution than an internal life. He therefore resolved upon a concordat with Rome. The pope appointed the prelate Spina and the theologian Caselli, who proceeded to Paris, and Bonaparte named his brother Joseph, Cretet, councilor of state, and Bernier, a Vendean priest, to treat with the pope's negotiators. But on an intimation from Bonaparte, who was above all things anxious that the matter should be promptly settled, the pope despatched to Paris cardinal Consalvi, who smoothed down all difficulties, and the concordat was signed at Paris, July 15, 1801, and was ratified by Pius at Rome, after some hesitation and consultation, on August 14th following. The principal scruples of the pope were concerning certain articles called "organic," which Bonaparte appended to the concordat, as if they had formed part of it, and which were proclaimed as laws of the state. Henceforth Romanism was the establishment of France; but, on the other hand, pope Pius VII was bound to recognize the independence of the French Church. SEE FRANCE.

From 1801 till 1804 Pius VII enjoyed tranquility at Rome, which he employed in restoring order to the finances, in ameliorating the judicial administration, in promoting the agriculture of the Campagna, and in other similar cares. His personal establishment was moderate, his table frugal, his habits simple, and his conduct exemplary. In May 1804, Napoleon was proclaimed emperor, and some time after he wrote to the pope requesting him to crown him solemnly at Paris. After considerable hesitation Pius consented, and set out from Rome at the beginning of November of that year. The ceremony of the coronation took place in the cathedral of Notre Dame, after which the pope spent several months in Paris, visiting the public establishments, and receiving the homage of men of all parties, who were won by his unassuming yet dignified behavior and his unaffected piety. In May 1805, he returned to Rome; and his troubles began soon after. In October 1805, a body of French troops suddenly took military possession of Ancona. Pius remonstrated in a letter which he wrote to Napoleon, who was at that time at the head of his army in Austria. It was only after the peace of Pressburg that he received an answer, in which Napoleon said that he considered himself as the protector of the Church against heretics and schismatics, like his predecessors from the time of Charlemagne, and that as such he had occupied Ancona to prevent it from falling into the hands of the English or the Russians. Soon after Napoleon officially required the pope, through his ambassador at Rome, to expel from his dominions all English, Russian, Swedish, and Sardinian subjects, and to close his ports to the vessels of those powers who were then at war with France. Pius replied at length in a letter to Napoleon, representing to him that his request was destructive of the independence of the Papal State, and of its political neutrality, which were necessary to the welfare of the Church, and for the security of the numerous members of it who were living in those very countries with which the emperor was then at war. He said that the head of the Church ought to be a minister of peace, and not to take part in a war which has not religion for its object; that if some of his predecessors had not always abided by this rule, he at least should not follow their example. Napoleon, however, insisted, and an angry correspondence was carried on between the two courts for about two years on this subject of contention, the neutrality of the Papal States being all the while merely nominal, as the French troops marching from and to Naples crossed and re-crossed it at their pleasure, and the French also kept a garrison at Ancona, the only papal port of any importance. By degrees they extended their posts all along the Adriatic coast, and garrisoned the various ports. Some time after a body of French troops, coming from Naples, passed through Rome, ostensibly to proceed to Leghorn; but they suddenly turned out of the main road and surprised in the night the town of Civita Vecchia, of which they took military possession. In all these places they confiscated whatever English property they could find. The papal troops at Ancona, Civita Vecchia, and other places were ordered to place themselves under the direction of the French commanders, and some officers who refused to do so were arrested and kept in confinement. Napoleon in the mean time found fresh grounds of quarrel with the pope. lie wished to declare the marriage of his brother Jerome with an American Protestant lady null; but Pius refused, saying that although the Church abhorred marriages between Catholics and heretics, yet if they were contracted in Protestant countries according to the laws of those countries they were binding and indissoluble. [Letter of Pius VII on this important subject in Artaud, Vie du Pape Pie VII (Paris, 1826).] He next accused the pope of dilatoriness in giving the canonical institution to the bishops elected to vacant sees in the kingdom of Italy. Eugene Beauharnais, viceroy of the kingdom of Italy, wrote an able and conciliatory letter to the pope, in order to bring about an arrangement; and the pope was induced to invite the bishops elect to Rome in order to receive the canonical institution, when a threatening letter came, written by Napoleon from Dresden after the peace of Tilsit in the summer of 1807, in which he said that "the pope must not take him for a Louis le Debonnaire; that his anathemas would never make his soldiers drop their muskets; that he, Napoleon, if provoked too far, could separate the greater part of Europe from the Roman Church, and establish a more rational form of worship than that of which the pope was the head; that such a thing was easy in the actual state of people's minds," etc.; and he forbade Eugene to correspond any longer with the pope, or send the bishops elect to Rome, for, he said, "they would only imbibe there principles of sedition against their sovereign." Matters were now brought to an open rupture. A French force under general Miollis entered Rome in February 1808, and took possession of the castle and the gates, leaving however the civil authorities undisturbed. The pope was prevailed upon to send cardinal de Bayanne as his legate to Paris, to make a last effort at reconciliation; but the cardinal had not arrived at his destination when a decree of Napoleon, dated April 2, 1808, united the provinces of Ancona, Macerata, Fermo, and Urbino to the kingdom of Italy. Fresh remonstrances on the part of Pius were answered by threats of further hostile measures on the part of Napoleon, unless the pope entered into an offensive and defensive league with the kingdoms of Naples and Italy, and by a declaration that "the pope would lose his temporal sovereignty and remain bishop of Rome as his predecessors were during the first eight centuries, and under the reign of Charlemagne" (Note de M. de Champagny, Ministre des Affaires Etrangeres a son Eminence le Cardinal Capara, April 18, 1808). The war which began soon after Spain prevented Napoleon from occupying himself with the affairs of Rome, which remained in a state of uncertainty amid frequent clashing between the French military authorities and the papal civil officers. The papal territory, impoverished as it was by the loss of its finest provinces, was obliged to pay the French troops which garrisoned the towns that still nominally belonged to the pope. All the disaffected and the turbulent, trusting to French protection, openly insulted the papal government. The pope remained confined to his palace on the Quirinal, with his Swiss guard at the gates, not wishing to expose himself to violence by venturing out. On May 17, 1809, Napoleon, who was then making war against Austria, issued a decree from Vienna, in which he resumed the grant of his illustrious predecessor Charlemagne, and united the remainder of the Roman states to the French empire, leaving to the pope his palaces and an income of two millions of francs. On June 10, 1809, the pope issued a bull of excommunication against all the perpetrators and abettors of the invasion of Rome and of the territories of the Holy See. The bull was affixed to the gates of the principal churches of Rome and in other public places. The text of the bull is given by cardinal Pacca, in his Memodie Storiche, Appendix to pt. 1, No. 5. The French commander, Miollis, being afraid of an insurrection of the people of Rome, who had shown unequivocal signs of attachment to their sovereign, thought it expedient to remove Pius from the capital. The Swiss guards made no resistance, having orders to that effect from the pope; and, protesting that he "yielded to force," Pius took his breviary under his arm, accompanied the general to the gate, where his carriage was ready, and drove off under an escort. He was taken first to Grenoble, in Dauphine, from whence he was removed, by order of Napoleon, to Savona, in the Riviera of Genoa, where he remained till June, 1812. While Pius was at Savona, Napoleon convoked a council at Paris of the bishops of his empire; but he found that assembly less docile than he expected, and he dissolved it without reaching any conclusion. The great question was how to fill up the vacant sees, when the pope refused the canonical institution. The pope at the same time would not recognize Napoleon's divorce from his first wife Josephine. In short, Napoleon found that unarmed priests were more difficult to conquer than the armies of one half of Europe (Thibaudeau, Le Consulau et I'Empire, ch. 77; Botta, Storia d'Italiar, bk. 25). The plan of Napoleon was to have the pope settled at Avignon, or some other town of his empire, as his subject and his pensionary, and to control himself the nomination not only of the bishops, but of the cardinals also, by which means he would have added to his already overbearing temporal power the incalculable support of a spiritual authority which extends over a great part of the world. The resistance of Pins disconcerted his views. Napoleon at last imagined that by changing Pius to Fontainebleau he might succeed in overcoming his firmness. He therefore caused Pius to be removed with the greatest secrecy. He was brought to Fontainebleau in June 1812, lodged in the imperial palace, and treated with marked respect. Napoleon had set out on his Russian expedition. After his return from that disastrous campaign, in December, 1812, he went to see the pope, embraced him, and treated him with studied attention; he also allowed several cardinals who were at Paris to repair to Fontainebleau, and at last, chiefly through their persuasions, he prevailed upon the pope to sign a new concordat, Jan. 25, 1813. It is not true, as some have stated, that Napoleon, in one of his conferences with Pius, lifted his hand against him and struck him. Pacca (Memorie Storiche, pt. 3, ch. 1) denies this on the authority of Pius himself, but thinks it very probable that Napoleon spoke to his prisoner in an authoritative and threatening tone. Napoleon hastened to publish the articles of the concordat, and to give them the force of laws of the empire; after which he granted free access to the pope, to all cardinals, and others who chose to repair to Fontainebleau.

Pius, who had scruples concerning some of the articles which he had signed, laid them before the cardinals and asked their opinion. Several of the cardinals, especially the Italian ones, such as Consalvi, Pacca, Litta, and Di Pietro, stated that some of the articles were contrary to the canon law and the legitimate jurisdiction of the Roman see, and pregnant with the most serious evils to the Church, and they urged the necessity of a prompt retraction. They quoted the example of Paschal II, who, in similar circumstances having ceded to the emperor Henry V the right of investiture, hastened to submit his conduct to the judgment of a council assembled in the Lateran, and the council revoked the cession. SEE PASCHAL II. Upon this Pius wrote to Napoleon, March 24, retracting his concessions, but proposing a new basis for a concordat; Napoleon, however, took no notice of the retraction, except to exile some of the cardinals who, he thought, had influenced it. Napoleon soon after set off for his army in Germany, and the affair with the pope remained in suspense. It was only after the defeat of the French armies and their expulsion from Germany that Napoleon proposed to restore to the pope the Papal States south of the Apennines, if the pope would agree to a concordat. Pius answered that he would not enter into any negotiations until he was restored to Rome. On Jan. 22, 1814, an order came for the pope to leave Fontainebleau the following day. None of the cardinals were allowed to accompany him. He set out, accompanied by an escort, and was taken to Italy. On arriving at the bridge on the river Nura, in the state of Parma, he met the advanced posts of the Neapolitan troops under Mulrat, who was then making common cause with the allied powers against Napoleon. Murat had taken military occupation of the Roman state, but he offered to give up Rome and the Campagna. Pius, however, preferred stopping at Cesena, his native town, until the political horizon was cleared up. After the abdication of Napoleon and the peace of Paris, Pius made his entrance into Rome, May 24,1814, in the midst of rejoicings and acclamations. His faithful Consalvi soon after resumed his office of secretary of state. By the articles of the congress of Vienna the whole of the Papal States were restored, including the legations, which were not, however, evacuated by the Austrian troops until after the fall of Murat, in 1815.

The remaining years of the life of Pius VII were spent in comparative tranquillity, though not in idleness. He applied himself to adapt, as far as it was practicable, the civil institutions of his dominions to the great changes which had taken place in the social state. By a "motu proprio" of the year 1816 he confirmed the suppression of all feudal imposts, privileges, monopolies, and jurisdictions; he abolished every kind of torture, including that called the "corda," or "estrapade." which was formerly a frequent mode of punishment at Rome; he diminished the land-tax; retained the register of "hypothques," or mortgages, instituted by the French; laid down the basis of a new code of public administration, and in November of the following year he published a new code of civil procedure, in which he regulated the costs of judicial proceedings. He maintained the commercial courts established by the French, as well as the new system of police, enforced by a regular corps of carabineers, instead of the old "sbirri," who were ineffective and corrupt (Tournon, Etudes statistiques sur Rome, bk. 4, ch. 6). Unfortunately, however, the old system of secret proceedings in criminal matters was restored, as well as that of the ecclesiastical courts, which have jurisdiction also over laymen. Pius, however, also made some important alterations in the form of proceeding of the Inquisition, abolishing torture as well as the punishment of death for offences concerning religion. He did perhaps all that he could do as a pope, and certainly more than any pope had done before him. Cardinal Consalvi took vigorous measures to extirpate the banditti of the Campagria; and in July, 1819, he ordered the town of Sonnino, a nest of incorrigible robbers, to be razed to the ground. With regard to spiritual matters, Pius concluded a new concordat with France, Naples, Bavaria, and other states. He condemned by a bull the political society of Carbonari, as well as other secret societies. In the month of July 1823, the aged pontiff had a fall in his apartments and broke his thigh. This accident brought on inflammation, and he died Aug. 20. He was succeeded by Leo XII (q.v.). Thorwaldsen was commissioned to make his monument, which has been placed in St. Peter's. Pius VII stands prominent among the long series of popes for his exemplary conduct under adversity, his Christian virtues, and his general benevolence and charity. Free from nepotism, virtuous, modest, unassuming, and personally disinterested, he was a stanch, though temperate, defender of the rights of his see; and his meek bearing and unblemished character engaged on his side the sympathies of the whole Christian world, without distinction of community or sect, during the long struggle with his gigantic and ungenerous adversary. A selection of his bulls, breves, etc., are found in Roskovany, Monum. Cath. pro independentiaupotest. eccl. Quinque eccl. (1847), 2, 1 sq. The Bullarium Romanum continuat contains in vol. 11 and 12 (Rom. 1846) all bulls and breves till 1806. See Cohen, Precis histor. sur Pie VII (Par. 1823); Simon, La Vie politique et privee de Pie VII (ibid.

1824); Jager, Lebensbeschreibung des Papsfes Pius VII (Frkf. 1824); Artaud de Montor, Hist. de la Vie et du Pontificat du Pupe Pie VII, (3rd ed. Paris, 1839, 2 vols. 8vo); and Cardinal Pacca's Historical Memoirs, transl. into English by Sir George Head (Lond. 1850, 2 vols. post 8vo); the London Review, 1854, pt. 2, p. 77; Ranke, History of the Papacy, 2, 311 sq., et al.; Bower, History of the Popes, vol. 8; Church Journal, vol. 7; Stud. und Krit. 1867, No. 1; English Cyclopedia.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.