1902 Encyclopedia > Pope Pius VII

Pope Pius VII




PIUS VII. (Gregorio Luigi Barnaba Chiaramonti), pope from 1800 to 1823, was born at Cesena on August 14, 1742. After studying at Ravenna, he entered the Benedictine monastery of St Mary in his native town, but was almost immediately sent by his superiors to Padua and to Rome for a further course of studies in theology. He then held various teaching appointments in the colleges of his order at Parma and at Rome. He was created an abbot of his order by Pius VP, who appointed him bishop of Tivoli on the 16th December 1782, and on February 14, 1785, raised him to the cardinalate and the see of Imola. At the death of Pius VI. the conclave met at Venice on the 1st December 1799, with the result that Chiaramonti was declared his successor on March 14, 1800, and crowned on the 21st of that month. In the following July he entered Rome, appointed Cardinal Consalvi secretary of state, and busied himself with administrative reforms. His attention was at once directed to the ecclesiastical anarchy of France, where, apart from the broad schism on the question of submission to the republican constitu-tion, discipline had been so far neglected that a large pro-portion of the churches were closed, dioceses existed without bishops or with more than one, Jansenism and marriage had crept into the ranks of the clergy, and indifference or hostility widely prevailed amongst tha people. Encouraged by the intimation through Cardinal Martiniana of Napoleon's desire for the re-establishment of the Catholic religion in France, Pius appointed Caselli and Archbishop Spina to arrange a concordat with three nomi-nees of Napoleon—Joseph Bonaparte, Cretet, and the Vendean priest Bernier. Difficulties having arisen, the aid of Consalvi was called in, and the concordat, signed at Paris on July 15th, was ratified by Pius on the 14 th August 1801. Its value, however, from the pontifical point of view was considerably lessened by the "Articles Organiques " appended to it by the French Government on the 8th April 1802. In 1804 Napoleon opened negotiations to secure at the pope's hands his formal con-secration as emperor. After some hesitation Pius was induced to perform the ceremony at Notre Dame and to extend his visit to Paris for four months. He returned to Rome on the 16th May 1805 with many expressions of good will; but in the October following the French troops, in evacuating the kingdom of Naples, suddenly occupied Ancona upon the alleged necessity of protecting the Holy See. Resistance by force was out of the question, but to a requisition from the emperor that all Sardinians, English, Russians, and Swedes should be expelled from the ponti-fical states, and that vessels of all nations at war with France should be excluded from his ports, Pius r-eplied by asserting the independence and neutrality of his realm. After negotiations had dragged on for two years, in the course of which the French occupied the chief Adriatic ports, Civita Vecchia was seized and the papal troops placed under French officers. On the 2d February 1808 Rome itself was occupied by General Miollis; a month later the provinces of Ancona, Macerata, Fermo, and Urbino were united to the kingdom of Italy, and diploma-tic relations between Napoleon and Rome were broken off; finally, by a decree issued from Vienna on May 17, 1809, the emperor declared the papal states reunited to France by resumption of the grant of Charlemagne. Pius retali-ated by a bull, drawn up by Fontana and dated June 10, 1809, excommunicating the invaders; and, to prevent insurrection, Miollis—either on his own responsibility, as Napoleon afterwards asserted, or by order of the latter— employed General Radet to take possession of the pope's person. The palace on the Quirinal was broken open during the night of July 5th, and, on the persistent refusal of Pius to renounce his temporal authority, he was carried off, first to Grenoble, thence after an interval to Savona, and in June 1812 to Fontainebleau. There he was induced, on the 25th January 1813, to sign a new concordat, which was published as an imperial decree on the 13th February. On conference with the cardinals, however, Pius withdrew his concessions and proposed a concordat upon a new basis. At first no attention was paid to this, and, when after the French armies were driven from Germany Napoleon endeavoured to purchase a new concordat by offering to restore the papal possessions south of the Apennines, Pius refused to treat with him from any place other than Rome. The order for his departure thither reached him on the 22d January 1814, and after a brief delay at Cesena he entered Rome on the 24th May 1814. With his states restored to him by the congress of Vienna and freed from the Napoleonic terror, he devoted the remainder of his life to social and ecclesiastic reform in accordance with the modern spirit, suppressing many of the feudal survivals, abolishing torture, reconstituting civil and judicial procedure, and giving effect to many beneficial changes introduced by the French. His long and in many respects admirable pontificate of more than twenty-three years' duration was brought to a close by an accident. His thigh having been broken by a fall in July 1823, acute inflammation supervened, and he died on the 20th August in that year. His successor was Leo XII.






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