Pope Pius VII

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Pope Pius VII, OSB (14 August 1742 – 20 August 1823), born Count Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, was Pope from 14 March 1800 to 20 August 1823.


Early life

Chiaramonti was born at Cesena, the son of count Scipione Chiaramonti; his mother, Giovanna Chiaramonti, was the daughter of the marquese Ghini and was related to the Braschi family. He joined the Benedictine order in 1756 at the Abbey of S.Maria del Monte of Cesena and changed his first name to Gregorio. He then became a teacher at Benedictine colleges in Parma and Rome. His career became a series of promotions following the election of a family friend, Giovanni Angelo Braschi, as Pope Pius VI (1775–99). In 1776 Pius VI appointed the 34-year old Barnaba, who had been teaching at the monastery of S. Anselmo in Rome, honorary abbot in commendam of his monastery, to complaints from the brothers. After making him bishop of Tivoli, near Rome, Pius VI made him a Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto[1] and Bishop of Imola in February 1785.

From the time French forces invaded Italy in 1797, Cardinal Chiaramonti cautioned temperance and submission to the Cisalpine Republic. In his Christmas homily that year in 1797 he asserted that there was no opposition between a democratic form of government and being a good Catholic: "Christian virtue makes men good democrats.... Equality is not an idea of philosophers but of Christ...and do not believe that the Catholic religion is against democracy," said the bishop.[2]

Election as Pope

Following the death of Pius VI, virtually France's prisoner, at Valence in August 1799, the conclave met on 30 November 1799 in the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio, Venice. There were three main candidates, two of whom proved to be unacceptable to the Habsburgs, whose candidate, Alessandro Mattei, could not secure sufficient votes. After several months of stalemate, Chiaramonti was elected as a compromise candidate, certainly not the choice of the die-hard opponents of the French Revolution.[2] He was crowned Pope Pius VII at Venice on 21 March 1800 in a rather unusual ceremony, wearing a papier-mâché papal tiara, since the French had seized the original along with Pius VI. Then an Austrian vessel, the "Bellona", brought him to Pesaro, from where he reached Rome by land.

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