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San Sisto rose and added, "And I, O Thomas" (the name of the Cardinal of Bologna was Tommaso di Sarzana) "make you Pope this day, which precisely happens to be the Vigil of St. Thomas!" * Thus the election was made; and once again was verified the Eoman saying, that he who goes into Conclave a Pope (i.e. one whom everybody expects will be elected) comes out of it a simple cardinal, as was on this occasion the case with the Cardinal Prospero Colonna.
An election would not have been made in this direct, open, cards-upon-the-table fashion a hundred years later; and the whole style and tone of the proceedings show them to belong to the period which has been characterized by the heading given to this book.
This election was one of the few to which those who maintain that in these Conclaves the unwisdom of men and their purposes are overruled by the special providence of God and the operation of the Holy Ghost, may point in exemplification of their contention. It was intended that Colonna should, and everybody supposed that he would have been elected; and he would, doubtless, have made a very bad Pope. On the other hand, Thomas of Sarzana, who was elected as Nicholas V., against the original will of the majority, apparently by a sort of accident, and to the surprise of all parties, turned out one of the best Popes who ever sat on the Papal throne.
Italy, and especially the Church, was in a dreadful state when Nicholas became Pope. The schism en
• Not St. Thomas the Apostle, but St. Thomas Aquinas, the 6th of March.
gendered by the Council of Bale was still causing mischievous divisions. The union of the Latin and Greek Churches, so much wished for, seemed further than ever from accomplishment. Italy was desolated from end to end by factions and the lawless troops which supported them. The Eoman barons had made themselves the despotic tyrants of the cities and provinces which had been entrusted to their rule, as vice-regents for the Church, and were in rebellion against the Pontiff. Venetians, Genoese, and Florentines were all in arms. The Holy See was oppressed by debt. Nicholas applied himself from the first day of his pontificate to meet this sea of troubles with energy, zeal, industry, and a degree of enlightenment in advance of his age. In the course of the eight years of his reign he extinguished the schism growing out of the Bale Council; endeavoured much, and accomplished somewhat, towards composing the differences which were lacerating Europe; and had the infinite pleasure of leaving Italy at peace. He did not, as we all know, succeed in uniting the Latin and Greek Churches. He had warned the last Constantine that the result of continued schism would be the final fall of the Eastern Empire, and he saw his prophecy verified in 1453. It would be difficult, perhaps, to show that this event would have been avoided by union of the Churches; and the accomplishment of his prophecy was anything but a source of satisfaction to the Pontiff. The Turk was at last the master of the Eastern world, and the fact was lamented by all the Christian world with a genuineness of grief which men do not often feel for public disasters. But Nicholas was among the most active in turning to the best account the circumstances that followed from the misfortune. He received with open arms and was largely beneficent to the crowd of scholars and men of learning and letters who were driven by the Turkish conqueror to seek refuge in Western Europe, and more especially in Italy. He eagerly availed himself of the occasion to acquire manuscripts of the ancient writers; and the modern world, which profits by that revival of learning which became then or never possible, may thank Nicholas for his enlightened activity. He was a great builder and founder of universities. He largely improved that of Bologna, and founded those of Treves, Barcellona, and Glasgow, and conferred many privileges on that of Cambridge. He was the founder of the Vatican library; and the Medicean library at Florence, if due to the money of the Medici, was planned and carried out in accordance with the suggestions of Nicholas. He built the palace at the Lateran, and was the first of the long series of Popes to whom the rebuilding of St. Peter's is due, who conceived that noble ambition. He rebuilt the Milvian bridge, and largely improved many parts of Eorne. Sarzana, Viterbo, Fabriano, Civita Vccchia, Orvieto, Spoleto, were all enriched by him with new and useful buildings. He was not chargeable with any tendency to nepotism; and an interesting anecdote has been preserved of a visit paid to him in Eorne by his aged mother, who had come up from far-away little Sarzana, among the Tuscan Apennines, to see her two sons, one the Pope and the other a cardinal of the Church. The poor old woman thought it necessary to present herself to his Holiness in very gorgeous attire, resplendent with gems and brilliant colours. But the Pope, as soon as ever he saw her, left the room, desiring his chaplain to tell the stranger that it was a mistake; that bedizened lady could not be his mother, and was, indeed, hardly a fitting visitor for the Apostolic palace. "He well remembered," he said, "his dear mother, who was a very plain and decent body, and whom he would fain see again, but had no desire to speak to the magnificent lady who had entered his room!" The old lady took the hint, returned in her own homely dress, and was received with open arms.
Fifteen cardinals entered into Conclave at the due time after the death of Nicholas, and on the fourth or fifth day elected, to the general surprise, the Spanish Cardinal Alfonso Borgia, by the name of Calixtus III. The purpose of the majority of the cardinals was to elect the learned Bessarion, who had come from Constantinople at the time Eugenius IV. was endeavouring to effect the union of the Eastern and "Western Churches. He was unquestionably the man whom attainments and character marked as the fittest man in the Sacred College for the papacy. And had the cardinals held firmly to their first purpose, they would have spared the Church the indelible shame of having for ever on her list of Pontiffs Alexander VI., the second Borgia Pope! But the Cardinal of Avignon, who hoped that he himself would be elected, succeeded in arousing the jealousy and the bigotry of his colleagues by a violent speech, in which he dwelt upon the disgrace which it -would be to the Latin Church to confess, by putting a Greek on the Papal throne, that there was no man among themselves fitted for the Papacy; and, further, threw doubts upon the genuineness of Bessarion's "conversion," and on the orthodoxy, in any case, of a "Greek neophyte." The cardinals, however, would not have his Eminence of Avignon, and elected Borgia as a compromise. * This Conclave, as has been said, was held in the Vatican; and from this time the Conclaves -were held there uninterruptedly until the present century.
Calixtus III. (ob. 1458) reigned three years and three months; and on the due day after his death, on the 16th of August, eighteen cardinals went into Conclave, and on the third day elected JEneas Sylvius Piccolomini of Siena. In this case again the believers in the supervision of a special providence, controlling the actions of the electors, may point to this election as a notable instance of the truth of their theory. Few Conclaves have been more disgracefully conducted than was this, and few have concluded by making a better choice among the persons before them. After the first unsuccessful scrutiny the cardinals went to dinner, and after dinner there were, we are told, many meetings of groups and knots of cardinals, each intriguing in favour of different candidates, in which, as the chronicler of the Conclave says, "they hunted the Papacy either for themselves or
• This was the first election made in the manner which was subsequently recognised as one of three ways in which a Pope may be elected, and called an election "per accessum," tho manner of which will bo explained when we come to speak of the processes and ceremonial of the. Conclave.