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fifty-four Popes,” says he, writing in 1823, immediately after the death of Pius VII., a number now to be increased by four more, “Pius VII. had been exceeded in the length of his papacy only by Adrian I. (ob. 795), who ruled the Church twenty-three years, ten months, and seven days, and Pius VI., who held the papacy twenty-four years, six months, and fourteen days. Only the Antipope Benedict XIII. reigned more than twenty-eight years, of whom St. Antonine, in his Chronicle, remarks that, 'He exceeded the duration of the pontificate of St. Peter, to the heaping up of his own damnation; and no wonder, since he was in reality not in Peter's* seat.?” The good saint's idea that the wicked Antipope, damned already for being an Antipope, is extra-damned for living so long, is amusing enough. “ Hence," continues Cancellieri, “one may say with Bzovius, in his history of the Roman pontiffs, • Sint licet assumpti juvenes ad Pontificatum-Petri annos potuit nemo videret tamen !” Cancellieri rambles on with his pleasant gossip to an anecdote (which Tiraboschi also tells in his history of Italian literature) of the papal physician, Matthew Corte, who professed to have discovered the means of prolonging life to a hundred and twenty years, and wrote a book specially on that subject. He used to present a copy of this work to each new Pope, taking the precaution, however, to substitute on every occasion a new titlepage, with the assurance to each new patron, “ Videbis dies Petri et ultra."* Tiraboschi says that he has seen copies that had been thus presented to Julius III., Pius IV., and Paul IV.
* “Transivit annos Petri ad cumulum suæ damnationis; nec mirum, quia non in sede Petri.” - St. Antonin. Chron. p. 3. tit. 22.
“Although young men have been raised to the Pontificate, yet no one: has been able to see the years of Peter.”
This Conclave, in which Nicholas IV. was elected, was the first that was guarded-custodito—by a Savelli. The privilege of holding this office was granted to the head of the Savelli family “ for ever" by Gregory IX. Prince Chigi is now the hereditary "custode” of the Conclaves.
Celestine V., the successor of this Nicholas IV., elected in 1294, abdicated the papacy after a reign of five months and eight days; but found time to re-enact the Gregorian constitutions, which were further confirmed and established by his successor, Boniface VIII. And since that time these constitutions have without intermission ruled the papal Conclaves, save when Pius VI. (ob. 1799) dispensed the cardinals from the observation of them by reason of the bondage in which the Church was held by Napoleon Buonaparte. There is also the ever-memorable and all-important case of Pope Martin V., elected by the authority of the Council of Constance, which has already been referred to in the fourth chapter of Book I. The Gregorian constitutions have with these exceptions formed the rule of the Conclaves in all essential matters uninterruptedly for the last six hundred years; but they have been frequently modified as to points held not to be essential by various Popes, mostly in the sense of mitigating the rigour of them as regards the personal comfort of the cardinals during their seclusion. These modifications will be
* “ You shall see the days of Peter and more.”
noticed in their proper places, but it may be convenient to give here a list of them :-1. Clement V. (ob. 1314) confirmed the constitutions, adding some small modifications. 2. Julius II. (ob. 1513), and Pius IV. (ob. 1565), put forth other constitutions confirmatory of those of Gregory, and adding minatory sanctions and explanatory regulations. Gregory XV. (ob. 1623) approved and confirmed the whole of these, adding a minutely elaborated ceremonial of his own. Urban VIII. (ob. 1644), and Clement XII., issued confirmatory Bulls, with small additions of ceremonial directions. · And the various Bulls here rehearsed form the whole body of Conclave law as it exists at the present day.
Celestine seems to have been an unlucky name for the pontiffs. The first of the name was a fifth-century Pope. The second (ob. 1144) reigned only five months and thirteen days. The third (ob. 1198) had, indeed, a fair length of reign-six years and nine months; but the fourth (ob. 1241) was Pope for seventeen days only; and the fifth abdicated in 1294, as has been said, at the end of a reign of five months and eight days. Since him no Pope has called himself Celestine.
Celestine V., taken from his hermitage to be made Pope, was elected at Castel Nuovo, near Naples, and, as contemporary writers assure us, accepted the papacy very unwillingly. The number of Popes of whom this was declared to be the case is worthy of notice. Notwithstanding Dante's phrase respecting the “gran’ rifiuto,” if we are to consider that the poet had Celestine's abdication in his mind, which seems to be improbable—this unwillingness, or the profession of it, was evidently
looked upon as meritorious : and our « nolo épiscopari” is a survival of the same sentiment. The modesty, however, which prompted Celestine to shrink from the supreme dignity, did not characterize his successor, nor prevent him from pushing his greatness to the utmost. He went from Naples to Rome to be consecrated, accompanied by Charles II., King of Sicily, and his son Charles, King of Hungary; and proceeded, when consecrated at St. Peter's, to the Lateran Palace, to be enthroned there, with an unprecedented amount of state and magnificence, mounted, we are told, on a palfrey, whose bridle was held on either side by the above-mentioned two monarchs on foot.
On the death of Boniface VIII., his successor, Benedict IX., was elected regularly and normally. Boniface died on the 11th of October, 1303; the cardinals went into Conclave on the 21st, and at the first scrutiny, on the 22nd, elected the new Pope by a unanimous vote, given, as it would seem, in genuine recognition of his merit.
But Benedict reigned only eight months and five days, and the Conclave which assembled on his death was in marked contrast to that which had elected him : one of the most scandalous in its incidents, and most disastrous in its results, of any that has ever been held for the election of a pontiff. The received account of Benedict's death attributes it to poison. He was dining in the Dominican Convent at Perugia, when a lad, dressed as a girl, and pretending to be a maid servant of the nuns of St. Petronilla, presented him with some figs of a kind he was known to be fond of. They were poisoned, and the Pope died. Such is the received story. It has been
said, especially by French writers, that there is no satisfactory evidence for the truth of the statement. And, while it cannot be denied that poison was in those days very commonly used, and that there is abundant reason for thinking, both that many persons may have wished the removal of the Pope, and that those so wishing were men who would by no means have scrupled to reach their object by such means; it must, on the other hand, be admitted that the medical science of the period was totally inadequate to ascertain whether a death had, or had not, been occasioned by poison, and that the consciousness of this inability, together with a knowledge of the frequency of the crime, no doubt caused suspicion to be roused in many cases where the truth did not justify it. It must, however, also be conceded that the conduct of the cardinals, who had the making of the new Pope, was such as very strongly to suggest the notion that some of them may have determined on making the vacancy, respecting the filling of which passions ran so high, and such weighty interests were at stake.
Civil war was raging throughout the north of Italy and in Tuscany between Guelphs and Ghibelines, Bianchi and Neri. The Pope sent the Dominican cardinal, Niccolo da Prato, as his legate to make peace between the parties. But his reception was such, that the Pope thought himself obliged to place Florence under interdict, and to excommunicate the Guelphs, the Neri, and the people of the cities Lucca and Prato. Hence it was thought probable that the Florentines might have been guilty of his murder. But other quarrels as bitter, and