Papal conclave, 1559

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Papal conclave
September–December 1559
Sede vacante.svg
Coat of arms during the vacancy of the Holy See
Dates and location
5 September – 25 December 1559
Cappella Paolina, Apostolic Palace,
Papal States
Key officials
Dean Jean du Bellay
Sub-Dean François de Tournon
Camerlengo Guido Ascanio Sforza di Santa Fiora
Protopriest Robert de Lenoncourt
Protodeacon Alessandro Farnese
Elected Pope
Giovanni Angelo Medici
(Name taken: Pius IV)
Pius iv.jpg

The papal conclave of 5 September to 25 December 1559 was convened on the death of Pope Paul IV and elected Pope Pius IV as his successor. Due to interference from secular rulers and the cardinals' disregard for their supposed isolation from the outside world, it was the longest conclave of the 16th century.

Death and preparations[edit]

Pope Paul IV died on 18 August 1559, aged 83. His church reforms had mainly been based on repressive measures such as the Inquisition and the Index of Forbidden Books – he had no confidence in the Council of Trent, dissolving it in 1552 and not reviving it. Even cardinals were accused of heresy – at the time of Paul IV's death, Cardinal Morone was a prisoner of the Inquisition in the castel Sant' Angelo. Paul IV, fearing that Morone might become his successor, issued the papal bull Cum ex officio Apostolatus, which stipulated that a heretic could not be validly be elected pope – however, this was in vain since the College of Cardinals released Morone after Paul's death and allowed him to take part in the conclave. The bull also covered Cardinal d'Este, who Paul complained was trying to become pope by simony.

Paul IV's reforms did not abolish nepotism, however – 3 of the cardinals at the conclave were Paul's nephews, the most influential being Carlo Carafa and the other two being Diomede Carafa and Alfonso Carafa. On the model of pope Alexander VI (one of the Borgia popes, who had died on the same date as Paul 56 years earlier), Paul had tried to build up his family's power in Italy, mainly at the expense of the Colonna family, whose many lands (including the imperial Palia fiefdom) were seized and handed over to the Carafa family. Paul's nephews ruled even more brutally than him and abused their power so much that at one point Paul was forced to step in, stripping Carlo of power early in 1559. Carlo never regained his uncle's favour and after Paul's death he and Paul's other two cardinal-nephews had good reason to fear their enemies would now take revenge.

Paul IV's rule had been so brutal that spontaneous riots broke out in Rome after his death, with crowds toppling his statue and attacking the Inquisition's headquarters. 3700 troops were thus brought in to keep order, including 300 cavalry.

Cardinals in 1559[edit]

Participants[edit]

At the time of the conclave there were 55 cardinals, 47 of whom participated in it. Of those 47, one died during the conclave (Capodiferro) and two had to leave early due to illness:

  • Giovanni Angelo Medici (8 April 1549) – cardinal-priest of S. Prisca
  • Fulvio della Corgna, O.S.Io.Hieros. (20 November 1551) – cardinal-priest of S. Stefano al Monte Celio
  • Giovanni Ricci (20 November 1551) – cardinal-priest of S. Vitale, Gervasio e Protasio
  • Guido Ascanio Sforza (18 December 1534) – cardinal-deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata; camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church; archpriest of the Lateran Basilica; administrator of the diocese of Parma; protector of the Portuguese
  • Luigi Cornaro (20 November 1551) – cardinal-deacon of S. Teodoro
  • Alfonso Carafa (15 March 1557) – cardinal-deacon of S. Maria in Domnica; librarian of the Holy Roman Church; regent of the Apostolic Chamber; administrator of the archdiocese of Naples

Of these 47 cardinals, 37 were Italians, 7 French, 2 Spanish and 1 German. 13 had been appointed by pope Paul IV, 11 by pope Julius III, 20 pope Paul III, 2 by pope Clement VII and 1 by pope Leo X.

Absentees[edit]

8 cardinals (5 French, 1 Spanish, 1 Portuguese and 1 Italian) did not come to the conclave. 2 of these 8 died during its sitting :

Factions and candidates[edit]

The College of Cardinals was divided into three factions: a Spanish one (17 Cardinals headed by cardinals Sforza and Madruzzo), a French one (16 cardinals, led by Ippolito d'Este, de Guise) and an "Italian" one (14 cardinals gathered around Carlo Carafa and Alessandro Farnese) .

The French candidates for pope were d'Este, Gonzaga and Tournon. The King of France favoured cardinal Carpi. Philip II of Spain preferred cardinals Carpi, Morone, Puteo, Medici and D'Oler – in short, any candidate other than d'Este or a Frenchman. Cosimo I, Duke of Florence favoured his relation cardinal Medici. In total there were over 20 candidates.

For Carlo Carafa, choosing the new pope was literally a matter of life and death and so he mainly used the conclave to obtain guarantees that he and his relatives would not be punished for their abuses. He had one serious advantage – the Italian cardinals nominated by his uncle Paul remained loyal to him. He favoured Carpi and Gonzaga for pope. Although his uncle was an enemy of the Spanish, and encouraged France, Carlo decided to ally himself with the Spanish party.

Course[edit]

The conclave began on 5 September 1559, with 40 cardinals present. Exploiting the fact that the French cardinals had not yet arrived in Rome, the Spanish faction tried to get Carpi elected by acclamation, but this attempt failed because Sforza (one of the factions leaders) opposed Carpi's election and secretly agreed with d'Este that he should lose.

In this situation, the normal procedures were implemented. On 8 September electors signed the electoral capitulation, requiring the pope who was elected to continue reform of the church and the curia and to resume the deliberations of the council of Trent and banning him from fighting wars. By the end of September seven more cardinals had arrived in Rome.

For a few weeks voting took place routinely, without any result. Most votes were received by minor candidates. The Spanish Pacheco and Cueva were regularly given twelve to twenty votes; on 13 September the Frenchman Leonocourt received 18 votes; on 18 September the absent Cardinal Henry of Portugal was given 15 votes and 5 more by accession; others voted for at this point included Rebiba, Ghisleri and Saraceni. Rannucio Farnese got 21 votes in the election on the anniversary of his grandfather's election as pope. From 9 September to 16 December 68 fruitless ballots were held.

The front-runners were still trying for office, however – on 18 September, with the support of Cardinal Farnese, cardinal Carpi put himself up as a candidate again. Over the next few rounds he received 11–16 votes. On 22 September the French tried to get cardinal Tournon selected, but his chances were dashed by Carafa's opposition, who supported the Spaniard Pacheco. In the voting that took place that day, Tournon received a total of 20 votes (including 5 by accession) and Pacheco 19 (including 1 by accession).

A few days later, the French agreed with Sforza, leader of the Spanish faction, to support cardinal Gonzaga and push through his election by acclamation. This plan ended in a fiasco, with Gonzadze, Carafa and part of the Spanish faction objecting to it.

On 25 September Philip II's ambassador Vargas arrived in Rome and under his auspices Sforza, Farnese and Carafa met on 2 October. The ambassador suggested Puteo as a candidate instead of Carpi and Pacheco. Farnese and Carafa refused, however, and the meeting was unsuccessful. Around this time Sforza began to fight on two fronts – promising the French faction to keep agitating in favour of Gonzaga and the Italian party that he would do so in favour of Pacheco and Carpi.

At the end of September and start of October, there was extensive exchange of correspondence between the pro-Spanish cardinals and king Philip II. Francis II of France and Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor also sent letters to cardinals recommending Gonzaga's candidacy. This breach of the canonical rule that the conclave be held in secret and without any influence from secular leaders outraged the people of Rome into protest, but du Bellay (dean of the College of Cardinals) rejected the objections.

In the second half of October Carafa broke his alliance with Sforza, as Philip II decided to return the fiefdom Palli Colonnie Marcantonio and ordered the Spanish cardinals to prevent the selection of Gonzaga at all costs. Cardinal d'Este allied himself with Carafa, hoping to win the election, but the vote on 1 December showed this was in vain, with many who had promised to vote for him not doing so. The French also – without much success – tried to get cardinals Tournon and Suau elected.

In the first days of December, in agreement with the French, Carafa again proposed Gonzaga, intending to gain his election by acclamation. However, in the meantime, Carafa received a letter removing the expected guarantees from Philip and he and the French returned to their alliance with the Spanish party. He then committed himself in writing to cardinal Sforza that he would not endorse any candidate opposed by Philip II. As a result this session, which selected cardinal Gonzaga, nearly ended in cardinal Carpi being chosen by acclamation. The protracted conclave led to increasing concern on the streets of Rome, especially since the camerlengo was forced to reduce troop numbers due to financial problems.

After the overthrow of the French-backed Gonzaga, Pisani was suggested as a "transitional pope", but to no avail. Their party in early December waned in numbers – on 1 December cardinal Capodiferro died, while on 13 December du Bellay had to leave the conclave due to illness, handing over his duties as dean of the college to cardinal Tournon. Six days later, Saraceni also left the conclave. The French had lost the ability to block the opposing party's candidates, so the Spaniards tried to push through the election of cardinal Pacheco. In the vote on 18 December the Spanish only missed the necessary majority by three votes.

The Christmas festival was imminent and this led the factions' leaders to make peace and conclude a compromise. At a meeting on 22 December leaders of all three parties met to decide upon a candidate acceptable to all sides. The French suggested cardinal Cesi, the Spaniards suggested cardinal Medici, but Carafa remained undecided. The French were eventually persuaded to back cardinal Medici, who was also strongly supported by the Duke of Florence and Vice-Chancellor Alessandro Farnese. Carafa also finally supported Medici, who promised him an amnesty.

Election[edit]

On the evening of 25 December, 44 cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel and elected Giovanni Angelo Medici as pope by acclamation, ending the longest conclave of the 16th century. Giovanni took the name Pius IV and on the feast of the Epiphany on 6 January 1560 protodeacon Alessandro Farnese crowned him with the papal tiara.

The choice of Pius IV was a reaction to the brutal rule of Paul IV and his nephews. Pius had nothing to do with his predecessor's pride and arrogance and he resumed and completed the Council of Trent. Although he had fathered three children before his consecration as pope, he kept them in obscurity and out of church governance, unlike pope Paul III and pope Alexander VI. His only cardinal-nephew was Charles Borromeo, a future saint – as for Paul IV's nephews, he showed no mercy, arresting Carlo and Alfonso in 1560 (Diomede had died just after the conclave), executing Carlo in 1561 and only pardoning Alfonso after he had spent over a year in prison.

Bibliography[edit]

  • L. Pastor, History of the Popes, vol. XV, London 1928

External links[edit]