Papal conclave, 1846

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Papal conclave
June 1846
Sede vacante.svg
Coat of arms during the vacancy of the Holy See
Dates and location
14–16 June 1846
Quirinal Palace, Papal States
Key officials
Dean Ludovico Micara
Sub-Dean Vincenzo Macchi
Camerlengo Tommaso Riario Sforza[1]
Protopriest Carlo Oppizzoni[2][3]
Protodeacon Tommaso Riario Sforza[1]
Candidates Luigi Lambruschini
Ballots 4
Elected Pope
Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti
(Name taken: Pius IX)
The Quirinal Palace
The Pope's residence as head of state of the Papal States was the venue for the 1846 conclave.

The death of Pope Gregory XVI on 1 June 1846 triggered the Papal conclave of 1846. Fifty of the 62 members of the College of Cardinals assembled in the Quirinal Palace, one of the papal palaces in Rome and the seat of two earlier 19th century conclaves. The conclave began on 14 June and had to elect a pope who would not only be head of the Catholic Church but also the head of state and government of the Papal States, the extensive lands around Rome and Northern Italy which the Catholic Church governed.

Conclave divided over how to rule the Papal States[edit]

Pope Pius IX
The new pope elected in the 1846 conclave

It was the issue of the government of the Papal States that was to prove central to the 1846 conclave. The College of Cardinals was split into two factions.[4] The conservatives wished to see a continuation of papal absolutism in the governance of the Papal States, a continuation of the hardline policies of Pope Gregory XVI and his right-wing Secretary of State, Luigi Lambruschini, while the liberals wished for some measure of moderate reform and favored two candidates in Tommaso Pasquale Gizzi and Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti.[5]

Lambruschini received a majority of the votes in the early ballots, but failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority. On the fourth ballot the liberal candidate, Mastai-Ferretti, Archbishop (personal title) of Imola, achieved that requirement and was elected, receiving four more than the required two-thirds majority.[6] He took the name Pope Pius IX (known also as Pio Nono).

Failed attempt to veto Ferretti[edit]

As with other conclaves up to and including the 1903 conclave, various Catholic monarchs claimed a right to veto a cardinal who might be elected, forcing the cardinals to pick someone else. Emperor Ferdinand of Austria had charged Cardinal Karl Kajetan Gaisruck, the Archbishop of Milan (then part of the empire's territory), with vetoing the liberal Ferretti. However Gaisruck arrived too late at the conclave.[7] By the time he got there Ferretti had been elected, had accepted the papacy and had been proclaimed publicly.


Pope Pius IX was crowned with the Papal tiara on 21 June 1846. He became the longest-reigning pope since Saint Peter, sitting on the papal throne for nearly 32 years. Initially a liberal, following a short-lived deposition and the proclamation of the Roman Republic, Pius was returned to power by troops from the French Second Republic and became a conservative reactionary.

In 1870 the remaining territories of the Papal States were seized by Victor Emmanuel II, King of Italy. Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, with the former papal palace, the Quirinal, becoming the King's palace. Pius IX withdrew in protest to the Vatican where he lived as a self-proclaimed "Prisoner in the Vatican". He died in 1878.

Conclave factfile[edit]

  • Dates of conclave: 14–16 June 1846
  • Historic features of 1846 Conclave:
    • Last of three conclaves held in the Quirinal Palace and last held outside the Vatican
    • election of pope who would have the second-longest reign in papal history
    • last conclave held during the existence of the Papal States
    • Apparent victory for liberals and apparent rejection of previous pope's policies
    • failed attempt by Austrian emperor to exercise a veto
    • last conclave made up exclusively of cardinals from continental Europe
Duration 3 days
Number of ballots 4
Electors 62
Absent 12
Present 50
Africa 0
Latin America 0
North America 0
Asia 0
Europe 62
Oceania 0
Mid-East 0
Veto used failed attempt by Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria
against Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti
NEW POPE PIUS IX (1846–1878)