Papal conclave, May 1605

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Papal conclave
May 1605
Sede vacante.svg
Coat of arms during the vacancy of the Holy See
Dates and location
8–16 May 1605
Apostolic Palace, Papal States
Elected Pope
Camillo Borghese
(Name taken: Paul V)
Pope Paul V.jpg

The papal conclave of May 1605 was convened on the death of Pope Leo XI and ended with the election of Camillo Borghese as Pope Paul V. This was the second conclave of 1605, with the one that had elected Leo XI having concluded just 37 days earlier. It is significant for being the only recorded case of an injury at a papal conclave, which was the result of a physical fight amongst the cardinals about who should be elected pope.


Pope Clement VIII died in March 1605. The 62 cardinal electors who met in the conclave to elect his successor were split among factions built along family lines. The rival Aldobrondini and Montalto factions made it impossible to elect a member of either of those families to the papacy, and eventually the March 1605 conclave elected Leo XI, a member of the cadet branch of the Medici.[1][2]

Leo was 70 at the time of his election, and though in good health previously, fell ill on the day of his coronation. He died on 27 April 1605, 26 days after his election to the papacy. During his illness, Leo had been encouraged to appoint a cardinal nephew, but declined to do so.[1][2]


In addition to Leo, another cardinal had died, reducing the number of cardinal electors in the May conclave to 59. At the beginning of the conclave Alessandro Peretti di Montalto supported Antonio Sauli. A significant number of the electors loyal to Pietro Aldobrandini, the nephew of Clement VIII, were willing to support Sauli. Aldobrandi, however, opposed Sauli's election due to Sauli's previous opposition to electing Clement, and was able to prevent Sauli from reaching the two-thirds majority required for election.[3]

Aldobrandi moved to support Robert Bellarmine for the papacy, but Bellarmine said he would "not lift a straw" to advance his own election.[3] Aldobrandi also moved for the election of Domenico Toschi, going so far as to get 38 electors to bring him to the Pauline Chapel to be acclaimed pope. Caesar Baronius, however, was opposed to Toschi's election and spoke against it, causing his friends to urge for Baronius' election as pope. Thomas Hobbes later reported that Baronius' opposition to Toschi was based on Toschi's frequent usage of the word cazzo, Lombard slang for penis, and that he urged the cardinals not to elect Toschi because of this.[4] This led to a physical altercation between the two sides that could be heard on the streets outside the conclave. The fight resulted in the only known time of serious injury being suffered in a conclave with the Cardinal Visconti having several broken bones.[3]

Following the disruption, a vote was taken and it became clear that Toschi lacked the support needed for election by two votes. The leaders of the competing factions met to select a compromise candidate and Camillo Borghese was unanimously elected pope the same day.[3] Borghese had been among the papabili at the conclave that had elected Leo XI, but was considered too young at the time to become pope.[1] At the May conclave, it became clear to the electors that he would be the only candidate acceptable to all the factions, and he was elected as a compromise candidate.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Hsia, R. Po-Chia (2005). The World of Catholic Renewal, 1540–1770. Cambridge University Press. p. 99. ISBN 9780521841542. 
  2. ^ a b Ott, Michael (1910). "Leo XI". The Catholic Encyclopedia. 9. Robert Appleton Company. 
  3. ^ a b c d Baumgartner, Frederic J. (2003). Behind Locked Doors. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 141. ISBN 0-312-29463-8. 
  4. ^ Martinich, A.P. (1999). Hobbes: A Biography. Cambridge University Press. p. 35. ISBN 9780521495837. Cardinal Baronius, a man of integrity, intervened saying "Will you choose him [Tosco] head of the Church who cannot speak a sentence without that scurrilous byword of the Lombards ( Cazzo [a slang word for penis])?"