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AN ACCOUNT OF
THE PAPAL CONCLAVES
FROM THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY
TO THE PRESENT DAY
by Valérie Pirie
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
|THE CLOSED DOOR|
From 'Conclavi de' Pontifici Romani 1668
J'aime un ouvrage sérieux qui ne|
soit point écrit trop sérieusement.
Printed in Great Britain
By R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh
WHEN HE HAS REACHED
YEARS OF DISCRETION
[p. vii] AN Eastern origin can undoubtedly be ascribed to the papal tiara, but it is not known under what circumstances or by which of Peter's
early successors it was first adopted. Not till after the IVth century are the Popes represented wearing a circle round the base of the conical-shaped cap which formerly had been quite plain. Boniface VIII, presumably with the object of making it more impressive, added a second
diadem to the pontifical head-dress, and later Benedict XII superimposed yet a third above the other two. Several Popes of the Middle
Ages disapproved of these innovations and reverted to the diadem with the single crown; but by the XVth century, the period at which this
book opens, the Triple Crown or Triregnum had been definitely adopted as the Pope's official headdress for all ceremonial occasions.
A symbolical significance was now ascribed to the three circlets which were described as the emblems of the Roman Pontiff's spiritual
supremacy, of his temporal dominion and of his suzerainty over all other monarchs.
As the Holy See's power and riches increased, so did the Triple Crown gain in splendour and costliness. The more magnificent-minded
Popes lavished fortunes on their tiaras, and by the end of the XVIIIth century the papal treasury contained at least a dozen examples of
When the French Revolutionary army occupied Rome in 1798 its leaders appropriated several of these gorgeous jewels, and the remainder
were handed over to the French Government after the Treaty of Tolentino, the unfortunate Pius VI being reduced to the humiliating
necessity of wearing a gilt cardboard substitute. Symbolism has its pitfalls!
After the signing of the Concordat, Napoleon presented Pius VII with a splendid Triregnum which, fifty years later, Pius IX, in view of the
unsettled condition of his Kingdom, deemed it advisable to have copied in imitation gems, while the original was deposited in a place of
By its very vicissitudes, the Triple Crown seems to represent most [p. viii] fittingly that which each successive conclave was empowered to
bestow: Julius II's great blazing tiara, Pius VI's pathetic cardboard crown, or Pius IX's tawdry replica of a safely guarded treasure.
The reader who is interested in the election would naturally want to know something of its outcome. I have therefore appended to the
account of the conclave itself a brief sketch of the man chosen by each of these strange assemblies to occupy the highest office in
As frequent references are made to sums of money quoted in obsolete currencies, it may assist the reader to form some estimate of their
value by knowing that:
|The crown was
£3 : 1
The value of these coins was naturally subject to a certain amount of fluctuation through the ages, and would be four or five times as great
in present-day currency.
I have to thank the authorities of the London Library for kindly allowing me to reproduce the illustrations of my preliminary chapter from
their copies of Conclavi de' Pontifici Romani and Histoire des Conclaves depuis Clement V jusqu'à 1703.
A list of all sources of information will be found at the end of the volume.
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