Pius VII

Pope from 1800. Born Barnaba Chiaramonti and trained as a Benedictine, when he took the name Gregorio, he held the sees of Tivoli (1782) and Imola (1785) before election to the papacy. There he was immediately confronted by the self-aggrandizing demands of Napoleon, who, in order to secure total hold over France, wanted a new concordat. The new pope was conciliatory and conceived the principle of remaining immovable in exercising and defending his spiritual authority while seeking to accommodate the church to the new forms of society. The Concordat* (1801) did restore the Church in France, but as amended by the Organic Articles* (1802), left Napoleon in complete charge. Pius protested, but then approved a similar Concordat (1803) with Napoleonic northern Italy. Pius, still conciliatory, agreed to give the authority of his personal presence to Napoleon’s self-coronation as emperor in Paris (December 1804). The emperor was now intent on full expansion of his regime across Europe, including the universal extension of his statist ecclesiastical system and the absorption of the States of the Church.* The latter process was completed in February 1808; the pope, maintaining constant protest, was bodily seized (1809) and deported to Savona near Genoa, and finally to Fontainebleau (1812) near Paris. Napoleon, who never successfully dominated the pope. released him and Pius reentered Rome (May 1814).

Cardinal Consalvi,* the talented papal secretary of state, induced the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) to effect a near-complete reestablishment of the Papal States. With Pius’s support he reorganized the government amid resistance from both Sanfedisti and Carbonari. The church was effectively restored by concordats with Bavaria and Sardinia (1817), Naples and Russia (1818), Prussia (1821), and other Italian and German states. Pius restored the Jesuits (1814) and revitalized Catholic missions in Asia and Latin America. His singular piety and resistance to Napoleon provided an example of devotion for masses of the faithful.

Bibliography: J.T. Ellis, Cardinal Consalvi and Anglo-Papal Relations (1942); A. Latreille, L’église catholique et la révolution française (2 vols., 1946-50); J. Leflon, Pie VII (1958); E.E.Y. Hales, Revolution and Papacy, 1769-1846 (1966).C.T. Mc Intire