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Pope Pius VII, OSB (14 August 1742 – 20 August 1823), born Count Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, was Pope from 14 March, 1800 to 20 August, 1823.

Early life

Chiaramonti was born at Cesenamarker, the son of count Scipione Chiaramonti; his mother, Giovanna Chiaramonti, was the daughter of the marquese Ghini and was related to the Braschi family. He joined the Benedictine order in 1756 at the Abbey of S.Maria del Monte of Cesena and changed his first name to Gregorio. He then became a teacher at Benedictine colleges in Parmamarker and Romemarker. His career became a series of promotions following the election of a family friend, Giovanni Angelo Braschi, as Pope Pius VI (1775–99). In 1776 Pius VI appointed the 34-year old Barnaba, who had been teaching at the monastery of S. Anselmo in Rome, honorary abbot in commendam of his monastery, to complaints from the brothers. After making him bishop of Tivoli, near Rome, Pius VI made him a Cardinal-Priest of San Callisto and Bishop of Imola in February 1785.

From the time French forces invaded Italy in 1797, Cardinal Chiaramonti cautioned temperance and submission to the Cisalpine Republicmarker. In his Christmas homily that year in 1797 he asserted that there was no opposition between a democratic form of government and being a good Catholic: "Be good catholics and you will be good democrats", said the bishop.

Election as Pope

Following the death of Pius VI, virtually France's prisoner, at Valencemarker in August 1799, the conclave met on 30 November, 1799 in the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio, Venicemarker. There were three main candidates, two of whom proved to be unacceptable to the Habsburgs, whose candidate, Alessandro Cardinal Mattei, could not secure sufficient votes. After several months of stalemate, Chiaramonti was elected as a compromise candidate. He was elected Pope Pius VII at Venice on 21 March, 1800 in a rather unusual coronation, wearing a papier-mâché papal tiara, the original having been seized by the French along with Pius VI. Then an Austrian vessel, the "Bellona", brought him to Pesaro, from where he reached Rome by land.

One of Pius VII's first acts was to appoint Ercole Consalvi, who had acted as secretary to the recent conclave, to the college of cardinals and to the office of Cardinal Secretary of State.

Relationship with Napoleon I

From the beginning of his papacy to the fall of Napoleon I of France in 1815, Pius VII was completely involved with France. He and Napoleon were continually in conflict, often involving the French military leader's wishes for concessions to his demands. Pius wanted the return of the Papal Statesmarker, and, later on, the release of the 13 Black Cardinals along with several exiled or imprisoned clergymen, monks, nuns, priests, other various supporters including his secretaries of state, and his own release from exile.

Relationship with the United States of America

On the United States' suppression of the Muslim Barbary Pirates along the southern Mediterranean coast, who kidnapped Christians for ransom and slavery, Pope Pius VII said that the United States “had done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages.”


  1. Cardinals who snubbed the marriage of Napoleon to Marie Louise, believing that his previous marriage was still valid
  2. Catholic Encyclopedia 1914 entry on Napoleon I
  3. Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates by City Journal


See also


  • Pope Pius VII, by Robin Anderson, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc, 2001. ISBN 0-89555-678-2


External links

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