Pope Pius VII
Born at Cesena in the Pontifical States, 14 August, 1742; elected at Venice 14 March, 1800; died 20 August, 1823.
His father was Count Scipione Chiaramonti, and his mother, of the noble house of Ghini, was a lady of rare piety who in 1763 entered a convent of Carmelites at Fano. Here she foretold, in her son’s hearing, as Pius VII himself later related, his elevation to the papacy and his protracted sufferings. Barnaba received his early education in the college for nobles at Ravenna. At the age of sixteen he entered the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria del Monte, near Cesena, where he was called Brother Gregory. After the completion of his philosophical and theological studies, he was appointed professor at Parma and at Rome in colleges of his order. He was teaching at the monastery of San Callisto in the latter city at the accession of Pius VI, who was a friend of the Chiaramonti family and subsequently appointed Barnaba abbot of his monastery. The appointment did not meet with the universal approbation of the inmates, and complaints were soon lodged with the papal authority against the new abbot. Investigation, however, proved the charges to be unfounded, and Pius VI soon raised him to further dignities. After conferring upon him successively the Bishoprics of Tivoli and Imola he created him cardinal 14 Feb., 1785. When in 1797 the French invaded northern Italy, Chiaramonti as Bishop of Imola addressed to his flock the wise and practical instruction to refrain from useless resistance to the overwhelming and threatening forces of the enemy. The town of Lugo refused to submit to the invaders and was delivered up to a pillage which had an end only when the prelate, who had counselled subjection, suppliantly cast himself on his knees before General Augereau. That Chiaramonti could adapt himself to new situations clearly appears from a Christmas homily delivered in 1797, in which he advocates submission to the Cisalpine Republic, as there is no opposition between a democratic form of government and the constitution of the Catholic Church. In spite of this attitude he was repeatedly accused of treasonable proceedings towards the republic, but always successfully vindicated his conduct. Continue reading