Reading Between the Lines

Inquisition Texts and Catholic Conquests
  • Ariella Lang
Part of the Studies in European Culture and History book series (SECH)


In the memoirs that Bartolommeo Cardinal Pacca penned in 1828, the former Vatican secretary of state recorded the story of a pontificate that survived a turbulent time of transition. At the beginning of Pope Pius VII’s twenty-three-year pontificate, which began in 1800 and encompassed Pacca’s tenure, the pope had been interested in stabilizing the turbulent relationship between the Papal States and Napoleonic France. The emperor appeared, at least initially, equally eager to maintain a close relationship with the pope. The pope was angered, however, by Napoleon’s intimation that the security of the Papal States depended upon the Vatican’s accommodation of Napoleon’s demands regarding religious matters; he stated in no uncertain terms that he would not conflate temporal and spiritual issues. Napoleon’s failed efforts to make the pope accede to his wishes and his general belief that the Vatican greatly limited his powers led the French emperor to make good on his threats. In 1809 he invaded the Papal States. Pius VII immediately responded by excommunicating Napoleon, but this move did nothing to thwart the emperor, who annexed the Papal States to his empire and ordered a general in his army to take the pope prisoner. The Pope was supposedly carried out of Rome with no more than a papetto, equivalent to a ten-cent coin, in his purse.1


Jewish Community Corporal Punishment Papal State Jewish Woman French Revolution 
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© Ariella Lang 2008

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