Papal election, 1292–1294: Wikis


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Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, where the election began

The papal election from April 5, 1292 to July 5, 1294 was the last papal election which did not take the form of a papal conclave. After the death of Pope Nicholas IV on April 4, 1292, the eleven surviving cardinals (a twelfth died during the sede vacante) deliberated for more than two years before electing the third of six non-cardinals to be elected pope during the Later Middle Ages, Pietro da Morrone, who took the name Pope Celestine V.[1]

Contemporary sources suggest that Morrone was hesitant to accept his election when word of the cardinals' decision reached his mountain-top hermitage. His ascetic lifestyle left him largely unprepared for the day-to-day responsibilities of the papacy, and he quickly fell under the influence of the Neapolitan monarchy, to the dissatisfaction of even the pro-Angevin cardinals within the College. Within the year, on December 13, Celestine V became the last pope to abdicate voluntarily.[1]


Cardinal electors

Twelve cardinal electors began the election, but one—Jean Cholet—died before it was completed.

Elector Nationality Order Title Elevated Elevator Notes
Latino Malabranca Orsini, O.P. Roman Cardinal-bishop Bishop of Ostia e Velletri 1278, March 12 Nicholas III Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals; Inquisitor General
Cardinal-nephew of Nicholas III
Gerardo Bianchi Parmigiani Cardinal-bishop Bishop of Sabina 1278, March 12 Nicholas III
Giovanni Boccamazza Roman Cardinal-bishop Bishop of Frascati 1285, December 22 Honorius IV Cardinal-nephew of Honorius IV
Matteo d'Acquasparta, O.F.M. Todini Cardinal-bishop Bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina 1288, May 16 Nicholas IV Grand penitentiary
Jean Cholet French Cardinal-priest Titulus S. Cecilia 1281, April 12 Martin IV Protopriest; Died August 2, 1293
Benedetto Caetani Anagnini
(Catalonian family)
Cardinal-priest Titulus Ss. Silvestro e Martino ai Monti 1281, April 12 Martin IV Protopriest after August 2, 1293; Future Pope Boniface VIII
Hugues Aycelin de Billom, O.P. French Cardinal-priest Titulus S. Sabina 1288, May 16 Nicholas IV
Pietro Peregrosso Milanese Cardinal-priest Titulus S. Marco 1288, May 16 Nicholas IV Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals
Matteo Orsini Roman Cardinal-deacon Deacon of S. Maria in Portico 1262, May 22 Urban IV Protodeacon; archpriest of the patriarchal Vatican Basilica
Giacomo Colonna Roman Cardinal-deacon Deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata 1278, March 12 Nicholas III Archpriest of the patriarchal Liberian Basilica
Napoleone Orsini Roman Cardinal-deacon Deacon of S. Adriano 1288, May 16 Nicholas IV
Pietro Colonna Roman Cardinal-deacon Deacon of S. Eustachio 1288, May 16 Nicholas IV


Santa Maria sopra Minerva, where the election moved

The eleven electors were relatively evenly divided between the factions of Colonna and Orsini, two powerful Roman families,[2][3] led by Giacomo Colonna and Matteo Orsini, respectively.[4] The three Orsini cardinals were pro-French and pro-Angevin, while the two Colonna cardinals supported competing Aragonese claims in Sicily.[5] James II of Aragon had bankrolled the Colonna faction with gold, but it is unknown whether simony actually transpired.[6]

After ten days of balloting in Rome, without any candidate approaching the requisite two-thirds, the cardinals adjourned until June and changed the location of the election[7] from Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore to Santa Maria sopra Minerva.[4] After a summer epidemic in the city, and the death of Cholet in August, they dispersed until late September.[7][8] The non-Roman cardinals went to Rieti (except Caetani, who went to his native Anagni) while the Roman cardinals remained in the city.[8] As balloting continued into the next summer, the disorder in Rome increased dramatically (even by the standards of a sede vacante, during which, based on the biblical example of Barabbas, all prisoners were released).[7] The deaths of newly elected Roman Senators Agapitus Colonna and Ursus Orsini around Easter 1293 further exacerbated the anarchy within the city, which had been marked by the destruction of palaces, the slaying of pilgrims, and the sacking of churches.[8] After the summer of 1293, the cardinals dispersed and agreed to reconvene in Perugia on October 18.[7][8]

The College continued to deliberate fruitlessly in Perugia, where they were addressed by Charles II of Naples in March 1294.[7] By the summer of 1294, cardinals had begun to disperse, leaving only six in Perugia for their final meeting, where a letter was read aloud from a hermit, Pierro de Morrone, stating that God had revealed to him that the cardinals would be punished for any further delay.[7] Latino Malabranca Orsini, the senior cardinal, suddenly nominated Morrone—who would have been well-known by the cardinals as a saintly figure—and the other cardinals rapidly agreed and recalled the departed electors to consent.[7][9][10]

Consensus was achieved by July 5, 1294, when Morrone was elected.[11] As with the selection of Gregory X by the papal election, 1268–1271, the choice of an outsider, non-cardinal, in this case an "octogenarian hermit," was seen as the only way to break the stalemate between the deadlocked cardinals.[12] That election also could have resulted in the selection of a hermit, had Saint Philip Benizi not fled to avoid his election after he urged the cardinals to speed up their deliberations.[13]


The Castel Nuovo of Naples, where Celestine V took up residence

Pietro Colonna and three bishops brought the news of Morrone's election to his mountain-top hermitage.[14] Contemporary sources are emphatic in noting Morrone's reluctance to accept his election; for example, Petrarch recounts his attempt to flee.[15]

Instead of coming to Perugia (the site of the conclave), Celestine insisted that the cardinals join him in L'Aquila (in Neapolitan territory) for his coronation, rather than crossing into the bordering Papal States.[16] Imitating the entry of Christ into Jerusalem,[17] Celestine rode a donkey, led by the bridle by Charles II of Naples and his son Charles Martel of Anjou [18] to the L'Aquila basililca, which was the nearest cathedral to his hermitage.[11] Latino Orsini died on August 10 in Perugia, but many of the other cardinals had second thoughts because of the perceived degree of Angevin control of the new pope.[17] Because only three cardinals were present at the ceremony on August 29, it was repeated a few days later when more arrived, making Celestine the first and only pope to be crowned twice.

The Angevin-Neapolitan influence of Celestine was evident in his first consistory, during which he created twelve cardinals, including seven Frenchmen and three (or five[19]) Neapolitans. This was the first time in history where a single conclave had swung the College of Cardinals so decidedly in one nationalist partisan direction.[16] The cardinals who were not French or Angevin were members of Celestine's former order.[11] Celestine also moved to the Castel Nuovo in Naples, where he continued to live much like a hermit until he resigned, as advocated by many Roman cardinals, including Benedetto Gaetani (who, a former lawyer, suggested that Celestine first publish a decree establishing the permissibility of papal abdication.)[16] Gaetani, elected Pope Boniface VIII following Celestine's abdication, proceeded to have Celestine imprisoned while the legality of his abdication remained a prominent subject, and Celestine died a prisoner in 1296.[20]


Before abdicating, Celestine re-enacted Ubi Periculum, the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Gregory X, which has governed all subsequent papal elections under the laws of the conclave. Two subsequent papal elections may be considered possible exceptions, although they comported with the laws of the conclave to a great degree: the Council of Constance, which elected Pope Martin V to end the Western Schism and the papal conclave, 1799-1800, for which Pope Pius VI suspended Ubi Periculum due to the interference of Napoleon I of France).[21]

See also


  1. ^ a b Miranda, Salvator. 1998. "Election of April 5, 1292 - July 5, 1294: (Celestine V)."
  2. ^ Emerton, 1917, p. 111.
  3. ^ Williams, 2004, p. 37-38.
  4. ^ a b Gregorovius, 1906, p. 516.
  5. ^ Baumgartner, 2003, p. 43.
  6. ^ Baumgartner, 2003, p. 43-44.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Baumgartner, 2003, p. 44.
  8. ^ a b c d Gregorovius, 1906, p. 517.
  9. ^ Toropov, 2002, p. 52.
  10. ^ Gregorovius, 1906, p. 518.
  11. ^ a b c Baumgartner, 2003, p. 45.
  12. ^ Rotberg, 2001, p. 59.
  13. ^ Baumgartner, 2003, p. 41.
  14. ^ Gregorovius, 1906, p. 520.
  15. ^ Vita solitaria, ii, c. 18.
  16. ^ a b c Emerton, 1917, p. 112.
  17. ^ a b Gregorovius, 1906, p. 522.
  18. ^ Gregorovius, 1906, p. 521.
  19. ^ Collins, 2005, p. 111.
  20. ^ Toropov, 2002, p. 52-53.
  21. ^ Trollope, 1876, p. 87.


  • Baumgartner, Frederic J. 2003. Behind Locked Doors: A History of the Papal Elections. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0312294638
  • Collins, Michael. 2005. The Fisherman's Net: The Influence of the Popes on History. Hidden Spring. ISBN 1587680335
  • Emerton, Ephraim. 1917. The Beginnings of Modern Europe (1250-1450). Ginn & Co. (Available online)
  • Gregorovius, Ferdinand. 1906. History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages. G. Bell & Sons. (Available online)
  • Rotberg, Robert I. 2001. Politics and political change: A Journal of Interdisciplinary History Reader. MIT Press. ISBN 0262681293
  • Toropov, Brandon. 2002. The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Popes and Papacy. Alpha Books. ISBN 0028642902
  • Trollope, Thomas Adolphus. 1876. The Papal Conclaves, as They Were and as They are. Chapman and Hall. (Available online)
  • Williams, George L. 2004. Papal Genealogy: The Families And Descendants Of The Popes. McFarland. ISBN 0786420715


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