Pope Pius VII was the 250th leader of the Catholic Church and the sixth among that lot to take the name “Pius.” This article seeks to distinguish him from his many papal forebears and successors by focusing on specifics and details of his life and papacy.
Life Before the Papacy.
Giovanni Braschi was the eldest of Count Marco Aurelio Tommaso Braschi’s and Ana Teresa Bandi’s eight children. After studying at Cesena’s Jesuit college, where he earned doctorates in canon and civil law, he pursued further education within the halls of the University of Ferrara. His first work with the Church was as secretary to Cardinal Tommaso Ruffo, the papal legate and Bishop of Ostia and Velletri. Ruffo appreciated the young man and elevated him to auditor upon becoming Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals.
In recognition of his considerable diplomacy within the court of Naples and shortl after Cardinal Ruffo’s death, Pope Benedict XIV appointed Braschi to serve among his secretaries. after abstaining from marriage in 1758, Braschi formerly joined the priesthood and also served as Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura until a year later. He would then become auditor and secretary for Pope Clement XIII’s nephew, Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico. 1766 would see Clement XIII intervene again, appointing Bruschi to treasurer of the camera apostolica.
Bruschi would later become elevated to Cardinal by Clement XIV on April 26th, 1773, serving as Cardinal-Priest of Sant’Onofrio. Soon after, he retired to the Abbey of Subiaco.
- While he was dedicated to reforming the church, some felt he did so with a discriminatory bent. He twice promoted an uncle, Giovanni Carlo Bandi.
- He established the first American episcopal see in North America and the Diocese of Baltimore.
- He saw the French Revolution as a conspiracy to overthrow God’s will. He believed the central reason for the Revolution was defiance of the Church.
- After French forces managed to make it into Rome without any opposition, Pius VI was asked to renounce his control over the region. After refusing, he was taken into french custody.
Quick Facts About Pope Pius VI.
- He was born within the Papal States on Christmas Day, 1717.
- His full given name was Count Giovanni Angelo Braschi.
- He died August 29th, 1799.
- He lost his life due to a combination of old age and conditions related to imprisonment by the government of France’s Emperor Napoleon I.
- His papacy began on February 15th, 1775.
- His papacy ended with his life.
- His papal successor was Pius VII. Notably, there was a span of 228 days where the Church was without a church due to the circumstances surrounding Pius VI’s death while imprisoned, the conclave being held in Venice and half a year of deadlock in electing a pope successor.
Five Interesting Facts About Pope Pius VI.
- His papal motto translates from Latin as “it blossoms in the house of God.”
- While he hailed King Louis XVI as a martyr, the late French monarch was never canonized.
- He was the longest-reigning pope of his time and remains among the top 10 men to serve the position the longest.
- Although his body was embalmed immediately after death, Napoleon did not bury it until January 30th, 1800. This was a political move intended to control Catholicism from France instead of Rome, which had been made a French-controlled Roman Republic.
- He was buried in Valence, exhumed on Christmas Eve of 1801, and, with Pope Pius VII present, buried again, in Rome on February 19th, 1802.