21.03.

1800: Why was Pope Pius VII Crowned with the Papier-mâché Tiara?

1800: Why was Pope Pius VII Crowned with the Papier-mâché Tiara?
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons / Pope Pius VII presided over the Coronation of Napoleon I.

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 21 March 1800
  • The coronation of Pope Pius VII on this day in 1800 was not held in Rome but in Venice. Since the papal tiara and equipment for the coronation were held by the Napoleon's France, they had to be improvised.

The coronation of Pope Pius VII took place on this day – it was particularly interesting because it took place in Venice and not Rome, and the papier-mâché tiara was used for the coronation. 

Why were these circumstances so unusual? Namely, Napoleon’s army previously occupied Rome and took the former Pope into captivity in France. The pope died there, and the cardinals met in Venice to elect a new pope – the aforementioned Pius VII.

Pope Pius VII was born under the name Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti. He was of aristocratic origin (his father was a count and his mother the daughter of a marquis).

Chiaramonti joined the famous Benedictine Order, and later even became a Cardinal. After the death of the previous Pope in French captivity, the cardinals met in the Venetian monastery of San Giorgio.

Interestingly, it was a Benedictine monastery, and Chiaramonti was elected pope as a Benedictine monk.

Since the papal tiara and equipment for the coronation were held by Napoleon’s France, they had to be improvised. Thus Pius VII was on this day crowned with a tiara (Triple Crown) made of paper. Nevertheless, he was a lawfully inaugurated pope.

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