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Electing the Pope in Early Modern Italy, 1450-1700$
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Miles Pattenden

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198797449

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198797449.001.0001

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The Vacant See

The Vacant See

(p.98) 4 The Vacant See
Electing the Pope in Early Modern Italy, 1450-1700

Miles Pattenden

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the problem that no pope could countenance a named successor in his lifetime so the cardinals had to negotiate a brief period without a pope every time a pope died. The College developed legal foundations for exercising authority independent of the pontiff, and for expressing and enforcing that authority. Until the fifteenth century this may not have mattered that much in practical terms, because the overall impact of papal government remained light. However, as the papal administration grew throughout the Papal States the need to preserve stability rose commensurately. To maintain the peace the cardinals partnered with potential rivals: communal authorities, the old nobility, and even the late pope’s family. Yet, the cardinals could not overcome a paradox: the more stable each vacancy, the greater the systemic threat from papal subjects who lacked other opportunities to express their grievances.

Keywords:   cardinals, Sede Vacante, Rome, interregnum, Papal States, old nobility, papal subjects

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