Raffaele Sansoni Galeotti Riario (May 3, 1461-July 9, 1521) was born at Savona, the son of Antonio Sansoni and of Pope Sixtus IV's sister Violentina. On December 10, 1477, while engaged in the study of law at the University of Pisa, he was created Cardinal Deacon of San Giorgio in Velabro by his uncle Pope Sixtus (1471-1484). He was 17. He was suspected of having had some connection with the Pazzi conspiracy, April 1478, through his uncle Count Girolamo Riario and Francesco Salviati, Archbishop of Pisa. Although he was arrested and imprisoned, his uncle the Pope had him freed and brought to Rome, where he was officially rehabilitated in consistory. He was named Chancellor of the Church [Cardella III, 210; accoreding to Moroni 57, 171, he was named Vice-Chancellor], and in 1483 he became Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, a post he held until his death in 1521. He was loaded with benefices by Sixtus IV and Innocent VIII (1484-1492), including the administration and income of sixteen rich bishoprics (including eventually Imola, Tréguier in France, Salamanca, Osima, Cuença , Viterbo , and Taranto); he was also Abbot of Monte Cassino and of Cava.
Under Alexander VI, however, he was in disfavor. The greed for power and property on the part of the Borgia family made the Riarios a major target. Alexander's son Cesare coveted the holdings of the Riario family, and seized the city of Forlì and also Imola. Riario fled to France and took up his bishopric of Tréguier. On his return in September of 1503 he was appointed Bishop of Albano (in November, 1503) and was consecrated bishop on April 9, 1504 by Pope Julius II personally (another nephew of Sixtus IV). In 1507 he was promoted to the bishopric of Sabina, and on July 7, 1508, became Apostolic Administrator of Arezzo. Julius II made him Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, Porto, and Velletri on September 22, 1508. . He participated in five conclaves, including the conclaves of 1484, 1492, 1503 that elected Pius III and the one that elected Julius II, and that of 1513.
In 1517, he was involved in the conspiracy of Cardinal Alfonso Petrucci against the life of Pope Leo X (also involving Cardinals Soderini and Sauli) and was arrested (May 29) and incarcerated in the Castel S. Angelo (De Grassis, p. 48). Trials were held. The ambassadors of England, France and Spain interceded. The College of Cardinals intervened on his behalf when it appeared that he might be stripped of all of his benefices, degraded from the cardinalate, and condemned to death. On July 24, he was released from confinement and brought to the Vatican; after he swore an oath, he was admitted to the presence of the Pope (De Grassis, p. 57). After he confessed to the Pope in a lengthy speech and begged pardon, which the Pope was pleased to grant, with a huge fine, whose value changed repeatedly, and the confiscation of his palace at S. Lorenzo in Damaso (the Cancelleria). He was restored to the bishopric of Ostia at Christmas, 1518, and his fine was cancelled. He died in 'retirement' in Naples.
Paris de Grassis, Papal Master of Ceremonies, records his death in 1521 (p. 86):
Die nona julii mortuus est cardinalis Sancti Georgii, Raphael Riarius Savonensis, decanus colegii et episcopus ostiensis, qui cum esset aetatis suae anno decimonono creatus est a Sixto cardinalis, demum in vicesimo secundo camerarius in quo mansit annos viginti novem, et sic anno sexagesimoprimo vel circa obiit Neapoli. . . .
The Dean of the College of Cardinals in 1492 was Cardinal Roderigo de Borja (1431-1503), Bishop of Porto, nephew of Pope Calixtus III. The holder of the Suburbicarian Bishopric of Ostia, which normally went with the office of Dean of the Sacred College, was Cardinal Giuliano de Rovere, a nephew of Pope Sixtus IV. When Cardinal Borgia became Pope Alexander VI, the office of Dean went to Oliviero Carafa, who was Suburbicarian Bishop of Sabina.
Already by the 16th of July, the Florentine Ambassador in Rome, Filippo Valori, had informed his government that Pope Innocent VIII (Cibò), already ill with the fever, had contracted a catarrh (Petruccelli, 343). The doctors did not give him much time, and the College of Cardinals had inventoried the papal jewels and had called in the Count of Petigliano and his men. .On the 23rd of June, Vallori reported that two marriages had taken place at the Palace of Cardinal della Rovere, one of the nieces of Virginio Orsini with the son of Prospero Colonna (neither of whom was yet six years of age; the other niece married the nephew of Cardinal della Rovere. Obviously Della Rovere was making preparations. On July 16, the pope was reported in extremis. The pope no longer wanted to eat, but he did distribute 48,000 ducats to his relatives, with the permission of the Cardinals. On the 23, with everyone just waiting for the end, the gossip (reported Valori) was mentioning as papabili Carafa, da Costa, Ardicino de la Porta, Piccolomini and Borgia. Pope Innocent died on the evening of July 25, 1492, according to the Diary kept by Giovanni Burchard, the Papal Master of Ceremonies (Burchard, 194G 491T; Petruccelli, 346):.
Die 25 julii, in die Sancti Jacobi, sexta vel quinta hora noctis, mortuus est Innocentius Papa Octavus, cuius anima requiescat in pace. ....
Cardinal Riario, the Camerlengo, sought to appoint a Marshal to take charge of the security of the city and its bridges, but the city officials resisted him on the grounds that the office was elective. Riario gave way, but four Roman leaders made an unofficial and illegal decision to elect officials who were acceptable to the Camerlengo, over the objections of the Captains of the Rioni (Burchard, 194G). Ultimately the ambassadors of the various powers agreed jointly to protect the security of the conclave.
On the 26th of July, before the body of the pope was removed from his palace, the Cardinals held a meeting about the admission of a new cardinal, Federico de Sanseverino, the son of Robert, who was at S. Anastasio outside Porta S. Paolo with an army, demanding the cardinalate promised to him and his son by Innocent VIII and the Sacred College (He had been named in pectore, and Innocent had ordered that the cardinals he had named in pectore should be allowed to participate). Under such pressure, he was admitted and given a place in the conclave, and even was allowed to help carry the body of the dead pope to St. Peter's. Burchard, however, considered him quite unsuitable for a cardinalate. On August 1 (or 4th), the Patriarch of Venice, Maffeo Gherardo, appeared in Rome with similar claims, which were also allowed. (Burchard, 194G).
It is said (Infessura, p. 282) that even before the conclave opened, Cardinal Borgia sent four mules laden with silver to the palace of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza to secure his vote. Sforza, who had considerable hopes for his own election, only went over to Borgia—and then with enthusiasm—when his own success proved impossible. In fact only five or six cardinals were not included in the generosity of Cardinal Borgia: Caraffa, Piccolomini, della Rovere, da Costa and Zeno; one should also include Cardinal de' Medici, who voted for Piccolomini.
The novendiales were completed on August 5. On August 6 the Conclave began. Twenty-three cardinals entered the Vatican Palace. Burchard (p. 194 G) provides the names of all of the cardinals.
Four cardinals did not participate, two Spaniards and two Frenchmen. Another list of the participants is provided by Michele Ferno of Milan (quoted by Thuasne, p. 579-580). There is a slightly older list, also from the Milan archives (Pastor V, 532-533), of the twenty-two cardinals alive slightly before March, 1491 (when Cardinal Barbo died). It claims that there were six votes firmly for Cardinal Ascanio Sforza and four others who were leaning his way.
On the 10th of August, the Ambassador of Florence wrote that there had been three scrutinies, with no result. That evening, and far into the night, the bargaining continued; the promises and bribes of Rodrigo Borgia finally succeeded. Even the three holdouts, Carafa, Medici, and Piccolomini, finally gave in. Only two cardinals stubbornly refused to capitulate, della Rovere and da Costa. Early next morning it was announced to the assembled crowd that a pope had been elected. Infessura (Diario, p.281) sarcastically remarks that, having become pope Borgia gave away all his property to the poor— to poor Cardinal Orsini he gave his palace and the citadels of Monticelli and Surano; he named poor Cardinal Ascanio (Sforza) Vice-Chancellor; he made poor Cardinal Colonna Abbot of Subiaco with all of its feudal dependencies; to Cardinal Sancti Angeli (da Costa) he gave the bishopric of Porto, its castle and all of its contents including the wine-cellar; the Cardinal of Parma (Schiaffinati) got the city of Nepi; Cardinal Ianuensis (Fregosi) got the title of S. Maria in Via Lata; Cardinal Savelli got Civita Castellana and the archpriesthood of Santa Maria Maggiore; others got cash, including Cardinal Gherardo, the Patriarch of Venice pro habenda voce ipsius. Only five cardinals got nothing.
Rodrigo Cardinal de Borja y Borja was crowned as Alexander VI on August 26 by Francesco Todeschini-Piccolomini, the future Pope Pius III (Burchard, 75-83 T), and took possession of the Lateran Basilica on the same day, collapsing with fatigue at the door of the Lateran. (Burchard, 83-90 T)
Achille Gennarelli (editor), Johannis Burchardi Argentinensis ... Diarium ... (Firenze 1854), 193-199. L. Thuasne (editor), Johannis Burchardi Argentinensis . . . Diarium sive Rerum Urbanum commentarii Volume I (Paris 1883) pp 567-580 (reports of Filippo Valori, the Florentine ambassador to Lorenzo il Magnifico; a report by Michele Ferno of Milan). Stefano Infessura, Diario della citta di Roma (a cura di Oreste Tommasini) (Roma 1890) 276-282. Onuphrio Panvinio, Epitome Pontificum Romanorum a S. Petro usque ad Paulum IIII. Gestorum (videlicet) electionisque singulorum & Conclavium compendiaria narratio (Venice: Jacob Strada 1557) 348-349.
Gaetano Moroni Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica 36 (Venezia 1846) 6. F. Petruccelli della Gattina, Histoire diplomatique des conclaves Volume I (Paris 1864) 341-354. Ludwig Pastor, The History of the Popes (edited R. K. Kerr) second edition Volume 5 (London: Kegan Paul 1902) 318-321; 375-390. Ferdinand Gregorovius, The History of Rome in the Middle Ages (translated from the fourth German edition by A. Hamilton) Volume 7 part 1 [Book XIII, Chapter 4] (London 1900) 320-327. A. Leonetti, Papa Alessandro VI Volume I (Bologna 1880) pp. 33-69. Ferdinando La Torre, Del Conclave di Alessandro VI, papa Borgia (Firenze: Olschki1933)
On Cardinal Riario: Angelo Poliziano, "La congiura de' Pazzi," Prose volgari inedite et poesie latine e greche edite e inedite (edited by Isidoro del Lungo) (Firenze 1867), p. 94. Niccolò Machiavelli, History of Florence Book VIII, chapter 1. G. Moroni, Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica 57 (Venezia 1852) [though he gives no details about the conclave of 1492]. Charles Berton, Dictionnaire des cardinaux (1857) p. 1445. Erich Frantz, Sixtus IV und die Republik Florenz (Regensburg 1880) 197-230, especially 207 (highly favorable to Sixtus and the Riarios).