August 18, 1503—September 22, 1503

Sixtus IV and his nephews
Platina is the kneeling figure,
Raffaele Riario is in blue, the future Julius II in the center.
and Pope Sixtus IV seated at the right.

No coins or medals were issued.

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 [1479], Viterbo [1498], 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. Giuliano della Rovere, too, was in exile in France, filling the post of Legate to Avignon. On his return in September of 1503 Raffaele was appointed Bishop of Albano (in November, 1503) and was consecrated bishop on April 9, 1504 by the new Pope Julius II personally (Giuliano della Rovere, 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). He 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, accompanied by 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 of Leo X, 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 1503 was Cardinal Oliviero Carafa (1430-1511), who had been made a cardinal by Pope Paul II in 1467. He was now 72. He became Suburbicarian Bishop of Albano in 1476, and in 1483 transferred to the Bishopric of Sabina. He participated in the conclaves of 1484 and 1492. After the Conclave of 1492, he was elected Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals in the place of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, who had been elected Pope Alexander VI. Since the see of Ostia was already being held by Giuliano della Rovere, he did not become Bishop of Ostia, the traditional prerogative of the Dean of the Sacred College. He had been named Administrator of the see of Naples just two weeks before Alexander's death.

Death of Pope Alexander VI

August 11 was the anniversary of the election of Pope Alexander VI (Borgia) to the papacy. Antonio Giustinian, in his daily report to the Venetian Doge (Dispacci II, 102-106), notes that the Holy Father was more serious than usual, as were the Court, preoccupied as they were with the French army that was moving through Italy, heading for Naples. Led by Francesco Gonzaga, but directed by the Cardinal of Rouen, Georges d' Amboise, Louis XII's First Minister, the forces were already in central Tuscany, just north of Lake Bolsena at Sutri, and they would have to cross the Tiber somewhere in the neighborhood of Rome. The Spanish soldiers in the service of Cesare Borgia, Duke of the Romagnola, who garrisoned Rome and terrorized the neighborhood and the Campagna, were the natural enemy of the French. Cesare had been using his Spanish troops to seize Neapolitan territory in his own interest.

The Pope began to notice symptoms of illness on Saturday, August 12. In the evening he showed symptoms of a continuous fever. He was bled on the 15th, thirteen ounces of blood being removed, and he showed signs of tertian fever (Burchard, 238). Giustinian wrote to Venice (Dispacci II, 110), passing on the same information, but also that he had been approached by Cardinal Carafa (come quello che per autorità e per età li pare aver più parte in questo Pontificato) to intercede with Venice to do what it could to ensure a free papal election, should the worst come to pass. On Thursday the 17th, around noon, Alexander was given medicine. Cardinal Francisco Borgia mentioned to the Ambassador of Modena, Bertrando Costabili (Petruccelli, 437; Pastor VI, 617-618) that the pope was feeling better and that he had a tertian fever, but there were fears that it would develop into a quartan fever. On the next morning, Bertrando was told that the pope had had a bad night and that the fever had gripped him even more strongly than before.

On Friday the 18th, Pope Alexander had confession, heard Mass, and received Holy Communion, seated on his bed, from the hand of Bishop Peter Gamboa of Carinola, the assistant Master of the Apostolic Palace. Five Cardinals were present: Arborensis [Jaime Serra], Cusentinus [Francisco de Borja], Monreale [Juan Castellar], Jaime Casanova and Constantinopolis [Francisco Lloris] (the 'Palatine cardinals'). Around sunset, at the hour of Vespers, he was given Extreme Unction by Bishop Peter Gamboa. Besides the bishop only the Datary and the papal parafrenarii were present. The Cardinal Penitentiary, Giuliano della Rovere, who should have performed these offices, was not in Rome; he was accompanying the French invasion force which was bearing down upon the city. The pope's son, Cesare, was not present either, being ill himself, but he sent one of his attendants, Micheletti, to secure the pope's rooms and treasure. Micheletti demanded the keys from Cardinal Casanova, but when the latter refused, Micheletti drew a dagger and threatened to kill the cardinal and toss his body out the window. Casanova surrendered the keys. (Burchard, 238-239). Caesare himself, according to Giustinian, was opening negotiations for the services of Prospero Colonna..

On the 19th, the body of the pope was put on view in the Camera of the Pappagalli, vested in full pontificals. Four Franciscan penitentiaries said the Office for the Dead before the body, which was then transferred to the Vatican Basilica, with the Canons of St. Peter's, members of the papal family, and the members of various religious orders of the city taking part in the procession. The body was followed by Didaco, the Bishop of Zamora, the Papal Majordomo and by Peter the Bishop of Carinola, his deputy, (Burchard, 240-241). The Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica, Cardinal Ippolito d'Este of Ferrara, was not present to receive the body. He was ill in Florence, having broken his leg in his haste to reach Rome, and did not attend the Conclave at all (Sanuto 102). The body was viewed on the same day by the Ambassador of Modena, Bertrando Costabili, who wrote (Burchard 243 n. 1):

El corpo del Papa ha stato tuto ogi in Sancto Petro, scoperto, cossa brutissima da vedere, negro et gonfiato, et per molti se dubita non li sià intravenuto veneno.

A similar report was sent by Giovanni Lucidio Cataneo to the Marquess of Mantua (Pastor VI, 618-619). Gossip about poisoning was widely spread, thanks to Onuphrio Panvinio (in his continuation of Platina's vitis Pontificum Romanorum, 562).

in cena, dum ad Umbrosum Vaticani vinis fontem, venenum bibunt, medicata Falerni vini Lagena, pocillatoris errore commutata, quam dira fraude ad opulentiorum aliquot senatorum, qui convivio aderant, exitium, honoris specie paravisset. Caesar qui dilutius biberat, esquisitis antidotis, vel ipso vivente robore, veneni vim substinente; atrocisimo quidem, sed non letali morbo correptus est, sicut magnis stipatus copiis dux acer, sibi usui esse nequierit, et dilabentes copias, duosque veteres hostes paucissimis diebus pontifices creatos viderit. At paper Pontifex iam senio gravis quum non diu veneni vim ferre posset, Romae in Vaticano ad xv. calendas Septembris, anno salutis M[C]DIII aetatis circiter altero, et septuagesimo pontificatus vero xi. die viii est extinctus.

The Cardinals:

There were forty-six living cardinals. Thirty-seven participated in the Conclave. Sanuto, V, 100-103. Burchard, p. 267-271. Panvinio, 361-362:

Cardinals attending:

  1. Oliviero Carafa (aged 74), Neapolitanus, Bishop of Sabina, Dean of the Sacred College, once Cardinal Priest of S. Eusebio
  2. Giuliano della Rovere (aged 64), S. Pietro in vinculis, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, Bishop of Ostia, Major Penitentiary, once Cardinal Priest of S. Pietro in vinculis.  Protector of France in the Roman Curia [See e.g. a letter of instructions to him from Louis XII, February 4, 1499, in G. Molini, Documenti di storia Italiana  I (Firenze 1836), pp. 30-32].
  3. Jorge da Costa, Ulixiponensis, Bishop of Porto and Santa Rufina, once Cardinal Priest of S. Lorenzo in Lucina
  4. Geronimo Basso della Rovere, Rencanatensis, Bishop of Tusculum, once Cardinal Priest of S. Apollinaris
  5. Lorenzo Cibo, Beneventanus, nephew of Pope Innocent VIII, Bishop of Palestrina, once Cardinal Priest of S. Marco
  6. Antoniutto Pallavicini, Santa Prassede or Auriensis, Bishop of Albano, once Cardinal Priest of Santa Prassede

  7. Giovanni Antonio de S. Giorgio, Alexandrinus, Cardinal Priest of SS. Nereus and Achilles
  8. Bernardino Carvajal, Carthaginiensis, Cardinal Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
  9. Domenico Grimani, Aquilegiensis, Cardinal Priest of San Marco
  10. Georges d' Amboise, Rothomagensis (Rouen), Cardinal Priest of S. Sisto
  11. Jaime Serra, Arborecensis, Cardinal Priest of S. Clemente
  12. Francisco Borgia, Cosentinus, Cardinal Priest of Sta. Caecilia
  13. Juan Vera, Salernitanus, Cardinal Priest of Sta. Balbina
  14. Ludovico Podocatar, Caputaquensis, Cardinal Priest of Sta. Agatha
  15. Antonio Truvulzio, Comensis, Cardinal Priest of Sta. Anastasia
  16. Juan de Castro, Agrigentinus, Cardinal Priest of Sta. Prisca
  17. Giovanni Ferrero, Bononiensis, Cardinal Priest of S. Vitale
  18. Juan Castellar (aged 61), Tranensis, Cardinal Priest of S. Maria in Trastevere (d. 1505)
  19. Francisco Remolino (aged 41), Perusinus, Cardinal Priest of SS. Giovanni e Paolo (d. 1518)
  20. Francesco Soderini (aged 49), Volaterranus, Cardinal Priest of Sta Susanna (d. 1524)
  21. Niccolo Fieschi (aged ca. 47), Foroliviensis, Cardinal Priest of S. Nicolaus inter imagines (d. 1524)
  22. Francesco de Sprats [Des Prats] (aged 49), Legionensis, Cardinal Priest of S Quirino e Baccho (?) (d. 1504)
  23. Adriano Castello (aged ca. 45), Cornetanus, Cardinal Priest of S. Crisogono (d. 1521) Bishop of Hereford, England
  24. Jaime Casanova (aged ca. 67), Cardinal Priest of S. Stefano Rotondo in Monte Coelio (d. 1504)

  25. Francesco Piccolomini (aged 64), Senensis, Cardinal Deacon of S. Eustachio, Bishop of Siena
  26. Raffaele Riario, S. Georgii, Cardinal Deacon of S. Georgio in Velabro, Cardinal Camerlengo
  27. Giovanni Colonna, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Aquiro
  28. Ascanio Maria Sforza Visconti, Cardinal Deacon of SS. Vito e Modesto in Macello, Vice-Chancellor
  29. Giovanni de' Medici, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Dominica
  30. Alessandro Farnese, Cardinal Deacon of SS. Cosma e Damiano
  31. Federico Sanseverino, Cardinal Deacon of S. Teodoro
  32. Giuliano Cesarini, Asculanus, Cardinal Deacon of SS. Sergius and Bacchus, Archpriest of the Liberian Basilica
  33. Ludovico (Luis) de Aragona, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Cosmedin
  34. Amanieu d' Albret, Cardinal Deacon of S. Nicolaus in Carcere Tulliano
  35. Ludovicus (Pedro Luis) Borgia(-Llançol), Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Via Lata
  36. Marco Cornaro, Cornelius, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Porticu
  37. Francisco Lloris (Hiloris), Heluensis, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria Nova

Cardinals not attending:

  1. Luis del Millan, Hispanus, Cardinal Priest of SS. Quattuor Coronati, Bishop of Lerida
  2. Raymond Pérault, Gallus, Cardinal Priest of S. Maria Nova, Bishop of Gurk, Legate in Germany
  3. Guillaume Briçonnet, Gallus, Cardinal Priest of S. Martino in montibus, Macloniensis, Archbishop of Reims
  4. Philippe de Luxembourg, Gallus, Cardinal Priest of S. Anastasia, Bishop of Le Mans
  5. Tamás Bakózc [Herdouth], Hungarian, Cardinal Priest of S. Eusebio, Bishop of Strigonia [Esztergom]
  6. Pietro Isvalies, Sicilian, Cardinal Priest of S. Ciriaco in Thermis, Archbishop of Reggio, Legate in Hungary
  7. [George Gosler, Bishop of Brixen, a mistake for his successor,] Melchior Cupis von Meckau (aged 62), Cardinal Priest of S. Nicola inter imagines (d. 1509)
  8. Ippolito d' Este, Cardinal Deacon of S. Lucia in silice, Archbishop of Milan, Archpriest of the Vatican Basilica


Pituricchio's portrait of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa

On August 19, the same day as the body of the pope was being placed on view in Saint Peter's Basilica, sixteen cardinals assembled at the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, a site with both privacy and security, for the First Congregation. They dared not approach the Vatican Basilica or attend the papal funeral for fear of their lives. Cesare Borgia and his men held the Vatican with 12,000 troops (Platina IV, 1), and the Borgo was filled with his soldiers and gentlemen (Giustinian, 122). Borgia was attempting to negotiate through the Spanish Ambassador and Archbishop della Valle to get control of the Castel St. Angelo, where he would be safe from his enemies. Cardinal Carafa, "come capo del Collegio" (Giustinian, 122) publicized the fact that the cardinals did not intend to go to the Vatican Palace, as was the custom, because of the tumult of the soldiers. The Cardinals included Oliviero Carafa, Jorge da Costa, Girolamo Basso della Rovere, and Antoniotto Pallavicini; Giovanni di San Giorgio, Bernardino Carvajal, Juan de Castro, Jacopo Serra, Francisco Borgia, Juan de Vera, Niccolo Fieschi, Francisco de Sprats (des Prades); Giovanni de' Medici, Federico de Sanseverino, Jaime Casanova, and Amanieu d' Albret. Instead, meeting at the Minerva, they appointed Giovanni, Bishop of Ragusa Governor of the City and broke the lead seals of the late pope, ordering that the Fisherman's Ring should be given to the Datary, Juan Ortega (which was done through Cardinal Casanova). They also ordered an inventory to be made of the pope's property. General opinion, Giustinian reports to Venice, was in favor of Cardinals Carafa and Piccolomini, and then Giorgio Costa and 'Capaze' [Podocatar] (who was a bit indisposed when Giustinian paid a call that day).

On Sunday, the 20th, the Second Congregation took place, with eighteen cardinals in attendance (Domenico Grimani, Giuliano Cesarini, Francisco Lloris, and Francesco Remolino being added; Pallavicini and Castro were absent). There were disorders in the Piazza della Minerva, with mounted horsemen and many other people, led by Micheletti, which caused considerable alarm among the cardinals. Cardinal Juan Vera (Salerno) went out to try to disperse them, but it was the arrival Bishop of Ragusa and the Caporegioni and people of Rome (who hated Cesare and the Spanish) that finally restored order. Both the French Ambassador and the Venetian offered the cardinals assurance (without, as Giustinian puts it, descending into any particulars) of their support for a free and independent conclave (Giustinian, 129-130).

On the 21st, Cardinal Ludovico Podocatar made his appearance. In the morning, Giustinian had an interview with Cardinal Carafa, "come decano e capo del Collegio" (Giustinian, 135-136), who pressured him to enter into specifics about the protection he had offered for the security and independence of the Conclave. The Dean complained that they were hemmed in by the French on the one side and the Spanish on the other, and that the Colonna had made common cause with Duke Cesare and the Spanish. He told Giustinian as well that the Provost of the Castel S. Angelo, Jacopo de Rochemora, Bishop of Nicastro (Gregorovius, 4), had sworn an oath of loyalty to the College of Cardinals, and that he would receive one hundred soldiers loyal to the College into the Castel. But, unless the Papal Palace and indeed the entire Borgo were cleared of all men-at-arms, the Cardinals would not go to the Papal Palace. Giustinian, who had even been addressed by his praenomen by the Cardinal in his anxiety, could only promise to consult the Doge as quickly as possible, but that he had nothing more specific to offer. In a letter written only two hours later, Giustinian reports to the Doge that he had heard that eleven cardinals, in the presence of Duke Caesare, had sworn to elect no other person as pope but the Cardinal of Salerno, Juan Vera of Valencia. He also had intelligence that Duke Caesare intended to prevent the appearance of the two Riarios, and had posted Spanish galleys at all the ports by which they might arrive (Giustinian, 138). It was apparent that the Spanish Ambassador was working with Duke Cesare to have a Spanish pope (also Giustinian, 144). In his third letter of the day, written after sunset, Giustinian (140) reports that Cardinal Carafa had let him know that Cardinal Pallavicini, who was working on both the French and the Italians with a view toward his own candidacy for the papacy, had informed the Dean, in the name of the Palatine Cardinals, that they wanted the Conclave to be held either at the Minerva or at S. Marco, or at some other secure place.

On August 22, Cardinal Francesco Todeschini-Piccolomini of Siena made his appearance at the Fourth Congregation. His brother, Iacobus, had travelled down from Siena immediately on the news of the death of Alexander VI, intent on managing the campaign for the election of his brother (Sigismondo Tizio, in Piccolomini, p. 110): At Iacobus, negociis ceteris sepositis, Romam propere concessit cepitque tunc singulos patres compellare, pro sua fratrisque re laborare ac esse sollicitus. Siena was in a fever of expectation that Cardinal Francesco would be elected pope. It was voted unanimously in the Congregation to hold the conclave in the Castel St. Angelo, with the hope of opening the Conclave on the 28th. That evening Prospero Colonna entered the city with 100 of his cavalry, even though the Sacred College had begged him not to come, but to leave the Conclave undisturbed. They made a similar appeal to the Orsini, which was also ignored (Burchard, 246, 249; Giustinian 142).

On Wednesday the 23rd, the Fifth Congregation met at the house of Cardinal Carafa, the Dean of the Sacred College; which was apparently more secure than the Minerva. Lorenzo Cibo, Suburbicarian Bishop of Palestrina, was present, along with Giovanni Ferrero, Archbishop of Bologna. The cardinals reaffirmed their wish to hold the Conclave at the Castel St. Angelo, but that it would have to be deferred for ten days. That evening Ludovico de Piliano and Fabio Orsini entered the city with 200 cavalary and about 1000 infantry by way of the Porta S. Pancrazii (Giustinian, 147, makes it 400 cavalry and 1500 infantry), during which they killed three innocent Spaniards whom they had come upon; they also sacked around 100 houses near the palace of the Vice-Chancellor (Cardinal Ascanio Sforza Visconti, who was still with the advancing French army, having been released from captivity on orders of the French King).

On the 24th, the Sixth Congreation took place, again at the house of Cardinal Carafa. . Giustinian reports (149), "El remor de la zente Orsini de heri sera ha messo in spavento li Duchesini, i quali questa notte se hanno fortificato in Borgo et in Palazzo più de solito, hanno tirato la cadena, e non lassano passar alcuno di lì a cavallo nè a pe con arme, nè anche lassano che alcuno di questi di là passino di qua." He notes that the Colonna would be supplying 3000 men that night to defend the Spaniards. Gregorovius (3, n. 2) cites a letter written by Cardinal Francisco Borgia on August 25, estimating Caesare's forces at 600 men-at-arms, 1000 light cavalry, and 6000 infantry. Borgia was trying to encourage the people of Sermoneta, where a revolt had broken out, to remain loyal to Cesare and the Colonna: "vagliono opprimere questi Orsini".

Portrait of Cesare Borgia, Duke Valentino, son of Pope Alexander VI

On the 25th, at the Seventh Congregation, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese was present for the first time (Burchard, 249). The Cardinals met with the four Ambassadors, Spanish, French, Imperial and Venetian, to see what could be done to make Rome safe enough for a conclave (Giustinian, 152-154). They all complained about other people being at fault. Giustinian takes credit for making it clear that it was Duke Cesare who had to do something, as Gonfalonier of the Church in place of the Orsini, to make the city secure, and that would require his leaving it. In the evening the ambassadors met with Duke Cesare and, with Giustinian acting as their spokesman, made their case that the Duke could solve the problem with his departure (Giustinian, 154-157). The French and Spanish ambassadors, however, both interested in having Cesare on their side, were agreeable to letting Cesare seek refuge in the Castel S. Angelo, garrisoning it with his own troops.

On the 26th, at the Eighth Congregation, there were twenty-one cardinals; the Cardinal of Perugia (Francesco Remolino, Archbishop of Sorrento, called Sorelmo by Sanuto) having arrived. Late in the day the four ambassadors went to Cardinal Carafa's house and made their report of their interview with Cesare Borgia, that the Duke had to leave Rome and seek security either at Cività Castellana or some other fortress of the Colonna (Giustinian, 158-159).

On the 27th an attack was made by the Orsini, led by Prince Fabio, on some light cavalry of the Duke, among whom was the brother of Cardinal Remolino, and Remolino was killed (Giustinian, 160).

On Monday the 28th, the Ninth Congregation took place at Carafa's house, and voted to send four cardinals to the Provost of St. Angelo, requesting him to vacate the fortress so that it could be used for the Conclave. He refused, on the grounds that he was sworn to hand it over only to the new pope. (Giustinian, 133 and 134-135, reports similar remarks made by the Provost on the 20th). On the 30th the Tenth Congregation took place with eighteen cardinals present; that evening Francesco Soderini, the Cardinal of Volterra was present for the first time. In a letter of the 31st (Petruccelli, 443), Bertrando wrote to the Duke of Ferrara that he had spoken with Cardinal Sanseverino, who said he had demonstrated to the French that their demand to make Amboise pope was impossible. If the College were free in its proceedings, he said, an Italian pope was their preference, and Capaccio [?], Carafa, Pallavicini and Piccolomini were in the running.

At the Eleventh Congregation, on September 1, an agreement was finally reached with Duke Cesare to leave the city, and the Duke was pleased to swear the oath. A treaty had been struck between Cesare and the French, negotiated through Cardinal Sanseverino and the French Ambassador, Grammont. Cardinal Marco Cornaro arrived from Venice that evening. Sanseverino had the permission of Duke Cesare to procure the votes of the Spanish cardinals for the election of Cardinal Carafa (Petruccelli, 444).

On September 2, Cesare finally left, carried out on a litter, followed by Cardinal Sanseverino. However, Odoardo Bugliotti, valet of King Louis XII of France, arrived in Rome, with money to make Cardinal Georges d' Amboise pope. Next day Giustinian (175) was shown a letter by Cardinal Carafa, in which the King wrote in his own hand that each cardinal would gratify him if he voted for the Cardinal of Rouen; various incentives were apparently mentioned. Various negative possibilities were not mentioned, though a French army encamped at Nepi (whither Duke Cesare had fled) was in everyone's mind. According to the Florentine envoy in France, Nasi (Petruccelli, 445), King Louis had also remarked that if Juan Vera, Cardinal of Salerno, were elected, there would certainly be a schism.

On September 3, the funeral ceremony for the late pope was announced for the next day; and likewise that the Conclave would be held at the Vatican Palace; the Cardinal of S. Pietro in Vincoli (Giuliano della Rovere) and Cardinal Cumanus (Antonio Trivulzio) arrived in Rome (Burchard, 257). Giustinian had a private meeting with Della Rovere, and was not reassured by his platitudes. During the reign of Pope Alexander, della Rovere had quarreled with the pope on three occasions, requiring his withdrawal from Rome; in exile as Legate in Avignon, he assisted King Charles VIII of France in his Italian adventures (1494-1496) and, after his death, King Louis XII as well (1499). He and his Riario cousins were looking for vengeance on Cesare. Only with Cesare gone would Rome be safe for them, though Cesare, to everyone's shock and annoyance, was now apparently treating successfully with the French, again through Cardinal Sanseverino. (The text of the treaty between Cesare and the French is given in Giustinian, 462-464. Cesare agreed to detach himself completely from the troops of the King of Spain and put himself and all his forces under the command of the French in the matter of the Kingdom of Naples, "et faire comme bon serviteur, vassail, et chevalier de son ordre doit faire" )


The first of the novendiales, long delayed by the danger, finally took place on September 4. Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Antoniotto Pallavicini, with twenty other cardinals in attendance, including Giovanni Colonna, Cardinal Deacon of S. Maria in Aquiro (Burchard, 258). Burchard repeatedly had trouble getting cardinals to agree to celebrate Mass. Perhaps there was a fear on their part of being poisoned.

In an interview with Giustinian on September 5 (Dispacci II, 180), Cardinal della Rovere made a remarkable statement: "Vedete, Domine Orator, niun' altra causa ne potria far inclinar la mente a voler Papa Roano, ch' el timor di non poter star sicuri in Roma, perche semo certi che, essendo lui Papa, la Corte si transferira in Franza." Assured, of course, that Giustinian would spread about this specter of the Papacy returning to France and another Babylonian Captivity, della Rovere was indicating why the new pope had to be Italian, and why he, who was not (as many thought) a tool of the French, would be the best leader in the crisis.

On the 9th, after lunch, the Cardinal Chamberlain, Raffaele Riario, Cardinal Deacon of S. Giorgio ad Velum aureum, entered Rome and took up residence in his palace next to S. Lorenzo in Damaso. The French army was denied access to the bridges across the Tiber in Roman territory. On the evening of the 10th of September, Cardinals Georges d' Amboise (Rouen), the Vice-Chancellor Ascanio Sforza Visconti (son of the Duke of Milan), and Luis de Aragón of Naples entered the city (Burchard, 262). Their arrival is also mentioned in a dispatch to Venice, with the note that the Cardinals did not intend to enter into conclave "finl non ensa francesi e spagnoli di il via." The report also states that it was unknown who would be made pope, but four cardinals were being mentioned: Della Rovere, Piccolomini, Carafa, and 'Capaze' [Podocathar]; the Venetians had decided to support Della Rovere and Carafa (Sanuto, 85).

September 12 was the last of the novendiales, and a meeting of the cardinals in the sacristy after Mass decided that the Conclave would begin on the next day. Three ambassadors were selected by the Cardinals to guard the access roads to the Conclave, the Imperial, English and Venetian orators; the Venetian orator refused the honor, on the grounds that "era dolor e non armigero" (Sanuto, 86). Burchard, the Papal Master of Ceremonies, mentions that he had to rearrange the conclave cells of a number of cardinals, in particular Cardinals Antoniotto Pallavicini and Juan Castellar, because Pallavicini, who expected to be made pope, did not want to room next to Francesco Piccolomini (who, as events turned out, was made pope). A list of all the thirty-seven assignments is provided by Burchard (263-264), and a similar list appears in the Diary of Marino Sanuto, the Senator of Venice (col. 103). In a report to the Marquess of Mantua (Pastor VI, 193 and 619), his ambassador, Ghivizano, wrote, "Neither Amboise, nor Guiliano, nor Carafa, nor Riario will be pope; Podocathar, Piccolomini or Pallavicino have the best chance for they are favored by the Spanish."


On September 16 the Conclave finally opened, with the singing of the Mass of the Holy Spirit by the Cardinal of Santa Croce, Bernardino Carvajal (Burchard, 267; Panvinio, 357, states that it was the Dean, Cardinal Carafa). Thirty-one cardinals entered the Vatican Palace, out of a total number of forty-six (Burchard provides a list, p. 267-268, as does Marino Sanuto, cols. 100-102); after lunch they were joined by the other six. The names of the conclavists are also given in full by Burchard (pp. 268-271) He notes that there had already been politicking among the cardinals. Carafa, Giuliano della Rovere and Girolamo Basso della Rovere and several others "conjurarunt inter se de non faciendo papam, vel dando vota inter se." (Burchard, 265)

On Monday the 18th all of the cardinals were present at Mass except Casanova, who was ill. After Mass there was a meeting at which the Electoral Capitulations began to be worked on, much as they had been for Innocent VIII's election. Sigismondo Tizio (Piccolomini, p. 111) reported that his informants stated that Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini had been instrumental in their formulation:

Igitur patres in conclavi, dominica die (Sunday, September 17) missa de more celebrata, die lune (Monday, September 18) circa res fidei christiane atque universalis ecclesie intenti, ut fit, privilegia cardinalium expromere aliaque capitula, ut fieri solet, unanimes servanda, vovenda, iuranda; dieque mercurii (Tuesday, September 19) suis solemnitatibus edidere. Inter cetera autem statuunt creari cardinales ab eligendo numquam licere, ni prius illorum cetus ac numerus citra viginti quatuor decrescendo retrocedendoque, illis obeuntibus, revertatur. Cuius rei Franciscus Picolhomineus cardinalis, in suorum iacturam, auctor fuisse ferebatur; consulitque quinternos cum inscriptis capitulis novem fiendos, ut penes cardinales plures essent, ne quod apud Alexandrum gestum fuerat, ultra accideret. Ille enim tres qui capitula iurata continebant, ad manus suas callide pervenisse curaverat, ut nullo deinceps tempore secum conveneta valerent cardinales ostendere et fiendis contradicere.

Giustinian (p. 198) reported to Venice in a letter of the 19th that it appeared to be going in favor of the Cardinal of Siena (Piccolomini), though Rouen was saying that he would be pope. On Tuesday the 20th, all the cardinals were present for Mass except Casanova and Adriano Castello de Corneto. The capitulations were finalized and given to secretaries to be copied and distributed. On Wednesday the 21st, Cardinal Carvajal said the Mass; Casanova was still absent. Giustinian (199) reported again that it seemed Cardinal Piccolomini would be pope. Afterwards the cardinals met to revise the capitulations, an operation that took all the rest of the day and part of the evening. A scrutiny was held on the 21st (Burchard, 273-276). It was a "preference" poll, in which the cardinals listed their favorite candidates; as many as five names were submitted by a single cardinal. The results showed support as follows:

Support by preference
Oliviero Carafa
12 1st / 2 2nd / 0 3rd / 0 4th / 0 5th
Giuliano Della Rovere
6 / 8 / - / - / -
Jorge Costa
2 / 3 / 2 / - / -
Girolamo Basso della Rovere
1 / - / - / - / -
Antoniotto Pallavicini
3 / 4 / 3 / - / -
Giovanni di San Giorgio
1 / 3 / 2 / 2 / -
Bernardino Lopez de Carvajal
7 / 2 / 2 / 1 / -
Domenico Grimani
- / 1 / - / - / -
Georges d' Amboise
5 / 1 / 4 / 3 / -
Jaime Serra
- / - / 4 / - / -
Francisco Borgia
- / 1 / 2 / 1 / 1
Juan de Castro
- / 8 / 2 / 1 / -
Juan de Vera
- / - / 2 / 3 / -
Ludovico Podocatar
- / - / 2 / - / -
Antonio Trivulzio
- / - / - / 1 / -
Francisco Desprats
- / - / 1 / - / -
Francesco Piccolomini
- / 1 / - / 2 / 1

The detailed statistics indicate that the real support was with Carafa, then Della Rovere, Carvajal and Pallavicini, but that none of them was anywhere near the 25 votes needed to elect. It appears, however, that two of them had sufficient support, if it was firm support, to prevent the election of an enemy (Carafa and Della Rovere), and it may noted that those who placed Carafa's name first usually placed della Rovere's name second, and vice-versa. Those who voted for Carvajal usually voted for Castro as their second choice. Piccolomini was the only Cardinal Deacon who had received any votes at all. According to Sigismondo Tizio, his support came from Giovanni Antonio de S. Giorgio (the cardinal Archpriest); Giuliano Cesarini (a cardinal deacon); Raffaello Riario (the Cardinal Camerlengo); and Antoniotto Pallavicini (Cardinal Bishop of Albano). Tizio also reports Burchard's numbers on the leaders (though he writes "Columnensis" for "Carthaginiensis", Carvajal). In truth, the first vote constituted a series of compliments and fulfillments of promises, sometimes casually given, to vote for someone for pope.

Giustinian wrote to the Doge of Venice (Dispacci, 199-202) about the scrutiny, confirming in part Burchard's statistics:

Avanti che si scortiniasse, Santa Priseida [Pallavicini] se reputiva Papa col favor de Spagnoli, et el cardinal de Roano [Amboise] fo desconzato per poera de San Piero ad Vincula [Della Rovere], e lui se tirò fin a ventidue voti, et avanti che se facesse el scortinio, Ascanio el desconzò. Tutti poi d' accordo declinoro in questo che è fatto, el qual non vose esser cortiniato el zuoba [giovedi] del 21 del presente, che fo el primo scortinio, benchè fin allora le cose fosseno assettate, nel qual scortinio San Piero ad Vincula ebbe 15 voti, Napoli 14, Roan 13, et Agrigentino [Castro] 13, li altri de li in zoso; e visto che in niun de altri la cosa poteva reussir, el cardinal de Roan ha voluto, non possendo lui esser Papa, non se veder questo altro scorno ch' el se facesse uno contra el voler suo, e, come prudente, seguito el corso dell' acqua . . . Ma sopra tutti el cardinal de Roano si tiene offeso dal Duca di Valenza, contra el qual el disse parole di mala sorte, dal qual el se reputa tradito per non aver mai potuto, per partito che l' abi fatto, piegar pur un Spagnolo dalla sua ...

After dinner the cardinals got together in groups to discuss the candidates. One group, which included Georges d' Amboise, Ascanio Sforza, and Francesco Soderini, decided on Cardinal Piccolomini, whom they had heard to say that he would have Georges and Ascanio resident at the papal palace (in other words that they would be 'Palatine Cardinals', principal advisors and administrators for the pope) (Burchard, 276). Blatant self-interest cannot be ignored. That night there was much coming and going of persons and messages. Even Burchard was awakened by a message from the Sacristan, alerting him to what was going on, and that Cardinal Piccolomini was being heavily touted.

On Wednesday, the 21st, no scrutiny took place (Tizio, in Piccolomini, p. 112). It was a day for pratticà. The French party was stoutly resisted by the Spanish party, which had the larger number of supporters. The latter included Ascanio Sforza, whose family were hostile to the French, who were pursuing a claim to the Duchy of Milan, which would climax in the Battle of Pavia in 1525. Giovanni de' Medici was also supporting the Spanish interest, since the French had been responsible for driving his brother out of the city of Florence. They, along with Cardinal Colonna (? or Carvajal), were campaigning in favor of Cardinal Piccolomini, whose family had been in high favor with Ferdinand I of Naples (whose bastard daughter, Maria, had married Antonio Piccolomini, Cardinal Francesco's brother). Cardinal Francesco had been personally insulted by King Charles VIII, when, during an embassy to the French king in 1494, he was sent away from the presence of the King without being heard. Tizio (in Piccolomini, p. 113) remarks that the Cardinal's brother advised him to vote for Giuliano della Rovere, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV and Bishop of Ostia. Cardinal Francesco flatly refused. The politicking went on into the night. When the Spanish leaders believed that they had reached the required majority, they repaired to Cardinal Piccolomini's cell. When the French heard the news, they quickly capitulated, knowing that it was more in their interest to be on the side of the winner, rather than to obstruct him in the next scrutiny.

Election of Cardinal Piccolomini

On September 22, Giovanni Burchard himself offered the Mass of the Holy Spirit. When the cardinals had settled down, Burchard asked Cardinal d' Amboise (Rouen) whether they were agreeable that the election should take place through the Holy Spirit (that is, by acclamation or adoration). Burchard understood that the consultations during the night had produced a winner. Cardinal d' Amboise, however, replied that even a single negative voice would invalidate the election. In the balloting that followed, only five of the thirty-seven ballots had not put Piccolomini's name first, four of them listing Georges d' Amboise as their first candidate, and one listing Carafa. Cardinal Piccolomini (Senensis) finally received all the votes except his own (which went for Carafa and secondly for San Giorgio). The Cardinal of Siena was declared elected (Burchard, 276-277). He was 64 years of age. The Papal Throne had been vacant for thirty four days.


On Thursday the 28th, the new Pope informed Giovanni Burchard that he wished to be ordained a priest on Saturday and consecrated a bishop on Sunday, by the Cardinal of St. Petri ad Vincula (Rovere), assisted by Adello Piccolomini, Bishop of Sovana, and Frencesco Erulli, Bishop of Spoleto. and so Burchard informed Cardinal della Rovere (Burchard, 280).

Cardinal Francesco Todeschini-Piccolomini was ordained a priest on September 30, and consecrated bishop on October 1. He was crowned as Pope Pius III on October 8 (Burchard, 282-284), on the steps in front of the Vatican Basilica by the new Cardinal Protodeacon, Raffaele Riario. Two cardinals, Lorenzo Cibo, Suburbicarian Bishop of Palestrina, and Jaime Casanova, were ill and could not attend. The Pope never took possession of the Lateran Basilica.

Pope Pius III reigned for twenty-six days, and died on October 18, 1503.



L. Thuasne (editor), Johannis Burchardi Argentinensis . . . Diarium sive Rerum Urbanum commentarii Volume III (Paris 1883) pp 238-315 [There is a gap in the manuscripts between February 22 and August 12, 1503]. Marino Sanuto (ed. Federico Stefani), I diarii di Marino Sanuto Tomo V (Venezia 1881). Bartolommeo Platina, Historia B. Platinae de vitis Pontificum Romanorum...que ad Paulum II Venetum ... doctissimarumque annotationum Onuphrii Panvinii (Cologne: apud Maternum Cholinum 1568), 562-565. Bartolommeo Platina ed altri autori, Storia delle vite de' pontifici Tomo Quarto ( Venezia: Domenico Ferrarin 1765). Onuphrio Panvinio, Epitome Pontificum Romanorum a S. Petro usque ad Paulum IIII. Gestorum (videlicet) electionisque singulorum & Conclavium compendiaria narratio (Venice: Jacob Strada 1557). Pasquale Villari (editor), Dispacci di Antonio Giustinian Ambasciatore Veneto in Roma dal 1502 al 1505 Volume II (Firenze 1876).   Sigismundo Tizio: Paolo Piccolomini, "Il pontificato di Pio III, secondo la testimonianza di una fonte contemporanea," Archivio storico italiano 32 (1903),102-138.

F. Petruccelli della Gattina, Histoire diplomatique des conclaves Volume I (Paris 1864) 435-456 [contains translations of the dispatches of the ambassador of Modena. Bertrando Costabili]. Gaetano Moroni Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica 36 (Venezia 1846) 6. 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 8 part 1 [Book XIV, Chapter 1] (London 1902) 1-15.

Valeria Novembri and Carlo Prezzolini (editors), Francesco Tedeschini Piccolomini: Papa Peio III: Atti della Giornata di studi, Sarteano, 13 dicembre 2003 (Le Balze 2005).

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).   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).

On Cardinal Caraffa, the Dean: Lorenzo Cardella, Memorie storiche de' cardinali della Santa Romana Chiesa Tomo Terzo (Roma 1793) 159-163.

On Cardinal Georges d' Amboise, see: Charles Berton, Dictionnaire des cardinaux (1857), columns 234-242. Louis Le Gendre, Vie du Cardinal d' Amboise, premier ministre de Louis XII (Rouen: Robert Machuel 1726).

October 30, 2013 6:12 PM
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