Arms of Prince Mario Chigi, surmounted by princely coronet and drapery, flanked by two keys as supporters. The Ombrellone and crossed keys of the Sede Vacante above the shield.
The Secretary of the Conclave was Monsignor Rafael Merry del Val y Zulueta (1865-1930), titular Archbishop of Nicaea (1900) [immediately above, left]. When the Secretary of the Sacred College, who would have served as Secretary of the Conclave, suddenly died, Merry del Val was elected to replace him. Merry del Val was born in London, the son of a Spanish diplomat, the Marques Rafael Merry del Val, and Sophia de Zulueta, the daughter of the Count of Torre Diaz. The young Rafael, who grew up in England, was sent to the Scottish College in Rome for graduate study. After obtaining several doctorates (philosophy, theology, canon law) from church institutions, the Gregorian University and the Academy for Noble Ecclesiastics, he was ordained (1888). He served as private secretary to Archbishop Galimberti when he was on diplomatic missions in Germany and Austria-Hungary. Merry del Val obtained a position at the Vatican in 1891 as a Privy Chamberlain. In 1896 he was secretary of the mission which decided the question of Anglican Orders. In 1897 he was sent to Canada as Apostolic Delegate to deal with pressing problems in church-state relations in the field of education. His success brought him the post of President of the Academy for Noble Ecclesiastics (1897-1903). In 1900 he was made itiular bishop of Nicaea. During the Conclave of 1903, he played an active role in marshalling opposition to Cardinal Rampolla and support for Cardinal Sarto of Venice—which was far beyond the requirments or expectations of his office. He was made a cardinal (with the titulus of S. Prassede) by Pius X, the first, in fact, of Pius' reign (November 9, 1903), and became Secretary of State (November 12, 1903 in succession to Cardinal Rampolla. When he was deprivede of the office of Secretary of State by the new Pope, Benedict XV, in August, 1914, he was appointed head of the Holy Office (1914-1930). His personal diary survives, but it has not been published.
The Maestro di Ceremonie (Prefetto delle Ceremonie pontificali) was Msgr. Francesco Riggi (Pierconti, 469). He was assisted by Msgr. Nazareno Marzolini [Grissell, pp. 28, 32, 44]
In 1903 Pope Leo was 93 years of age (born March 2, 1810). The Pope first began to exhibit symptoms of illness after his postprandial walk on Friday, July 3, 1903. He had suffered from insomnia on the previous two nights, and was exhibiting symptoms of general weakness. When examined by the Papal Arch-Physician, Dr. Giuseppe Lapponi, the Pope was diagnosed as having pain in his right thorax and fluid in the lungs. He was advised to rest. Cardinal Rampolla, the Secretary of State, was kept informed, as was Count Riccardo Pecci and Count Camillo Pecci, the pope's nephews. Nonetheless, the Pope continued to give audiences. A notice in L' Osservatore Romano announced that the Pope was suffering from fatigue and had been advised to take several days of absolute rest.
On Saturday night the Pope's discomfort worsened, he got no sleep, and Dr. Lapponi decided to consult with Prof. Gaetano Mazzoni, who had once operated successfully on the Pope for a cist. On Sunday, July 5, the doctors issued a bulletin that the Pope was suffering from "epatizzazione polmonare senile" in the lower lobe of the right lung. Cardinal Rampolla notified Cardinal Oreglia, the Camerlengo, of the Pope's condition, as well as the other cardinals resident in Rome. The Vicar-General of Rome, Cardinal Respighi, had a general announcement posted, calling for prayers for the Pope and ordering the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. The Pope himself received Communion and made a formal Profession of Faith. During the following night the pope had difficulty resting, and doctors prescribed digitalis and camphor. In the evening bulletin on Monday, the doctors reported "accentuated evidence of general decline, more frequent and more superficial respiration, weak pulse, and subnormal temperature" At 10:00 p.m. the Papal Sacristan, Msgr. Guglielmo Pifferi, administered Extreme Unction. Leo asked Dr. Lapponi to be sure to tell him as the last moment approached (Pierconti, 18).
On Tuesday morning, the doctor noticed that fluid was accumulating in the lung cavity of the Pope, and that his heart function was diminished. That afternoon, Dr. Mazzoni drained the fluid from the chest cavity with a syringe, using cocaine as an anasthetic (Pierconti, 26). Later that day, a diminution in renal function was observed. But the Pope was able to sleep during the night, and his labored breathing eased. The strain on his heart was lessened. The condition remained stable until mid-Thursday afternoon, when there was a sudden change for the worse in the Pope's condition. Another medical consultant was brought in, Prof. Eugenio Rossoni. He advised another draining of the lung cavity (Pierconti, 56). This was carried out on Friday morning, July 10, by Dr. Mazzoni, who drained a liter of fluid (Pierconti, 66). This stabilized the Pope's condition for several days. On Thursday, the 16th, however, some accumulation began to be noticed again (Pierconti, 157). During the night of the 17th/18th, the Pope was distressed and unable to sleep.
On the morning of the 19th of July, the Pope's condition was much worsened. His breathing became more rapid, his pulse weaker. Cardinal Rampolla sent for Cardinal Serafino Vannutelli, the Major Penitentiary, whose office it was to assist the Pope in his last hours (Periconti, 190). Shortly after noon he also sent a telegram to all Papal Nuncios alerting them of the Pope's grave condition and calling for prayers. The evening examination by the three attending physicians indicated that the Pope's condition had further weakened. During the night the Pope was given injections of caffeine and camphor. During the morning of the 20th of July, 1903, Cardinal Oreglia, the Cardinal Camerlengo and Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, took up residence in the Vatican Palace (Pierconti, 202). Late in the morning the Pope showed signs of being on the verge of the death agony. The Major Penitentiary was summoned. Shortly thereafter his breathing became seriously labored. He expressed the wish to see the Cardinals. When they had gathered around his bed, he bade them farewell. He took Cardinal Oreglia's hand, and said, "Addio! Vi raccommando la Chiesa." Shortly after the Cardinals retired, the Pope had breathing trouble and a coughing fit. One after the other his closest familiars in the Papal Court approached the Pope, kissed his hand, and asked for his blessing. Several times he said, "Sia questo l' ultimo vale!" (This is the last farewell!). The Cardinals, Diplomats and members of the Papal Court gathered in the antechambers of the Papal Apartments. The Pope's relatives bade him farewell. In late afternoon the Pope had another crisis and lost consciousness (Pierconti, 208). The final agony lasted around half an hour. At 16,00 hours (4 p.m.), he was pronounced dead. His remains were washed and dressed in papal vestments by the Penitentiaries of the Vatican Basilica, who kept a prayerful vigil during the night.
Next morning, July 21, at 8:45 a.m., a procession accompanied the Cardinal Camerlengo from his apartments to the deathbed of the Pope. The ceremony of the recognition was performed, the De Profundis was sung, and the Absolution of the body performed by the Camerlengo. There was no knocking on the head of the corpse of the Pope with a silver hammer; that feature of the ceremonies had long been abandoned. After the prayers were completed, the Cardinal Camerlengo sat on a stool, while the Dean of the Pronotaries Apostolic drew up the Rogito, which was then read aloud to those present. After a final blessing, the personages retired to the Hall of the Throne, where the Rogito was signed and attested. Its contents were as follows (Pierconti, 235-239):
Die XXI mensis Julii anno MCMIII
Cum Sanctissimus Dominus noster Leo divina Providentia Papa XIII sicut Altissimo placuit circa horam IV post meridiem heri in Palatio Apostolico Vaticano debitum naturae persolverit, E.mus ac R.mus Dominus S.R.E Cardinalis Camerarius, associatus ab Ill.mis et R.mis DD. Camerae Apostolicae Clericis et Cameralibus, meque Collegii Protonotariorum Apostolicorum Decano, se contulit ad Appartamentum Pontificium dicti Palatii, et ingressus una cum omnibus supradictis in cubiculo dicti Pontificis, ibi corpus ipsiusmet Pontificis adhuc in suo lecto existens exanimatum invenit. Eique debitis reverentiis et pro Eius anima precibus effusis, Annulum deinde Piscatorium sibi tradendum petiit ab Ill.mo et R.mo Domino Caietano Bisleti Praefecto dicti cubiculi, qui illico et continenter Annulum praedictum, per eum ex quadam bursa sumptum, praeladato E.mo et R.mo D. Cardinali Camerario tradidit et consignavit, quem idem E.mus et R.mus Dominus accepit ad effectum deferendi in prima proxima congregatione E.morum et R.morum DD. S.R.E. Cardinalium, deque illo dictum Ill.mum et R.mum D. Praefectum cubiculi praesentem quietavit in forma et omni, etc.
Successive praeladatus E.mus ac R.mus Dominus Cardinalis mandavit confici inventarium cubiculi praedicti et mansionum dicti Palatii cum interventu illius et illorum R.morum Clericorum Rev. Camerae Apostolicae qui ad it deputatu fuerint.
After the examination of his internal organs during the enbalming, Dr. Lapponi issued a death certificate, in which the cause of death was stated to be "polmonite adinamica con susseguente pleurite emoragiaca" (Pierconti, 217).
A list of the Cardinals, their conclavisti, and other participants in the Conclave of 1903 is given in Pierconti (pp. 493-502). A complete list of Cardinals is provided by "Spectator alter" (pp. 184-186) and by Civiltà Cattolica (pp. 477-479). Thirty-eight of the Cardinals were Italian (just under 60%). The average age of the cardinals was 65.6 years.
The First Congretation of Cardinals after the death of Pope Leo XIII took place on the morning after his death, July 21, at 10:30. Twenty-seven Cardinals attended. The Cardinal Camerlengo, Cardinal Luigi Oreglia, presided. The cardinals were seated according to their rank in the Sacred College, and, within the ranks, according to their seniority. An oath of secrecy was administered to each of the participants. Owing to the death of Msgr. Volpini, the Secretary of the Consistorial Congregation, who would have been Secretary of the Conclave ex officio, the Cardinals elected Msgr. Raffaele Merry del Val, titular Archbishop of Nicaea, as his replacement. While this meeting was in progress, in the death-chamber, a death-mask of Pope Leo XIII was being made. At 4:30 p.m. Dr. Lapponi began the enbalming of the body of the late Pope, during which an autopsy of the body was performed (details in Pierconti, 242-243; Grissell, p. 12). That evening the remains were placed on view in the Throne Room. Late that evening the Maestro di Camera superintended the removal the praecordia of the Pope to the Church of SS. Vincenzo ed Anastasio, to be entombed (Pierconti, 246-248).
The Second Congregation of Cardinals took place on Wednesday, July 22, at 10:00 a.m. Twenty-seven cardinals attended. It was decided that the body of the late Pope would be transferred to the Vatican Basilica that evening, under the direction of Msgr. Riggi, the Maestro di Ceremonie (Pierconti, 304-310), and, by unanimous vote, that the Conclave would be held in Rome.
At the Fifth Congregation, on Saturday, July 25, with thirty-eight cardinals in attendance, the diplomatic corps was received by the College of Cardinals.
The Ceremonies of the novendiales began in St. Peter's Basilica on the morning of Thursday, July 23 (Pierconti, 333). The Third Congregation decided that the entombment of the deceased would take place on evening of the the 25th of July.
On Sunday, July 26, the Last Will and Testament of Leo XIII (dated July 8, 1900) was opened and read in the Consistorial Hall of the Vatican Palace (Pierconti, 384-386). The executors were Cardinal Rampolla, Cardinal Mocenni and Cardinal Cretoni. The pope had left everything to the Holy See. There was also an envelope with 50,000 lire in it, for distribution to the poor of Rome, 20,000 lire for the poor of Perugia, and 10,000 lire for the poor of Carpineto. [Grissell, p. 10].
On Tuesday, July 28, the solemn Requiem Mass was sung by Cardinal Serafino Vannutelli, the Major Penitentiary.
On Wednesday, July 29, the solemn Requiem Mass was sung by Cardinal Kopp of Breslau (Wroclaw).
On Thursday, July 30, after the solemn Requiem Mass in the Sistine Chapel, sung by Cardinal Vincenzo Vannutelli, the funeral oration was pronounced by Msgr. Galli.
The Conclave of 1903 began on Friday, July 31. There were 64 cardinals, but two (Cardinal Moran of Sydney and Cardinal Celesia of Palermo) did not participate. For the first time, an American, James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, participated in a papal election. Among the 'papabili' were said to be Cardinals Antonio Agliardi, Alfonso Capecelatro, Angelo di Pietro, Girolamo Gotti, Mariano Rampolla, Giuseppe Sarto (right), Serafino Vanutelli, and Domenico Svampa. The favorite candidate at the Conclave was the Secretary of State (1887-1903), Mariano Cardinal Rampolla. His principal antagonist was the Camerlengo, Cardinal Oreglia.
At 10:15, the Mass of the Holy Spirit was sung in the Capella Paolina by Cardinal Serafino Vannutelli, sub-Dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals. Fifty-nine cardinals participated (list in Pierconti, 480. At the end of the Mass, the discourse de elegendo pontifice was given by Msgr. VIncenzo Sardi (text in Pierconti, 476-480). At 5:00 p.m sixty-two Cardinals assembled in the Capella Paolina and sang the Veni Creator. That evening, at 9:30, the Conclave was sealed (Pierconti, 487-492).
In the first scrutiny, on the morning of Saturday, August 1, Cardinal Rampolla received 24 votes, Cardinal Gotti 17, Cardinal Sarto 5, Cardinal Vannutelli 4, Cardinals Oreglia, Di Pietro and Capecelatro two each; and single votes for Agliardi, Ferrata, Cassetta, Portanova, Segna and Tripepi (Sladen, 79; Mathieu, 128; Irish Ecclesiastical Record 372). The scrutiny was not followed by an accessio vote, the cardinals having decided unanimously to abolish the practice. At the afternoon scrutiny, Rampolla increased his votes to 29 and Sarto to 10; Vannutelli fell back to one vote, and Gotti to 16 (Sladen 80). Black smoke was seen from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at 6:38 p.m. (Pierconti, 513).
On Sunday, August 2, at the morning scrutiny, Rampolla still had his 29 votes, but Sarto had increased his support to 21; Gotti had 9 adherents (Sladen, 80) [photo of Cardinal Gotti at left], with one vote each for Oreglia, Di Pietro and Capecelatro (Pierconti, 663). At this point there was a most unwelcome intervention: the veto of the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, carried by Cardinal Jan Puzyna of Krakow (photo at right), was pronounced against Rampolla. It appears that the directions had come straight from the Emperor himself rather than his government; he had tried to have the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Anton Gruscha, carry the exclusiva, but the Cardinal refused, both on grounds of principle and of personal friendship (Radziwill, 188-190). Rampolla's immediate reply was masterful, "Vehementer doleo de gravi vulnere illato Ecclesiae libertati; quod autem ad me attinet, nihil gratius, nihil iucundius accidere poterat." This was the last time a veto was attempted; the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the claim to an Imperial Veto along with it, became defunct in November 1918. In St. Peter's Square smoke was seen coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel at 11:22 a.m. (Pierconti, 516). At the afternoon scrutiny of August 2, Rampolla's vote actually increased to 30, but Sarto had received 24 votes; Gotti still had 3 (Sladen, 81). Black smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel chimney at 6:34 p.m. It was estimated that 100,000 persons were waiting in the Piazza San Pietro to see it (Pierconti, 521).
On the morning of Monday, August 3, Sarto drew ahead of Rampolla, with 27 votes to 24, with Gotti again receiving 9 (Sladen, 82). The Austrian veto was having its effect. But the black smoke poured forth again at 11:18 (Pierconti, 525). The afternoon scrutiny saw a major shift in the voting: Sarto had 35, Rampolla 16, Gotti 7, Oreglia 2, Capecelatro 1, and one blank ballot (Pierconti 663). The sfumata began at 6:27 p.m., and again the smoke was black (Pierconti, 527).
On Tuesday, August 4, on the seventh ballot, Giuseppe Cardinal Sarto, Patriarch of Venice, was elected, receiving 50 votes. Rampolla still had 10 and Gotti 2. The rumor began to spread at 10:25, Pierconti notes (p. 530), that a new pope had been chosen, but the names of several cardinals, including Sarto, were being noised about. Meanwhile, at 10:50, Msgr. Merry del Val (the Secretary of the Conclave) and Msgr. Francesco Riggi (who was a Protonotary Apostolic as well as Principal Ceremoniere) were summoned to the Sistine Chapel by Cardinal Felice Cavagnis, the junior Cardinal Deacon. Their presence was desired to witness the Acceptance of his election by Cardinal Sarto, and his choosing of a papal name. The heads of each of the orders, Cardinals Oreglia, Neto, and Macchi, stood before Cardinal Sarto's throne, while Cardinall Macchi asked for Cardinal Sarto's acceptance of his canonical election. When this was given, he asked Sarto by what name he wished to be called. Sarto took the name Pius X. Monsignor Riggi then drew up an official document attesting to the event (Pierconti, 531-532):
In nomine Domini. Amen.
Ego Franciscus Riggi, Protonotarius Apostolicus et S. Sedis Caeremoniarum Praefectus, ex officio rogatus, attestor et omnibus notum facio, Eminentissimum et Reverendissimum Dominum Josephum, Titulo S. Bernardi ad Thermas, S. R. E. Presbyterum Cardinalem Sarto acceptasse electionem de se factam in Summum Pontificem, sibique nomen imposuisse Pium X, ut de hoc publica quaecumque instrumenta confici possint.
Acta haec sunt in Conclavi habito in Vaticano Palatio post obitum fel. rec. Leonis XIII, hac die IV Augusti A. D. MCMIII, testibus adhibitis ac rogatis Ill.mo ac Rev.mo Dom. Raphaele Merry del Val Archiep. Nicaeno, Sacri Collegii Secretario, et RR.DD. Nazareno Marzolini et Francisco Ciocci consociis meis, Apostolicarum Caeremoniarum Magistris.
At 11:50 a.m. the announcement of the election was made from the balcony above the central door of the Vatican Basilica by Cardinal Macchi, the Cardinal Protodeacon.
The Coronation of Pope Pius X took place on Sunday, August 9, 1903, inside the Vatican Basilica. The triregnum (tiara) was placed on his head by Cardinal Luigi Macchi (Pierconti, 636-637).
The new pope presently issued an edict, the constitution Commissum nobis (January 20, 1904), forbidding the exercise of any veto in future conclaves:
Verum, quandoquidem et experientis docuerit, hactenus constituta ad impediendum civile Veto, seu Exclusivam non its votis respondisse, et ob mutata temporum adiunctas huiusmodi civilis potestatis immixtio nostra aetate multo videatur magis omni rationis et aequitatis fundamento destituta, idcirco Nos, pro Apostolico Nobis commisso munere, et Praedecessorum Nostrorum vestigiis inhaerentes, re mature deliberata, certa scientia et proprio motu, civile Veto, sive Exclusivam, quam dicunt, etiam sub forma simplicis desiderii, itemque omnes interventus, intercessiones quaslibet omnino reprobamus edicentes licere nemini, ne supremis quidem civitatum moderatoribus, quovis praetextu se interponere aut ingerere in gravi negotio electionis Romani Pontificis.
Quamobrem in virtute sanctae obedientiae, sub interminatione divini iudicii et poena excommunicationis latae sententiae speciali modo reservatae futuro Pontifici, onmnes et singulos S. R. E. Cardinales, tam praesentes quam futuros, pariterque Secretarium S. Collegii Cardinalium aliosque onmes in Conclavi partem habentes, prohibemus, ne, quovis praetextu, a quavis civili potestate munus recipiant Veto sive Exclusivam, etiam sub forma simplicis desiderii, proponendi, ipsumve hoc Veto, qualibet ratione sibi cognitum, patefaciant sive universo Cardinalium Collegio simul congregato, sive singulis purpuratis Patribus, sive scripto, sive ore, sive directo ac proxime, sive oblique ac per alios. Quam prohibitionem extendi volumus ad memoratos omnes interventus, intercessiones aliosque modos quoslibet, quibus laicae potestates cuiuslibet gradus et ordinis voluerint sese in Pontificis electione immiscere.
His strictures were repeated and amplified by Pope Paul VI in his constitution Summi Pontificis Eligendo (October 1, 1975), in the oath required of Cardinal-electors (Caput III. 49):
itemque nullo modo a quavis civili potestate, quovis nomine, munus proponendi veto seu exclusivam, etiam sub forma simplicis optationis, esse recepturos, neque ipsum veto, qualibet ratione nobis cognitum, patefacturos; nullique interventui, intercessioni aliique cuilibet modo, quo auctoritates saeculares cuiuslibet ordinis et gradus, vel quivis hominum coetus vel personae voluerint sese Pontifìcis electioni immiscere, auxilium vel favorem praestaturos.
The officials participating in the Conclave also have to swear an oath, in which the following is included (Caput II. 46):
Pariter promitto et iuro me nulli interventui, intercessioni aliive cuilibet modo, quo civiles potestates cuiuslibet ordinis et gradus, vel quivis hominum coetus vel personae voluerint sese electioni Pontificis immiscere, auxilium vel favorem praestaturum.
An eyewitness description of all of the events is provided by Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, Chamberlain of Honor di numero to several popes, in his Sede Vacante, being a Diary written during the Conclave of 1903, with Additional Notes on the Accession and Coronation of Pius X (Oxford 1903). Douglas Sladen, The Secrets of the Vatican (Philadelphia 1907) 79-82. Another moment-by-moment account, with full documentation, is given by Adriano Pierconti, Da Leone XIII a Pio X. Diario del giorno 3 Luglio al 9 Agosto 1903, con documenti inediti (Roma: Cooperativa Poligrafica Editrice 1904).
On the Austrian veto, see [Cardinal François Désiré Mathieu], Les derniers jours de Léon XIII et le Conclave, par un Temoin (Paris: Librarie Victor Lecoffre 1904), 98-115, and for the voting statistics pp. 128-129. The details of the votes were published by the Analecta Ecclesiastica (Rome), from which they were reprinted by the Irish Ecclesiastical Record 14 (1903) 372-373. [Anon.], Ignis Ardens: Pio X e la Corte pontificia (Milano 1907), pp. 31-98.
Also: [Spectator Alter], Die Krisis im Papsttum (Berlin 1904) 138-208; E.C. Smith, Life of Pius X (New York: American Catholic Publication Society 1907), pp. 78-153. Princess Catherine Radziwill, The Austrian Court from Within (New York 1916), 188-190. Peter Frei, Die Papstwahl des Jahres 1903, unter besonderer Berucksichtigung des osterreichisch -ungarischen Vetos (Bern/Frankfurt a. Main 1977). Francis A. Burkle-Young, Papal Elections in the Age of Transition, 1878-1922 (Lanham MD: Lexington Books 2000). Luciano Trincia, Conclave e potere politico. Il veto a Rampolla nel sistema delle potenze europee, 1887-1904 (Roma: Edizioni Studium, 2004).
The Jesuit journal, Civiltà Cattolica serie XVIII Vol. XI Quad. 1276 (15 agosto 1903), carried an extensive and detailed description of the ceremonies of the Sede Vacante and Coronation of Pius X in its "cronaca contemporanea", pp. 473-484; 610-617.
© 2007 John Paul Adams, CSUN