Conclave 1655

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The conclave of 1655 was convened after the death of Pope Innocent X and ended with the election of Fabio Chigi as Alexander VII. When Giulio Cesare Sacchetti received 33 votes during the entire conclave but was never able to secure enough for his own election, it happened the conclave into a dead end. Chigi was eventually elected Pope after Cardinal Jules Mazarin , the ruling minister in France, approved his election at the request of Sacchetti.


During Innocent's pontificate , the Peace of Westphalia ended the Thirty Years War - the most significant secular event of his reign. Innocent did not agree to the treaty because its representatives had not taken part in the discussions and he was neither consulted nor asked for recognition of the Protestant religion in Germany. He urged secular Catholic leaders to renounce peace, but they did not obey him.

Innocent appointed only six non-Italian cardinals during his pontificate, five of whom were crown cardinals appointed at the request of a Catholic monarch. Apart from these, the remaining 40 new cardinals were all from Italy.

Innocent X had made Camillo Francesco Maria Pamphilj , his only nephew, cardinal. Camillo later gave up his cardinal status in order to get married. Instead, Innocent's sister-in-law (and Camillo's mother) Olimpia Maidalchini took over all the functions that would normally have been reserved for a cardinal nepot .


At the time of Innocent's death, the college of cardinals consisted of 69 members; the following conclave saw 66 of them . 32 of them had been appointed by either Urban VIII or Innocent X. Since Olimpia Maidalchini was not a cardinal, she was not allowed to take part in the conclave, only to give a speech to the cardinals. This situation left the group of Innocent's cardinal uprisings now without a natural leader.

In the conclave, 18 cardinals were loyal to Spain. The French had fewer supporters, but Urban VIII nephew Francesco Barberini in their faction. Barberini's loyalty to France was based on the marriage of one of his nieces to the brother of Rinaldo d'Este , the cardinal who led the French faction.

Giulio Cesare Sacchetti, considered the likely new Pope in the 1644 conclave , was now the strongest candidate, but some cardinals did not vote for him now because he had been rejected by the Spanish in the previous conclave . Sacchetti was also the favorite of Cardinal Mazarin, who was currently leading the French government. During the first vote, Sacchetti received 33 votes, a number that remained constant throughout the Conclave.

The first ballots were also unique because a large number of cardinals cast their ballot with “nobody”, with a peak of 27 on January 22nd. These votes came mainly from cardinals who had been appointed by Innocent X and who did not want to vote for any of the cardinals of Urban VIII. Eleven of the votes for "no one" came from the Squadrone Volante , a group of cardinals willing to support any candidate whom they thought the trade would be of particular benefit to the papal office.

The stalemate lasted until February when younger cardinals began playing pranks on older members of the quorum to keep themselves entertained. This allegedly resulted in an elderly cardinal dying of pneumonia after a younger cardinal fell him on the cold floor by scaring him in disguise as a ghost and leaving him there. Other illnesses caused cardinals to leave the conclave.

Election of Alexander VII.

In mid-February, when Sacchetti realized that his own candidacy had become futile, he turned to Mazarin to ask the French cardinals to transfer their support for him to Fabio Chigi. Chigi had been traded as the successor candidate before the death of Innocent X. Contemporaries report that he was considered the most suitable for the position, unless personal motivated considerations of voters were taken into account. Squadrone Volante managed to get Cardinal Mazarin to support Chigis, even though he didn't like him - Mazarin's hatred of Chigi came from the time of Mazarin's exile in Cologne during the Fronde , when Chigi was serving as papal nuncio in the city.

In April 1655, Mazarin wrote to Sacchetti, agreeing to allow eligible voters to vote for Chigi, should Sacchetti's own election become impossible. Sacchetti asked his supporters to transfer their votes to Chigi. In the first vote on April 7, 1655, 20 ballots were cast for Chigi before the other voters then elected him Pope after an 80-day conclave. Chigi chose the name Alexander VII.

Eligible voters

Of the 69 living cardinals, 66 attended the conclave:

  1. Fabio Chigi , Bishop of Imola and Cardinal Secretary of State
  2. Carlo de 'Medici , Bishop of Ostia and Velletri , Dean of the Holy College
  3. Francesco Barberini , Bishop of Porto , Sub-Dean of the Holy College
  4. Bernardino Spada , Bishop of Sabina
  5. Giulio Cesare Sacchetti , Bishop of Frascati
  6. Marzio Ginetti , Bishop of Albano
  7. Luigi Capponi
  8. Ernst Adalbert von Harrach , Archbishop of Prague
  9. Antonio Barberini
  10. Girolamo Colonna
  11. Giovanni Battista Maria Pallotta
  12. Francesco Maria Brancaccio , Bishop of Viterbo and Toscanella
  13. Alessandro Bichi , Bishop of Carpentras
  14. Ulderico Carpegna
  15. Marcantonio Franciotti
  16. Stefano Durazzo , Archbishop of Genoa
  17. Ascanio Filomarino , Archbishop of Naples
  18. Marcantonio Bragadin , Bishop of Vicenza
  19. Pier Donato Cesi
  20. Vincenzo Maculani OP
  21. Francesco Peretti di Montalto
  22. Cesare Facchinetti , Bishop of Senigallia
  23. Girolamo Grimaldi-Cavalleroni
  24. Carlo Rossetti , Bishop of Faenza
  25. Francesco Angelo Rapaccioli , Bishop of Terni
  26. Francesco Adriano Ceva
  27. Angelo Giori
  28. Juan de Lugo y de Quiroga SJ
  29. Domenico Cecchini
  30. Niccolò Albergati-Ludovisi , Major Penitentiary
  31. Pier Luigi Carafa
  32. Alderano Cibo
  33. Fabrizio Savelli , Archbishop of Salerno
  34. Francesco Cherubini
  35. Camillo Astalli
  36. Jean-François Paul de Gondi , Archbishop of Paris
  37. Giovanni Girolamo Lomellini , legate in Bologna
  38. Luigi Omodei
  39. Pietro Ottoboni , later Pope Alexander VIII.
  40. Giacomo Corradi , Bishop of Jesi
  41. Lorenzo Imperiali
  42. Giberto Borromeo
  43. Marcello Santacroce , Bishop of Tivoli
  44. Baccio Aldobrandini
  45. Giambattista Spada , legate in Ferrara
  46. Prospero Caffarelli
  47. Francesco Albizzi
  48. Ottavio Acquaviva d'Aragona , legate in Romandiola
  49. Giangiacomo Teodoro Trivulzio
  50. Giulio Gabrielli , Bishop of Ascoli Piceno
  51. Virginio Orsini
  52. Rinaldo d'Este
  53. Vincenzo Costaguti
  54. Giovanni Stefano Donghi , Bishop of Ajaccio
  55. Paolo Emilio Rondinini , Bishop of Assisi
  56. Gian Carlo de 'Medici
  57. Federico Sforza , Bishop of Rimini
  58. Benedetto Odescalchi , Bishop of Novara , later Pope Innocent XI,
  59. Cristoforo Widmann
  60. Lorenzo Raggi
  61. Francesco Maidalchini
  62. Friedrich of Hessen-Darmstadt
  63. Carlo Barberini
  64. Carlo Pio di Savoia
  65. Carlo Gualterio , Bishop of Fermo
  66. Decio Azzolino

With the beginning of the conclave on January 18, 1655, 61 cardinals stood in Rome to elect a new head of the church. At this point in time, seven cardinals were still missing in Rome.

The conclave stayed completely away:

Appeared late for the conclave:

  • January 21, 1655: Ascanio Filomarino, Archbishop of Naples.
  • January 25, 1655: Stefano Durazzo, Archbishop of Genoa.
  • January 27, 1655: Friedrich von Hessen-Darmstadt.
  • February 7, 1655: Ernst Adalbert von Harrach, Archbishop of Prague.

Cardinal Pier Luigi Carafa died on February 15, 1655.

The 66 electors present came from the following pontificate:

  • 2 cardinals from the pontificate of Paul V.
  • 32 cardinals from the pontificate of Urban VIII. And
  • 32 cardinals from the pontificate of Innocent X.


  • Frederic J. Baumgartner: Behind Locked Doors. Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, ISBN 0-312-29463-8 .
  • Ludwig von Pastor , Ernst Graf (Ed.): The History of the Popes. Volume 31, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. Ltd., 1940 [1891]
  • HM Vernon: Italy from 1494 to 1790. Cambridge University Press, 1909.


  1. It can only be Pier Luigi Carafa, who died on February 15th at the age of 73
  2. Contrary to reports to the contrary, Peretti did not die until May 4, 1655 and not as early as 1653, so his inclusion in the list made by Ludwig von Pastor is correct
  3. Provincia Romandiolæ et Exarchatus ravennae , an administrative unit of Church state