Papal Chancellery

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Pope Gelasius II, he was the first "Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church" from 1088 to 1118

The Papal Chancellery ( Latin Cancellaria Apostolica ) was one of the oldest offices of the Roman Curia ; its foundation goes back to the 4th century. She was initially responsible for the execution, authentication , sealing and archiving of apostolic letters and papal orders. Until the 12th century it was also known as the Scrinium Apostolicum (Papal Archives). Since 1088 it has been headed by the “ Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church ”. The Cancellarius must not be confused with the Camerlengo . The first papal chancellor from 1088 to 1118 was John of Gaeta, who later became Pope Gelasius II (1118/19). Between 1088 and 1187, some incumbents also carried the designation Bibliothecarius , ie "Librarian of the Holy Roman Church". From 1187 to 1908 the incumbent held the title of " Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church ". From 1532 the " Chancellor-Cardinal ", as he was also called, received the titular church of San Lorenzo in Damaso . From 1908 the term “ Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church ” was used again; the last incumbent was Cardinal Luigi Traglia from 1968 to 1972 . After 1973 the Papal Chancellery was incorporated into the State Secretariat .


The original reason for founding a papal chancellery was to collect and manage donations to build up the papal armed forces . Since the 11th century the Papal Chancellery has been headed by a Cancellarius who was also a Bibliothecarius. Around 1100 the form of the lead bull , which is still in use today , was created and was kept in the papal chancellery. Since 1187 the official title has been "Vice-Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church". Important papal letters were sealed with the bull after the fair copy and thus received a documentary status. The work processes and responsibilities were written down in chancellery rules such as in the " Liber Diurnus " and " Liber Cancellariae " and under Pope John XXII. (1316–1334) published in a separate collection. The papal registers, which contain copies of documents and letters from popes, are among the most important collections of sources. Only fragments of Popes Leo I and Gregory I have survived, but the documents of Gregory VII and Innocent III are there. almost completely before.

The increased volume of letters , documents, instructions and other documents led to the fact that more and more scribes, archivists and administrators were necessary to guide the papal correspondence in an orderly manner. With Pope Martin V (1417–1431) an increased correspondence and the creation of documents began as a result of the Council of Constance (1414/18). This in turn meant that the firm had to be expanded.

“Since the second half of the 15th century, the posts in the chancellery have been converted into commercial offices (officia venalia vacabilia) in order to cover the increasing financial needs of the curia. The interested party acquires the office from the Pope for a fixed sum; the income associated with the office (e.g. the taxes) to a certain extent form the interest on the purchase price. The holder receives the office for life and can even sell it on; only if he dies first does it return to the Pope, who can sell it again. Most offices are organized as colleges to protect their rights; d. H. they manage their official affairs independently. "

- Papal Chancellery
Palazzo della Cancelleria

Between approx. 1485 and 1513 the Palazzo della Cancelleria was built, which Leo X. (1513–1521) gave to his cousin Giulio de 'Medici, who later became Pope Clement VII (1523–1534), who set up the papal chancellery there . Under the two Medici Popes, the office of Vice-Chancellor rose to pomp and power together with the Popes. The greatest contribution to the reform of the Roman Catholic Church belonged to Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590), through the reorganization of the Roman Curia, which also included the Papal Chancellery. During the pontificate of Pope Clement XII. (1730–1740) the administrative apparatus expanded more and more and the grievances and debts increased considerably. Pope Pius VII. (1800-1823) reformed in 1808, after the invasion of Napoleon in Rome , the firm transferred its new tasks and wanted to prevent Rome thus access the occupiers.

In the 20th century

With the Apostolic Constitution Sapienti consilio of June 29, 1908, Pope Pius X (1903–1914) carried out a major restructuring of the Roman Curia. His goal was to create a strict separation between administration and courts. The papal chancellery was reduced in staff and now consisted of the head (Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church), some apostolic protonotaries , a notary , a secretary and archivist, a secretary and four clerks. After this reform of the Curia, papal bulls were issued and dispatched exclusively by the papal chancellery.

During the next reform of the Curia in 1968 by Pope Paul VI. The department headed by the Chancellor-Cardinal became the central point for the preparation and dispatch of important documents. With the Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio "Quo aptius", Pope Paul VI ordered. on February 27, 1973 announced that the Papal Chancellery was incorporated into the State Secretariat, thus ending the independence of the Papal Chancellery.

Important Chancellors / Vice Chancellors of the Holy Roman Church

  • John of Gaeta (1088–1118), first chancellor and later Pope Gelasius II (1118/19)
  • Gerardus Caccianemici (1141–1144), later Pope Lucius II (1144/45)
  • Rolandus Bandinelli (1153–1159), later Pope Alexander III. (1159–1181)
  • Albertus de Morra (1178–1187), first Vice-Chancellor and later Pope Gregory VIII (1187)
  • Cencius camerarius (1194–1198), later Pope Honorius III. (1216-1227); he never called himself chancellor
  • Sinibaldus Fieschi (1226–1227), later Pope Innocent IV (1243–1254)
  • Rodrigo Lanzol-Borja y Borja (Borgia) (1457–1492), later Pope Alexander VI. (1492–1503)
  • Giulio de 'Medici (1517–1523), later Pope Clement VII (1523–1534)

Chancellor of the Holy Roman Church from 1908 to 1973

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Papal Chancellery
  2. ^ Constitutio Sapienti consilio, 29 Junius 1908: § III. OFFICIA, 1.º - CANCELLARIA APOSTOLICA. ( Sapienti consilio. In: Salvador Miranda : The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. ( Florida International University website , English))