jesus wants me for a sunbeam

Earlier this month I read John Julius Norwich’s history of The Popes. It’s rather dry but this passage about two cardinals battling it out for the papal tiara made me laugh.

papal tiara found here

“Cardinal Roland Bandinelli was elected by a large majority. He made the usual display of reluctance then bent to receive the mantle. Cardinal Octavian dived forward, snatched the mantle and tried to don it himself. A scuffle followed, the mantle was lost and the chaplain produced another (presumably for just such an eventuality), which Octavian managed to put on back to front before anyone could stop him.

There followed a scene of scarcely believable confusion. Wrenching himself free from furious supporters of Roland who were trying to tear the mantle forcibly from his back, Octavian – whose frantic efforts to turn it the right way round had only resulted in getting the fringes tangled round his neck – made a dash for the papal throne, sat on it, and proclaimed himself Pope Victor IV.

papal throne found here

That was in 1159. Several pages later I read that in 1292 when Pope Nicholas died, it took 27 months to elect his successor.

Pietro del Morrone was an 85 year old hermit whose only qualification was that once, appearing briefly at the court of Gregory X, he had hung up his outer cloak on a sunbeam. He lasted as Pope Celestine V for five months, then wisely announced his abdication, the only one in papal history to do so. 

adopt a hermit from here

The architect of this abdication was Benedetto Gaetani who is said to have introduced a secret speaking tube into Celestine’s cell through which, in the small hours of the night, he would simulate the voice of God, warning him of the flames of hell if he were to continue in office.

(click to enlarge) lifted from