History of Conclaves: Lost in the mists of time….

March 11th, 2013

2013-03-11 Vatican Radio

But the version we come across more often relates to Viterbo, north of Rome in 1268, or rather 1268 to 1271 because this was the longest papal inter-regnum ever: it lasted two years and nine months. There was complete stalemate. After eighteen months the secular ruler of Viterbo decided to remove the roof from the Palace where the cardinals were meeting. He thought that would concentrate their minds and make them come to a quick decision. So you can see the similarities with the Roman case in 1241. Except that it didn’t work because the cardinals still didn’t come to a decision. So their provisions were reduced in the hope that they could be starved into reaching a decision. The man they eventually elected took the name of Gregory X who was elected in absentia. And he decide that there was such complete and utter chaos that there would have to be strict rules on how popes would be elected in the future.

So in 1254 he called a council of the Church at Lyon and this Council determined the rules for councils at future elections. Cardinals were to enter the conclave on the tenth day after the death of the late pope. They were to live in a dormitory with no partitions between the beds. Curtains between beds were not introduced until 1351 as a matter of fact. There was to be no written or verbal communication with the outside world and if no election was made within three days after entering the conclave the cardinals were to receive only one meal a day from outside. And if after a total of eight days they had still not reached a decision they were to receive only bread and water. The first conclave under the new rules took place in 1276.Conclaves had a very difficult early history because some popes did not agree with the rules set down by Gregory X. so there were some popes in this early period who simply were not elected by conclaves. However conclaves occurred in each papal vacancy form 1294 onwards and the rules set down by Gregory X remained in place for many centuries.”

A programme produced by Veronica Scarisbrick .