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their consciences, or that the majority had already become ashamed of their ambitious disputes, or that it entered into the scheme of one of them to insure his own preferment by deferring it for a few months, or that they were terrified by the Roman fever of which several of them had already died and of which others were ill, their votes were at length united in favour of Peter Morrone, a hermit of fair reputation; who on the fifth of July, 1a9/4, assumed the mantle by the title of Celestine V. Great was the satisfaction caused by this event, and our author joined in it most cordially; not only on account of Peter's blameless manners, but also because thus seemed baffled the wiles of one of the purpled candidates, whose foul conduct and guilty principles could not by any mask have been entirely concealed from so penetrating an eye as Dante's. Three dignitaries (».j
(i) An Archbishop, and two bishops. The mode of his nomination is a good example of what Mr. Gibbon calls the uncertain breath of a Conclave. Cardinal Latino having told his hrethern Odc day thai si holy man had had a dream that they should all die be Core two mouths unless they agreed on some one to (ill the vacant chair of S. Peter, be who was afterwards Boniface VIII replied sneeriugly ' I suppose thin is one of the visions of your Peter Morrone.' 'It is '( answered Latino) ' and the revelation thus made to that man of God proves that the gifts of the Holy-ghost render him worthy to rule over the faithful:'— on which he was voted Pope. The threat of death to men who had seen their companions expire and were themselves ill of the same fever had no doubt much effect; but the whole seems to have been a plot of Boniface VIII, who, not being able to gain his election at that moment, had formed a plan of insuring it shortly after . Sistnondi. Hist. de» Repub. Ilal. Vol. Iv. p. 76.
were sent in procession to the mountain where the hermit had his cell to inform him of his election, and, when the poor mendicant in astonishment at their rank would have prostrated himself at their feet, they flung themselves down at his to crave a benediction from his Holiness; innumerahle were the crowds that flocked along the roads leading to his retirement (0; as he past, all bent their knees before him, many from reverence for his sacred character, and some too from wonder at seeing a beggar transformed into a Monarch; and, that his entry into the decorated streets of Aquila might want no possible brilliancy ecclesiastical or civil, two troops of royal guards in various and rich uniforms, and mounted on caparisoned horses of the two finest breeds of the south and north of Europe, were super-added to the usual costly ones of the Papacy; and, while the ass, on which the 'servant of the servants of God' rode, proceeded in slow pomp amid Princes and Bishops and Cardinals, to the sound of every kind of sweet music and amid clouds of incense, over a carpet of flowers profusely strewed by white-robed youths in many vivid emblematic patterns, (the balconies overflowing with groups of the noblest and most
(i) In fact it was they prevented his escape: for his first impulse was to run away; but finding every avenue crowded , he was compellrd to return to his cell. He indeed appears to have been a man of ll>e weakest intellects; so that Boccaccio calls him huomu idiota . Comento. Vol. i.p. H».
of Boniface VIII, was for some time generally considered an antipope. Most men disapproved of the abdication on the score of its being an innovation; and even those who attributed infallibility to the Popes in other respects, denied it to them here. But to such as had an opportunity of looking behind the scenes, the abdication was invalid on
a stronger plea the fraud by which it had been
obtained . From the moment of Celestine's accession, Cardinal Caetan attached himself to his person; scarcely leaving him for an instant either by
night or day for he even slept in the same
chamber (0 he endeavoured by every means
to play upon the Pontiffs infirmities; so that he at last obtained an entire ascendancy over his weak understanding, and employed it in a way to render the holy Father ridiculous as well as miserable . By his advice Charles II seems to have succeeded in his request for twelve new Cardinals. After which, the purpled conspirator, seeing his companions repentant for their choice, undertook to engage-Celestine to abdicate, if they promised to elect whomsoever he , the Cardinal , should
point out a proposition that was universally
agreed to. Nor content with this, he waited upon Charles II one night, and, fearing he might oppose his election , said to him: "Sire, your Pope
(i) . . . hahiiando ill di e ill notte con lui, perch* il Papa si tidfta mulii) di lui. Buti. Couitnto. Bib Aicc. M. a. Cod. i006.
Celestine has both the will and the power to serve you, but does not know how; put me in his place and, besides the will and the power, I'll know how to be useful to you. (0" The Simonical bargain was struck; and the twelve new-made Cardinals were to give him their votes . The probability is that this entire plan was in Caetan's head even previous to the nomination of Morrone. There now only remained to prevail on him to abdicate. From his installation, his timidity and scruples had been sedulously fomented by the wily Cardinal; who, far from engaging him to preside in the Consistory, encouraged bim to shut himself up for the most part of every day in a cell which he had built in the Palace in resemblance of his hermitage on the mountain (a); as if the only way to save his soul was to retire from the Court, instead of labouring to reform it. The Cardinal, with the most affected tenderness and piety, never ceased intreat- ing him to reflect on his weakness and inexperience, and how impossible it were for his slight shoulders to bear up with the public burthens, or for such a feeble hand to curb the Simony and all the inordinate vices of the sacred College ;«*-r and not only unvealing to him the foibles, perhaps crimes, of his ecclesiastical courtiers, but even
(i) Gio. Villani. Lib. vm. Cap. A. — Sismondi. Hist, des Republiques Ital. vol. It. p. 79.
(1) . . . arctam et eremeticam rameralam .... Benvenuti 1m. Com. ap. Mm. Autiq. Ital. T. i. p. io3S.