Letter Written As Cardinal Lambertini, Dated 1730
Here is Father’s Commentary
This letter is unique in papal history because when cardinals go into conclave, they are locked in the Sistine Chapel for the duration of time it takes to elect the next Pope. Everything and everyone are locked in. They’re not supposed to have any communication with the outside world, but this is a letter written by Cardinal Lambertini, dated 1730, during the actual Conclave.
Lambertini smuggled this out during the Conclave that elected his predecessor, Clement XII. So, in writing this letter and smuggling it out to one of his benefactors while in Conclave, not only was he risking his own future election as Benedict XIV, he was also risking excommunication from the Church. The conclave is held in secret to prevent outside influences from affecting the outcome of the election.
So this is a very interesting piece because of the nature of the details surrounding it—both because it was written during conclave and it was smuggled out of conclave. It’s just something you won’t find very often.
As we’ve talked about the very human side of these guys, we have here an example of that–of one who was actually doing something that was illegal, and contrary to the conclave rules, in order to get some sort of a message to one of his benefactors. So, as we move into earlier papal history we’re seeing that the popes weren’t always totally focused on the spiritual side as much as the worldly, and maybe this letter is just a little hint of that, and of things yet to come.
It is worth noting that the pope had already been elected, but there was still a seal on the conclave as long as the cardinals were there.
Cardinal Lambertini was writing a letter of thanks to someone who had donated money to him upon the election of the new pope.
The letter was signed by him on May 3rd, 1730.
Folded Papal Bull from the Pontificate of Benedict XIV, Close up of Bulla
A bull is the lead seal that was appended to the end of a document acting as the signature of the pope.
This papal bull is on parchment and dates from the mid-1700s during the reign of Benedict XIV.
Because it is folded, rather than flat for preservation purposes, it creates a very unique presentation.
Pope Benedict XIV
Prospero Lambertini was born in Bologna in 1675 to noble but impoverished parents. His earliest education was with tutors. He proved to be a brilliant student, excelling in legal studies in Rome at the Collegio Clemantino. His doctoral degrees were earned in theology and law in 1694 when he was nineteen years of age. Due to his outstanding abilities and juridical training Lambertini rose rapidly in the curia, holding various positions. Clement XI appointed him a consistatorial advocate, a consultor of the holy office, and canon theologian. He became Benedict XIII’s close advisor. In 1727 Benedict XIII made him bishop of Theodosia followed by the archbishopric of Ancona in 1727, and cardinal in 1726. In 1731, Lambertini succeeded Lorenzo Corsini as archbishop of Bologna when Corsini became Pope Clement XII in 1731. At that time Bologna was the second largest city in the Papal States. He was greatly loved as a pastor and an efficient administrator who continued to write scholarly works on diocesan synods and other theological and literary topics.
As a bishop, Lambertini was inspiring not only as a capable leader but also as a zealous and loving pastor who kept himself informed about the needs of his people. He established a committee in Ancona to do charitable works and prohibited theatrical displays in the liturgy. He viewed the episcopate as an opportunity to do good works. His personal humility and piety were a source of inspiration and strength. He believed the foundation of success in a diocese was through harmony between a bishop and his priests and he succeeded in obtaining harmony.
Please Visit Papal History/Benedict XIV for more information about the 18th century Pope. Here is a link: