Pope Gregory XVI: A “Sede Vacante” Passport Issued February 9, 1831, One Week after His Election

Pope Gregory XVI: A “Sede Vacante” Passport Issued February 9, 1831, One Week after His Election

Pope Gregory XVI: Passport Issued February 9, 1831
Pope Gregory XVI: Passport Issued February 9, 1831

Sede Vacante

Sede Vacante is a Latin term meaning, “the seat is open.”
It indicates the time between the death of one pope and the election of the next pope.

Father Richard Kunst:

This passport was issued a week after Gregory XVI was elected, so technically it was not a sede vacante document despite the heading suggesting it was.

It is likely they were just waiting for new documents to be printed and authorized by the new pope. 

The Sede Vacante period to which this document refers lasted about three months.

A very unusual addition to this Collection!

About Passports Issued in the Papal States

Passports are items that have ink stamps on them. Every country issues its own passports to indicate that somebody belongs to that particular country and is in good standing there and, therefore, able to travel to other countries as well. And the Papal States were no different. The Papal States as a nation, up until 1870, had their own passports, and this item is a passport from the time of Pope Gregory XVI with a lot of different ink stamps on it.

Passports are a difficult item to obtain because a lot of auction houses will not actually sell passports because they are associated with someone’s identity.

Vatican City State issues passports today. Everyone who is made Cardinal is issued a passport as a citizen of the Papal State to make it easier for him or her to travel around Italy and Europe. —Fr. Richard Kunst

Information Regarding This Document

From the Papal State, an 1831 Sede Vacante Document

In the province of Maremma, the police director issued a passport to Father Giuliano, a native of Faenza, a parish priest by profession.

It is dated February 9, 1831, one week into the papacy of the newly elected Pope Gregory XVI.

This is unique in that, as Father Kunst states, “it says it is, a ‘sede vacante’ document issued during the three month period between the death of Pope Gregory XVI’s predecessor and his own election, when, despite the document used, it was issued a week into his election.” 

This indicates the need on the part of the recipient, Father Giuliano, to acquire the passport in a  timely fashion without waiting for the documentation which would have reflected the end of the sede vacante period and the beginning of a new papacy.

Quite an interesting story! 

This  original document is 42 x 34 cm. and quite an unusual addition to the Collection.

Location of Issue

The Maremma is a coastal area of western central Italy, bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea. It includes much of southwestern Tuscany and part of northern Lazio.

It was formerly mostly marshland, often malarial, but was drained by order of Ferdinando I de’ Medici.

It was traditionally populated by the butteri, mounted cattle herders who rode horses fitted with one of two distinctive styles of saddle.

A Further Unusual Story Connected to Papal States’ Passports
And Pope Gregory XVI

The Collection has an additional passport issued during the papacy of Gregory XVI that comes with another interesting story: it was issued in 1838  to the nephew of the man who would succeed Pope Gregory: the future Blessed Pope Pius IX.
NOTE: This is the proper document that the 1831 passport (above) should have looked like!

Another interesting story in the Papal Artifacts Collection! Here is a link to that passport.

Pope Gregory XVI: Passport Issued by the Papal States to the Nephew of Blessed Pius IX

  • Date October 26, 2023
  • Tags Documents, Gregory XVI