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Giacomo Antonelli

His Eminence
Giacomo Antonelli
Cardinal Secretary of State
Giacomo Antonelli
See Deacon of the Roman Curia[1]
Appointed 29 November 1848
Installed 29 November 1848
Term ended 6 November 1876
Predecessor Giovanni Soglia Ceroni
Successor Giovanni Simeoni
Other posts Cardinal-Deacon of Sant'Agata dei Goti
Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Via Lata
Ordination 1840 (deacon)
Created Cardinal 11 June 1847[1]
by Pope Pius IX
Rank Cardinal-Deacon
Personal details
Birth name Giacomo Antonelli
Born 2 April 1806
Died 6 November 1876 (aged 70)
Denomination Catholic
Previous post Cardinal Secretary of State (1st time)
(10 March – 3 May 1848)

Giacomo Antonelli (April 2, 1806 – November 6, 1876) was an Italian cardinal deacon. He was the Cardinal Secretary of State from 1848 until his death; he played a key role in Italian politics, resisting the unification of Italy and affecting Roman Catholic interests in European affairs. He was often called the "Italian Richelieu".[2]


  • Life and work 1
  • Also 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Life and work

He was born at Sonnino near Terracina and was educated for the priesthood, but, after taking minor orders, gave up the idea of becoming a priest, and chose an administrative career. Created secular prelate, he was sent as apostolic delegate to Viterbo in 1836, where he early manifested his reactionary tendencies in an attempt to stamp out Liberalism. In 1839 he was transferred to Macerata. In 1840 he was ordained a deacon. Recalled to Rome in 1841 by the conservative Pope Gregory XVI, he entered the office of the Secretariat of State, but four years later was appointed pontifical treasurer-general. Created cardinal (June 11, 1847), one of the Church's last true cardinal deacons, he was chosen by Pius IX to preside over the council of state entrusted with the drafting of a constitution for the Papal States.

On March 10, 1848, Antonelli became premier of the first constitutional ministry of Pius IX. Upon the collapse of his cabinet when liberals resigned following the publicly renounced Papal participation in the war of national liberation, 29 April 1848, Antonelli created for himself the governorship of the sacred palaces in order to retain constant access to and influence over the pope. After the assassination of Pellegrino Rossi (November 18, 1848) he arranged the flight of Pius IX to Gaeta. [3] In that year, the Papal States were overthrown by Liberals and replaced by a Roman Republic, only to be restored to the pope in 1849 by force of French and Austrian arms, called in at Antonelli's request.

Notwithstanding promises to the powers, he restored absolute government upon returning to Rome (April 12, 1850) and broke the conditions of the surrender by wholesale imprisonment of Liberals. In 1855 he narrowly escaped assassination. As ally of Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, from whom he had received an annual subsidy, he attempted, after 1860, to facilitate Ferdinand's restoration by fomenting brigandage on the Neapolitan frontier. To the overtures of Ricasoli in 1861, Pius IX, at Antonelli's suggestion, replied with the famous "Non possumus," but subsequently (1867) accepted, too late, Ricasoli's proposal concerning ecclesiastical property.

After the Legion of Antibes to replace French troops in Rome, and in 1867 secured French aid against Garibaldi's invasion of papal territory. Upon the reoccupation of Rome by the French after the battle of Mentana, 3 November 1867, Antonelli again ruled supreme, but upon the entry of the Italians in 1870 was obliged to restrict his activity to the management of foreign relations. He wrote, with papal approval, the letter requesting the Italians to occupy the Leonine City (in which the Italian government had intended to allow the pope to keep his temporal power), and obtained from the Italians payment of the Peter's pence (5,000,000 lire) remaining in the papal exchequer, as well as 50,000 scudi, the only installment of the Italian allowance (subsequently fixed by the Law of Guarantees, March 21, 1871) ever accepted by the Holy See.

At Antonelli's death the Vatican finances were found to be in disorder, with a deficit of 45,000,000 lire. His personal fortune, accumulated during office, was considerable, and was bequeathed almost entirely to members of his family. To the Church he left little and to the pope only a trifling souvenir. From 1850 until his death he interfered little in affairs of dogma and church discipline, although he addressed to the powers circulars enclosing the Syllabus of Errors (1864) and the acts of the First Vatican Council (1870).[4]

His activity was devoted almost exclusively to the struggle between the papacy and the Italian

Catholic Church titles
Juan Francisco Marco y Catalán
Cardinal-Deacon of Sant'Agata dei Goti
14 June 1847 – 6 November 1876
title held in commendam from 13 March 1868 – 6 November 1876
Succeeded by
Frédéric de Falloux du Coudray
Preceded by
Giuseppe Ugolini
Cardinal Protodeacon
19 December 1867 – 6 November 1876
Succeeded by
Prospero Caterini
Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Via Lata
13 March 1868 – 6 November 1876
Political offices
Preceded by
Giuseppe Bofondi
Cardinal Secretary of State
10 March – 3 May 1848
Succeeded by
Anton Orioli
Preceded by
Giovanni Soglia Ceroni
Cardinal Secretary of State
29 November 1848 – 6 November 1876
Succeeded by
Giovanni Simeoni
  • Catholic Hierarchy page on Giacomo Antonelli

External links

  •  Rudge, F. M. (1913). "Giacomo Antonelli".  
  • Michael Burleigh, 2006. Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War
  • David I Kertzer, 2004. Prisoner of the Vatican: The Popes' Secret Plot to Capture Rome from the New Italian State (Houghton Mifflin) ISBN 978-0-618-22442-5
  • Frank J. Coppa, 1990. Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli and Papal Politics in European Affairs ISBN 0-7914-0184-7 The first full-length biography, based on the documents of the Secret Vatican Archives, and not previously used family papers in the Archivio di Stato, Rome.
  • (Roger Aubert), "Antonelli, Giacomo," Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 3 (1961)


  1. ^ a b "Giacomo Cardinal Antonelli".  
  2. ^ Carlo Falconi, Il Cardinale Antonelli: Vita e carriera del Richelieu italiano nella chiesa di Pio IX (Milan: Mondadori) 1983.
  3. ^ Rudge 1913.
  4. ^ a b Chisholm 1911.
  5. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law – Canon 232 §1


  • Antonelli's twenty-nine year cardinalate is the second-longest by any cardinal who never participated in a papal conclave. (Roger Etchegaray overtook him on November 26, 2008. Etchegaray turned 80 in 2002 and thus lost the right to participate in a conclave, and so he did not participate in the 2005 conclave, which elected Pope Benedict XVI.)
  • He appears in the movie Giorgio Albertazzi.


Although it did not prevent Pius IX's beatification, some observers believe that Antonelli's notoriety might be enough to prevent his canonization. Antonelli was one of the last deacons to be created a cardinal before Pope Benedict XV decreed in 1917 that all cardinals must be ordained priests.[5]


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