On 5 September 1559 the great doors of the Vatican were ceremonially locked, imprisoning the cardinals for the election of a new pope. It would be almost four months before they were released. Lockdown is a topical issue - we now all have some experience of it - and the pressures soon began to take their toll. Violence simmered near the surface, erupting into heated rows and even fistfights. Few cardinals bothered to observe the strict regulations banning contact with the outside world; many were ill, four died and the Sistine Chapel had to be fumigated to get rid of the appalling stench of squalor and disease.
This is the story of the conclave and its aftermath. It is a fascinating insight into the process of a papal election and the rival intrigues of some fifty men, each with his own political agenda. Above all, thanks to the survival of the ledgers of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, we know much about the luxuries and privations of lockdown, Renaissance style, and how they comforted themselves by eating and drinking on a superbly grand scale.
Mary Hollingsworth has a B.Sc. in business studies and a Ph.D. in art history. Her doctoral thesis dealt with the role of the architect in Italian Renaissance building projects and led to research on the role of the patron in the development of Renaissance art and architecture, a subject she taught to undergraduates and postgraduates, and published in two books (see below).
Her subsequent work on the papers of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este considerably broadened her horizons, and expertise, well beyond the confines of art history into the everyday world of Renaissance Europe. She has publ...
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