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Gone, really gone?

Current events bring to mind an occasion from the past.

In 1503, Pope Alexander VI died.

Then, (no more than now), the provisions for inquests were absent from Papal affairs. Significantly, however, the Pope and his son, Cesare Borgia each fell ill after a meal given by the Pope to entertain Cardinal Adriano da Corneto. Because each had fallen ill and, presumably, because the Pope had controlled the circumstances of the meal there grew a belief that the Pope’s attempt to kill the cardinal by poison had misfired by error and he had killed himself accidentally.

Cesare acted at speed despite being ill himself;

“Don Cesare, who was also unwell at the time, sent Michelotto with a large number of retainers to close all the doors that gave access to the pope’s room. On of the men took out a dagger and threatened to cut Cardinal Casanova’s throat and to throw him out of the window unless he handed over the keys to all the pope’s treasure. Terrified, the cardinal surrendered the keys, whereupon the others entered the room next to the papal apartment and seized all the silver that they found, together with two coffers containing about a hundred thousand ducats.”

The Pope’s master of ceremonies recorded the death and funeral.

“In the meantime, the body of the pope had remained for a long time, as I have described, between the railings of the high alter. During that period, the four wax candles next to it burned right down, and the complexion of the dead man became increasingly foul and black.

Already by four o’clock on that afternoon when I saw the corpse, again, its face had changed to the colour of mulberry or the blackest cloth and it was covered in blue-black spots. The nose was swollen, the mouth distended where the tongue was doubled over, and the lips seemed to fill everything. The appearance of the face then was far more horrifying than anything that had ever been seen or reported before.”

Pope Benedict XVI should get a gold watch for his retirement. However, he may have destabilised the Vatican’s diplomatic relationship with the nation states of the world; no pope has ever resigned since the demise of the Papal States and the creation of the Vatican state.

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