For other stories from this series refer to ‘Cardinal Stories‘ category from the sidebar (>>>) … scroll down, quite a bit.
Ulderico Carpenga was born in northern Italy (~85 miles southeast of Bologna) on June 24, 1585 to a Roman noble family. His father was a count and they were related to the House of Montefeltro that ruled the ‘Marche‘ for long (though the name is best known for this famous painting by Piero della Francesca of one of its members). He studied both canon and civil law and was named the Abbot of Santa Maria di Mutino by Gregory XV (#235); there is no record of him being ordained. He was made Bishop of Gubbio in September 1630 — succeeding his brother who had held it for the prior two years.
He was created a Cardinal Priest in November 1633. He transferred to the see of Todi five years later, relinquishing that post in August 1643. He participated in the 1644 conclave that elected Innocent X (#237). He was considered to be one of the more politically astute popes of the time managing to juggle the never-ending power struggles between France, Spain, Portugal and Naples. Though 70 when elected the bane of his papacy was his ‘unusual’ relationship with his widowed sister-in-law, Olimpia Maidalchini-Pamfili who essentially ran the shop and sold offices and benefices. But, when the pope died, aged 80, on January 7, 1655, she nor three of her relatives, including her son, who had been created cardinals by the pope, refused to pay for the pope’s funeral. The body festered in a corner of St. Peter’s sacristy for eleven days before money from other sources were raised to bury it in St. Peter’s. That was the backdrop to the conclave that started January 18, 1655 to elect a new pope.
There were 69 cardinals alive when the conclave started. Counting four that arrived late, there were 66 cardinals at the conclave at one point — though one died during the conclave.
The average age of the cardinals attending this conclave was 52.4 years, many cardinals in their 30s, and Carlo Barberini, grand-nephew of Urban VIII (#236), one of the three Barberinis at the conclave, aged 24. Per the norms of the time the battle was between the French and Spanish factions. Though three of Olimpia’s relatives had held the post cardinal-nephew none held that post at the time of the conclave; one, Olimpia’s son having left the cardinalate to get married, and the other two having been stripped of the post. Given that she was the de facto ruler of Rome at the time the cardinal invited her to enter the conclave and address them! To be fair, she was no spring chicken by then. She was 64 years old.
The cardinals settled in for another long conclave. As was the case at the time, especially with the younger cardinals, decorum was lax and practical jokes and clowning around abounded.
Cardinal Carpenga was an avid trapper of birds, his preferred method being to use ‘birdlime’, sticky glue obtained from the sap of trees to ensnare small birds.
Carpenga, bored, started wondering the corridors of the Apostolic Palace at night making cuckoo calls — the method that he used to lure birds onto his glued branches. This started to annoy some of the older cardinals that were trying to sleep.
So he was told to quit by one of the older cardinals. He retorted: ‘Ssshhh! I am trying to call the Holy Ghost‘.