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Servant of the Servants of God:
Pope Innocent XIII Officiates in the Lateran

An excerpt from the

Souvenirs de la Marquise de Créquy de 1710 à 1803,

(Paris, Garnier Frères, n.d., ca. 1839),

Tome Ier, pp133‑135 (my translation):

p133 As Pope Innocent XIII was making his entrance into the Basilica of St. John Lateran, which is the cathedral church of Rome, since the church of St. Peter is, properly speaking, merely a large oratory and the palace chapel of the Vatican, this according to the sacred hierarchy at any rate, and in accordance with the priestly traditions of the holy city, I would have you know that I was there, p134in a tribune next to the Duchess of Anticoli, sister-in‑law to the Pope, and that suddenly, in the middle of the nave and of the procession, a pause was seen to occur, preceded by a sort of bustling movement the cause of which was impossible to explain. We then saw that the whole solemn empurpled and gilt throng of the Princes of the Church and Princes of the Soglio moved back from the Holy Father, leaving around him a wide empty circle. The Pope's twelve train-bearers had let drop his immense robe of white watered silk that covered behind him maybe up tosixty palms of that handsome pavement of St. John Lateran. (I remember that these train-bearers were vested in voluminous chimeres of cloth of gold edged with crimson velvet.) During this, the Pope had remained standing, all by himself in the middle of the nave, wearing his tiara, his gold staff in his hand. — Chi sa? Chi non sa? Che sarà dunque? — It was a trasteverino, some poor man of the city, maybe a soldier, and it was in any case a man of the people, wild-looking and like a bandit in appearance, who had asked the Supreme Pontiff to hear his confession, so as to receive from him absolution for a caso particolar e pericoloso. The Holy Father had not wished to refuse to accede to this request, which he could have, in good conscience and without lacking in pontifical charity,º found presumptuous; spontaneously, to use the term first heard in the Assemblée Nationale, there fell a deep silence, and during this confession, which lasted eight to ten minutes, our Holy Father had his ear constantly bent down to the mouth of this p135villager who was kneeling at his feet. I noticed that immediately after he had heard the first words of this man's admission, the Pope's face had turned extremely pale: it looked as if he had felt a painful emotion, a feeling of dread and empathy and of consternation. After having said a few words in a very low voice, he placed one of his hands on the head of the penitent, whom he had kiss the Fisherman's Ring, and His Holiness (a word which here is not a mere formula) then raised his head and his eyes to the heavens, with an air of simplicity, mercy and majesty more than human! — The Cardinals, heads of religious orders, Roman Princes, Latin and Greek Patriarchs, together with the other Assistants of the Soglio, once again took up their places next to the Supreme Pontiff: the magnificent procession resumed, and the man lost himself in the crowd.

[image ALT: An inlaid marble throne, in isolated splendor in the apse of a church, from very far away. It is the cathedra or throne of the Pope in St. John Lateran in Rome.]

The papal cathedra in the apse of the Lateran:
note the floor admiringly mentioned by Mme de Créquy.


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Page updated: 28 Sep 06