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Pius VI

Pius VI, 1717–99, pope (1775–99), an Italian named G. Angelo Braschi, b. Cesena; successor of Clement XIV. He was created cardinal in 1774. Early in his reign he was faced with the attempts of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II to "reform" the church by suppressing monasteries, assuming rights of appointment of clergy, and by other changes. Joseph's actions were imitated in Spain and Italy, and in 1786 a synod at Pistoia, Italy, adopted antipapal resolutions. Joseph's attempts to make the state supreme in matters of conscience were not less extreme than the efforts in the French Revolution to set up a state church by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790). Pius eventually (Apr., 1791) condemned this new Gallican church and forbade the clergy to take the oaths. The French annexed the papal property at Avignon and Venaissin. The pope protested Louis XVI's execution and sided with the anti-French coalition, and Napoleon attacked the Papal States. In 1797 a treaty at Tolentino ceded Avignon, Venaissin, Ferrara, Bologna, and the Romagna to the French, along with a huge indemnity and many treasures. The pope was taken to Siena, thence to Florence; soon, though he was ill and feeble, the French took him to Turin and to Grenoble; he died at Valence. He was succeeded by Pius VII. In 1802 his body was taken to Rome.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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