Barnaba Chiaramonti was born at Cesena into a noble Italian family. He was educated in Ravenna before joining the Benedictine order in 1756 to continue his studies. He then became a teacher within the order. His career became a series of swift promotions following the election of a family friend Giovanni Braschi as Pope Pius VI. Pius VI appointed him abbot of San Callisto in Rome in 1776 and after making him a bishop made him a cardinal in February 1785. Following the death of Pius in August 1799 the conclave met in Venice on November 30. There were three main candidates and after several months of stalemate Chiaramonti was elected as a compromise candidate. He was crowned Pius VII on March 21, 1800.
As when he was cardinal the main concern of the new Pope was the French. The revolutionary regime of Napoleon I led to the Concordat of 1801 negotiated by Ercole Consalvi, which re-systemised the linkage between the French church and Rome. The Pope suffered a major loss of church lands in Germany where following the Peace of Lunéville (1801) a number of German princes compensated for their losses by seizing ecclesiastical property. Whatever hopes Pius may have had with Napoleon, the Papal States were eventually taken by the French around 1800, and when Napoleon subsequently was excommunicated, he had Pius arrested. Pius did not return to Rome until 1814. At the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) the Papal States were largely restored.
At the outbreak of the French Revolution Pius was compelled to see the old Gallican Church suppressed, the pontifical and ecclesiastical possessions in France confiscated, and an effigy of himself burnt by the populace at the Palais Royal.
Pius sued for peace, which was granted at Tolentino on February 19, 1797; but on December 28 of that year, in a riot created by some Italian and French revolutionists, General Duphot of the French embassy was killed and a new pretext furnished for invasion.
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