"As handsome as he is holy" was the
description Romans of the day gave to Pope Pius VI. Pope Pius VI was a Renaissance pope who
founded the Vatican's clother, Gammarelli, in 1797.
Giovanni Angelo Braschi was born December 27, 1717,
of noble parents at Cesena in Italy. His education was launched
with the Jesuits and advanced at Ferrara where Angelo, a bright young
man, obtained a law degree at the age of 17.
When Pope Benedict X1V took notice of Giovanni Angelo
Braschi's brilliance, he offered him a position at the Vatican, but the
handsome lawyer was engaged to be married.
Later, at the age of either 38 or 41, Giovanni Angelo
Braschi was ordained a priest (his fiancťe entered the convent), and
his initiation at the Vatican began with his appointment as Papal
Treasurer followed in 1773 by his becoming a cardinal.
On February 22, 1775, Cardinal Braschi was
consecrated bishop and pope at the same time and chose the name Pope Pius VI.
The young pope, not yet 60, would call upon all his
reserves of holiness and strength to face the political challenges
throughout his reign.
Pope Clement XIV's 1773 papal decree suppressing the
Jesuits was still haunting the Vatican. Pope
Pius VI released some of the Jesuits who were imprisoned by
Pope Clement XIV in Catherine the Great's Russia, but he dared not do
more because there was widespread disagreement with the Jesuits. In
1780, Pope Pius VI verbally and
quietly approved of the Jesuits' existence.
There were further quandaries to face. With misguided
zeal, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II of Austria wanted to reform the
Church by changing Church regulations, limiting papal power, and
suppressing monasteries that claimed the right to appoint clergy.
Austria's Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II's eccentric
actions were more than an annoyance to Pope
Pius VI, so the pope made the long journey to Vienna to
convince Joseph II to cease his imperial meddling. Pope
Pius VI had limited success.
Simultaneously, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II's
brother, Peter Leopold II Grand Duke of Tuscany, instructed his bishop,
Bishop Ricci of Pistoia, to pass a number of antipapal resolutions at
the 1786 Pistoia synod. In 1794 Pope
Pius VI condemned these changes.