Pope Pius VI dies
In 1796 French Republican troops under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Italy, defeated the papal troops and occupied Ancona and Loreto.
Pius VI sued for peace, which was granted at Tolentino on 19 February, 1797; but on 28 December of that year, in a riot blamed by papal forces on some Italian and French revolutionists, the popular brigadier-general Mathurin-Léonard Duphot, who had gone to Rome with Joseph Bonaparte as part of the French embassy, was killed and a new pretext was furnished for invasion. General Berthier marched to Rome, entered it unopposed on 10 February, 1798, and, proclaiming a Roman Republic, demanded of the Pope the renunciation of his temporal authority.
Upon his refusal he was taken prisoner, and on February 20 was escorted from the Vatican to Siena, and thence to the Certosa near Florence. The French declaration of war against Tuscany led to his removal (he was escorted by the Spaniard Pedro Gómez Labrador, Marquis of Labrador) by way of Parma, Piacenza, Turin and Grenoble to the citadel of Valence, the chief town of Drôme where he died six weeks after his arrival, on 29 August, 1799, having then reigned longer than any Pope.
Pius VI's body was embalmed, but was not buried until 30 January, 1800 after Napoleon saw political advantage to burying the deceased Pope in efforts to bring the Catholic Church back into France. His entourage insisted for some time that his last wishes were to be buried in Rome, then behind the Austrian lines. They also prevented a Constitutional bishop from presiding at the burial, as the laws of France then required, so no burial service was held. This recrudescence of the investiture conflict was settled by the Concordat of 1801. Pius VI's body was removed from Valence 24 December, 1801 and buried at Rome 19 February, 1802.
By decree of Pope Pius XII in 1949, the remains of Pius VI were moved to the Chapel of the Madonna below St. Peter's in the Papal Grotto. His remains were placed in an ancient marble sarcophagus. The inscription on the wall above the container reads:
"The mortal remains of Pius VI, consumed in unjust exile, by order of Pius XII are placed in this dignified and decorous location, illustrious for art and history, in 1949".
The name of Pius VI is associated with many and often unpopular attempts to revive the splendour of Pope Leo X (1513–21) in the promotion of art and public works; the words Munificentia Pii VI. P. M. graven in all parts of the city, giving rise amongst his impoverished subjects to such satire as the insertion of a minute loaf in the hands of Pasquin with that inscription beneath it. He is best remembered in connection with the establishment of the Museum of the Vatican, begun at his suggestion of his predecessor and with an impractical and expensive attempt to drain the Pontine Marshes, something later successfully achieved in the 1930s by Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
The portrait in the box is one of numerous studio copies of the official portrait by Pompeo Batoni, 1775.
Pius VI has been accused of having led a futile and immoral life, of having neglected his duties and of having been bad-tempered and even brutal with his attendants. Allowance of course must be made for enmity and exaggeration, but there can be no doubt that the Pope resorted to low and crooked means of obtaining money, both to meet the demands of his insatiable family and the cost of his own extravagance. As a monarch he was isolated and ignored. When the French Revolution broke out, the population of Avignon and of the Comtat Venaissin turned out the papal officials and declared themselves French citizens. News of this event was received in Paris with a great show of rejoicing and the Pope's effigy was publicly burned in the gardens of the Palais Royal to the accompaniment of ribald jokes and songs."
A long audience with Pius VI is one of the most extensive scenes in the Marquis de Sade's narrative Juliette, published in 1798. Juliette shows off her learning to the Pope (whom she most often addresses as "Braschi") with a verbal catalogue of alleged immoralities committed by his predecessors.
As a means of humiliation, Sylvain Maréchal's play Le Judgment dernier des rois forces the character of the pope to marry after a global revolution has dethroned him and other monarchs.
In 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Italy, defeated the papal troops and occupied Ancona and Loreto. Pius sued for peace, which was granted at Tolentino on the 19th of February 1797; but on the 28th of December 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. General Berthier marched to Rome, entered it unopposed on the 13th of February 1798, and, proclaiming a republic, demanded of the pope the renunciation of his temporal authority. Upon his refusal he was taken prisoner, and on the 20th of February was escorted from the Vatican to Siena, and thence to the Certosa near Florence. The French declaration of war against Tuscany led to his removal by way of Parma, Piacenza, Turin and Grenoble to the citadel of Valence, where he died six weeks later, on the 29th of August 1799. Pope Pius VII succeeded him.
Rome was now under the French Directoire a rule of law crueler than Napoleon's. Pope Pius VI was deposed, made a prisoner in exile, and taken to Siena, then to Florence. Despite Pope Pius VI's illness and frailty, the French pressed on to Turin, Grenoble, and finally Valence where Pope Pius VI died on August 29, 1799.
Pope Pius VI was initially buried in Valences, France, but on February 17, 1802, his remains were transferred to Saint Peter’s Basilica where a statue by Canova of Pope Pius VI in a kneeling position was placed in 1822.