Pen wrote:I've just read Mistress of the Vatican The True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini: The Secret Female Pope.
I've often wondered if Olimpia could have been in the Tarot de Paris designer's mind when s/he created La Papessa - her fame was widespread, and it would explain much about that image. But in any case, it's a brilliant, fascinating and shocking read for all sorts of reasons, with tantalizing tarot possibilities popping up here and there.
Having counted the votes, the distinguished theologian Cardinal Juan de Lugo rose to his feet and said in a loud voice, "Benedictus Dominus Noster, habemus cardinalum Pamphili Pontifecum." Our Blessed Lord, we have Cardinal Pamphili as pope. (24)
Apalled at the choice of new pontiff, Cardinal Bichi raced back to his cell and fired off a letter to the court of France. "Gentlemen," he thundered, "we have just elected a female pope!" (25)
24: Strozzi, D'Innocenzo Decimo, vol.21, folio 59a.
25: Colville, p.31.
But Giacinto Gigli wrote in his diary that evening, "When they heard that it was Pope Pamphilo, the crowd did not celebrate so much, because he was held to be a severe man, and not very liberal." Worse, he added, "It is believed that the widow called Olimpia, of the house of Maidalchini, will be the dominatrix of this pontificate." (3)
3: Ibid.p.432 (Gigli vol.2)
He who wishes a favor from the sovereign,
Bitter and long the road to the Vatican.
But the shrewd person
Runs to Donna Olimpia with full hands,
And there who wants attains it,
And the street is wider and shorter. (20)
20: Cavoli, p.101.
One morning, as the devout flocked to the Church of Saint John Lateran, they saw that the wall inscription INNOCENT X, PONTIFEX MAXIMUS had been partially covered with a banner that some enterprising soul had hung in the night. "Olimpia 1, Ponifex Maximus," it said. (12) Others started sprouting overnight in various churches, including "Olimpia, the first female pope." (13)
12: Ciampi, p.142.
13: Vassalli, p.159.
It is possible that Cardinal Astalli-Pamphili helped nudge the pope to break completely with Olimpia, who, he knew, hated him as a vile intruder and was plotting some revenge. One day he gave the pope a gold medal that had been mailed to him anonymously in a packet full of slander, he said. On one side was a portrait of Olimpia wearing the papal tiara, with the keys of Saint Peter in her hand. The other side showed the pope with long hair coifed like a woman, holding in one hand a spindle and in the other a distaff. The pope was horrified. He soon learned that numerous such medals had been struck in silver and gold and were collected throughout the courts of Europe, even in Rome.
The worst embarrassment was when Nuncio Melzi, the pope's representative in Vienna, handed the Holy Roman Emperor a letter from Innocent chastising him for making peace with the heretics to the shame of Christendom. The emperor replied bitterly that the real shame was a pope who "has placed his government in the hands of a woman about whom all the heretics are laughing."19 The emperor then gave the nuncio a book of unflattering cartoons of Innocent and his sister-in-law, along with some medals, cast by heretics, showing Olimpia majestically enthroned and wearing the papal crown, with the pope sitting abjectly at her feet.
19: Gigli, vol. 2, p.604
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