Olimpia Maidalchini

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Olimpia Maidalchini

Postby Pen on 24 Mar 2012, 19:11

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.
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Re: Olimpia Maidalchini

Postby Bertrand on 24 Mar 2012, 20:15

Hello Pen,

Wikipedia tells she was born in 1594 and deceased in 1657, so the timeframe is very short to fit with the Tarot de Paris (early XVIIth). Do any other clues made you think about this potential relationship ?

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Re: Olimpia Maidalchini

Postby Huck on 24 Mar 2012, 20:36

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.


hi Pen,
nice to meet you again.

I've recently made some researches to the Tarot de Paris ...
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=755
... with the result, that there are good arguments, that at least a part of this Tarot was constructed in the year 1559.
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Re: Olimpia Maidalchini

Postby Pen on 25 Mar 2012, 00:58

Hi Huck and Bertrand. I've been trying to finish some projects (still am), but couldn't resist popping in to share this. The book says Olimpia was born in 1591, so if The 1559 date is right (as opposed to Kaplan's 17th Century), that would rule her out.

It also mentions an underground medal with Innocent X on one side wearing his hair dressed in a feminine style with flowers, and the other side featuring Olimpia on the papal throne wearing the triple tiara. I haven't been able to find it online - any leads? She was openly referred to as La Papessa and there's more, but it's almost 1pm and I need to sleep - I'll look up some refs. to post tomorrow.

Edited original comment on dating - not thinking straight last night.
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Re: Olimpia Maidalchini

Postby Pen on 25 Mar 2012, 09:04

Re. the date Huck mentioned - I'll read up that thread. Kaplan gives the date as simply 17th Century - I'm more than slightly out of touch with THF.

Chapter 8: Conclave. On September 16th 1644:

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.


Chapter 9, The Vicar of Christ.

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)


Chapter 11: Women in the Vatican.

The author has found many quotes from ambassadors and churchmen regarding her influence - all interesting but too long to repeat here.

I like this from Pasquino (a statue on which the people of Rome used to post irreverent messages), in Italian rhyme:

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.


Chapter 17: The Holy Jubilee year.
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.


I'll try and find the reference to the medal later.
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Re: Olimpia Maidalchini

Postby robert on 25 Mar 2012, 17:46

It's so nice to see you Pen, you've been well missed!
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Re: Olimpia Maidalchini

Postby Pen on 25 Mar 2012, 19:58

Ahhhh, Robert, you're lovely @};-

I've been looking in the book for the medal reference without success (many pages), but I know it's in there somewhere. It'll turn up, but maybe someone will find the actual object first - it would be interesting to see it, even if the dates for Olimpia and the Tarot de Paris are all wrong.
He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy...
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Re: Olimpia Maidalchini

Postby Pen on 04 Apr 2012, 19:54

Well, the Tarot de Paris is almost certainly too early to have anything to do with Olimpia, but I found the paragraph about the medal/s mentioned above.

Page 468, Mistress of the Vatican by Eleanor Herman.

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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Re: Olimpia Maidalchini

Postby Huck on 06 Apr 2012, 15:12

I find it interesting, that in the Olimpia time (1644 - 1655 sister-in-law of pope Innocenz) we had two other influential women in Europe: Christine, Queen of Sweden, ruling actively from 1644 till her abdication 1654, and Anna of Austria (actually from Spain) as widow and King's mother together with Mazarin between 1643 till 1661.

Not such a bad time in Europe. The devastating 80 years war in the Netherlands was finished, the 30 years war in Germany was finished. Processes against witches became less, the geocentric world view was more or less lost.
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Re: Olimpia Maidalchini

Postby Pen on 06 Apr 2012, 16:34

Christina of Sweden was another extraordinary woman. She converted to Catholicism and arrived in Rome in 1655 - all of Rome took a holiday. Giacinto Gigli noted: "Many say that the queen is certainly a hermaphrodite," he noted, "but professes to be a woman."

Gigli, vol.2, p.251.

Apparently when she was born in 1626 the people expected either a 21 gun salute for the birth of a princess or a 100 gun salute for a prince. At the 22nd salute the crowd went wild, but the guns stopped firing after 30 salutes.

The book is full of sensational and fascinating stuff, but IMO it's written to be a bestseller (the hint is in the title and the painting of Venus on the cover - very far removed from the real Olimpia).
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