Sunday 13 July 2014


Never had a person more craftily concealed his ambition than Cardinal Montalto (later Sixtus V). He combined a proud mind with profound dissimulation. At the conclave he smothered his vivacity of spirit and became an example of dull and blockish stupidity. He counterfeited so many diseases and infirmities of old age that it seemed he was stooping into his grave.

The other cardinals thought they had found the ideal candidate, a pope after their own heart, whom they could easily control. They began to reckon amongst themselves the great advantages they should make of a silly old coxcomb.

A vote was held, and as soon as Montalto saw that he had the needed majority, he leaped out of his seat, threw away his staff that had hitherto supported him instead of a crutch and began to stretch so that he appeared half as big again as he was before.

At the mass celebrating his elevation to the papacy, he roared out the Te Deum with a thundering voice. When Farnese heard him, he said: I perceive we have gotten a Pope who will make fools and asses of us.

The next day Montalto, now Sixtus V, gave a splendid banquet. Seeing the pope stir about busily, one of the cardinals commented: Your Holiness did not seem to have so much strength yesterday. The Pope smartly took him up and said: Yesterday I was not pope, today I am.

(Source: Anonymous pamphlet entitled The Intrigues of the Conclave at the Choosing of
 a Pope)

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