Pope Gregory XVI (September 18 1765 – June 1 1846), born Bartolomeo Alberto Cappellari, named Mauro as a member of the religious order of the Camaldolese, was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1831 to 1846. Strongly conservative and traditionalist, he opposed democratic and modernizing reforms in the Papal States and throughout Europe, seeing them as fronts for revolutionary leftism, and sought to strengthen the religious and political authority of the papacy (see Ultramontanism).
Cappellari was born at Belluno on September 18 1765 to a noble family. At an early age he joined the order of the Camaldolese (part of the Benedictine monastic family) and entered the Monastery of San Michele di Murano, near Venice. As a Camaldolese monk, Cappellari rapidly gained distinction for his theological and linguistic skills. His first appearance before a wider public was in 1799, when he published against the Italian Jansenists a controversial work entitled II Trionfo della Santa Sede, which, besides passing through several editions in Italy, has been translated into several European languages. In 1800 he became a member of the Academy of the Catholic Religion, founded by Pope Pius VII (1800–23), to which he contributed a number of memoirs on theological and philosophical questions, and in 1805 was made abbot of San Gregorio on the Caelian Hill.
When Pius VII was carried off from Rome in 1809, Cappellari withdrew to Murano, near Venice, and in 1814, with some other members of his order, he moved again, this time to Padua; but soon after the restoration of the Pope in 1814 he was recalled to Rome, where he received successive appointments as vicar-general of the Camaldolese Order, councillor of the Inquisition, prefect of the Propaganda, and examiner of bishops. In March 1825 he was created Cardinal in pectore by Pope Leo XII (1823–29), and shortly afterwards was entrusted with an important mission to adjust a concordat regarding the interests of the Catholics of Walloonia in the predominantly Protestant United Kingdom of the Netherlands. He negotiated peace on behalf of Armenian Catholics with the Ottoman Empire. He discouraged Polish revolutionaries who undermined Tsar Nicholas I's efforts to support the Catholic royalist cause in France, by the necessity of diverting troops to Poland.
His election was influenced by the fact that the cardinal considered the most likely papabile, Giacomo Cardinal Giustiniani, was vetoed by King Fernando VII of Spain. The other major candidates, Emmanuele De Gregorio and Bartolomeo Pacca, had been candidates in the previous conclave. When a deadlock arose between them, the cardinals turned to Cappellari, but it took as many as eighty-three ballots for a decisive result to be obtained. Gregory XVI was the last man (thus far) elected Pope who was not already a bishop. In fact, of subsequent Popes only Pius XII was never the bishop of a diocese.
At the time of election to the papacy Cardinal Cappellari was not a bishop, so after his election he was consecrated bishop by Cardinal Bartolomeo Pacca, seniore, bishop of Ostia and Velletri, dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals; the co-consecrators were: Cardinal Pier Francesco Galleffi, bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina, sub-dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, and Cardinal Tommasso Arezzo, bishop of Sabina. The choice of Gregory XVI as his regnal name was influenced by the fact that he had been abbot of San Gregorio monastery on the Coelian Hill for over twenty years. This was the same abbey from which Pope Gregory the Great had dispatched many bishops to England in 596.
Pope Gregory and Cardinal Lambruschini opposed basic technological innovations such as gas lighting and railways, believing that they would promote commerce and increase the power of the bourgeoisie, leading to demands for liberal reforms which would undermine the monarchical power of the Pope over central Italy. Gregory in fact banned railways in the Papal States, calling them chemins d'enfer (literally "ways of hell," a play on the French for railroad, chemin de fer, literally "iron road"). However, under pressure from the French, Gregory was liberal in forgiving imprisoned revolutionaries, a policy which might have aided the final overthrow of Gregory's successor, Pope Pius IX, as temporal ruler in 1870.
The financial condition in which Gregory XVI left the States of the Church makes it questionable how far his expenditures for defensive, architectural and engineering works, and his magnificent patronage of learning in the hands of Mai, Mezzofanti, Gaetano, Moroni and others, were for the real benefit of his subjects.
The insurrections at Viterbo in 1836, in various parts of the Legations in 1840, at Ravenna in 1843 and Rimini in 1845, were followed by wholesale executions and severe sentences, hard labour or exile; still the Papal States seethed with unrest.