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Pope Pius VI

The radical nature of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, and The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen, caused Pope Pius VI, to condemn them in February 1791. This was the opening move by the Roman Catholic Church against the excesses of the French Revolution and the radical liberalism it produced. This church offensive would continue throughout the 19th century.

The Pope's condemnation caused a crisis of conscious for sincere French Catholics. It had driven a wedge between those who preferred the Constitutional clergy and those who supported the refractory clergy. It was because of this condemnation the French radicals set out to invade Rome and destroy the political domination of the papacy by forcing the pope to give up his temporal sovereignty.

The temporal sovereignty of the Pope ended during the French Revolution when the French army captured Rome in 1798. The French had demanded that the pope relinquish his temporal sovereignty and withdraw all of his edicts against the revolution since 1791, but he refused. Because of this, the French had dethroned, exiled, and imprisoned him.

On the night of February 20, 1798, under constant guard of French dragoons Pius VI was first transferred to Sienna. Since he was still in the heart of Italy, the French decided to move him elsewhere. They transferred the pope to Florence, then on to Parma and Turin. The French finally moved the pope to the French fortress of Valence, in Dauphiny, on July 17, 1799. He died on July 25, 1799.

The overthrow of the pope in 1798 was the culmination of attacks upon the Catholic Church by the French National Assembly. In 1790, the Assembly had ratified the Civil Constitution of the Clergy in 1790. This law had entirely reorganized the church in France with the authority of the pope restricted to only doctrinal matters. Later that year the National Assembly required the French clergy to take a constitutional oath of fidelity.


  1. Deadly Wound Ends the 1260 Years 
    Although this particular article contains some inconclusive theories it nonetheless contains an accurate account of the invasion of Rome and the downfall of Pope Pius VI.
  2. Pius VI on the Civil Oath in France 
    Read the reaction of Pius VI on the oath of fidelity that the National Assembly required all Clergy in France to take.
  3. Pope Pius VI 
    From the Internet Catholic Encyclopedia, you can read about the pope and his struggle against the revolutionary forces against him and his Church.