World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church

Article Id: WHEBN0000425748
Reproduction Date:

Title: Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: College of Cardinals, Tarcisio Bertone, Jean-Louis Tauran, Jean-Marie Villot, Holy See
Collection: Camerlengos of the Holy Roman Church, College of Cardinals, Holy See
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church

Emblem of the Papacy
This article is part of a series on the
Roman Curia

The Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church (where Camerlengo is originally an Italian word for "Chamberlain" now only used for officials of the Holy See and not in secular contexts) is an office of the Papal household.

The Camerlengo is the administrator of the property and revenues of the Holy See. Formerly, his responsibilities included the fiscal administration of the Patrimony of St. Peter. As regulated in the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus,[1] the Camerlengo is always a Cardinal, though this was not the case prior to the 15th century.[2] His heraldic arms are ornamented with two keys – one gold, one silver – in saltire surmounted by an ombrellino, a canopy or umbrella of alternating red and yellow stripes. These are also the arms of the Holy See during a Papal interregnum.


  • History 1
  • Responsibilities 2
  • List of Camerlengos 3
  • In popular culture 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6


Until the 11th century, the Archdeacon of the Roman Church was responsible for the administration of the property of the Church (i.e., the Diocese of Rome), but its numerous ancient privileges and rights had come to make it a frequent hindrance to independent action on the part of the Pope; as a result, when the last Archdeacon Hildebrand was elected to the papacy as Gregory VII in 1073, he suppressed the Archdiaconate and the cardinal entrusted with the supervision of the Apostolic Camera (Camera Apostolica), i.e., the possessions of the Holy See, became known as the Camerarius ("Chamberlain").

Prior to the 18th century,[3] the Camerlengo enjoyed an income of 10,000 to 12,000 scudi a year out of the Apostolic Camera. He had jurisdiction over all suits involving the Apostolic Camera, and could judge separately or in association with the Clerics of the Apostolic Camera; he was not impeded by Consistory. He has appellate jurisdiction over suits decided by the Masters of the Roads. In a narration of the 18th century, the Camerlengo is the chief officer in the Apostolic Camera, the Financial Council of the Pope. In his office are the Governor of Rome (who is Vice-Chancellor), The Treasurer, the Auditor, the President, the Advocate General, the Fiscal Procurator, the Commissary, and twelve Clerks of the Chamber (one with the special title of Prefect of the Grain Supply, another Prefect of Provisions, another Prefect of Prisons, and another Prefect of Roads). Each Clerk of the Chamber received around 8,000 scudi a year, representing 10% of the business that passes through his office.[4]

The powers and functions of the Camerlengo were diminished considerably in the 19th century, first by the reorganisation of the Papal government after the election of Pope Pius IX from exile in 1850; and then by the loss of the Papal States in 1860 and the City of Rome in 1870. The chief beneficiary of these changes was the Cardinal Secretary of State.[5] In the last century, the offices of Secretary of State and Camerlengo were held concurrently by Pietro Gasparri (from 1916–1930), Eugenio Pacelli (from 1935–1939), Jean-Marie Villot (from 1970–1979), and by Tarcisio Bertone (from 2007 until 2013).

On 24 January 2010, Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop Santos Abril y Castelló, formerly an Apostolic Nuncio, as Vice Chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church, effectively the Camerlengo's assistant, for a period of three years. In 2011, Abril y Castelló was named Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome and in early 2012, he became a Cardinal. On 23 July 2012, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, then the Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (its second-highest official) was named by Pope Benedict XVI to succeed Abril y Castelló as the new Vice-Camerlengo.[6]

On 20 December 2014, Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran as Camerlengo, succeeding Cardinal Bertone.[7]


Coat of arms of the Cardinal Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church during Sede Vacante (the escutcheon and motto are proper to the incumbent)

The Camerlengo is responsible for the formal determination of the death of the reigning Pope; the traditional procedure–abandoned centuries ago–was to call his baptismal name (e.g. "Albine, dormisne?", meaning "[name], are you sleeping?").[1] After the Pope is declared dead, the Camerlengo takes possession of the Roman Curia and the Dean of the College of Cardinals. He then participates in the preparations for the conclave and the Pope's funeral.

Until a successor Pope can be elected, the Camerlengo serves as Vatican City's acting head of state. He is not, however, currently responsible for the government of the Catholic Church during a sede vacante; that task was placed in the hands of the College of Cardinals by Universi Dominici gregis. At his power is extremely limited, being merely enough to allow Church institutions to continue to operate and perform some basic functions without making any definitive decisions or appointments that are normally reserved to other powers delegated by the Pope. Unlike the rest of Roman Curia, the Camerlengo retains his office during the sede vacante and functions as the executive director of the Vatican's operations, answerable to the College of Cardinals. This is primarily to carry out the College's decisions with regard to the funeral of the late Pope and the events leading up to the conclave. The only other person who keeps his office during this time is the Major Penitentiary.

List of Camerlengos

Those who have held the office of Camerlengo are:[9][10]

Two Camerlengos have been elected Pope: Gioacchino Pecci (Pope Leo XIII) in 1878 and Eugenio Pacelli (Pope Pius XII) in 1939. Two others, Cencio Savelli (elected Pope Honorius III in 1216) and Rinaldo Conti di Segni (elected Pope Alexander IV in 1254) were not Camerlengo at the time of their election to the papacy, Cencio having served from 1188 until 1198 and Rinaldo from 1227 until 1231.[3]

In popular culture

Dan Brown's novel Angels & Demons and its film adaptation featured a Camerlengo as a principal character. Each version represented the office inaccurately in different ways.


  1. ^ According to Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, Chamberlain of Honor di numero to Pope Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII, and Pope Pius X, who was present at the ceremony of recognition in 1903: "It may also be here mentioned that no such ceremony as striking the dead Pope's forehead with a silver hammer takes place, and that the exact method of calling aloud his name is not tied down to any determinate form, but is left to the discretion of the Cardinal Camerlengo.... In an original [manuscript] diary in my possession written by Domenico Cappelli of Ascoli, who was Master of Ceremonies to five Popes—Alexander VII., Clement IX., Clement X., Innocent XI., and Alexander VIII.—he states that the custom of calling aloud three times the words 'Pater Sancte' was discontinued on the death of Clement X. in 1676.[8]
  2. ^ 1383–1415 camerlengo of the obediences of Avignon and Pisa in the Great Western Schism.
  3. ^ It is sometimes claimed that Cosimo Gentile Migliorati (Pope Innocent VII from 1404 until 1406) was also Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church.[13] but no document mentioning him in this capacity has been found.[14]


  1. ^ Pastor Bonus
  2. ^ Miranda, Salvador. "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, Reverend Apostolic Chamber". The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. Florida International University. Retrieved 22 February 2010. The camerlengo was often a cardinal, but it became a cardinalitial office only from the XV century. 
  3. ^ Girolamo Lunadoro Gregorio Leti, Relatione della Corte di Roma, e de' Riti che si osservano in esta, suoi Magistrati, Officii, e loro giurisdittione (Genoa: Il Calenzani 1656), pp. 39, 318-320.
  4. ^ Jean Aymon, Tableau de la cour de Rome seconde edition (La Haye: Jean Neaulme, 1726), Chapitre IX-XIV, pp. 256-265.
  5. ^ The Camerlengo. Notes by Prof. J. P. Adams
  6. ^ (Italian) Vatican City press bulletin
  7. ^ "Francis names new Camerlengo, interim leader of Vatican at pope's death".  
  8. ^ Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, Sede Vacante, being a Diary written during the Conclave of 1903, with additional Notes on the Accession and Coronation of Pius X (Oxford and London: James Parker and Co. 1903), page 2.
  9. ^  Benigni, U. (1913). "Camerlengo".  
  10. ^ S. Miranda, Apostolic Chamber
  11. ^ The New Cambridge Medieval History, Cambridge University Press, 1995, p. 423 note 347
  12. ^ a b c d e f  
  13. ^ MIGLIORATI, Cosmato Gentile de', accessed 11 April 2015
  14. ^ H. Kochendörfer, "Päpstliche Kurialen während des grossen Schismas" in Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für Ältere Deutsche Geschichtskunde, Volume 30 (1905), pp. 598–599, esp. 599
  • Frances Andrews, Brenda Bolton, Christoph Egger, Constance M. Rousseau, Pope, Church And City: Essays In Honour Of Brenda M. Bolton, BRILL, 2004.
  • Konrad Eubel: Hierarchia Catholica, vol. I-VI, Münster 1913-1960.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.