The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Pius VI (1775-1799)
Consistory of September 20, 1784 (XII)


(34) 1. ARCHETTI, Giovanni Andrea (1731-1805)

Birth. September 11, 1731, Brescia. From a family of wealthy merchants, which, after purchasing the estate of Formigara in the district of Cremona, near Pizzighettone, obtained in 1743 from Empress Maria Theresa of Austria the titles of marquis of Formigara and barons of the Holy Roman Empire. Son of Pietro Archetti and Paola Giroldi. His first name is also listed as Gianandrea; and as Andrea only.

Education. Studied at La Sapienza University, Rome, where he obtained a doctorate in utroque iure, both canon and civil law, on May 16, 1754.

Early life. Entered the Roman prelature as referendary of the Tribunals of the Apostolic Signature of Justice and of Grace, January 8, 1754. Vice-legate in Bologna, November 2, 1754 until August 1758. Consultor of the S.C. of Rites. Relator of the Sacred Consulta, November 23, 1759; he arrived in Rome from Bologna on November 20, 1760; he later became its pro-secretary. Consultor of the S.C. of Rites. Protonotary apostolic de numero participantium; later, dean of their college. On August 16, 1773, he promulgated the brief of suppression of the Society of Jesus in the Jesuit Collegio Germanico.

Priesthood. Ordained, September 10, 1775.

Episcopate. Elected titular archbishop of Calcedonia, September 11, 1775. Consecrated, September 17, 1775, church of S. Marco, Rome, by Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico, assisted by Orazio Mattei, titular archbishop of Colosso, and by Giuseppe Maria Contesini, titular archbishop of Atena. Nuncio in Poland, September 18, 1775. Assistant at the Pontifical Throne, September 22, 1775. He arrived in Poland in mid-April 1776; on April 29, he presented his credentials to the king in Warsaw; the First Partition of Poland in 1772 had provoked a difficult situation for the Church. The new borders often split dioceses, creating disciplinary and apostolic difficulties. The nuncio also had to conduct delicate negotiations with the government of Prussia and especially with that of Russia, under whose rule had passed the Uniate Catholics in Ukraine and Lithuania, considered by the Orthodox as renegades, who were harassed and forced to apostasy. Nuncio Archetti also needed to obtain the publication of the apostolic brief of dissolution of the Society of Jesus in Prussia and Russia, where the Jesuits, enjoying the support of the sovereign, Empress Catherine II, for the services rendered as teachers, were allowed to continue their activities, and even had elected their superior general. After much negotiation Nuncio Archetti reached his goal in Prussia in 1780, The empress did not allow the suppression of the Society and put them under the protection of Stanislaus Siestrzeńcewicz-Buhusz, whom she wanted to become the leader of the Catholics of her states, naming him archbishop of Mohilev, see erected by her in 1782. In November of that year, the Jesuit question was still open; in the meantime, the nuncio received from the empress the request of the pallium for the archbishop of Mohilev, and the consecration of Monsignor Ivan Benisławski as bishop. The pope sent Nuncio Archetti in an extraordinary mission before Empress Catherine II in April 1783; he left Warsaw the following June 14, and arrived at St. Petersburg on July 4, being received with great honors; on October 18 1783, the nuncio consecrated the first Catholic church in that city. On January 18. 1784, Archbishop Siestrzeńcewicz received the pallium from the nuncio; and Monsignor Benisławski was consecrated titular bishop of Gadara and coadjutor with right of succession of Mohilev on February 6. Nuncio Archetti resumed the negotiations concerning the Jesuits but was not able to achieve any results because of the dilatory tactics of the archbishop and the empress. He recognized, in the name of the pope, the imperial title of the Russian monarchs and concluded other relevant agreements. The nuncio gained the favor of the monarch, who requested for him the promotion to the cardinalate. In May the news of his promotion arrived and he was recalled to Rome. Nuncio Archetti left St. Petersburg on June 13, 1784.

Cardinalate. Created cardinal priest in the consistory of September 20, 1784; the pope sent him the red biretta with an apostolic brief dated September 20, 1784; King Stanisław Poniatowski of Poland imposed on him the red biretta on the following October 24, in Grodno. After leaving Poland at the end of November 1784, he returned to Italy via Dresden, Prague and Vienna. On January 25. 1785, he stopped at Brescia, his native city, where he was received with great solemnity; on April 2 his family was aggregated to the nobility of Brescia, according to the wishes of the new cardinal, as he had communicated in a letter, from Poland, at his promotion to the sacred purple. He arrived in Rome on June 7, 1785 and received the red hat on June 23, 1785, in the Sistine chapel; and the title of S. Eusebio, June 27, 1785. Ascribed to the SS. CC. of Propaganda Fide, Bishops and Religious, Council and Sacred Consulta. Protector of the church de' Bergamaschi. Named apostolic legate in Bologna, July 5, 1785; arrived in the city on the following September 17; remained in the post until September 3, 1795. Transferred to the see of Ascoli Piceno, with personal title of archbishop, June 1, 1795; he arrived in the diocese in early October. The entrance of the French in Bologna in 1795 put an end to the long struggle between the Senate and the papal government. From 1797 to 1799, he had as vicar general of the diocese Monsignor Francesco Saverio Castiglioni, future Pope Pius VIII. On March 18, 1798, the French commander of Macerata sent Cardinal Archetti to Rome, whence he was transferred on March 22, along with other cardinals, to the Dominican convent in Civitavecchia; he remained a prisoner for a short time, but could not return to the diocese; he went to Gaeta; and then, to Naples, to which kingdom belonged a part of his diocese. Participated in the conclave of 1799-1800, celebrated in Venice, which elected Pope Pius VII. Accompanied the new pope from Venice, where the conclave had taken place, to Rome. Opted for the order of bishops and the suburbicarian see of Sabina, retaining the administration of the diocese of Ascoli Piceno, ad Sedis Apostolica beneplacitum, April 2, 1800. Returned to Ascoli Piceno. In June 1805, he traveled to Brescia, to settle some domestic affairs; and he was there when he was appointed by Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte, with whom he met in Brescia, to the bishopric of the city, which was vacant because of the death of Bishop Giovanni Nani on October 23 1804; but the cardinal did not accept the appointment. He left Brescia on September 20, 1805 and arrived in Ascoli of the 30th of the same month; shortly after, he fell ill and died.

Death. November 5, 1805, Ascoli. Exposed and buried in the cathedral of Ascoli.

Bibliography. Archetti, Giovanni Andrea. Les Jésuites de Russie (1783-1785) : un nonce du Pape à la cour de Catherine II : Mémoires d'Archetti. Translated by Jean Gagarin. Paris : V. Palmé, 1872. Other title: Nonce du pape à la cour de Catherine II; Capponi, Pietro. Memorie storiche della Chiesa ascolana e dei Vescovi che la governarono racc. dal Can. D. Pietro Capponi ... Ascoli Piceno : Stab. Tip. Cesari, 1898, p.185-191; Karttunen, Liisi. Les nonciatures apostoliques permanentes de 1650 à 1800. Genève : E. Chaulmontet, 1912, p. 231; Moroni, Gaetano. Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica da S. Pietro sino ai nostri giorni. 103 vols. in 53. Venezia : Tipografia Emiliana, 1840-1861, II, 275; Notizie per l'anno MDCCCII. In Roma MDCCCII : Nella Stamperia Cracas, con Licen. de' Sup. e Privilegio, p. 10; Ritzler, Remigium, and Pirminum Sefrin. Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recientoris Aevi. Volumen VI (1730-1799). Patavii : Typis et Sumptibus Domus Editorialis "Il Messaggero di S. Antonio" apud Basilicam S. Antonii, 1968, pp. 34, 41, 43, 101 and 161; Ritzler, Remigium, and Pirminum Sefrin. Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recientoris Aevi. Volumen VII (1800-1846). Patavii : Typis et Sumptibus Domus Editorialis "Il Messaggero di S. Antonio" apud Basilicam S. Antonii, 1968, p. 34, 43, 161 and 293; Ritzler, Remigium, and Pirminum Sefrin. Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recientoris Aevi. Volumen VII (1800-1846). Patavii : Typis et Sumptibus Domus Editorialis "Il Messaggero di S. Antonio" apud Basilicam S. Antonii, 1968, p. 39; Weber, Christoph. Legati e governatori dello Stato Pontificio : 1550-1809. Roma : Ministero per i beni culturali e ambientali, Ufficio centrale per i beni archivistici, 1994. (Pubblicazioni degli archivi di Stato. Sussidi; 7), pp. 160, 161 and 461.

Links. Biography by Lajos Pásztor, in Italian, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani - Volume 3 (1961), Treccani; his portrait and biography, in English, Wikipedia; biography, in Italian, Wikipedia; his portrait by Giuseppe Pirovani, Kunst für Alle (Art for Everyone); his engraving and portrait, Araldica Vaticana; his portrait by Domenico Corvi, Palazzo Brugiotti, Collezione Fondazione Carivit, Viterbo Città d'Arte.

Note. In this consistory the pope created and reserved in pectore one cardinal whose name was never published.

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