The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church

Biographical Dictionary
Pope Pius VII (1800-1823)
Consistory of October 1, 1817 (XIII)


(80) 1. RIVAROLA, Agostino (1758-1842)

Birth. March 14, 1758, Genoa. Of a patrician Genoese family. Son of Marquis Negrone Rivarola, senator of Genoa, and Marianna Cambiasi. Relative of Cardinal Domenico Rivarola (1611). He was sent to Rome to study.

Education. Studied at Collegio Clementino, Rome; and, as segreto, canon and civil law with the auditors of the Sacred Roman Rota.

Early life. Named privy chamberlain supernumerary by Pope Pius VI. Secretary of several auditors of the Sacred Roman Rota. Entered the Roman prelature as domestic prelate and referendary of the Tribunals of the Apostolic Signature of Justice and of Grace, January 31, 1793. Governor of S. Severino, February 19, 1793; expelled by the French army in 1797, sought refuge in Genoa with his family; met Pope Pius VI, prisoner of the French, in Parma and unsuccessfully planned his liberation; went to Venice during the conclave of 1799-1800. After the first restoration of the papal government, he was named apostolic of Perugia before July 12, 1800. Assisted in the conclave of 1799 in Venice as apostolic notary. Governor of Macerata and president general of the Marches, September 14, 1802 to November 11, 1807, when he was arrested by the French army; kept in the fortress of Pesaro for six months and then relegated to Rimini for eighteen months; finally, he was able to go to Genoa, where he lived with his brother, who was the mayor of the city. Joined Pope Pius VII in Piacenza in his return to the Papal States in the last days of March 1814; he was one of the few prelates who accompanied the pope in his trip of return to Rome. Named by Pope Pius VII in Cesena apostolic delegate to the restoration of the papal government in Rome on May 4, 1814; he reestablished the papal government a week later, May 11, 1814, and headed a Commissione di Stato until the restoration of organs of the former ecclesiastical state. Named cleric of the Apostolic Chamber on August 9, 1814. When the pope had to seek refuge in Genoa from March 22 to June 7, 1815, during the invasion of Joaquim Murat, King of Naples, he was appointed secretary of the Giunta di Stato that governed Rome under the authority of Cardinal Giulio Maria della Somaglia, vicar of Rome; his severity was criticized by Cardinal Ercole Conslavi; he did not have any position of importance during the government of this cardinal. Majordome and prefect of the Apostolic Palace, March 8, 1816.

Cardinalate. Created cardinal deacon in the consistory of October 1, 1817; received the red hat, October 4, 1817; and the deaconry of S. Agata in Suburra, November 15, 1817. Received the subdiaconate, October 10, 1819; diaconate, October 12, 1819; both from Cardinal Luigi Lambruschini, C.R.S.P. Protector of the Order of the Capuchins, May 13, 1820; of the Vallombrosa, February 24, 1821; and of the Order of Saint Augustine, March 5, 1823. Participated in the conclave of 1823, which elected Pope Leo XII.

Priesthood. Ordained, October 5, 1823. Named member of the first Congregation of State, established by Pope Leo XII, on September 29, 1823. Legate extraordinary to the city and province of Ravenna, April 5, 1824; he was given vast police powers over the the territory of the Four Legations as well as the province of Urbino and Pesaro; he entered Ravenna on May 11, 1824 and conducted a wide process against the Carbonari of all those territories; the process ended on August 31, 1825 with 513 convictions, seven of which were death sentences; all of the latter were commuted by the pope. Named pro-legate in Forlì in May 1826. Opted for the deaconry of S. Maria ad Martyres, July 3, 1826. Several weeks after the amnisty proclaimed by Pope Leo XII, he survived an attempt on his life in Ravenna on July 23, 1826 (a musket shot fired into his carriage); a member of his entourage, Canon Muti, died in the incident; he left for Genoa and then went to Rome; on August 22, 1826, the pope constituted a commission directed by Msgr. Filippo Invernizzi to investigate the attempt; the investigation was concluded on April 26, 1828 with five death sentences, which were carried out in Ravenna on May 13, 1828. Prefect of the Congregation of Waters and Streets, before May 19, 1827 until August 30, 1833, when he resigned due to a violent conflict over attributions with Cardinal Vincenzo Macchi, president of the Congregation for the Revision of Accounts, over the adjudication of the maintenaince of the ports of the river Tiber. Participated in the conclave of 1829, which elected Pope Pius VIII. Named protector of the Benedictines of Monte Cassino, May 18, 1829. Participated in the conclave of 1830-1831, which elected Pope Gregory XVI. Named pro-prefect of the S.C. of the Council before September 19, 1835. Named apostolic commissary for the reconstruction of the basilica of S. Maria degli Angeli in Assisi before March 5, 1836. Prefect of the S.C. of Good Government, July 31, 1840.

Death. November 7, 1842, Rome. Exposed in the church of S. Marcello, Rome, where the funeral took place on November 11, 1842, and buried in that same church, near the altar of Vergine Addolorata.

Bibliography. Boutry, Philippe. Souverain et Pontife : recherches prosopographiques sur la curie romaine à l'âge de la restauration, 1814-1846. Rome : École française de Rome, 2002, pp. 456-457; Ritzler, Remigium, and Pirminum Sefrin. Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi. Volumen VII (1800-1846). Patavii : Typis et Sumptibus Domus Editorialis "Il Messaggero di S. Antonio" apud Basilicam S. Antonii, 1968, pp. 13, 45 and 46; Semeria, Giovanni Battista. Secoli cristiani della Liguria, ossia Storia della metropolitana di Genova, delle diocesi di Sarzana, di Brugnato, Savona, Noli, Albenga e Ventimiglia. 2 vols. Torino : Tipografia Chirio e Mina, 1843, II, 577-584; 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. 291, 335, 382, 869.

Links. His bust (top) in S. Maria ad Martyres (Pantheon), Rome; his portrait, Società Economica di Chiavari; Les Rivarola, in French, his family and a brief biography.

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