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The Collation

Another sede vacante has come and gone. With the wall-to-wall coverage of contemporary media, this one made witnesses of us all. Or at least, the coverage let us witness the events outside the conclave and to share our speculation about what was happening behind the locked doors.

For the Folger Institute, the recent happenings in St. Peter’s Square in Rome also sparked fond memories of our NEH Institute on Ritual and Ceremony, Late-Medieval Europe to Early America, directed by Claire Sponsler in 2010.  It was there that we were introduced to the concept of the sede vacante and other aspects of Rome’s festive culture. Most intriguingly, and to the point here, we studied examples of conclave maps—a remarkable genre of maps that laid out in precise detail the exclusive work of the conclave. Early modern Church-watchers were just as curious as we are today about what was happening, and these maps not only purported to let viewers peek inside the conclave, but they may well have been taken home as souvenirs by pilgrims to Rome. 

  1. The website includes not only essays from the participants but the syllabus for the institute and bibliographies for further study.

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