23.03.2020 Who wrote the Prophecy of the Popes published page 307-311 of the Lignum Vitae, Venice, 1595 ?

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In recent times, some Oulipian poets and some interpreters of prophetic literature have drawn attention to the “Doomsday Prophecy” due to its imminent conclusion; and it was before the ongoing viral pandemic.

The text of the Prophecy can be find inside a folio: Lignum Vitæ, 1595, pages 307-311, extract showing the final quote of the Prophecy

The Prophecy of the Popes (Latin: Prophetia Sancti Malachiae Archiepiscopi, de Summis Pontificibus) is a series of 112 short, cryptic phrases in Latin which purport to predict the Roman Catholic popes (along with a few antipopes), beginning with Pope Celestine II. It was first published by Benedictine monk Arnold Wion in 1595, in his Lignum Vitæ, a history of the Benedictine order.

If the list of descriptions is matched on a one-to-one basis to the list of historic popes since publication, Benedict XVI (2005–13) would correspond to the 111th or second to last of the papal descriptions, Gloria olivae (the glory of the olive).

The 112th or longest and final verse predicts the Apocalypse: In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit. Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oves in multis tribulationibus, quibus transactis civitas septicollis diruetur, & judex tremendus judicabit populum suum. Finis.

This may be translated into English as: In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church, there will sit [i.e., as bishop]. Peter the Roman, who will pasture his sheep in many tribulations, and when these things are finished, the city of seven hills [i.e. Rome] will be destroyed, and the dreadful judge will judge his people. The End.

No doubt the coronavirus will bring new attention to the Prophecy. Most scholars consider the document a 16th-century elaborate hoax, even if the Roman Catholic Church — starting with Urban VIII decretale, 13 March 1625 — authorized many editions since 17th, century. Nowadays neither recognized nor condemned by the Church, the Prophecy gives rise to numerous interpretations and regularly resurfaces at each conclave. The mottos it contains, probably known to most cardinals, may or may not have consciously influenced their choice, as well as the actions of the popes once elected.

Who could be the author ? Could it be the first editor, Arnold Wyon ?

Gustave Le Gray,
Lignum Vitae, Frontispiece of the first edition, Venice, 1595

Arnold Wyon (also Arnold de Wion, 1554-1610) was the son of a tax-attorney and became a Benedictine monk, an historian and the editor of the Lugnum Vitae.

Because of the Religious wars that took place in the Netherlands, he took refuge in 1578 at Marchiennes Abbey (North of France) before moving to Polirone Abbey near Mantua (Lombardy, Italy).

His main opus was the Chronologia Septuaginta Interpretum, cum Vulgatæ editionis Bibliorum Latinae Chronographia conciliata; adjunctum is Chronicon ab orbe condito usque ad haec tempora (not printed; attempt to bridge the differences between the Septuagint and the Vulgate, then universal Chronicle).

Wyon began a large book on the history of his order of St. Benedict in Flanders and completed it in Mantua. In 1592, a general chapter authorized him to dedicate it to King Philippe II.

And in 1595 Wyon published under the title of Lignum Vitae the lives of all the illustrious figures of the great family of the Order of St. Benedict.

In the second book of his work, listing in alphabetical order of the dioceses all the bishops of his order, he arrives at St. Malachy, bishop of the diocese of Down, Dunensis episcopus, Dun Lethglaisse. After a short biography of St. Malachy, he reports, pages 307-311, the integrality of the Prophecy of the Popes of which he declares to have seen a handwritten text.

Máel Máedóc Ua Morgair; Malachias (1094-1148) Saint Malachy, 12th‑century Archbishop of Armagh

St Malachy worked zealously to restore ecclesiastical discipline, restored marriage, renewed the practices of confession and confirmation, and introduced Roman chants in the liturgy. He was also known for his care to the needy as a miracle worker and healer. In his lifetime, he planted apple trees throughout Ireland during time of famine.

St Bernard continues: Having extirpated barbarism and re-established Christian morals, and seeing all things tranquil, St Malachy began to think of his own peace. Early in 1139 he journeyed to Rome, via Scotland, England, and France, visiting St Bernard at Clairvaux, Champagne. He petitioned Pope Innocent II for pallia for the Sees of Armagh and Cashel, and was appointed legate for Ireland. On his return visit to Clairvaux he obtained five monks for a foundation in Ireland, under Christian, an Irishman, as superior: thus arose the great Abbey of Mellifont in 1142. St Malachy set out on a second journey to Rome in 1148, but on arriving at Clairvaux, he fell sick and died in the arms of St Bernard, on 2 November 1148.

Hypothesis: While in Rome, Malachy purportedly experienced a vision of future popes, which he recorded as a sequence of cryptic phrases. This manuscript was then deposited in the Vatican Secret Archives, and forgotten about until its rediscovery in 1590, supposedly just in time for a papal conclave ongoing at the time. In any case, the first pope mentioned in the prophecy is Celestine II, ruler of the Papal States for six months from 26 September 1143 to his death in 1144.

The first motto, Ex castro Tiberis (from a castle on the Tiber), fits the birthplace of Guido di Castello, elected Pope Celestine II, born in Città di Castello, on the Tiber.

Opposed arguments: Since the 17th century, most scholars agree the style of the Prophecy doesn’t match with St Malachy surviving texts, nor with his century, and contains errors and imprecisions tipically from 16th century.

In his 1595 edition, Wyon he accompanies this publication with the interpretations given by an illustrious Dominican of his time F.A. Chacconius.

Don Alfonso Chacón, Alphonsus Ciacconius (1530-1599)

Spanish Dominican scholar in Rome, expert on ancient Graeco-Roman and Paleo-Christian epigraphy, Chacón studied Medieval paleography and manuscripts, besides the history of the papacy.

The Benedictine historian Arnold Wyon (1554–ca. 1610) attributed to Chacón the interpretations of the pre-1590 prophecies in the Prophecy of the Popes, first published in 1595 by Wion as part of his book Lignum Vitæ. But this attribution to Chacón was refuted in 1694 by Claude-François Menestrier, who pointed out that the prophecies are never mentioned in Chacón’s Lives of the Popes and Cardinals.

His main work is indeed the “Vita et gesta Romanorum pontificum et cardinalium” which he did not finish in time before his death; the work was therefore edited by one of his nephews in 1601 in two volumes in folio. Because of numerous errors, a revision was entrusted to Girolamo Aleandro the young, Francisco Cabrera Morales and Andrea Vittorelli, with whom Ferdinando Ughelli later joined; the amended edition appeared in 1630. The work was then continued by other ecclesiastics and offered to Clement IX in a four-volume folio edition published by Agostino Oldoini in 1677. Chacón also left in manuscript a “Biblioteca Universale degli Autori” which was found by François-Denis Camusat who published it in Paris in 1732 integrated with numerous notes[; it is a quite useful bibliographic work, but absolutely inadequate to the promises of the title, as it stops at the letter “E”.

Another supposed author could have been an agent during some 1590 conclave (Papal election) working for an Italian candidate.

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