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College of Cardinals



The cardinals are by tradition the successors to the original apostles of Christ. The College of Cardinals emerged during the early Middle Ages from the bishops, deacons and priests of Rome and the surrounding area, who assisted the pope in his liturgical tasks. As the papal monarchy developed and struggled with secular rulers during the Middle Ages, the importance of the cardinals increased. They served as counsellors, legates and, with the growth of the papal bureaucracy, officials of curials departments. The College grew in size and came to include members from other parts of Europe. By the High Middle Ages the cardinals had developed into a type of cabinet of the Church. Since 1059 the cardinals have had sole responsibity for electing the pope, meeting in a conclave at the death of the incumbent to elect his successor.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:


College of Cardinals: Copy Letters

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.8852
Scope and Contents 'Lettere, proposte e risposte del Sacro Collegio a diversi'. Copies of official letters to and from cardinals during vacancies in the Papacy and at other times, 1540-1669. The correspondents include Emperors Charles, Rudolph, Ferdinand and Leopold; the Kings of France, Spain, Portugal, Poland and Zangara; Viceroys of Naples; nuncios in various states and cities; Cardinals Giguri, Sforza, Boncampagni, Barberino, De Treyo, Aldobrandino, Richelieu, Maurice of Savoy, Filamarino, Maidalchini,...
Dates: 1540-1676 (Circa)
Conditions Governing Access: Unless restrictions apply, the collection is open for consultation by researchers using the Manuscripts Reading Room at Cambridge University Library. For further details on conditions governing access please contact Information about opening hours and obtaining a Cambridge University Library reader's ticket is available from the Library's website (