In solemn procession, followed by all the cardinals and high church officials, surrounded by the Swiss guards, the tolling of the bells and the dull rolling of the muffled drums, the solemn hymns of the priests, moved the funeral cortege from the Vatican to St. Peter’s church. In the usual open coffin lay the corpse of the deceased pope, that the people might see him for the last time. As they passed the bridge of St. Angelo, when the coffin had reached the middle of the bridge, arose a shriek of terror from thousands of throats! A leg had become severed from the body and hung out of the coffin, swinging in a fold of the winding-sheet. Cardinal Albani, who walked near the coffin, was touched on the shoulder by the loosely swinging limb, and turned pale, but he yet had the courage to push it back into the coffin. The people loudly murmured, and shudderingly whispered to each other: “The dead man has touched his murderer. They have poisoned him, our good pope! His members fall apart. That is the effect of Acqua Tofana."(*)
(*) Archenholz relates yet another case where the Acqua Tofana had a similar violent and sudden effect. “A respectable Roman lady, who was young and beautiful, and had many admirers, made in the year 1778, a similar experiment, to rid herself of an old husband. As the dose was rather strong, death was followed by the rapid and violent separation of the members. They employed all possible means to retain the body in a human form until the funeral was over. The face was covered with a waxen mask, and by this means was the condition of the corpse concealed. This separation of the members seems to be the usual effect of this poison, and is said to occur as soon as the body is cold.”
The infernal work had therefore proved successful, the vengeance was complete—Ganganelli was no more, and upon the papal throne sat Braschi, the friend of the Jesuits and of Cardinal Albani, to whom he had promised the crowning of the improvisatrice Corilla.
And as this cost nothing to the miserly Pope Pius, he this time found no inconvenience in keeping his sacred promise, though not so promptly as Corilla and the passionate cardinal desired.
Not until 1776, almost two years after Braschi had mounted the papal throne, took place the crowning of the improvisatrice in the capitol at Rome.
She had therefore attained the object of her wishes. She had finally reached it by bribery and intrigue, by hypocritical tenderness, by the resignation of her maiden modesty and womanly honor, and by all the arts of coquetry.
But this triumph of hers was not to be untroubled. The nobili shouted for her, and the cardinals and princes of the Church, but the people accompanied her to the capitol with hissing and howling. Poems came fluttering down on all sides; the first that fell upon Corilla’s head, Cardinal Albani eagerly seized and unfolded for the purpose of reading it aloud. But after the first few lines his voice was silenced—it was an abusive poem, full of mockery and scorn.