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IN a by-street of the ancient city of Viterbo, its exterior 1 remarkable for nothing unless it were a heavy portico of Renaissance architecture, stands a grim, square building a story or so higher than the houses on either side of it.
In the early part of the seventeenth century Palazzo Vitali was one of the residences of a powerful family which, had it not been for the rise of the great house of Barberini, would in all probability have succeeded in seating one of its members on the Papal throne.
Cardinal Astorre Vitali, in the Conclave following the death of the Ludovisi Pope, Gregory XV., was among the most prominent of the candidates in the Sacred College for election to the Chair of St Peter. The influence of France, however, in the Conclave, secured to a Cardinal of the Barberini family the Papal tiara, and Cardinal Astorre did not very long survive the disappointment in his ambition to reign over Rome and the Catholic world.
The Cardinal's Roman palace was sold at his death to his kinsman, Monsignor Pamphili, afterwards Pope Innocent X., who subsequently demolished it in order to enlarge the neighbouring Pamphili residence into the stately Palazzo Pamphili as it now exists; whence Donna Olimpia Pamphili, of famous or rather infamous memory, trafficked in the rich benefices of the Church, sold episcopal sees to the highest bidders, and in these and other matters caused scandal generally throughout Christendom.
The once extensive domains of the Vitali family had long passed into the hands of other families connected with it by marriage, or into those of strangers. Cardinal Astorre's palace and property at Viterbo, however, had remained in the possession of Casa Vitali, and the Cardinal's arms yet surmounted the