Ecclesiastical Encounters of the Papal Kind

Diary of Henry Geoge Quin

George Henry Quin was a wealthy bibliophile who bequeathed a collection of fine editions of Greek and Latin classical authors and Italian Renaissance literature to Trinity College Library on his death in 1805. In his mid-twenties he embarked on a grand tour of Europe, visiting Switzerland, France and Italy. In his travel diary (MS 2261/1) Quin describes his experience of the Vatican. He visited the Sistine Chapel on Sunday 18 December 1785. The pope, (Pius VI 1775-99), was present, as well as around 13 cardinals, a choir and Swiss guards, amongst others. Quin claims that he was not admitted ‘within the rails of the Chair’ as he had ribbons in his shoes. The pontiff was seated under a purple and gold canopy and wore a crimson robe laced with gold, with a silver mitre on his head. The cardinals wore red silk stockings, and some of the Swiss Guards were in jackets of doe-skin and black velvet, with red breeches. Quin was particularly impressed by Michelangelo’s ceiling, and claimed that the quality of the choir’s singing was probably exaggerated by the beauty of the fresco depicting the Last Judgement on the chapel wall opposite where he sat.


Ellen O’Flaherty