Betting on the New Pope

Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise announcement that he will resign and go into retirement stunned the Catholic world. Some Catholics have been protesting Benedict XVI’s decision, claiming that popes can never step down, while other believers have been flocking to the Vatican to witness this pope’s final public prayers. Meanwhile, cardinals from around the world are preparing to gather in the Vatican for a conclave to elect a new pope.

Catholics are not the only people curious about who will be elected as the next pope, however. Many papal followers are betting on who the next pope will be. And, there are  lots of options in betting.


Betting sites like Intrade allow people to bet on the nationality of the new pope, individual papal candidates, and the number of ballots it will take to elect the new pope.

Of course, betting on papal elections is nothing new. Since at least the early sixteenth century, betting agencies have published odds on papal elections. Renaissance Romans also placed bets on who would be created cardinal during promotions.

For more on early modern papal conclaves, see: John M. Hunt, “The Conclave from the ‘Outside In’: Rumor, Speculation, and Disorder in Rome during Early Modern Papal Elections,” Journal of Early Modern History 16 (2012): 355-382.

On bidding and gambling in Renaissance Italy, see: Evelyn Welch, Shopping in the Renaissance: Consumer Cultures in Italy, 1400-1600 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005), 185-209.

Thanks to NIU graduate student Alex Revzan for the Intrade link. NIU students in HIST 420 The Renaissance will want to track the upcoming conclave to learn more about papal elections. NIU students may also be interested to know that Stephen Haliczer, Professor Emeritus of History at Northern Illinois University, created a board game entitled Vatican on the papal electoral process.

This entry was posted in Early Modern Europe, European History, Italian History, Mediterranean World, Political Culture, Reformation History, Renaissance Art and History, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.