Cardinal, papal secretary of state; b. Sarzana (La Spezia), Italy, March 6, 1733; d. Rome, Oct. 9, 1811. After completing his studies in Rome at the Sapienza, where he became doctor utriusque juris (1767), he was governor of Narni and Loreto, in the States of the Church, and the papal vice-legate to avignon. In this city and in the county of Venaissin, Casoni at first appeased (March 1789), by free distribution of grain, the popular movements provoked by the food shortage after the poor harvest of 1788. In vain, however, he did attempt to calm those who were enthused by the french revolution and the propaganda of local patriots and wanted to attach Avignon and Venaissin to France. He instituted a national guard and established new municipalities that greatly reduced the authority of the pope and the vice-legate; but Pius VI disavowed these concessions, and the local revolutionaries remained dissatisfied. Far from remedying the situation, which the pope ascribed to Casoni's weakness, the dispatching of an apostolic commissioner charged with restoring the former state of affairs and reestablishing order met with failure. So agitated did matters become that Casoni had to leave Avignon (June 1790), and he retired first to Carpentras and then to Chambéry. After being vice-legate to Nice he became titular archbishop of Perge and went as nuncio to Madrid (1794–1800), where he clashed with the regalism of the Spanish government. Conflict became acute when Urquijo, the prime minister, profited from Pius VI's death by publishing a decree that attributed to bishops the plenitude of faculties, and reserved to the crown whatever concerned episcopal consecration and to the Spanish Rota what pertained to the Roman tribunals. With the support of Manuel Godoy, who aspired to power, Casoni obtained from King Charles IV the recall of the decree, the publication of the apostolic constitution auctorem fidei, and on Dec. 13, 1800, the dismissal of Urquijo. Casoni was created cardinal (Feb. 23, 1801) and succeeded consalvi as secretary of state (June 1806–February 1808). Charles Alquier, the French ambassador to Rome, appreciated his moderation, but Casoni played an unobtrusive role, since pius vii assumed responsibility for papal policy concerning napoleon i. Old and ill, he retired in 1808 and died three years later.
Bibliography: j. becker, Relaciones diplomáticas entre España y la Santa Sede durante el Siglo XIX (Madrid 1909). a. mathiez, Rome et le clergé français sous la Constituante (Paris 1911). l. sierra, "La Ca'da del Primo Ministro Urquijo en 1800," Hispania 23 (1963) 556–580; "La Reacción del Episcopado español ante los decretos de matrimonio del ministro Urquijo de 1799–1813," Estudios de Deusto 11 (1963); 12 (1964).