Clement XI, Pope, 1649-1721

Alternative names
Birth 1649-07-23
Death 1721-03-19
French, Latin, Italian, English

Biographical notes:

Born Giovanni Francesco Albani in 1649, Clement XI was pontificate from November 23, 1700 until March 19, 1721.

From the description of Indulgence granted to Nevers (Church of St. Silvester), 1702 May 2. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122552432

Giovanni Francesco Albani.

From the description of Autograph signature (when cardinal) to letter : Rome, 1690 Apr. 29. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270904202

From the description of Autograph signature (when pope) to a document, 1707 Nov. 7. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270924297

From the description of Autograph signature to a document, 1700 Mar. 30. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270924290

From the description of Autograph signature to letter : Rome, 1690 Feb. 18. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270904205

Giovanni Francesco Albani was born of a noble Umbrian family and educated at the Roman College, where he became sufficiently proficient in the classics that he was admitted to the exclusive Accademia founded in Rome by Queen Christina of Sweden. After studying philosophy and law, he entered the curial service and advanced rapidly at the papal court. At the age of twenty-eight he governed successively Rieti, Sabina, and Orvieto. In all his assignments he was well received.

Recalled to Rome, he became vicar of St. Peter's and on the death of Giovanni Cardinal Slusio (1687) succeeded to the position of secretary of papal briefs. In 1690 he was named cardinal and exercised great influence under Alexander VIII and Innocent XII; he drafted the latter's constitution Romanum decet pontificem (Jun. 22, 1692) outlawing nepotism. Ordained to the priesthood in September 1700, he was elected pope at the forty-six-day conclave that followed, a candidate supported by the zelanti, that is, the cardinals who wanted a nonpolitical pope with the interests of the church at heart. His qualifications overbalanced the objection that he was only fifty-one years of age.

An ecclesiastic of austere habits, he accepted the papacy with reluctance. In spite of his administrative duties he remained a scholar throughout his life, striving always to enlarge the collections of the Vatican Library, one of the most important additions to the collection being the manuscripts (mostly Syriac) collected at his urging by the Orientalist and librarian Joseph Simeon Assemani (1687-1768). He also endeavored to preserve the cultural treasures of Rome by prohibiting the exportation of ancient objects.

The historian Christopher M. S. Johns (1993) notes: "during the first quarter of the eighteenth century Clement XI redirected papal art patronage away from the glorification of an individual pontiff, which typified the art campaigns of his predecessors, to that of the institution itself . . . [i.e.] the papacy as a spiritual and cultural entity. At the center of his policy was the restoration of several early Christian basilicas, a program deeply informed by the contemporary Paleo-Christian revival in sacred sciences and popular piety. Seeking to represent the image of Rome and the papacy to an increasingly well-educated and secularized Europe, Clement XI thus prepared the way for the creation of a museum-like city that still serves as the spiritual and cultural capital of the classical tradition."

He had less success in the political arena. Owen Chadwick notes that "more calamities happened to the papacy during this pontificate than under any pope since the reformation." Much of his reign was given over to the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), which quickly demonstrated his own and the papacy's ineffectiveness.

During his pontificate Jansenism was condemned by his constitution Vineam Domini Sabaoth (Jul. 16, 1705), and his famous bull Unigenitus Dei Filius (Sept. 8, 1713). His constitution Ex illa die (Mar. 19, 1715) reiterated the 1704 ruling against the use by missionaries of Chinese rites on the pretext that they were primarily civic acts. This prohibition was finally lifted by Pius XII in 1939.

From the description of Fondo Albani, ca. 1500-1721. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 145568963


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  • Forgiveness of sin--Early works to 1800
  • Papal documents
  • Indulgences
  • Popes
  • Papacy--History--1566-1799


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