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Papal Library

Biography - Pope Alexander VII - The Papal Library

by Catherine Frakas 17 Mar 2021

Alexander VII1655-1667 Fabio Chigi born 1599 Alexander VII was born at Sienna on the 13th of February, 1599, son of Flavius Chigi (who, by his mother, Agnes Bulgarini, was nephew of Paul V) and of Laura Marsigli, daughter of Antonio, lord of Collechio. The members of the Chigi family had for five centuries been counts of Ardengesca. Fabio was held at the baptismal font by the Chevalier Francis Vanni, a very distinguished painter. In his infancy young Chigi had an attack of apoplexy, and his life was so despaired of that preparations for his funeral were actually commenced. Though he did not die, he remained very weak, and it was often necessary to give him strengthening medicines. His mother, Laura, herself taught him to read and write, as well as the first elements of grammar. He then studied the first sciences in his own city. For his masters in philosophy and in law he had Andrew Cardi, John Baptist Borghesi, and Celsus Cittadini, one of the most learned men of that time. When he was eleven years old the precocious boy composed a poem upon the battle of the Pigmies and the Cranes; and when only twelve he maintained philosophical theses in his parents' house; but his delicate health suspended these studies. He resumed, them, however, as soon as his health improved. At twenty years of age he publicly maintained philosophical theses more difficult than his earlier ones; at twenty-one theses of civil law; and twenty-seven he answered all theological questions whatever. He dedicated these last theses to Father Mutius Vitelleschi, general of the Jesuits. All those cares and labors had a definite object. The young student desired to be favorably received when he should go to Rome, where his name already was honorably known. The great Augustine Chigi, under Pope Julius II, had filled the office of superintendent of the pontifical finances, and he became the most generous Maecenas of the artists who then adorned Rome, and especially of Raphael. Business frequently calling him to Rome, says Quatremère de Quincy, Augustine at length made that city his residence, where he was considered the wealthiest private individual in Italy. The extent of his connections may be inferred from the protests and demands which he addressed to the court of France on the subject of several vessels it had seized from him when the war broke out between Julius II and Louis XII. No wealthy person ever made a better use of riches. His great wealth was derived, it was said, from the mines of salt and alum which belonged to the Holy See, and which were farmed out to him. He might have employed his vast means in ostentation and vain luxury, but his purer taste, better directed by a laudable ambition, inclined him to the more refined enjoyment that is yielded by the works of genius and by the friendship of the most celebrated artists. Those noble sentiments caused his name to be associated with theirs, and his memory to survive together with their masterpieces - benefits which mere opulence cannot secure for those who demand from the productions of mere luxury only the rarity of

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