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Biography - Pope Alexander VIII - The Papal Library

by Catherine Frakas 17 Mar 2021

Alexander VIII1689-1691 Pietro Vitto Ottoboni born 1610 Alexander VIII was born at Venice, April 22, 1610, of Mark Ottoboni, a patrician and chancellor of Venice, and of Victoria Tornielli, a lady not inferior in rank. The Ottoboni family, which had anciently flourished at Padua, though others give Dalmatia and Lepanto as its origin, was transferred to Venice, where it was reckoned among the citizens of the ducal chancery till 1246, when it was ennobled and embraced several distinguished men. Aldobrandino Ottoboni had the title of patrician togato; and on his death, in 1258, the republic gave him a splendid funeral, and a noble tomb in the Church of Saint Reparata. Francis Ottoboni, in 1559, received the dignity of chancellor, the highest in the reach of a Venetian. The same dignity was bestowed, in 1620, on Leonard Ottoboni, who had been ambassador at Paris and Madrid. In 1646 Anthony Ottoboni obtained the title of procurator of Saint Mark, and the collar of the Golden Stole then given to the eldest son of the family. Pietro went through his earliest studies at Padua. At seventeen he was doctor in both laws; he then repaired to Rome, where Urban VIII made him referendary of the signatures, then governor of Terni, Rieti, and Spoleto, and finally auditor of the Rota. This last post he retained for fourteen years. On the 19th of February, 1652, Innocent X him a cardinal. He took part in the conclaves which elected Alexander VII, Clement IX, Clement X, and Innocent XI. On the 6th of October, 1689, the cardinals, to the number of fifty-one out of fifty-two, elected as pope Cardinal Ottoboni, then seventy-nine years of age. Owing his elevation to Cardinal Chigi, nephew of Pope Alexander VII, and wishing to revive the memory of Alexander III, dear to the Venetians, Cardinal Ottoboni assumed the name of Alexander VIII. He was solemnly crowned at the Vatican on the 16th and on the 28th took possession of Saint John Lateran. His advanced age had not exhausted the vigor of Alexander; all knew his rare prudence, his perspicacity, profound knowledge of affairs, and a great pontificate was promised; but nepotism came in to dissipate some of the high hopes conceived. This fatal love for his family, which Innocent had sought to destroy, reappeared in all its exacting forms, to the great grief of the Romans. Without loss of time he made Anthony, his brother's son, general of the Holy Church, and lavished other favors on his kindred. The differences between the Holy See and France, in regard to the franchises and regalia, continued. Alexander, to show his desire of peace, conceded to the king the right to nominate to the sees of Metz, Toul, Verdun, Arras, and Perpignan, not included in the concordat between Leo X and Francis I. The king, meeting these friendly advances, ordered his ambassador, the Duke de Chaulnes, to renounce the franchises, a step followed by other sovereigns. Louis, in 1690, also restored to the pope the Venaissin, or territory of Avignon; but complete concord was not established, because some French bishops persisted in upholding the four propositions. There were still partisans of Molinos at Rome, but they were prosecuted and imprisoned. Notwithstanding the benefits which he lavished on his family, Alexander, perhaps for this very reason, sought to diminish the imposts and embellish the city,, to render it agreeable to foreigners. The governor having one day said to the pope: But Your Holiness might suppress the soldiers, the pope replied: The soldiers are here to do honor to princes and to defend the city; they are no burden to the city, which sees them with pleasure. And then there are too many police; Rome is full of them; they must be suppressed; and then Rome will become again what she should never have ceased to be. At that moment the Venetians having obtained advantage over the Turks, the pope sent to the doge, Francis Morosini, the stocco and berrettone. We have already frequently alluded to this kind of recompense. Morosini had seized the city of Napoli de Malvasia, and Vallona, a fortress in Albania. Among other canonizations in 1690, Alexander pronounced that of Saint John of God, founder of the Hospitallers for Poor Sick, commonly called the Fate bene Fratelli. He was born at Montemor el Novo, in the diocese of Evora, in Portugal, March 25, 1495, and died March 8, 1550. Urban VIII beatified him in 1630. He was a man of the most sincere piety and eminent charity. he same ceremony was canonized Saint Laurence Giustiniani, a Venetian (born July 1, 1381, died January 8, 1455), the first Patriarch of Venice. In the beginning of the year 1691 Alexander's rugged health began to decline, and he lost hope of recovery. Then he called the cardinals and informed them that he had drawn up a new constitution against the four propositions; that the bull had been signed on the 4th of August, and not yet published, always hoping for an arrangement with France. He advised the cardinals to uphold the bull, which he then published through Cardinal Albani, afterwards Clement XI. He exhorted them to yield nothing of the rights, authority, or privileges of the Roman Church. He warmly advised them to think only of the Church in the discussions at the coming conclave, and not to be swayed by any human respect. On the 1st of February he died, aged nearly eighty-one, after governing the Church sixteen months, less four days. Alexander displayed great courage in defending the faith and ecclesiastical discipline. A generous promoter of science, he increased and enriched several libraries, among others the Vatican, to which he gave the manuscripts that had belonged to Queen Christina. Alexander scattered favors as liberally on the poor as on his kindred. He was interred in the Vatican. This biographical data is from The Lives and Times of the Popes by The Chevalier Artaud De Montor. Published by The Catholic Publication Society of New York in ten volumes in 1911. The pictures, included in the volumes, were reproduced from Effigies Pontificum Romanorum Dominici Basae.

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