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Papal Library

Clement IX

by Catherine Frakas 02 Jan 2007

Clement IX1667-1669
Giulio Rospigliosi born 1600
Clement IX was born at Pistoja, on the 28th of January,1600, of a noble family which has given a host of distinguished personages to the world. Giulio, after studying in the Roman College under three famous professors—Faminius Strada, Alexander Donati, and Torquato de Cupis—went to the University of Pisa, where he received the doctorate of philosophy and of both laws. Urban, who esteemed his vast erudition, made him referendary of both signatures, and then secretary of the Congregation of Rites, canon and vicar of Saint Mary Major, judge a latere of the legation of Avignon, secretary of briefs to the princes in 1641, Archbishop of Tarsus, and nuncio to the court of King Philip IV, where he obtained from that prince a favor which never failed. After the death of Innocent X, Giulio, recalled from the brilliant nunciature in which he had served the Church eleven years, found himself merely a canon of Saint Mary Major. The Sacred College, appreciating his merit, made him governor of Rome during the conclave that elected Alexander VII, and that pope, in 1657, him a cardinal. Corraro, the Venetian ambassador at Rome, praises Rospigliosi as a secretary of state. I do not know a better-natured man, writes the Venetian. I cannot praise him too highly. He fills that post most successfully. The pope knows it well, and says that he has found a secretary after his own heart. Rospigliosi has a sound judgment; he knows no interest foreign to his duty; he is never obstinate in his opinions; when he has plainly stated them he appears pleased to hear them modified or even censured, if the interest of his master is thereby served. He seeks no occupation foreign to his post; he takes all business thoroughly examined to the pope for consideration; and himself makes minutes of everything which the pope lays much to heart.
After the funeral of Alexander VII, sixty-four cardinals went into conclave on the 2nd of June, 1667, and on the 20th they elected Cardinal Rospigliosi, aged sixty-eight years. He took the name of Clement IX, was crowned on the 24th, and took possession of Saint John Lateran on the 3rd of July.
Rospigliosi had but one vote against him, and it was that of Cardinal Corsini, a Tuscan like himself.
One of Clement's first cares was the diminution of the taxes, and especially the one on the grinding of grain. That one he bought from the farmers of it by paying them a sum of money. He accompanied that public benefit by an act of heroic self-denial. Instead of allowing his own name to be published with the documents relating to his redemption of an onerous tax, he had them published as the work of Alexander VII, who, in fact, really had collected together the money for that redemption. Clement IX necessarily had to take cognizance of the affair of the four French bishops who refused to sign the form prescribed by Alexander VII, and who had joined the Jansenist party. Nineteen other bishops, as is known, wrote in favor of the four, and, like them, contended that the Church had not the power to decide infallibly on human facts not revealed by God, and consequently could only require of the faithful respect for her decrees. The Holy Father required an investigation into the conduct of the four bishops, which would have produced insurmountable difficulties.
Meantime the four bishops addressed a circular letter to all the French episcopate, calling upon them to unite with the four in preventing the threatened trial; but the Most Christian King condemned the letter as seditious, and recommended the other bishops to disregard it.
This royal resolution and the advice of their friends induced the four bishops to agree to sign the formulary, provided they were spared the confusion of retracting their pastoral. Clement, full of kindness and charity, consented to this arrangement, and on the 1st of September the four bishops addressed to the pope a letter filled with sentiments of respectful submission to the apostolical constitutions. The pope having subsequently learned that their conduct was not sincere, and that their letter was not conformable to the recognition which they had promised, inasmuch as it drew a distinction between the question of fact and that of right, demanded an attestation of their having sincerely signed the formulary according to the constitutions of Innocent X and Alexander VII.
It would seem that even after that declaration there still was something that might be objected to. But Clement was facile and merciful, and addressed a letter to them, accepting their full and entire obedience without mental reservation, testified his satisfaction on their return to obedience, admitted them to peace and communion, and at the same time declared that, in any such matter, he would never allow of either exception or restriction.
That event, which occurred in 1667, was called the peace of Clement IX; but that peace had been attended by such misunderstandings or such trickery that it could not be lasting.
Meantime, the zealous pontiff, by repeated requests and exhortations, induced James, Patriarch of Upper Armenia, to use the ritual of the Roman Church, that patriarch having abandoned it to embrace the errors of the Armenians, which had been condemned by the Council of Florence, in the reign of Eugene IV, especially the refusal to mix water with wine in the sacrifice of the Mass. The pope compelled Hardouin, Archbishop of Paris, to re-establish the holidays which he had suppressed without the consent of the Holy See. At the same time, to testify his esteem for the Most Christian King, he granted him the right of presentation to churches, abbeys, and benefices in the provinces newly united to France. This privilege included the bishoprics of Metz, Toul, Verdun, Tournay, and Arras.
In 1668 the imperial chapel of Vienna was burned, and five days afterwards a piece of the true cross, which had been venerated in that chapel, was found intact amidst the ashes. The Empress Eleanor, widow of Ferdinand III, in memory of that miracle, founded the order of the ladies called the Starry Cross, which the Holy Father approved by his brief of the 2nd of August, 1668, and enriched it by many indulgences in favor of those admitted into it. This order has become one of the most distinguished of the Austrian Empire, and is given only to women of high rank.
Like his predecessors, Clement sought the restoration of concord among all Christian princes. The peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was due in part to his entreaties and to the respect that he inspired, his nuncio, Monsignor Franciotti, nobly seconding his views. The two kings of France and Spain had declared the Holy Father the absolute arbiter of their will. There is a letter extant in which Louis XIV declares that he consents to everything to gratify the Holy Father. At the same time the king consented to the pulling down of the column erected at Rome in 1664 to perpetuate the memory of the crime of the Corsican soldiers. In return, there was removed from the square of Saint Mary Major a cross at the foot of which was an inscription said to be somewhat unfavorable to the memory of Henry IV, grandfather of Louis XIV.
Sad ferments of war prevailed between the Spaniards and the Portuguese. From the year 1640, when John IV, Duke of Braganza, had been declared by his nation King of Portugal, the two nations had kept up an obstinate war. John IV fought for a kingdom which he claimed as his birthright, and which the fidelity of his Portuguese had restored to him. Philip IV, on the contrary, fought for the recovery of that kingdom which, as he maintained, had been usurped from him. Such were the opposite pretensions of the two princes, and such the cause of the war which had lasted for twenty-eight years. The pontiffs Urban VIII, Innocent X, and Alexander VII, in order not to offend Spain, in case Portugal should fail in its struggle for independence, had refused to receive ambassadors of John IV, whom that prince, as a respectful son, had sent to take the oath of obedience to the supreme pastor. John IV died in 1656, leaving as his successor his eldest son Alphonsus VI, under the guardianship of his mother. Philip IV died in 1665. The Portuguese, in 1667, deposed King Alphonsus, the magnates of the kingdom, on the same day, declaring him incapable of reigning, and the clergy annulled his marriage. Then Dom Pedro, brother of the deposed king, ascended the throne of his brother, at first as regent and then as king, and also married his brother's wife.
Previous to this second marriage the prince and the ex-queen applied for a dispensation to Cardinal de Vendome, apostolic legate at Paris, who, perhaps too promptly, granted it. Then doubts arose as to the validity of the marriage. The Portuguese despatched to Rome Father Villa, a Jesuit, to state their uncertainty and to solicit the juridical dispensation.
At the same time the legate despatched one of his household to Rome to explain his motives in granting the dispensation. Clement committed the examination of the difficult matter to a congregation of cardinals and theologians. After a careful examination of both sides of the question, those who were favorable to the second marriage prevailed, and the pope confirmed the dispensation that had been granted by Cardinal Vendome.
Subsequently Dom Pedro seriously endeavored to make peace with Spain, and, with the mediation of England, peace was signed between Spain and Portugal on the 5th of February, 1668. Clement confirmed the election of bishops that had previously been made, and received the Portuguese ambassador, the Count of Prado, to whom his king soon after sent the title of Marquis das Minas.
In 1669 the pope was pained by the news of the fall of Candia. He had so earnestly entreated the aid of all the Catholic princes that the Venetians were encouraged to a most heroic resistance. The Mussulman lost seven pashas, eighty officers, and ten thousand janizaries, without counting the loss of other troops. Throughout Christendom prayers were offered that the progress of the Turks might soon be stayed.
There can be no doubt that that new and great disaster shortened the days of Clement IX; and on the night of the 7th of December, 1669, he died at the age of sixty-nine years, after governing the Church two years, five months, and nineteen days. He was interred at the Vatican, and his successor removed his body to a magnificent tomb in Saint Mary Major, though Clement had positively insisted that he should be buried in the ground, with the simple inscription,Clementis IX cineres—The ashes of Clement IX.
Clement had canonized Saint Peter of Alcantara, and Saint Mary Magdalena of Pazzi, a Carmelite. This pontiff possessed noble virtues. He often personally administered the sacrament of penance in the Basilica of Saint Peter. He had set days on which to hear all who presented themselves, no matter what their rank or condition. He was also very accessible to those who applied for audience at the palace, another great virtue in a prince. One day, when he had spent many hours in listening to the complaints of a crowd of poor creatures, he heard one poor man regret that not also been heard. The pope immediately returned to the audience-room to console the poor man who was so grieved at not having been able to speak to the pope. Clement affably replied to all his requests, and sent him away completely satisfied. He frequently visited the hospitals; and the appearance, often quite unexpected, of such a sovereign was very advantageous to the patients, who threatened the attendants of the hospitals that they would complain of the to the pope if they neglected their duty.
He daily received twelve pilgrims at the table of his palace, and he personally served them when he was able to render this service.
In general he behaved munificently to the poor. He administered justice as a sovereign jealous of his power; but he no less constantly tempered it by mildness.
This pope ordered a reform of his table, and the money thus saved was regularly given to the needy.
Twice a year he performed his spiritual exercises in the convent of the Dominicans of Saint Sabina, whither he retired at carnival time to devote himself solely to works of piety.
In order to abolish many of the taxes which pressed Heavily upon Rome and the Ecclesiastical States, he instituted a congregation which was everywhere blessed, and which earned for him the regrets of the whole Roman population.
He also established a congregation to regulate strictly all matters concerning indulgences and relics.
Clement was moderate with respect to his relations. He denied them all that kind of wealth which, according to the custom of those times, they might have expected. He was accustomed to say, Our family has wealth enough in what we have abandoned to them of our own patrimony. Those virtues and many others had their source in the profound humility of the pope. So great was it that when the ten statues with which he adorned the bridge of Sant' Angelo were finished, he would not have his coat of arms or even his name placed there. But that feeling was not shared by Clement X, who subsequently ordered it to be engraved.
All the men of wit and talent who were in Rome represented to Clement IX that the bridge of Sant' Angelo did not accord with the idea conceived by those who repair to Saint Peter's.
That bridge was constructed by Aellius Adrian; and the ancients called it, indifferently, the Aellian bridge or the bridge of Adrian. The idea of that structure was adopted by that emperor, not only to give access to his tomb, which was on the right bank of the Tiber, but also to afford a convenient passage across the river to travellers from Upper Italy to Rome, by following the Consular, the Aurelian, the Cassian and the Flaminian ways. All those historical ways converged at that Aelian bridge, which is now known as the bridge of Sant' Angelo, from the castle of that name to which it gives access.
In the holy year 1450 the parapets of the bridge broken by the great multitude of people. Many persons fell into the Tiber, and many others were smothered or crushed; in all, one hundred and seventy-two perished miserably. This accident determined Nicholas V to have the bridge thoroughly repaired and to free it from all the paltry shops and habitations which encumbered it.
At the entrance he erected two small chapels which he dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Subsequently Pope Clement VII substituted for those small chapels the statues of those holy apostles. That of Saint Peter was by Lorenzetto, a Florentine; Paul, a Roman, sculptured Saint Paul. These chapels, the bridge, and the Castle of Sant' Angelo, such as they existed in the sixteenth century, are represented in a fresco painting in the French church of the Trinita de' Monti, which now belongs to the ladies of the Sacred Heart. In the fresco, Leo X, under the figure of Saint Gregory, watches the angel who is sheathing the destroying sword above the castle.
The existing adornments of the bridge were executed under Clement VII, by the Chevalier Bernini, who with his own hand sculptured the angel sustaining the inscription of the cross. The nine other statues were by his pupils. Thus, while walking twenty steps, we have a complete course of the events which preceded the death of our Lord.
Under Adrian this bridge had seven arches, now reduced to six; and it is nearly or quite a hundred yards long.
The origin of the name of the Castle of Sant' Angelo is attributed to the reign of Saint Gregory the Great. During the reign of that pontiff, in the year 593, a terrible pestilence afflicted Rome. Saint Gregory the Great, to obtain the cessation of that scourge, made public prayer at the head of the clergy and the people. Suddenly, on the top of the tower, he saw an armed angel sheathing his sword.
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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