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Biography - Pope Urban VIII - The Papal Library

by Catherine Frakas 17 Mar 2021

Urban VIII1623-1644 Maffeo Barberini born 1568 This pope, Maffeo Barberini, was born at Florence in 1568, son of Antonio Barberini and Camilla Barbadori, whose families were distinguished for their nobility and their lofty connections. When Maffeo was three years old he lost his father, and made his early studies, in his own tongue, under the wise direction of his mother. Camilla then sent him to Rome to study philosophy, under his uncle Francis Barberini, apostolical prothonotary. At the age of twenty, Maffeo was received as doctor at Pisa, and then returned to Rome. Sixtus V named him referendary of justice. Gregory XIV raised him to the dignity of governor of Fano, and then named him one of the seventeen apostolic prothonotaries. In this last capacity he drew up the acts of the two marriages that were celebrated in presence of Clement VIII-namely, that of the Catholic king, Philip III, with Margaret of Austria, and that of the Archduke of Austria, Albert, with Isabella Clara Eugenia, Infanta of Spain. In 1601 Clement sent Maffeo to France, as nuncio extraordinary, to present the blessed garments for the dauphin, afterwards Louis XIII, son of Henry IV. Maffeo filled other posts in Italy; and then he was named Bishop of Nazareth in partibus, and sent as ordinary nuncia to France. There he obtained the recall of the Jesuits, and also the razing of a column erected to perpetuate the decree of their exile. On the 11th of September, 1606, Paul V made him cardinal and Archbishop of Spoleto. Eleven days after the death of Gregory XV, fifty-five cardinals went into conclave, on the 19th of July, 1623. This conclave followed strictly all the prescriptions of the late pope's bull for the prudent regulation of papal elections. As there were many eligible candidates, and opinions differed, the conclave promised to be a protracted one. At first it was supposed that the Cardinal Octavius Bandini would be pope, but the ballot showed few votes in his favor. In the conclaves there are always many expressions of politeness, courtesy, and compliment, and the ballots are the real test. Sometimes, also, even in the ballots, there are feints which serve to make the serious votes known. Cardella, in his life of the Cardinal Anne des Cars de Givry, says that that French cardinal was on the point of being elected pope, as he deserved to be for his piety, which was known to all the Sacred College, and which has caused him to be included by Andrew Saussay in the Gallican Martyrology. Cardinal John Garzia Mellini also succeeded in obtaining the votes of twenty-two cardinals, headed by Scipio Borghese, nephew of the last pope, and a cardinal of great merit. At length, on the 6th of August, fifty-four sacred electors - although the Dominican, Cardinal Scaglia, with Cardinal Bandini, had until then warmly opposed it- united in naming Cardinal Barberini. Cardinal Maurice, of Savoy, protector of the affairs of France, really governed this election; and Barberini afterwards returned thanks to Louis XIII. On that day there were fifty-four cardinals in conclave, Cardinal Andrew Peretti being compelled, by an attack of fever, to return to his palace. When the ballots were examined, one was unaccountably missing. Notwithstanding this, the number of votes was more than sufficient; in fact, it greatly exceeded the necessary number. The pontiff was named; but an irregularity existed. Maffeo refused the tiara, and insisted that the ballot should be repeated, in compliance the terms of the Gregorian law. Cardinal Farnese said to Maffeo: Why, you are elected by more than necessary votes. Even should the missing ballot be a hostile one, you still would be pontiff. In a new ballot electors might change their minds. Cardinal Barberini still insisted on a new vote, and received the reward of his disinterestedness. It had been remarked in Rome that a swarm of bees, from the direction of Tuscany, had alighted in the rooms of Cardinal Barberini; and that was deemed a favorable augury, because the armorial bearings of his family were three bees, placed two and one. Father John Baptist Spada, a Dominican, had, it is said, predicted the pontificate of Maffeo in an anagram. From the words Maphaeus Barberini he made the words Phoebus Romanae Urbis- the Phoebus of the city of Rome. Barberini took the name of Urban VIII. At the time, a contagious disease prevailed at Rome, by which the new pontiff was attacked, compelling him to defer his coronation until Saint Michael's day, the 29th of September. Although still only convalescent, he insisted on being crowned on that day, from his great devotion to that archangel, in honor of whom he afterwards erected an altar in the Vatican. There are medals of this pope which represent him kneeling before the image of the archangel. On the 19th of November Urban took possession of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. On the 2nd of October the pope gave the purple to his nephew, Francis Barberini, a man of the most distinguished character, who died as dean of the Sacred College. History reproaches him with but one fault, irascibility; but it must be added that he always made the fortunes of those against whom his anger was enkindled. Urban abolished many new abuses. From interested zeal or great simplicity of mind, portraits of persons reputed holy were exposed to public veneration. The pope strictly forbade such undue homage. This abuse had been introduced at Venice, in the case of Fra Paolo Sarpi, the historian of the Council of Trent, who had died excommunicated, and as Bossuet says, was really a Protestant. A woman paid this homage to Sarpi. Urban complained to the senate, and pope's nuncio, Zacchia, obtained the proper satisfaction. In 1624 His Holiness forbade any religious, except in the Society of Jesus, to be dismissed from his order, unless deemed incorrigible. He also published a law compelling all bishops, the cardinals not excepted, to reside in their sees. As regarded the cardinals, the pope said to them: Hitherto you could excuse yourselves by saying that the pope knew and tolerated it. We, at least, will not tolerate or permit it! Urban made his second promotion in January, 1624. The new cardinals were Antonio Barberini, a Capuchin, the pontiff's brother; Lorenzo Magalotti, a noble Florentine; and Pietro Maria Saracini, afterwards called Borghese, a maternal grandnephew of Paul V. Urban thus gave the hat to the relative of a pope to whom he owed his own. In the year 1625 the Holy Father celebrated the twelfth jubilee of the holy year. On the 25th of May. in the same year, at the request of Philip III, King of Spain and Portugal, Urban canonized Saint Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal, grandniece of Saint Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, born in 1271, the daughter of Peter III, King of Aragon, and of Constantia, daughter of Manfred, King of Sicily. After the death of her husband, King Denis, she had entered a convent of Franciscan nuns at Coimbra. The Holy Father having received ambassadors from the Patriarch of Constantinople, sent to draw closer the bonds of union between the Holy See and the Greeks, Urban conversed with the ambassadors in their own language, which spoke with as much facility as they did. It was at that time that he was called the Attic bee, in allusion to the bees in his armorial bearings. Urban continued to grant privileges to the religious orders. He rejoiced over the termination of the war of the Valteline, and he preserved friendly relations with both France and Spain. In the midst of these labors, these joys, and this political ability, he prepared a decree by which he determined as far as possible to do honor to the Sacred College of the Cardinals. That decree was not published until 1630. Various secret negotiations were kept up between England and Spain, and closely watched by France, where Cardinal Richelieu, still friendly with Queen Mary, began powerfully to direct affairs. James I at that time reigned in Great Britain- a prince with neither the courage nor the sound intellect of Mary Stuart, his mother. Rosny, ambassador from Henry IV in the beginning of the reign of James, heard him say: Many years before the death of Elizabeth, it was I who governed at London. James, in fact, never governed either his own Scotland or England, which was in very different hands. Rosny soon tested the monarch's vaunted force of mind. Rosny's mission to James was to offer that prince an important part in the vast plan which had been conceived by Henry IV (or rather Rosny) to diminish the colossal power of the house of Austria, by attacking it on all points at once. But such an idea was too far above the narrow and timid genius of James. He would not do that which it is permissible to do, not for the purpose of establishing a universal monarchy, but in order to prevent another from pursuing that chimera, and to watch attentively the ambitious plans of a rival. However, some traits of boldness distinguished that reign. In1605 James demanded the solemn union of his two crowns, and he addressed his Parliament in the following unbecoming language: England and Scotland are two kingdoms situated in the same island: you will not allow that I, a Christian prince, shall commit the crime of bigamy in living with two wives; that, having but one head, I join myself to a double body; and that, being a single shepherd, I shall have to tend two different flocks. The project, though in itself wise and prudent, did not succeed. Let us pity that son of Mary Stuart for subsequently saying that the religion of the popes is a true mystery of iniquity. Then he demanded and obtained the famous oath of allegiance. The English then boasted, and still boast, the noble firmness with which they declare, in the formula of that oath, that the pope has no right to depose their sovereign, to release the subjects from their duty of fidelity to him, or to dispose of his crown in favor of a reign prince. But that doctrine which they thus profess long been held by the Catholics most attached to their religion. James was afraid of the Spanish power. A first Prince of Wales had died of poison. The second Prince of Wales, born in 1600, was proposed as the husband Mary, youngest daughter of Philip III. Her elder sister, after having been promised to the first Prince of Wales, had married Louis XIII. The difference of religion seemed to form an obstacle to that union; but in James hatred of Catholicism could give way to his policy. The king went so far as to send his son Charles to Madrid in an incognito at once artful and absurd. Then Philip IV outraged Spanish etiquette by placing at his right hand Prince Charles, who not even a crown. France was on the watch; she also negotiated with James I, and, in spite of the promises that had been made to Spain, it was agreed between the English and French cabinets that Prince Charles, son of the English should, espouse Henrietta Maria of France, daughter of Henry IV and sister of Louis XIII. The very year the negotiation closed James died, and Charles became King of England. Rome had not seen with pleasure the Protestant son of a hostile prince like James ready to ally himself more closely with Spain, which already oppressed the Roman court enough. It was to be feared that the infanta, when in London, would be persecuted with such ardent persuasions as would detach her from the Catholic religion. The same danger did not present itself as to France; far from that, it was possible that King Charles would yield to the good examples of Henrietta. It was one of the noblest ideas of Urban VIII, that of aiding with his influence the project, or, if people choose to call it so, the jealous ambition manifested by France. Urban, able and far-sighted, would not expose his success to any risks of chance; he desired, he demanded, he willed, that nothing should be neglected to induce the youthful Henrietta to repair to her husband. Mary de' Medici had reared her daughter in the most lively feelings for the interests, the glory, the preponderance of the Holy See. Richelieu had not forgotten that at Rome he had been consecrated bishop, with a dispensation as to age, a rare favor, and loaded with honors, and that at Avignon he had received a generous hospitality. And as Queen Mary de' Medici explained to him the advice she fully intended to give to Henrietta, the cardinal, satisfied with the success of his policy, and heartily approving the views of the queen mother, solicited the queen, his patroness, to allow him to draw up, in the form of instructions, counsels which should be read by Henrietta, and of which she should keep a copy in the most precious of her caskets, in order that the maternal advice should be constantly before her eyes, a situation difficult for a princess, daughter of Henry IV, sister of the King of France, and scarcely sixteen years of age. Rome and France prayed for the happy success of a mission at once holy and politic. The proof of the satisfaction of Rome is evident in the simultaneous dispatch to the new queen of the golden rose, embalmed with musk. The legate Barberini delivered to the princess, before she left Paris, that testimony of affection. The Vatican and the Louvre at that time were on terms of such perfect understanding that the clergy of France, in one of their assemblies, in 1626, placed at the head of one of deliberations the following declaration: The pope is the visible head of the Universal Church, the vicar of God on earth, the bishop of the bishops and the patriarchs; in one word, the successor of Saint Peter, in whom the apostolate and the episcopate had their beginning, and upon whom Jesus Christ founded his Church, giving him the keys of heaven, with the infallibility of the faith, which has immovably endured in his successors to this day. In the same year, 1626, Urban confirmed the bulls of his predeccors, Saint Pius V and others, by which it was forbidden to alienate or to give in fief any land whatever which belonged to the Holy See or was to revert to it. Then the pope learned that the Duke of Urbino, Francis de Ia Rovera, an infirm octogenarian, on the death of his only son Frederic Ubaldo, extinguishing the male line, manifested a design to restore to the popes, in his lifetime, the duchy of Urbano, which for a hundred and forty years that house had held as a fief of the Holy See. His Holiness, therefore, sent Cardinal Berlinghieri Gessi to take possession of the duchy, including the cities of Urbino, Pesaro, Gubbio, Sinigaglia, Fossombrone, San Leone, and Cagli. The duke after this generous act, of which he soon repented, retired to the castle of Durante, which the pope raised to the rank of a city under the name of Urbania. Th ex-duke of Urbino did not long survive this act, which was substantially just. At his death the office of prefect of Rome became vacant, and was conferred by the pope upon Don Thaddeo Barberini, his nephew and general of the Church. Pope Urban enjoyed a new triumph of the Catholic religion. While the missionaries carried into Abyssinia the blessing of Christian civilization, Alphonsus Mendez, a Portuguese Jesuit, the last patriarch who entered Abyssinia, had the happiness to bring into the bosom of the Holy Church the Emperor Seltan Segued [Sucinius]. That prince, in 1626, having convoked all the grandees of his court, with his son, the heir to the throne, he made them promise, in the name of all Ethiopia, an inflexibly firm obedience to Pope Urban VIII. His Holiness immediately wrote to that sovereign to congratulate him, and requested him to send young men to Rome to learn in the college of the Propaganda the true apostolic doctrine and the various European languages, so that they would return to their own country and become ministers of religion among nations abandoned by God. That mission was, unfortunately, attacked by the insurgents. Fuciladaz, son of the king, persecuted the missionaries, and for a time re-established the old errors. Catholic missionaries often suffered martyrdom, but that did not exhaust the courage of surviving brethren. In our life of Paul V we stated that some kings of Congo sent an ambassador, who died before he could be present to that pontiff. Urban gave audience to an ambassador from the same country, John Baptist Vives, a native of Lisbon, who was kindly received and loaded with honors. Meantime, Partemius, Patriarch of Constantinople, sent deputies to recognize the supremacy of the Holy See, and to seek means to bring about a final and durable reconciliation between the Latins and the Greeks. Urban was thoroughly skilled in the Greek language, and the entire negotiation was conducted by the pope himself, without an interpreter. The deputies listened with respect, as the head of Catholicism expressed himself with purity in the language of Homer, and at need quoted the best writers of Grecian antiquity. By a brief of the 14th of September, of the year 1627, the pope granted the Minor Observantines permission to say the office and Mass of the twenty-three martyrs-six priests and seventeen laymen of their order-crucified at Nagasaki, in Japan. Subsequently, by a brief of the 15th of September, the pope granted to the Society of Jesus permission to celebrate the office and Mass of three members of their society-Paul Miki, John de Goto, and James or Diego Kisai, martyrized at the same time and place by the Emperor Taicosama, on the 6th day of February, 1597. These Japanese martyrs were canoninzed by Pope Pius IX, in 1862. The peace of Italy, which Urban had so much at heart, was disturbed by the dispute as to the succession of Vincent of Mantua. Among the claimants was Charles Gonzaga, son of the Duke of Nevers, in France, much favored by Richelieu, and still more by Pope Urban. That pontiff, to aid Charles, granted him a dispensation to marry Mary, daughter of Duke Ferdinand of Mantua, who died before Duke Vincent, his brother. In 1627 the pope made a numerous promotion of cardinals, among whom was Peter de Berulle, one of the founders of the Oratory of Jesus, and Giovanni Battista Pamphili, who became pontiff in 1644, under the name of Innocent X. In the year 1628 Urban granted to all the domain of the Duke of Modena the office of Saint Contardo Pellegrino, prince of the family of Este, who died in the year 1249. The office, composed by Canon Placentine Peter Mary Campi, was approved by the Congregation of Rites, in 1609, on the report of Cardinal Bellarmine. In the same year the pope published an extraordinary jubilee, with the prayers of the forty hours in the three first basilicas of Rome, and in two churches of all the religious orders during three days. His Holiness himself, to set the example, went in a grand procession to the Church of Saint Mary in Trastevere. It will be of interest to state the origin of a ceremony which takes place at Saint Peter's on the last days of Holy Week. In the Church of Saint Anastasia and in the Church of Holy Cross of Jerusalem, portions of the wood of the true cross are preserved. Urban had considerable portions shrined in a silver cross, ornamented with precious stones, and placed in Saint Peter's, among the major relics, to be exhibited to the people on the days prescribed in the briefs, after the Holy Spear and before the Sacred Veronica, with plenary indulgence every time the three are shown from a gallery in the interior of the church towards the right of Saint Peter's chair. On the 22nd of April, 1629, Urban solemnly canonized Saint Andrew Corsini, a noble Florentine, who had taken the Carmelite habit in the year 1316. He was consecrated Bishop of Fiesole in 1360, and died on the 6th of January, 1373. Eugene IV, while in Florence in 1440, induced by a miracle wrought at the intercession of the saint, permitted his veneration, ordering a procession to his tomb, and allowing the Mass of the Most Holy Trinity to be celebrated there. Accordingly, the Bollandists say that he was then beatified. The ceremony was performed with so much magnificence that the cardinals present considered it equal to a canonization. Gregory XIII, in 1583, gave the order of Carmelites verbal permission to celebrate the Mass and office of that saint-a privilege afterwards extended to the whole Church, with the semi-double rite; and in 1731 Clement XII, who was of the Corsini family, permitted that the feast should be celebrated with the double rite. Cardinal Richelieu at this time solicited the cardinal's hat for his brother Alphonsus, of the order of the Carthusians. In spite of the entreaties which he endeavored in vain to have the cardinal support, Alphonsus Louis du Plessis Richelieu was dispensed from his vow of silence and declared Archbishop of Aix, and, two years later, of Lyons. Subsequently he was created cardinal of the title of the Holy Trinity of Mount Pincio. Urban declared that he had pleasure in making him a cardinal, because he had the reputation of being a man very zealous for religion, full of profound knowledge, a model of moral purity, and more attached to the affairs of his diocese than to the affairs of court. Matthew Flach, who called himself Illyricus, because he was born at Albona, in Istria, a part of ancient Illyria, and styled by Novaes the originator of the Centuriators of Magdeburg, had published, 1557, a Latin Mass, which some believed con

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