February 13, 1599 - May 22, 1667
name Fabio Chigi
began April 7, 1655
ended May 22, 1667
Successor Clement IX
in Siena, a member of the illustrious banking family of Chigi and a great-nephew
of Pope Paul V (1605-1621), he was privately tutored and eventually received
doctorates of philosophy, law, and theology from the University of Siena.
legate and State Secretary
1627 he began his apprenticeship as vice-papal legate at Ferrara, and on
recommendations from two cardinals he was appointed successively Inquisitor of
Malta and nuncio in Cologne (1639-1651). There, he supported Urban VIII's
condemnation of Jansenius' Augustinus by the papal bull In eminenti of 1642.
expected to take part in the negotiations which led in 1648 to the Peace of
Westphalia, he declined to deliberate with persons whom the Roman Catholic
church considered heretics, and protested, when it was finally completed,
against the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648)
and established the balance of European power that lasted until the wars of the
French Revolution (1789).
Innocent X (1644-1655) recalled Chigi to Rome and subsequently made him
Cardinal Secretary of State.
Innocent X died, Chigi, the candidate favoured by Spain, was elected pope after
eighty days in the conclave, on April 7, 1655, taking the name of Alexander VII.
conclave believed he was strongly opposed to the nepotism then prevalent.
Indeed, in the first year of his reign, Alexander VII lived simply and forbade
his relations even to visit Rome; but in consistory, April 24, 1656, he
announced that his brother and nephews would be coming to assist him in Rome.
The administration was given largely into the hands of his relatives, and
nepotism became as luxuriously entrenched as it even had been in the Baroque
Papacy: he gave them the best-paid civil and ecclesiastical offices, and
princely palaces and estates suitable to the Chigi of Siena.
conversion of Queen Christina of Sweden (1632-1654) occurred during Alexander
VII's reign. After her abdication the queen came to reside in Rome, where she
was confirmed in her baptism by the Pope, in whom she found a generous friend
and benefactor, on Christmas Day, 1655.
other decisions Alexander VII forbade in 1661 the translation of the Roman
Missal into French, and in 1665 canonized Francis de Sales.
foreign policy his instincts were not as humanist nor as successful. Alexander
VII's pontificate was shadowed by continual friction with Cardinal Mazarin,
advisor to Louis XIV of France (1643-1715), who had opposed him during the
negotiations that led to the Peace of Westphalia and who defended the
prerogatives of the Gallican Church. During the conclave he had been hostile to
Chigi's election, but was in the end compelled to accept him as a compromise.
However, he prevented Louis XIV from sending the usual embassy of obedience to
Alexander VII, and, while he lived, foiled the appointment of a French
ambassador to Rome, diplomatic affairs being meantime conducted by cardinal
protectors, generally personal enemies of the Pope. In 1662, the equally hostile
Duc de Crequi was made ambassador. By his abuse of the traditional right of
asylum granted to ambassadorial precincts in Rome, he precipitated a quarrel
between France and the papacy, which resulted in Alexander VII's temporary loss
of Avignon and his forced acceptance of the humiliating treaty of Pisa in 1664.
favored the Spanish in their claims against Portugal, which had re-established
its traditional independence in 1640.
pontificate was also marked by protracted controversies with Portugal.
information: Formulary controversy
VII favored the Jesuits. When the Venetians called for help in Crete against the
Ottoman Turks, the Pope extracted in return a promise that the Jesuits should be
permitted back in Venetian territory, from which they had been expelled in 1606.
He also continued to take the Jesuit part in their conflict with the Jansenists,
whose condemnation he had vigorously supported as advisor to Pope Innocent X.
The French Jansenists professed that the propositions condemned in 1653 were not
in fact to be found in Augustinus, written by Cornelius Jansen. Alexander VII
confirmed that they were too, by the bull Ad Sanctam Beati Petri Sedem (October
16, 1656) declaring that five propositions extracted by a group of theologians
from the Sorbonne out of Jansen's work, mostly concerning grace and the fallen
nature of man, were heretical including the proposition "that Christ died,
or shed His blood for all men". He also sent to France his famous
"formulary," that was to be signed by all the clergy as a means of
detecting and extirpating Jansenism and which inflamed public opinion, leading
to Blaise Pascal's defense of Jansenism.
died in 1667, was memorialized in a spectacular tomb by Bernini, and was
succeeded by Pope Clement IX (1667-69).
VII disliked the business of state, preferring literature and philosophy; a
collection of his Latin poems appeared at Paris in 1656 under the title
Philomathi Labores Juveniles. He also encouraged architecture, and the general
improvement of Rome, where houses were razed to straighten and widen streets and
where he had the opportunity to be a great patron for Gian Lorenzo Bernini: the
decorations of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, titular churches for
several of the Chigi cardinals, the Scala Regia, the Chair of St. Peter in the
Vatican Basilica. In particular, he sponsored Bernini's construction of the
beautiful colonnade in the piazza of St. Peter's Basilica.
Alexander VII wrote one of the most authoritative documents related to the heliocentrism issue. He published his Index Librorum Prohibitorum Alexandri VII Pontificis Maximi jussu editus which he prefaced with the bull Speculatores Dominus Israel in which he explicitly attached all the previous heliocentric decrees ("...which we will should be considered as though it were inserted in these presents, together with all, and singular, the things contained therein...") and using his Apostolic authority bound the faithful to its contents ("...and approve with Apostolic authority by the tenor of these presents, and: command and enjoin all persons everywhere to yield this Index a constant and complete obedience...")