1590-1618 History of Italy 1660-1700

Papal State and Papacy, 1618-1660

Pope Paul V. (Camillo Borghese) ruled from 1605 to 1621; he was succeeded by Gregory XV. (1621-1623, Alessandro Ludovisi), Urban VIII. (1623-1644, Maffeo Barberini), Innocent X. (1644-1655, Giambattista Pamfili), and Alexander VII. (1655-1667, Fabio Chigi).
Pope Paul V. in 1606 had declared a ban over the Republic of Venice, which the latter successfully ignored - indicating a significant loss of authority on the side of the papacy. Within the Holy Roman Empire, the protestant principalities and imperial cities formed the Protestant Union (1608); the Catholic principalities, ecclesiastical territories and cities formed the Catholic League. Tension between the two camps was high.
The Defenestration of Prague (1618) was the spark that ignited the 30 Years War. Pope Paul V. supported newly elected Emperor Ferdinand (1619-1637) and the Catholic League by paying considerable subsidies. In the early tears of the war, Emperor and League had success after success; in 1620 they regained control over Bohemia. In 1621 war between Spain and the Dutch Republic resumed. Pope Gregory XV. continued to sunsidize the Catholic cause in the war in Germany.
In 1623 Gregory XV. was succeeded by Urban VIII. During his papacy, the forces of the League (Gen. Tilly) and the Emperor (Gen. Wallenstein) achieved success after success, defeating the protestant army commanders Christian von Braunschweig, Ernst von Mansfeld and King Christian of Denmark. Wallenstein's armies occupied Jutland. The religious map of Germany was renegotiated; it seemed a Catholic triumph.
Duke Maximilian of Bavaria in 1618/1620 had risked both his army and his treasury to help (bankrupt) Emperor Ferdinand to regain Bohemia. He felt his contribution insufficiently honoured; Wallenstein and the Emperor seemed to always get the better deal when spoils of war were to be split up. French Cardinal Richelieu attempted to break the Bavarian-Austrian alliance, and was supported in this by the papal diplomacy, which might have feared a too powerful Habsburg dynasty. More important, from papal perspective, was the conflict over succession in Mantua. In 1627 the last duke, of the Gonzaga dynasty died; two contenders, one Charles of Nevers, the other the Duke of Guastalla, competed for the inheritance, both from Gonzaga sidelines. The Emperor supported the Duke of Guastalla, France and the Pope Charles of Nevers. In 1630 Emperor Ferdinand gave in and enfeoffed Charles of Nevers with the Duchy of Mantua. Bavaria entered into an alliance with France in 1630.
In the meantime King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden had landed his army in northern Germany and imposed one defeat after another on the Catholic armies; the gains of the late 1620es and more were lost. He was subsidized by France. In part, pope Urban VIII. has been blamed for the defeat of the Catholic forces in Germany by withholding his support when a favourable solution was possible. The Swedes were defeated in the Battle of Nördlingen in 1634, but in 1635 France entered the war on the side of Habsburg's enemies. In 1636 Pope Urban undertook a peace initiative, which was futile. Peace was signed under his successor Innocent X., in 1648 (Treaty of Westphalia). The pope protested against the conditions of the peace, which had allocated several princebishoprics to the protestants. Pope Innocent X. refused to accept an embassy of the King of Portugal (which had regained independence from Spain in 1640).
In 1655, Christina, former Queen of Sweden (daughter of Gustavus Adolphus) converted to Catholicism and moved to Rome. She first was allocated the Palazzo Farnese, later lived in the Palazzo Riario. Her extravagant, lavish lifestyle was to become a considerable burden for the papal treasury. She died in 1689 and was buried in the crypt of St. Peter's Cathedral. Under Alexander VII., relations with Venice improved, while those with France were particularly poor.

During the pontificate of Paul V., construction of St. Peter's Cathedral was completed. He promoted the Catholic mission in China and appointed numerous relatives to influential, lucrative positions (Nepotism). Pope Gregort XV. attempted to reform the election procedure, especially to terminate the practise that influential powers declared the exclusion or inclusion of candidates they rejected or preferred. Under him the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide was founded (1622) as an institution to supervise the propagation of faith (i.e. mission). Pore Gregory XV. canonized Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, Francis Xavier and Teresa of Avila, all personalities of the 16th century, representatives of revived Catholicism.
In 1631 the last Duke of Urbino died; the fief was cancelled, Urbino annexed into the Papal State. Pope Urban VII. was one of the worst nepotists in papal history. He invested in the modernization and armament of the fortifications of the Papal State and was a promoter of the arts. In the later years of his pontificate, the Papal State fought a war with Parma over Castro. During Urban's rule, the treasury of the Papal State was emptied and the accumulation of state debt was begun, which under his successors would reach astronomical height. During his pontificate, Galileo Galilei was tried (1633).
Innocent X. condemned Jansenism (encyclical "Cum occasione impressionis libri", 1653). Not a nepotist, he was under the detrimental influence of a relative, Donna Olympia Maidalchini. Innocent's successor Alexander VII. (1655-1667) again was a nepotist. During his pontificate, Lorenzo Bernini reshaped the place in front of St. Peter's Cathedral (the Colonnades).

Biography of Paul V., from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition
Biography of Gregory XV., from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
Biography of Urban VIII., from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912 edition
Biography of Innocent X., from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
Biography of Alexander VII., from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907 edition
Article Jansenism, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
Biography of Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, from Catholic Encyclopedia 1907 edition
Article Mantua, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
Biography of Galileo Galilei, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909 edition
The Trial of Galileo, 1633, by Douglas Linder
DOCUMENTS The Trial of Galileo, 1633, by Douglas Linder, has several documents in English translation
REFERENCE Book Reviews : Papal State, from History Book Reviews

Franz Xaver Seppelt, Georg Schwaiger, Geschichte der Päpste (History of the Popes), München : Kösel 1964, 572 pp., in German [G]
Christopher Hibbert, Rome. The Biography of a City, Penguin 1988, 387 pp. [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on September 4th 2002, last revised on March 29th 2006

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