Giovanni Albani (Clement XI) elected Pope
Albani was born in Urbino, into a noble family that had established itself there from northern Albania in the 15th century and were originally soldiers of Scanderbeg against the Ottoman Empire.
During his reign as a Pope the famous Illyricum Sacrum was commissioned, and today it is one of the main sources of the field of Albanology with over 5000 pages divided in several volumes written by Daniele Farlati and Dom. Coletti.
He was governor of Rieti and Urbino, and was created Cardinal-Deacon of S. Maria in Aquiro by Pope Alexander VIII, whom he succeeded as Pope on November 23, 1700.
Soon after his accession, the War of Spanish Succession broke out. Despite initially holding an ambiguous neutrality, Clement was later forced to name Charles, Archduke of Austria, as King of Spain, since the imperial army had conquered much of northern Italy and was threatening Rome itself (January 1709).
By the Treaty of Utrecht that concluded the War, the Papal States lost their suzerainty over the Farnese Duchy of Parma and Piacenza in favour of Austria, and lost Comacchio as well. It was a blow from which the declining prestige of the Papal States would never recover.
In 1713 the bull Unigenitus was published. The bull greatly disturbed the peace of the Gallican (French) church. It condemned 101 propositions from the works of Quesnel as heretical and as identical with propositions already condemned in the writings of Jansen.
The resistance of many French ecclesiastics and the refusal of the French parlements to register the bull led to controversies extending through the greater part of the 18th century. Because the local governments did not officially receive the bull, it was not, technically, in force in those areas – an example of the interference of states in religious affairs common before the 20th century.
Chinese Rites controversies
Another important decision of Clement XI was in regard to the Chinese Rites controversy: the Jesuit missionaries were forbidden to take part in honors paid to Confucius or the ancestors of the Emperors of China, which Clement XI identified as "idolatrous and barbaric", and to accommodate Christian language to pagan ideas under plea of conciliating the heathen.
Clement XI died at Rome in 1721 and was buried in the pavement of St. Peter's Basilica.
Born at Urbino, 23 July, 1649; elected 23 November, 1700; died at Rome 19 March, 1721. The Albani were a noble Umbrian family. Under Urban VIII the grandfather of the future pope had held for thirteen years the honourable office of Senator of Rome. An uncle, Annibale Albani, was a distinguished scholar and was Prefect of the Vatican Library. Giovanni Francesco was sent to Rome in his eleventh year to prosecute his studies at the Roman College. He made rapid progress and was known as an author at the age of eighteen, translating from the Greek into elegant Latin. He attracted the notice of the patroness of Roman literati, Queen Christina of Sweden, who before he became of age enrolled him in her exclusive Accademia. With equal ardour and success, he applied himself to the profounder branches, theology and law, and was created doctor of canon and civil law. So brilliant an intellect, joined with stainless morals and piety, secured for him a rapid advancement at the papal court. At the age of twenty-eight he was made a prelate, and governed successively Rieti, Sabina, and Orvieto, everywhere acceptable on account of his reputation for justice and prudence. Recalled to Rome, he was appointed Vicar of St. Peter's, and on the death of Cardinal Slusio succeeded to the important position of Secretary of Papal Briefs, which he held for thirteen years, and for which his command of classical latinity singularly fitted him. On 13 February, 1690, he was created cardinal-deacon and later Cardinal-Priest of the Title of San Silvestro, and was ordained to the priesthood.
The conclave of 1700 would have terminated speedily with the election of Cardinal Mariscotti, had not the veto of France rendered the choice of that able cardinal impossible. After deliberating for forty-six days, the Sacred College united in selecting Cardinal Albani, whose virtues and ability overbalanced the objection that he was only fifty-one years old. Three days were spent in the effort to overcome his reluctance to accept a dignity the heavy burden of which none knew better than the experienced curialist (Galland in Hist. Jahrbuch, 1882, III, 208 sqq.). The period was critical for Europe and the papacy. During the conclave Charles II, the last of the Spanish Hapsburgs, had died childless, leaving his vast dominions a prey to French and Austrian ambition. His will, making Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV, sole heir to the Spanish Empire, was contested by the Emperor Leopold, who claimed Spain for his second son Charles. The late king, before making this will, had consulted Pope Innocent XII, and Cardinal Albani had been one of the three cardinals to whom the pontiff had entrusted the case and who advised him to pronounce secretly in its favour. This was at the time unknown to the emperor, else Austria would have vetoed the election of Albani. The latter was finally persuaded that it was his duty to obey the call from Heaven; on 30 November he was consecrated bishop, and on 8 December solemnly enthroned in the Vatican. The enthusiasm with which his elevation was greeted throughout the world is the best evidence of his worth. Even Protestants received the intelligence with joy and the city of Nuremberg struck a medal in his honour. The sincere Catholic reformers greeted his accession as the death-knell of nepotism; for, though he had many relatives, it was known that he had instigated and written the severe condemnation of that abuse issued by his predecessor. As pontiff, he did not belie his principles. He bestowed the offices of his court upon the most worthy subjects and ordered his brother to keep at a distance and refrain from adopting any new title or interfering in matters of state. In the government of the States of the Church, Clement was a capable administrator. He provided diligently for the needs of his subjects, was extremely charitable to the poor, bettered the condition of the prisons, and secured food for the populace in time of scarcity. He won the good will of artists by prohibiting the exportation of ancient masterpieces, and of scientists by commissioning Bianchini to lay down on the pavement of Sta Maria degli Angioli the meridian of Rome, known as the Clementina.
His capacity for work was prodigious. He slept but little and ate so sparingly that a few pence per day sufficed for his table. Every day he confessed and celebrated Mass. He entered minutely into the details of every measure which came before him, and with his own hand prepared the numerous allocutions, Briefs, and constitutions afterwards collected and published. He also found time to preach his beautiful homilies and was frequently to be seen in the confessional. Though his powerful frame more than once sank under the weight of his labours and cares, he continued to keep rigorously the fasts of the Church, and generally allowed himself but the shortest possible respite from his labours.
In his efforts to establish peace among the powers of Europe and to uphold the rights of the Church, he met with scant success; for the eighteenth century was eminently the age of selfishness and infidelity. One of his first public acts was to protest against the assumption (1701) by the Elector of Brandenburg of the title of King of Prussia. The pope's action, though often derided and misinterpreted, was natural enough, not only because the bestowal of royal titles had always been regarded as the privilege of the Holy See, but also because Prussia belonged by ancient right to the ecclesiastico-military institute known as the Teutonic Order. In the troubles excited by the rivalry of France and the Empire for the Spanish succession, Pope Clement resolved to maintain a neutral attitude; but this was found to be impossible. When, therefore, the Bourbon was crowned in Madrid as Philip V, amid the universal acclamations of the Spaniards, the pope acquiesced and acknowledged the validity of his title. This embittered the morose Emperor Leopold, and the relations between Austria and the Holy See became so strained that the pope did not conceal his satisfaction when the French and Bavarian troops began that march on Vienna which ended so disastrously on the field of Blenheim. Marlborough's victory, followed by Prince Eugene's successful campaign in Piedmont, placed Italy at the mercy of the Austrians. Leopold died in 1705 and was succeeded by his oldest son Joseph, a worthy precursor of Joseph II. A contest immediately began on the question known as Jus primarum precum, involving the right of the crown to appoint to vacant benefices. The victorious Austrians, now masters of Northern Italy, invaded the Papal States, took possession of Piacenza and Parma, annexed Comacchio and besieged Ferrara. Clement at first offered a spirited resistance, but, abandoned by all, could not hope for success, and when a strong detachment of Protestant troops under the command of the Prince of Hesse-Cassel reached Bologna, fearing a repetition of the fearful scenes of 1527, he finally gave way (15 Jan., 1709), acknowledged the Archduke Charles as King of Spain "without detriment to the rights of another", and promised him the investiture of Naples. Though the Bourbon monarchs had done nothing to aid the pope in his unequal struggle, both Louis and Philip became very indignant and retaliated by every means in their power (see LOUIS XIV). In the negotiations preceding the Peace of Utrecht (1713) the rights of the pope were studiously neglected; his nuncio was not accorded a hearing; his dominions were parcelled out to suit the convenience of either party. Sicily was given to Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, with whom from the first days of his pontificate Clement was involved in quarrels on the subjects of ecclesiastical immunities and appointments to vacant benefices. The new king now undertook to revive the so-called Monarchia Sicula, an ancient but much-disputed and abused privilege of pontifical origin which practically excluded the pope from any authority over the church in Sicily. When Clement answered with bann and interdict, all the clergy, about 3000 in number, who remained loyal to the Holy See were banished the island, and the pope was forced to give them food and shelter. The interdict was not raised till 1718, when Spain regained possession, but the old controversy was repeatedly resumed under the Bourbons. Through the machinations of Cardinal Alberoni, Parma and Piacenza were granted to a Spanish Infante without regard to the papal overlordship. It was some consolation to the much-tried pope that Augustus of Saxony, King of Poland, returned to the Church. Clement laboured hard to restore harmony in Poland, but without success. The Turks had taken advantage of the dissensions among the Christians to invade Europe by land and sea. Clement proclaimed a jubilee, sent money and ships to the assistance of the Venetians, and granted a tithe on all benefices to the Emperor Charles VI. When Prince Eugene won the great battle of Temesvár, which put an end to the Turkish danger, no slight share of the credit was given by the Christian world to the pope and the Holy Rosary. Clement sent the great commander a blessed hat and sword. The fleet which Philip V of Spain had raised at the instigation of the pope, and with subsidies levied on church revenues, was diverted by Alberoni to the conquest of Sardinia; and though Clement showed his indignation by demanding the dismissal of the minister, and beginning a process against him, he had much to do to convince the emperor that he was not privy to the treacherous transaction. He gave a generous hospitality to the exiled son of James II of England, James Edward Stuart, and helped him to obtain the hand of Clementina, John Sobieski's accomplished granddaughter, mother of Charles Edward.
Clement's pastoral vigilance was felt in every corner of the earth. He organized the Church in the Philippine Islands and sent missionaries to every distant spot. He erected Lisbon into a patriarchate, 7 December, 1716. He enriched the Vatican Library with the manuscript treasures gathered at the expense of the pope by Joseph Simeon Assemani in his researches throughout Egypt and Syria. In the unfortunate controversy between the Dominican and the Jesuit missionaries in China concerning the permissibility of certain rites and customs, Clement decided in favour of the former. When the Jansenists provoked a new collision with the Church under the leadership of Quesnel, Pope Clement issued his two memorable Constitutions, "Vineam Domini", 16 July, 1705, and "Unigenitus", 10 September, 1713 (see UNIGENITUS; VINEAM DOMINI; JANSENISM). Clement XI made the feast of the Conception of the B.V.M. a Holy Day of obligation, and canonized Pius V, Andrew of Avellino, Felix of Cantalice, and Catherine of Bologna.
This great and saintly pontiff died appropriately on the feast of St. Joseph, for whom he entertained a particular devotion, and in whose honour he composed the special Office found in the Breviary. His remains rest in St. Peter's. His official acts, letters, and Briefs, also his homilies, were collected and published by his nephew, Cardinal Annibale Albani (2 vols., Rome, 1722-24).
Giovanni Francesco Albani was born on the 23rd of March, 1649. Unbeknownst to all at the time, this man would rise to become one of the most powerful political and spiritual leaders of his time. In fact, even kings would submit to his authority, although his reign as pope would mark the beginning of the decline of papal power.
Albani, later to be known as Pope Clement XI, was born in the town of Urbino, Italy. His family was a noble family that included senators and prefects. Albani received extensive education in his earlier years, and was sent to finish his studies at the Roman College at eleven years old. First known as an author at age eighteen, Albani was soon noticed by Queen Christina of Sweden, who enrolled him in her Royal Academia. He majored in theology and law, and was granted the title of doctor of canon and civil law. A firm supporter of strong morals, Albani gained favor with the Catholic Church, and was appointed cardinal-deacon at the age of twenty-one and Prelate of Rieti at the age of twenty-eight. Due to his excellence in leading, Albani was recalled to Rome and given the position of Vicar of St. Peter’s, and then later promoted to Secretary of Papal Briefs. As this job required an extensive knowledge of Latin, Albani held this position for more than thirteen ears. In 1700, a tragedy occurred when the current pope, Pope Innocent XII, died. The Church’s original nominee, Cardinal Mariscotti, was rejected by France, after which Cardinal Albani was unanimously elected to the prestigious post. Albani was only fifty-one years old at the time; very young for a pope. At first, Albani was reluctant to receive this position, and for three days efforts were made to convince him that it was best for the Church. Finally, Albani decided to follow the will of God, and on the 8th of December, 1700, was enthroned in the Vatican as Pope Clement XI.
Pope Clement XI accomplished many great achievements during his lifetime. Unlike many corrupt popes before him, he did not bestow clerical offices upon anyone unless he deemed them worthy and capable enough for the role. He did not tolerate corruption in those he had authority over, and worked almost constantly in an attempt to better the Church and the world that it affected. He improved conditions of prisons, set up charities for the poor, and provided food for the populace in times of scarcity. He also gained the respect of artists and scientists by prohibiting the exportation of ancient masterpieces, and by supporting a great scientist and historian of the time, Francesco Bianchini. He was the first to organize the Church in the Philippines, as well as sending missionaries all over the world. He added to the Vatican Library at his own expense, donating manuscripts gathered by Joseph Assemani in his journeys through Egypt and Syria. He regularized the synchronization of time by ordering that all clocks in Rome be matched to a sundial. He slept little and ate less, and always dedicated his entire attention to any task set before him until completed.
Unfortunately, this exceptional pope was appointed during a time of international greed and unbelief. France and the Austrian Empire, both vying for the succession to the Spanish throne, brought about his first troubles. Charles II, the latest Spanish king, had died childless, designating in his will that Phillip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV of France, should receive the throne. However, both Austrian Emperor Leopold and Archduke Charles of Spain resented this succession. Pope Clement XI elected to remain neutral during the following contest, but that proved impossible. At first, he hesitantly recognized Phillip V as king of Spain, but when Leopold’s successor, Joseph I, invaded the Papal States, the pope was forced to recognize Archduke Charles as the new Spanish king. From this point onward, Pope Clement XI was held almost in contempt by the majority of European leaders. The Peace of Utrecht, an exceedingly important peace treaty between several European powers, was conducted without regards to the rights of the pope and the Catholic Church. The new Spanish king also excluded practically any papal authority over the church in Sicily. Pope Clement XI attempted to counteract this with an interdict, but the king then banished 3000 clergy who still supported the pope. The pope also had to provide for these unfortunate clergy.
Pope Clement XI’s two largest religious disagreements occurred with the Chinese Christians and later with the Jansenists. He opposed all ancestor worship in China, despite the fact that much of it was done for cultural traditions rather than actual worship. As a result, the missionaries were rejected in China, and the missionary movement to that country was practically killed off. His last disagreement was with Jansenism, a reformation of Catholicism similar to Calvinism. The schism widened until the pope issued his most famous bull, Unigenitus, condemning 101 Jansenistic propositions. However, this bull caused another split in the Catholic Church as several cardinals refused to accept it.
Although Pope Clement XI is most known for marking the beginning of the loss of papal power, this great man also accomplished many great things during his lifetime and at one time was one of most powerful men in the world. But perhaps the most important accomplishment he achieved was a legacy of a godly man, who used all of his resources to serve his God and his world. On March 19th, 1721, Pope Clement XI was finally laid to rest.