Showing posts with label Pope Alexander VII. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pope Alexander VII. Show all posts

10 July 2023

Ludovico Chigi – Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Roman with many titles had powerful ancestors

Ludovico Chigi, pictured in his ceremonial uniform
Ludovico Chigi, pictured in
his ceremonial uniform
Ludovico Chigi Albani della Rovere was born on this day in 1866 in Ariccia, a town in the Alban Hills to the southeast of Rome.

Chigi was the son of Imperial Prince Mario Chigi della Rovere-Albani and his wife, Princess Antoinette zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn. His father’s family, the Chigi, was one of the most prominent noble Roman families and they were descended from the rich and powerful banker, Agostino Chigi.

Another of their ancestors was Pope Alexander VII, who in the 17th century had conferred upon his nephew, Agostino Chigi, the hereditary princedoms of Farnese and Campagnano and the dukedoms of Ariccia and Formello. Chigi made his money in Siena but moved to Rome, taking his vast wealth with him, and he lent considerable sums of money to his uncle, the Pope.

For all the descendants of the Chigi male line, Pope Alexander VII had procured the title of Imperial Prince and Princess from the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I.

Agostino Chigi had also helped Pope Julius II financially and had been made treasury and notary of the Apostolic Camera. Julius II had authorised the Chigi family to augment their name and arms with his own, Della Rovere, and he had become their relative through lines of descent from his illegitimate daughter, Felice della Rovere.

Ludovico married Donna Anna Aldobrandini, the daughter of Pietro, Prince Aldobrandini, in 1893. They had two children, Prince Sigismondo and Princess Laura Maria Caterina.

In 1914, Ludovico succeeded his father and became eighth Prince of Farnese and Campagnano and inherited many other titles.

He was responsible for three papal conclaves and became an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Agostino Chigi, the banker who founded the Chigi dynasty
Agostino Chigi, the banker who
founded the Chigi dynasty
In 1931, Ludovico was elected Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Both of his parents had been members of the Order.

The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, to give it its full name, is a Roman Catholic organisation based in Rome with about 13,000 members worldwide. 

It was founded in 1048 by merchants from Amalfi, who were in Jerusalem as a monastic order and ran a hospital to tend to Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land.

At the height of its power, the Order was also tasked by Rome with the additional military function of defending Christians from the local Muslim population.

The Knights of St. John were just one of the Christian military orders founded during this period.

When the Sultan of Egypt retook Jerusalem in 1291, the Knights of St. John went into exile, settling in Rhodes 20 years later. In 1523, they were forced from Rhodes by the Sultan’s forces and settled in Malta, which they ruled until they were dislodged by Napoleon’s army in 1798. 

It is for that reason that the organisation began to be known as the Order of Malta or Knights of Malta.

After the defeat by the French, the Order then settled in Rome in the mid-19th century, where it remains to this day.

The Knights have had no military function since leaving Malta and have since sponsored medical missions in more than 120 countries. Under Ludovico’s leadership during World War II, the Order conducted hospital and charity work on a large scale.

In 1947, Ludovico was appointed president of an international committee to oversee the rebuilding of the Abbey of Monte Cassino.

Ludovico died in 1951 in Rome at the age of 85.  

Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta is a feature of the town of Ariccia
Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Collegiata di Santa Maria
Assunta is a feature of the town of Ariccia
Travel tip:

Ariccia, where Ludovico was born, is one of the Castelli Romani towns, situated in the Parco Regionale dei Castelli Romani. Some 25km (15.5 miles) from Rome, Ariccia has become famous for its porchetta, which is cooked slowly with wild fennel. The Sagra della Porchetta festival takes place every year during the first weekend of September, when the town celebrates with music, dancing, stalls and exhibitions. This festival began in 1950 and is one of the most traditional festivals in the Lazio region, which helps to promote porchetta to other parts of Italy and the world.  As part of the Castelli Romani, the town is also known for its wine production. Ariccia's main church, the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, completed in 1664, was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The Chigi family's legacy in Rome includes the
Palazzo Chigi, the prime minister's official residence 
Travel tip:

The 16th-century Palazzo Chigi, which overlooks the Via del Corso in Rome, was completed by Carlo Maderno in 1580 for the Aldobrandini family. It was in the ownership of the Chigi family from 1659 until the 19th century. After a period as the residence of the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to Italy, it was bought by the Italian state in 1916. It was used first as the residence of the Minister for Colonial Affairs and later the Minister of Foreign Affairs before, in 1961, becoming the official meeting place of the Council of Ministers, whose president is the head of the Italian government - the prime minister - and can now use the palace as his official residence.

Also on this day:

138: The death of the Roman emperor, Hadrian

1510: The death of Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus

1954: The death of Mafia chieftain Calogero Vizzini


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5 August 2019

Antonio Barberini – Cardinal

Pope’s nephew amassed fortune and became patron of the arts


Carlo Maratta's portrait of Antonio Barberini as an older man
Carlo Maratta's portrait of Antonio
Barberini as an older man
Catholic cardinal, military leader and patron of the arts Antonio Barberini was born on this day in 1607 in Rome.

As one of the cardinal-nephews of Pope Urban VIII he helped to shape the politics, religion, art and music of 17th century Italy and took part in many papal conclaves.

He is sometimes referred to as Antonio the Younger, or Antonio Barberini Iuniore, to distinguish him from his uncle, Antonio Marcello Barberini.

Antonio was the youngest of six children born to Carlo Barberini and Costanza Magalotti. Like his brothers, he was educated at the Collegio Romano.  His brother, Francesco Barberini, became Grand Inquisitor of the Roman Inquisition

His uncle, Maffeo Barberini, was elected as Pope the day after Antonio’s 16th birthday and became Pope Urban VIII.

Urban VIII was notorious for nepotism and he appointed Antonio as a cardinal just after his 20th birthday.  Nepotism was commonplace among popes from the Middle Ages up to the 17th century. The word derives from the Latin nepos (Italian: nipote), meaning nephew, to describe the practice among popes, who had taken vows of chastity and therefore could have no legitimate children, of appointing nephews to key positions.

Antonio was made papal legate in Avignon, where he forged some powerful connections. In 1636 he accepted the post of Crown-Cardinal-Protector of the Kingdom of France.

Barberini in a portait dated at around 1725, when he would have been 18 years old
Barberini in a portait dated at around 1725,
when he would have been 18 years old
It has been estimated that Antonio accumulated more than 63 million scudi in personal wealth during the 21-year pontificate of Urban VIII.

Antonio and his brother, Taddeo, led the Pope’s forces to occupy Castro after Urban VIII started a feud with the Farnese family. But their victory over the Farnese was short lived and they suffered a series of losses during which Antonio himself was nearly captured.

The Pope was forced to sign a peace treaty with the Farnese to prevent them from marching on Rome.

After Innocent X was elected as Pope, Antonio and Taddeo were accused of financial abuses and had to go into exile in Paris under the protection of Antonio’s supporter, Cardinal Mazarin.

The next Pope, Alexander VII, made Antonio the Cardinal Bishop of Frascati and Louis XIV of France made him the Archbishop of Rheims.

Antonio had a number of mistresses, including one he is said to have had whipped for flaunting herself during Carnevale and another who died mysteriously while carrying his child. There were also allegations that he had homosexual relationships, in particular with the castrato singer Marc'Antonio Pasqualini. But in later life he changed his lifestyle and became deeply religious.

Bernini's monument to Barberini in the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini
Bernini's monument to Barberini in the
church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini
He was patron to many composers, musicians, architects and artists. The composer Marco Marazzoli wrote music for him and dedicated his Fiori Musicali to Antonio in 1635.

Antonio commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini to design the Palazzo del Propaganda Fide in Rome, but while Antonio was in exile, Bernini was replaced by Francesco Borromini, who had Bernini’s chapel demolished and replaced it with one built to his own design. Antonio and his brothers also commissioned the Teatro delle Quattro Fontane, an opera house built in 1632 near Piazza Barberini.

Antonio was a great admirer of Caravaggio, who died when he was just three years old. His extensive art collection contained many paintings by Caravaggio. He also commissioned Lorenzo Ottoni to complete a number of Barberini family sculptures for him.

Antonio died at Nemi near Rome in 1671, two days before his 64th birthday. There is a monument to him by Bernini in the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Rome.

An 18th century engraving of the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide in Rome by Giuseppe Vasi
An 18th century engraving of the Palazzo di Propaganda
Fide in Rome by Giuseppe Vasi
Travel tip:

Palazzo di Propaganda Fide, commissioned by Antonio Barberini, is at the southern end of Piazza di Spagna in Rome close to the Basilica Sant’Andrea delle Fratte. The main fa├žade was designed by Bernini, but the side looking out on to Via di Propaganda was designed by Borromini. The chapel of the Biblical Magi was built by Borromini. One of the most famous examples of Italian baroque architecture, the palace was built to house the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples and since 1929 it has been an extraterritorial property of the Holy See.

Corso Vittorio Emanuele is one of the main streets in Nemi
Corso Vittorio Emanuele is one of the
main streets in Nemi
Travel tip:

Nemi, the town where Antonio Barberini died, is in the Alban Hills overlooking Lake Nemi, a volcanic crater lake. It is about 30km (19 miles) southeast of Rome. The Roman emperor Caligula built several large barges for use on the lake. They were rediscovered during the Renaissance period but attempts to raise them from the bottom of the lake proved unsuccessful. Mussolini ordered them to be salvaged in 1929 but most of them were destroyed by fire in 1944, either deliberately by the retreating German army, or accidentally by squatters who had taken refuge in the building that housed them. The surviving remnants and replicas of Caligula’s barges can be seen in the Museo Nazionale at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome. Nemi is also famous for the wild strawberries that grow on the side of the volcanic crater in ideal conditions that make them taste sweet.

More reading:

Why Grand Inquisitor Francesco Barberini refused to condemn Galileo as a heretic

The genius of Gian Lorenzo Bernini

How Pope Urban VIII's extravagance ended in disgrace

Also on this day:

1623: The birth of composer Marc'Antonio Cesti

1953: The birth of magistrate Felice Casson, who exposed secretive Operation Gladio

2002: The death of thriller writer Franco Lucentini


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7 December 2018

Giovanni Battista Falda - engraver

Printmaker who found market among Grand Tourists


An engraving by Giovanni Battista Falda of Gian Lorenzo Bernini's tour de force, the Piazza San Pietro in Rome
An engraving by Giovanni Battista Falda of Gian Lorenzo
Bernini's tour de force, the Piazza San Pietro in Rome 
The engraver and printmaker Giovanni Battista Falda, who turned his artistic talent into commercial success as 17th century Rome welcomed the first waves of Europe’s Grand Tourists, was born on this day in 1643 in Valduggia in Piedmont.

Falda created engravings depicting the great buildings, gardens and fountains of Rome, as well as maps and representations of ceremonial events, which soon became popular with visitors keen to take back pictorial souvenirs of their stay, to remind them of what they had seen and to show their friends.

He took commissions to make illustrations of favourite views and of specific buildings and squares, and because the early Grand Tourists were mainly young men from wealthy families in Britain and other parts of Europe he was able to charge premium prices.

Giovanni Battista Falda's depiction of the church of Santa Maria della Rotonda, popularly known as the Pantheon
Giovanni Battista Falda's depiction of the church of Santa
Maria della Rotonda, popularly known as the Pantheon
Falda showed artistic talent at an early age and was apprenticed to the painter Francesco Ferrari as a child, before moving to Rome when he was 14 to be mentored by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the sculptor and architect who had such a huge influence on the look of Rome.

His early draughtsmanship caught the eye of the printmaker and publisher Giovan Giacomo De Rossi, who took Falda on as an apprentice at his print shop.

The De Rossi family were the principal publishers of prints in Rome during the 17th century, and almost all of Falda’s work was published by them.

Falda was taught all the technical skills of engraving and etching, while also perfecting his own style of drawing, which was focused on realistic representation of his subjects.

A section of Falda's incredibly detailed map of Rome
A section of Falda's incredibly detailed map of Rome
He made the acquaintance of emerging figures of the Roman art world, such as Francesco Borromini and Pietro da Cortona, and when he finished his training at the age of 20 began a career as a printmaker.

His specialisation was the urban landscape of Rome, and he is best known for his vedute - views - of architecture throughout the city, especially the renovation projects backed by Pope Alexander VII. In 1665, the De Rossi printshop published a book of prints by Falda depicting views of the construction and restoration projects sponsored by the Pope.

Gardens and fountains interested Falda in particular. Two of his most famous series collected in book form are Giardini di Roma (1670) and Fontane di Roma (1675).

An illustration from the collection of garden views created by Giovanni Battista Falda, entitled Giardini di Roma
An illustration from the collection of garden views created
by Giovanni Battista Falda, entitled Giardini di Roma
Falda was a significant influence on the work of later Roman printmakers, such as Giovanni Francesco Ventunni, Alessandro Specchi, and Giuseppe Vasi.

With more than 300 architectural views attributed to him, Falda also had much to do with Rome’s renown in the 17th century for the veduta as a genre and helped change the perception of the city, shifting the focus away from its ancient history and underlining its new status as a modern, progressive and expanding metropolis.

In 1676, he produced a 12-sheet map of Rome depicting the city in minute detail at the height of its Baroque splendor.

The first of the Grand Tourists, who arrived in Rome in the mid-17th century, bought so much of Falda’s work that he soon grew prosperous, although he did not live long to enjoy his wealth. He passed away at the age of just 34 in 1678.

Today, his works are still collectible. When they come up at auction, they usually sell for between £2,500 and £3,500 (€2,800 - €3,900), although some have realised up to £20,000 (€22,500).

Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in Rome's historic Piazza Navona
Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in
Rome's historic Piazza Navona
Travel tip:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was born in 1598 and lived for more than 81 years, is the architect and sculptor behind many of Rome’s most famous landmarks, particular the fountains that Giovanni Battista Falda depicted with such success in his engravings. The Fontana della Barcaccia in Piazza di Spagna, the Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini, and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and Fontana del Moro in Piazza Navona are all by Bernini, although he is more famous even for his work at St Peter’s Basilica, which included numerous beautiful sculptures within the church and the architectural masterpiece that is Piazza San Pietro - St Peter’s Square - with its majestic sweep of statue-topped colonnades.


The Isola San Giulio in the middle of the beautiful Lago di Orta in Piedmont, not far from where Falda was born
The Isola San Giulio in the middle of the beautiful Lago
di Orta in Piedmont, not far from where Falda was born
Travel tip:

Valduggia, the small town in northern Piedmont where Falda was born, is just 15km (9 miles) from Lago di Orta, a smaller and less well known lake than Maggiore, Como, Garda and Iseo, yet one that is no less beautiful and has the benefit of being less crowded than its more high-profile neighbours. The small town of Orta San Giulio, at the south-eastern edge of the lake, is the most important town on the shores of Lake Orta, boasting an attractive historical centre with narrow cobbled streets and many bars and ice cream shops.  Boats leave the harbour to cross to Isola San Giulio, the charming island in the centre of the lake where visitors can find the ruins of a 12th century basilica and follow a path that follows the circumference of the island.


More reading:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini - the greatest sculptor of the 17th century

How Pietro da Cortona became the leading Baroque painter of his time

Visentini engravings took Venice to the wider world

Also on this day:

The Feast of St Ambrose in Milan

1302: The birth of Milanese ruler Azzione Visconti

1598: The birth of Gian Lorenzo Bernini


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