Showing posts with label Pope Gregory XV. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pope Gregory XV. Show all posts

7 September 2018

Giuseppe Gioachino Belli – poet

Sonnet writer satirised life in 19th century Rome

Giuseppe Gioachino Belli's poems often poked  fun at the Roman Catholic church
Giuseppe Gioachino Belli's poems often poked
 fun at the Roman Catholic church
The poet Giuseppe Gioachino Belli was born on this day in 1791 in Rome and was christened Giuseppe Francesco Antonio Maria Gioachino Raimondi Belli.

He was to become famous for his satirical sonnets written in Romanesco, the dialect of Rome.

After taking a job in Civitavecchia, a coastal town about 70km (44 miles) northwest of Rome, Belli’s father moved the family to live there, but after he died - of either cholera or typhus - his wife returned to Rome with her children and took cheap lodgings in Via del Corso.

Living in poor circumstances, Belli began writing sonnets in Italian at the suggestion of his friend, the poet Francesco Spada.

In 1816, Belli married a woman of means, Maria Conti, and went to live with her in Palazzo Poli, the palace that forms the backdrop to the Trevi Fountain. This gave him the freedom to develop his literary talents. They had a son, Ciro, in 1824.

The palace was Belli’s home for 21 years, from 1816 to 1837, but he was able to travel to other places in Italy where he came into contact with new ideas. It was during a stay in Milan that he first encountered dialect poetry and satire. The sonnets of Carlo Porta provided him with a model for the poems in Roman dialect that eventually were to make him famous.

The plaque marking the birthplace of Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, in Via dei Redentoristi in central Rome
The plaque marking the birthplace of Giuseppe Gioachino
Belli, in Via dei Redentoristi in central Rome
His sonnets were often satirical and anti-clerical. For example, he dubbed the Cardinals ‘dog-robbers’ and referred to Pope Gregory XV as ‘someone who kept Rome as his personal inn.’

However, during the democratic rebellion that led to the declaration of a short-lived Roman Republic of 1849, he defended the rights of the Pope.

Belli produced more than 2,200 sonnets that document the life of common people in 19th century Rome. He kept them hidden, apart from occasionally giving recitals to friends. Just before his death he asked his friend, Monsignor Vincenzo Tizzani, to burn them but fortunately his friend handed them over to Belli’s son, Ciro, who published a selection of them in 1866, editing them to prevent them from causing offence at the time.

The first complete edition of Belli’s work was not published till 1952, nearly a century after his death.

Belli satirised the way ordinary  working class Romans lives
Belli satirised the way ordinary
 working class Romans lives
Belli’s sonnets expressed with humour what he observed of the Roman lower classes, satirising the way people lived and the clerical world that oppressed them.

Ironically, the poet later worked as an artistic and political censor for the papal government and prevented the work of Shakespeare, Verdi and Rossini from being circulated, among others.

After his wife’s death in 1837, Belli’s economic situation had worsened again and as he grew older, he lost a lot of his vitality and became increasingly critical of the world around him, describing himself as ‘a dead poet’.

He died in Rome after a stroke in 1863 at the age of 72.

His nephew, the painter Guglielmo Janni, wrote his biography in ten volumes, which was published posthumously.

The monument to Belli off Viale Trastevere
The monument to Belli off Viale Trastevere
Travel tip:

A plaque next to the door marks Giuseppe Gioachino Belli’s birthplace at number 13 Via dei Redentoristi, a back street near the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Valle, which is in Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, a short distance from the Pantheon in central Rome.  There is a monument to the poet in Piazza Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, which is off Viale Trastevere in Rome, overlooking the Tiber near the Basilica of San Crisogno. It was placed there in 1913 and paid for by the public of Rome.

The Palazzo Poli is the palace immediately behind the Trevi Fountain in the centre of Rome
The Palazzo Poli is the palace immediately behind
the Trevi Fountain in the centre of Rome
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Poli, where Belli lived for more than 20 years, dates back to 1573, when the Anguillara family commissioned the architect Martino Longhi to transform a former palace of Baldovino Del Monte, brother of Pope Julius III. In time it was acquired by Lucrezia Colonna and was renamed in 1712 after her husband, Giuseppe Conti, the Duke of Poli. When plans were drawn up for the Trevi Fountain, the central section was demolished and replaced with the monumental facade designed by Luigi Vanvitelli as the backdrop for fountain, which was designed by Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762.

More reading:

The brilliant lyric poetry of Giacomo Leopardi

How Vittorio Alfieri's poetry inspired the oppressed

Ugo Foscolo - poet and revolutionary

Also on this day:

1303: The kidnapping of Pope Boniface VIII

1893: The founding of Italy's oldest surviving football club


7 January 2018

Pope Innocent X

Political pontiff dominated by sister-in-law

The portrait of Innocent X by the Spanish artist Diego Valesquez, notably for a terse facial expression
The portrait of Innocent X by the Spanish artist Diego
Velázquez, notable for a terse facial expression
A politically charged and controversial period in papal history ended on this day in 1655 with the death in Rome of Pope Innocent X.

Described by some historians as a scheming and bitter pontiff, Innocent X’s tenure was notable for his malicious attack on a rival family, his destruction of the ancient city of Castro, a squabble with France that almost ended in war, his interference in the English Civil War and his refusal to recognise the independence of Portugal.

It was also overshadowed by rumours of an immoral relationship with his sister-in-law, Olimpia Maidalchini, the widow of his late brother. Historians generally agree that these were unfounded, yet Innocent X was dominated by her to the extent that she became the most powerful figure in his court, her influence so strong that ambassadors, cardinals and bishops knew that the pope would defer to her before making any decision and consequently would address any issues directly to her.

Born in Rome in 1574 and baptised as Giovanni Battista Pamphili, he came from a wealthy and well-established family who originally came from Gubbio in Umbria.

His parents, Camillo Pamphili and Flaminia de Bubalis, groomed him from an early age with the ambition that he would one day become pope.

Innocent X's predecessor, Urban VIII, as  depicted by Caravaggio in 1598
Innocent X's predecessor, Urban VIII, as
depicted by Caravaggio in 1598
He studied jurisprudence at the Collegio Romano and succeeded his uncle, Girolamo Pamphili, as auditor (judge) of the Roman Rota, the most important court in the ecclesiastical legal system.

Under Pope Gregory XV, he became nuncio (ambassador) to the court of the Kingdom of Naples, and was sent by Urban VIII to accompany his nephew, Francesco Barberini, whom he had accredited as nuncio, first to France and then Spain.

In May 1626, he was made apostolic nuncio to the court of Philip IV of Spain, an appointment that led to a lifelong association with the Spaniards. He was made a cardinal in 1627 at the age of 53.

He was elected pope in 1644 after a long and stormy conclave to find a successor to Urban VIII, undermined by the difficult relations between the Spanish and the French.  Pamphili was put forward as a compromise candidate, despite his sympathies towards Spain.  Cardinal Jules Mazarin, the de facto ruler of France, travelled to Rome to veto the appointment but arrived too late.

Soon after his accession, having given himself the name of  Innocent X, he began a legal action against the Barberini family, long-time rivals of the Pamphili, for alleged misappropriation of public funds.

It led the brothers, Francesco, Antonio and Taddeo Barberini, to flee to Paris, where they found a powerful protector in Cardinal Mazarin.  Innocent X confiscated their property and issued a bull (decree) that all cardinals who might leave the Papal States for six months without express papal permission would be deprived of their benefices and eventually cease to be cardinals.

A painting by an unknown artist believed to show Olimpia Maidalchini
A painting by an unknown artist believed
to show Olimpia Maidalchini
France refused to recognise the papal ordinance but it was only when Mazarin prepared to send troops to Italy that Innocent X yielded. Papal policy towards France became softer and in time the Barberini brothers were rehabilitated.

Innocent X’s destruction of the ancient city of Castro in Lazio seems to have been an act of revenge against Odoardo Farnese, Duke of Parma, over a defeat suffered by Urban VIII and the humiliation that seemed to hasten his demise.

His intervention in the English Civil War was to send the archbishop of Fermo, Giovanni Battista Rinuccini, to Ireland as nuncio extraordinary, along with a large quantity of arms, gunpowder and money, to support the foundation of an independent Catholic-ruled Ireland, only for Oliver Cromwell to hold sway and restore Ireland to his side.

Innocent X's decision to side with Spain over Portugal’s bid for independence was consistent with his general policy of supporting Spanish ambitions and, as an extension of that position, opposing France.

Although his papacy was dominated by political matters, he did not entirely neglect ecclesiastical issues. The most important in his time concerned the condemnation of Jansenism, an interpretation of the teachings of St. Augustine about grace and free will that he decreed was heretical.

He was cautious financially, although he did commission the completion of the interior of St. Peter’s as well as the transformation of Piazza Navona into the artistic masterpiece we see today, and the restoration of Palazzo Pamphili, the home of Pope Urban VIII, which looks out on the piazza.

Innocent X was pope for 11 years until his death in Rome at the age of 80. Religious historians are divided on his legacy, some believing he weakened the papacy, others that he increased its power. He was succeeded by Alexander VII, from the Chigi family.

Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi
Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi
Travel tip:

Built on the site of the Roman Stadium of Domitian, Piazza Navona became a public open space in the 15th century, when Rome’s main market moved there from Campidoglio. It already contained the Fontana del Moro (Moors Foutain) and the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune), sculpted by Giacomo della Porta between 1574 and 1575, but Innocent X commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini to create its magnificent centrepiece, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) in 1651, which is topped by the Obelisk of Domitian, moved from the Circus of Maxentius.

A typical staircase in medieval Gubbio
A typical staircase in medieval Gubbio
Travel tip:

Gubbio, the town in Umbria from which Innocent X’s family originated, is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Italy, partly because, perched on the side of Monte Ingino, it is not accessible easily enough to attract hordes of visitors.  Full of narrow streets, alleyways and staircases, most of them dramatically steep, it has been dubbed La Città del Silenzio – the City of Silence – for its sometimes eerie serenity and calm. 


9 February 2016

Pope Gregory XV

Legally-trained pontiff was against witchcraft and for secret ballots

Gian Lorenzo Bernini's marble bust of Gregory XV, which he sculpted in 1621
Gian Lorenzo Bernini's marble bust of
Gregory XV, which he sculpted in 1621
Gregory XV, who was christened Alessandro Ludovisi, became Pope on this day in 1621.

He was the last Pope to issue a papal ordinance against witchcraft with his ‘Declaration against Magicians and Witches’, put out in March 1623.

He was already 67 years of age and in a weak state of health when he was chosen as Pope and relied heavily on his 25-year-old nephew, Ludovico Ludovisi, to assist him in his duties.

Born in Bologna in 1554, the young Alessandro Ludovisi was educated at a Jesuit college in Rome before going to Bologna University to study law.

He worked in various roles for the church until he was appointed Archbishop of Bologna in 1612, having at some stage been ordained.

In 1616 he was sent by Pope Paul V to mediate between Charles Emmanuel 1, Duke of Savoy and Philip III of Spain, who were involved in a dispute. The Pope elevated him to the rank of Cardinal in the same year.

He went to Rome after the death of Pope Paul V to take part in the conclave. He was chosen as Pope on February 9, 1621, the last Pope to be elected by acclamation.

His nephew, Ludovico, was made a cardinal and he used his energy and talents to benefit the Church during Gregory’s pontificate.

Gregory changed the way Popes were elected, bringing in the method of secret ballot for future papal conclaves.

He also made the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola, a saint.

After Gregory’s death in 1623 he was buried in the Church of Sant’Ignazio in Rome.

The church of Sant'Ignazio in Rome, where Pope  Gregory XV and his nephew are buried
The Church of Sant'Ignazio in Rome, where Pope
Gregory XV and his nephew are buried
Travel tip:

Pope Gregory XV and his nephew, Cardinal Ludovisi, are both buried in a chapel of the Church of Sant’Ignazio in Campo Marzio in Rome, which they built. After Ignatius Loyola had been made a Saint in 1622, Pope Gregory XV had suggested to his nephew that a new church dedicated to the founder of the Jesuits should be erected next to the Jesuit College he had attended as a child.

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Travel tip:

Alessandro Ludovisi studied law at Bologna University, which was founded in 1088 and is the oldest university in the world. The oldest surviving building, the Archiginnasio, is now a library, open Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, and on Saturdays from 9am to 2pm. It is just a short walk from Piazza Maggiore and the Basilica di San Petronio in the centre of the city.