Alexander VII

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Alexander VII
Portrait of Fabio Chigis, painted by Anselm van Hulle, circa 1646
Pope coat of arms of Alexander VII.
Tomb of Alexander VII in St. Peter's Basilica

Alexander VII (actually Fabio Chigi ; born February 13, 1599 in Siena , † May 22, 1667 in Rome ) was Pope of the Catholic Church from 1655 to 1667 . Numerous buildings that shaped the image of baroque Rome were created on his behalf.


Fabio Chigi was the son of the banker Flavio Chigi (1548–1611) from Siena, who belonged to a family of the local city nobility, whose one line with the important banker Agostino Chigi (1466–1520) under Pope Julius II for dominance in the finance of the Papal States had arrived. Flavio Chigi came from the branch of the family that remained in Siena and married into the branch of the family of Pope Paul V Borghese there. His son Fabio, great-nephew of this Pope, studied philosophy and theology in Siena and, after completing his studies, entered the service of Pope Urban VIII in 1628 .

In 1627 he was vice delegate in Ferrara and then in 1635 inquisitor in Malta . After being appointed bishop of Nardò in the southernmost part of Apulia, Urban VIII appointed him papal nuncio in Cologne in 1639 . As the extraordinary envoy of Pope Innocent X. Fabio Chigi stayed in Münster from 1644 to 1649 , where he took part in the negotiations for the Peace of Westphalia . His attempt to act as a mediator between the two main parties, Habsburg-Spain and France-Sweden, failed because of the relentless attitude of the Pope, who rejected any compromises to the detriment of the Catholic Church. In the end, Chigi protested against the signed execution of the peace treaty, whereupon the Pope condemned this treaty in the Breve Zelo domus Dei of November 26, 1648.

On October 8, 1651, Chigi consecrated the Cologne Elector Maximilian Heinrich von Bayern in what was then the main parish church of Bonn, the Remigius Church , as bishop. It was one of his last official acts in the Rhineland before he went back to Rome. Many years later, on December 17, 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized in this church.

On February 19, 1652, Chigi was created cardinal by Innocent X. with the titular church of Santa Maria del Popolo , in which the magnificently furnished Chigi family chapel has been located since the time of the banker Agostino. Shortly afterwards he was entrusted with the post of cardinal secretary of state in Rome . As a result of his efforts, Innocent X condemned five sentences from Augustine by Cornelius Jansen as heretical on June 1, 1653 .

Pope election

After the Pope's death, it took the cardinals' electoral committee in the conclave 80 days to determine a new head of the Catholic Church after a protracted dispute between the parties represented in it. On April 7, 1655, 63 of the 64 cardinals present elected Fabio Chigi as the new Pope (he himself gave his vote to another) and thus for the first time out of a total of three cases a previous Secretary of State. He chose his papal name Alexander VII in memory of the important medieval predecessor Alexander III , who also came from Siena . , the long-time opponent of Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa in the struggle for political supremacy in Upper and Central Italy between 1160 and 1183.


Alexander VII was originally considered an opponent of nepotism and for a time refrained from favoring his own relatives in the Papal States. In 1656, however, with the approval of the College of Cardinals, he called his brother Mario and his nephews Agostino, Flavio and Sigismondo to Rome.

Flavio Chigi (1631–1693) was appointed cardinal in 1657 and took on the role of papal cardinal nepot who had to lead the family business in the Papal States . Between 1659 and 1662, with money from the papal casket, he bought the towns of Campagnano di Roma , Cesano, Formello and Sacrofano, north of Rome, from the heavily indebted Dukes of Bracciano from the Orsini family , whereupon the Pope elevated this area to the Principality of Campagnano. Cardinal Flavio also had Gian Lorenzo Bernini's palace, now known as Palazzo Odescalchi , built in Piazza SS. Apostoli and housed his extensive collection of antiquities in it, which was sold in 1728 to August the Strong , King of Poland and Elector of Saxony and today forms the main part of the collection of the Albertinum in Dresden .

Sigismondo Chigi (1649–1678), cousin of Cardinal Flavio, was also given the cardinal purple in 1667 at a young age shortly before the Pope's death. He was a legate in Ferrara between 1673 and 1676, but was unable to develop any political effect because of his early death.

Agostino Chigi (1634–1705) received the Principality of Campagnano as a secular nepot, who founded the Princely Family Chigi, which still exists today, and due to his marriage to Maria Virginia Borghese in 1658 also the Principality of Farnese west of Lake Bolsen and the Principality of Albano (today Albano Laziale) and transferred the Duchy of Ariccia on Lake Albano southeast of Rome. He also bought the Aldobrandini family's palace in Piazza Colonna, today's Palazzo Chigi , which has been the official seat of the Italian Prime Minister since 1961.


Alexander VII left the state affairs largely to his Cardinal Secretary of State Giulio Cardinal Rospigliosi, who later became Pope Clement IX. , and papal congregations. However, he intervened personally in the protracted controversy over Jansenism in France and in 1656, with the Constitution Ad sacram beati Petri sedem, repeated the condemnation that his predecessor had pronounced against the Jansenists; a little later he put a defensive and the Jesuits attacking book by Blaise Pascal on the index of forbidden books ( Index Librorum Prohibitorum ).

After an incident in 1662 in which members of the papal Swiss Guard with the entourage of the newly appointed French ambassador, Charles III. Duke of Créqui, clashed and some of the ambassador's people were killed, a deep conflict arose with King Louis XIV. He then expelled the papal nuncio of the country and left the southern French enclave of the Papal States , the city of Avignon and the county of Venaissin , from Occupy troops.

Artistic work

Alexander VII was a great friend of the arts and sciences. He worked as a poet and supported the scientists Athanasius Kircher and Lukas Holste (lat .: Holstenius). The Pope's personal library, which focuses on the works of the Sienese Popes Pius II and Pius III. The Biblioteca Chigiana has been part of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana since 1923 and has been constantly expanded through acquisitions throughout Europe . A close acquaintance of the Pope was the future Prince-Bishop of Paderborn and Münster, Ferdinand von Fürstenberg , whom Alexander protected in Rome from 1652 to 1661.

The building policy pursued by many popes in Rome was also followed by Alexander VII. Bernini's elephant placed on the forecourt of the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva is a small testimony to this activity, which also applied to the forecourt of the Pantheon . Bernini's colonnades around St. Peter's Square are still a powerful document of the building policy of this Pope, who also tried to initiate a future-oriented demonstration of power by the papacy . The construction of today's Cathedra Petri in St. Peter's Basilica also fell during his reign.


The diplomatic conflict with France in 1662, which was ended by the Peace of Pisa in 1664, showed the barriers of the popes, and since then they have increasingly lost their political importance. On the other hand, he was granted a great success at the beginning of the pontificate, the conversion of the previously abdicated Queen Christina of Sweden to the Catholic faith, which was officially carried out on November 2, 1655 in Innsbruck . The former ruler of the main Protestant opponent in the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) was welcomed in Rome on December 23 of the same year. After her death in 1689, parts of the estate came into papal possession.

Alexander VII was buried in a tomb designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in St. Peter's Basilica. In an arched niche supported by two Corinthian columns with the Pope's coat of arms, it shows the deceased kneeling above a door in a pose of prayer, accompanied by the four figures of the virtue Caritas , Justitia , Fortitudo , Prudentia (originally naked Veritas ), and one of death.

Text editions and translations

  • Maria Teresa Börner (Ed.): Nuntius Fabio Chigi. Nunciature reports from Germany. The Cologne Nunciature IX / 1. Schöningh, Paderborn et al. 2009, ISBN 978-3-506-76489-8
  • Claudia Barthold (Ed.): Fabio Chigi's tragedy Pompeius. Introduction, edition and commentary. Schöningh, Paderborn et al. 2003, ISBN 3-506-79072-2 (critical edition of the Latin text and German translation)


in alphabetical order by authors / editors

Web links

Commons : Alexander VII  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Gerd Dethlefs: Appeals for peace and peace echo. Art and literature during the negotiations for the Peace of Westphalia . Diss., University of Münster 1998, p. 151.
  2. ^ Luigi De Gregori: Chigiana, biblioteca . In: Enciclopedia Italiana 1931 ( online at )
predecessor Office successor
Innocent X. Pope
Clement IX