Francesco Barberini

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Francesco Barberini in 1624 after being appointed cardinal by his uncle Pope Urban VIII.


Francesco Barberini (born September 23, 1597 in Florence , † December 10, 1679 in Rome ) was an Italian cardinal , antiquarian and patron . He was the cardinal depository of Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini).


Francesco Barberini came from the Florentine family of the Barberini . His father was Carlo Barberini (1562-1630), who in 1594 married Constanza Magalotti (1575-1644), who also came from a respected Florentine family .

Pope Urban VIII (portrait by Pietro da Cortona , 1627) promoted the careers of a number of his relatives, including those of his nephew Francesco
Cardinal coat of arms by Francesco Barberini

Barberini had studied at the University of Pisa and graduated in 1623 with a doctorate in both rights . In the same year his uncle Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope Urban VIII. Francesco was called by him to Rome, elevated to cardinal in October 1623 and a few years later appointed archpriest at the Roman Archbasilica of San Giovanni in Laterano , the highest-ranking church in Rome and the Christian world before St. Peter. The Pope subsequently entrusted him with various offices of the Curia. As the cardinal depository of Urban VIII, he had the status of State Secretary. However, his uncle provided the 26-year-old with the experienced Lorenzo Magalotti , who was the brother of Francesco Barberini's mother. After Magalotti had also received the cardinal's hat in 1624 , he was equal to his nephew. There does not seem to have been a conflict between the Magalotti and Francesco Barberini over greater influence within the Curia . Unlike many of his Baroque contemporaries, Magalotti was committed to ecclesiastical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and was therefore not interested in fighting with his nephew for greater influence in the curia. As early as 1625, Magalotti asked to be dismissed from his office for health reasons. If, as cardinal secretary of state, he also had access to important documents and letters over the next year and a half, the decisive influence gradually shifted towards Francesco Barberini. The historian Köchli also points out that only the presence of Lorenzo Magalotti and the Pope Brother Antonio Barberini the Younger, who was promoted to cardinal in 1624, within the Curia Francesco Barberini made it possible to undertake longer trips in 1625 and 1626 that served the interests of Pope Urban VIII.

In 1625, Francesco Barberini purchased the Palazzo Sforza on the Quirinal on behalf of the Pope in order to build the Palazzo Barberini alle Quattro Fontane on the property , which was supposed to represent the power and splendor of the Pope and his family appropriately. Carlo Maderno , Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini were involved as architects .

As protector of England, Scotland and Ireland, he set up a hospice for pilgrims from these countries in the Holy Year 1625.

In the same year he took part as papal legate in the negotiations between Spain and France - represented by Cardinal Richelieu - on the Valtellina question, but was unsuccessful as a mediator. As a result, he continued to work, often unsuccessfully, in connection with the Pope's foreign policy. He supported the papal policy of territorial expansion of the papal state. The Castro War , instigated by his brother Taddeo Barberini and supported by Francesco, ended in bad defeat and financial losses. The campaign damaged the international reputation of the Pope.

The trial of Galileo

Barberini was one of ten judges in the trial of Galileo . He was the spokesman for the group that advocated mild action against Galileo.

In 1633 he succeeded in persuading Commissioner General Fiorenzuola to visit Galileo and negotiate a compromise with him. According to Barberini's proposal, Galileo should admit that he had gone too far in his dialogues and that he had violated papal orders. In return, the book should be printed with a few changes and Galileo should be saved from prison. The latter agreed to the compromise, but the majority of the judges rejected the proposal.

He was one of the three judges who did not sign the judgment against Galileo, the other two being Gaspare Borgia and Laudivio Zacchia . After the trial he is said to have said that no one has the right to ignore the sublime intelligence of Galileo, who in the future will serve as a guide for all those who seek the truth. After the trial, he managed to prevent Galileo from being locked in a monastery and instead placed him under the protection of the Archbishop of Siena.

Exile in France

Urban VIII died in 1644 and Giambattista Pamfili ascended the papal throne as Innocent X. After his election, the new Pope took action against the Barberini, whom he accused of shameless enrichment and lust for power. Francesco, who had received episcopal ordination and the suburbicarian diocese of Sabina in November 1645 , fled to Paris in 1646 with his brothers Antonio and Taddeo and placed himself under the protection of Cardinal Mazarin . They kept in touch with Rome through Cardinal Angelo Giori , who rose from a humble background and was one of his most immediate collaborators during the pontificate of Urban VIII and received the cardinal's hat in his last cardinal uprising as thanks for this longstanding loyalty. Cardinal Giori was in constant letter contact with Francesco Barberini, represented the interests of the family in Rome and also continued the construction of Urban’s tomb.

The property of the Barberini family in Rome was confiscated on flimsy grounds and removed from their ecclesiastical offices. Innocent basically said goodbye to the France-friendly policies of his predecessor. Mazarin then increased the pressure on the Papal States and sent troops to Italy. The Pope had to give in. In 1648 the Barberini were allowed to return to Rome, the property was partially returned to them. After his return, Francesco restricted his political activities and instead turned to art sponsorship.

Return to Rome

Francesco Barberini returned to Rome after the death of Innocent X. Both under Clement IX. as well as under Clement X. Barberini, who as cardinal dean had been the highest ranking among the cardinals since 1666 , held an influential role within the college of cardinals . In the dispute about Cardinal Friedrich von Hessen-Darmstadt during the pontificate of Clemens X. Francesco Barberini, who once promoted him and was involved in his conversion to the Roman Catholic Church, was even involved as a mediator.

Promotion of art and science

The Barberini's art and commission policy had a decisive influence on the baroque appearance of Rome. Like Urban VIII, Francesco was a generous and art-savvy patron. His long-time secretary and advisor was the Roman scholar and antiquarian Cassiano dal Pozzo , who maintained contacts with scholars and art collectors across Europe. Barberini's guests included writers and poets, scholars, antiquarians and bibliophiles such as Naudé , Vossius and Heinsius , Ferdinando Ughelli , John Milton , Castelli and others. He was a member of the Accademia dei Lincei founded by Federico Cesi , whose members devoted themselves to the study of the natural sciences and had the aim of organizing the scientific community more efficiently.

The library

Barberini set up an extensive private library in his palace, which was later incorporated into the Vatican library. As a librarian he hired the Hamburg scholar Lucas Holstenius , who later became head of the Vatican library. Holstenius' successor in the Barberini library was the Greek philosopher and theologian Leo Allacci . The Barberini Gospels are part of his estate .

Art funding

Francesco's art collection included pictures by Poussin, Simon Vouet , Charles Mellin , Valentin de Boulogne , Artemisia Gentileschi , Pietro da Cortona , the painter of the huge ceiling fresco in the Palazzo Barberini, as well as works by Bernini, who was very much appreciated and promoted by Barberini.

In 1627 Poussin painted the picture Death of Germanicus for Francesco Barberini , a key picture of European classicism .

In 1674 he had the mosaic artist Orazio Manenti make a copy of Giotto's famous Navicella picture, which was originally installed in the vestibule of Old Saint Peter and which had changed its place several times after the church was demolished.

He also supported the theater by having plays performed in the Palazzo Barberini.


The predecessors of Urban VIII had already considered setting up their own carpet weaving mill in Rome. Tapestries in huge formats served political propaganda and were a medium for the self-portrayal of kings and rulers.

In 1627 the Pope received from the French King Louis XIII. four tapestries as a diplomatic gift. They depict the deeds of Emperor Constantine ; the cardboard boxes were drawn by Peter Paul Rubens . The gift was possibly decisive for the establishment of a carpet weaving company by Francesco Barberini. In any case, her first commission was for four more carpets on the story of Constantine based on designs by Pietro da Cortona . Another important commission was the Castelli d'Europa series , which was intended for the family palace and glorified the House of Barberini with its outstanding member, the Pope. It depicts the family's estates and the castles where Francesco Barberini was a guest on his diplomatic trips. Francesco's intention to portray himself as the head of the family is evident in the carpets. The last order from the workshop was a series of ten tapestries about the life of Urban VIII, which were also intended for the Palazzo Barberini.

After Francesco's death, the factory was closed and the tools destroyed. The heyday of Roman tapestry art was over.

Francesco Barberini died at the age of 82. He was buried in the Patriarchal Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano .


  • Alberto Merola:  Barberini, Francesco. In: Alberto M. Ghisalberti (Ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 6:  Baratteri – Bartolozzi. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 1964.
  • Ulrich Köchli: Past fame - mixed up bones. The forgotten Cardinal Secretary of State Lorenzo Magalotti. In: Arne Karsten (ed.): The hunt for the red hat. Cardinal careers in baroque Rome. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-525-36277-3 , pp. 140 ff.
  • Sebastian Schütze: The Barberini tapestry factory. In: Jutta Frings (Red.): Baroque in the Vatican. 1562–1676 (= Art and Culture in the Rome of the Popes. Vol. 2). Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany a. a., Bonn 2005, ISBN 3-86502-125-5 , pp. 265-269.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The Trial of Galileo: Key Figures
  2. Zacchia, Laudivio. In: Salvador Miranda : The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church. ( Florida International University website ), accessed May 8, 2018.
predecessor Office successor
Carlo di Ferdinando de 'Medici Dean of the College of Cardinals
Cesare Facchinetti
Carlo di Ferdinando de 'Medici Cardinal Bishop of Ostia e Velletri
Cesare Facchinetti
Carlo di Ferdinando de 'Medici Cardinal Bishop of Porto e Santa Rufina
Marzio Ginetti
Carlo di Ferdinando de 'Medici Cardinal Bishop of Sabina
Bernardino Spada