Clement XI

Clement XI

Clement XI, 1649-1721, pope (1700-1721), an Italian (b. Urbino) named Giovanni Francesco Albani; successor of Innocent XII. He was known in his youth for his prodigious learning and brilliance. He became cardinal in 1690. As pope he was involved in the struggle between France and Austria over the throne of Spain; he recognized Philip V but later was forced into recognizing Charles of Hapsburg, the other claimant. The chief spiritual concern of his pontificate was that of Jansenism (see under Jansen, Cornelis). The brief Vineam Domini (1705) condemned the Jansenist ideas on papal infallibility, and in 1713 he issued the bull Unigenitus, which condemned certain other Jansenist propositions. He was succeeded by Innocent XIII.
Pope Clement XI (July 23, 1649March 19, 1721), born Giovanni Francesco Albani, was Pope from 1700 until his death.


Early life

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 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 controversy

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.

Construction activity and patronage

Personally, Clement was one of the few popes to avoid nepotism. His nephew Annibale was elected cardinal, but only through personal merit.

As a builder, Clement had a famous sundial added in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri and had an obelisk erected in the Piazza del Pantheon and a river port built on the Tiber River.

He established a committee, overseen by his favorite artists, Carlo Maratta and Carlo Fontana, to commission statuary of the apostles to complete the decoration of San Giovanni in Laterano. He also founded a painting and sculpting academy in the Campidoglio.

He also enriched the Vatican library with numerous Oriental codexes and patronaged the first archaeological excavations in the Roman catacombs. In his native Urbino he restored numerous edifices and founded a public library.


  • Rendina, Claudio (1983). I papi. Storia e segreti. Rome: Netwon & Compton.
  • Initial text from the 9th edition (1876) of an unnamed encyclopedia

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