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Pope Alexander VII

Pope Alexander VII 237th Roman Catholic Pontiff from 1655 to 1667

237th Pontiff (1655-1667)


Pope Alexander VII was born Fabio Chigi into the illustrious and powerful Chigi family at Sienna on February 13, 1599.  Pope Alexander VII became cardinal in 1652, and pope on April 18, 1655. 

Pope Alexander VII was truly a humble man and a man of ability who possessed powerful religious beliefs.

When the plague hit Rome in 1656, Pope Alexander VII left the safety of Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence, where he loved to listen to music and poetry readings, to take personal charge of his people in Rome. He calmed them with frequent public appearances and adopted sensible sanitary measures to stop the spread of disease.

Pope Alexander VII prevailed upon Venice to release the Jesuits who had been banished in 1606 because of their loyalty to Pope Paul V over Venetian civil authority.

In 1662 Duc de Créqui was named French ambassador to Rome, and after his troops got into a local scuffle, Corsican papal soldiers attacked France's Roman embassy. As relations with King Louis XIV of France were strained because Pope Alexander VII resisted unjust demands from King Louis XIV, in retaliation, King Louis XIV took advantage of the Corsican embassy attack by annexing Avignon to France and preparing to march on Rome.  Left with no other option, Pope Alexander VII was forced to concede and reluctantly signed the humiliating Treaty of Pisa in 1664.

Pope Alexander VII welcomed the most celebrated convert of the age, Queen Christina of Sweden, who became Roman Catholic after abdicating her throne.

In 1653, five propositions of French Jansenists were condemned by Pope Innocent X.  When pressed by the Jansenists, Pope Alexander VII confirmed the condemnation in his 1665 bull, Ad Sacram.

Pope Alexander VII did much to beautify Rome, although he was criticized for nepotism in these projects, a practice that had been curtailed by previous papal reforms.  He leveled houses to make broad piazzas and commissioned Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini to redesign Saint Peter’s Square from a square to the ellipse it is now with its two great semicircular colonnades.  

Pope Alexander VII died from kidney stone complications on May 22, 1667, and rests in one of the most magnificent tombs in Saint Peter’s Basilica designed for him by Bernini.

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