Clement XI (23 July 1649 -- 19 March 1721), born Giovanni Francesco Albani, was Pope from 1700 until his death in 1721.
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 5,000 pages divided in several volumes written by Daniele Farlati and Dom. Coletti.
He was governor of Rieti and Urbino, and was created Cardinal-Deacon of S. Maria in Aquiro by Pope Alexander VIII. He succeeded as Pope on 23 November 1700.
Medal depicting Clement XI.
Papal styles of
Pope Clement XI
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None
Soon after his accession, the War of Spanish Succession broke out.
Pope Clement XI with Papal Tiara
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 greatly disturbing the peace of the Gallican (French) church. The bull, which was produced with the contribution of Gregorio Selleri, a lector at the College of Saint Thomas, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum, fostered the condemnation of Jansenism by condemning 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.
During his time as pope, Clement XI made a concerted effort to acquire Christian manuscripts in Syriac from Egypt and other places in the Middle East, greatly expanding the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana's collection of Syriac works. Clement XI also was key in the decision to allow cats back into Christian homes after they were seen as overtly Pagan symbols.
Chinese Rites controversies
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
Pope Clement shunned nepotism. His nephew Annibale was appointed a cardinal, but only through personal merit citation needed.
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 favourite 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 codices and patronaged the first archaeological excavations in the Roman catacombs. In his native Urbino he restored numerous edifices and founded a public library