Pope Leo XI

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Pope Leo XI (2 June 1535 – 27 April 1605), born Alessandro Ottaviano de' Medici, was Pope from 1 April 1605 to 27 April of the same year.

Biography

He was born in Florence: his mother, Francesca Salviati, was a daughter of Jacopo Salviati and Lucrezia de' Medici, a sister of Leo X, while his father, Ottaviano, was a more distant scion of the Medici family. After a late start, he was ordained priest, and Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, sent him as an appropriate ambassador to Pope Pius V, a position which he held for fifteen years. Gregory XIII made him bishop of Pistoia in 1573, archbishop of Florence in 1574, and Cardinal-Priest of Santi Quirico e Giulitta in 1583.

In 1596, Clement VIII sent him as legate to France where Maria de' Medici was queen. Alessandro was a friend and disciple of St. Philip Neri.

On 14 March 1605, eleven days after the death of Clement VIII, 62 cardinals entered the conclave. Prominent among the candidates for the papacy were the great historian Baronius and the famous Jesuit controversialist Robert Bellarmine. But Aldobrandini, the leader of the Italian party among the cardinals, allied with the French cardinals and brought about the election of Alessandro against the express wish of King Philip III of Spain. King Henry IV of France is said to have spent 300,000 écus in the promotion of Alessandro's candidacy. On 1 April 1605, Alessandro ascended the papal throne with the Medici name Leo XI, being then almost seventy years of age, but was taken ill immediately after his coronation and died within the month.

He was nicknamed Papa Lampo ("Lightning Pope") for the brevity of his pontificate.


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