Pope Leo XII

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Pope Leo XII (22 August 1760 – 10 February 1829), born Annibale Francesco Clemente Melchiore Girolamo Nicola della Genga, was Pope from 1823 to 1829.



Della Genga was born of a noble[1] family from La Genga,[2] a small town in what is now the province of Ancona, then part of the Papal States. The place of his birth is uncertain, the usual candidates being Genga, Ancona, and Spoleto. He was educated at the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici at Rome, where he was ordained priest in 1783. In 1790 the attractive and articulate[3] della Genga attracted favourable attention by a tactful oration commemorative of the late Emperor Joseph II.

He was the uncle of Gabriele della Genga Sermattei who in the 19th century was the only cardinal-nephew of a Pope to be elevated to cardinal.

Private secretary to Pope Pius VI

In 1792 Pope Pius VI made him his private secretary, in 1793 creating him titular archbishop of Tyre and despatching him to Lucerne as nuncio. In 1794 he was transferred to the nunciature at Cologne, but owing to the war had to make his residence in Augsburg. During the dozen or more years he spent in Germany he was entrusted with several honourable and difficult missions, which brought him into contact with the courts of Dresden, Vienna, Munich and Württemberg, as well as with Napoleon I of France. It is, however, charged at one time during this period that his finances were disordered, and his private life was not above suspicion. After the Napoleonic abolition of the States of the Church (1798), he was treated by the French as a state prisoner, and lived for some years at the abbey of Monticelli, solacing himself with music and with bird-shooting, pastimes which he continued even after his election as Pope.

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