Pope Urban VIII

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Pope Urban VIII (baptised 5 April 1568 – 29 July 1644), born Maffeo Barberini, was pope from 1623 to 1644. He was the last pope to expand the papal territory by force of arms, and was a prominent patron of the arts and reformer of Church missions. However, the massive debts incurred during his papacy greatly weakened his successors, who were unable to maintain the papacy's longstanding political and military influence in Europe. He was also involved in a controversy with Galileo and his theory on heliocentrism during his reign.


Early life

Maffeo Barberini was born in 1568 into the wealthy merchant Barberini family in Florence, Italy. He was educated by the Jesuits and received a doctorate of law from the University of Pisa in 1589.

In 1601, Maffeo, through the influence of an uncle who had become apostolic protonotary, was able to secure from Clement VIII, the appointment as papal legate to the court of King Henry IV of France. In 1604 Clement VIII appointed him archbishop of Nazareth, although this was an honorary position as the Holy Land was under Turkish rule. On the death of his uncle, he inherited his riches, with which he bought a palace in Rome which he made a luxurious Renaissance residence.

Under Clement VIII he himself was made protonotary and nuncio to the French court; Paul V also employed him in a similar capacity, afterwards raising him, in 1606, to Cardinal-Priest of S. Pietro in Montorio and appointing him the papal legate to Bologna.


On 6 August 1623, after the papal conclave following the death of Pope Gregory XV, he was chosen as Gregory's successor and took the name Urban VIII.[1]

Upon his election, Zeno, the Venetian envoy, wrote the following description of him[2]:

The new Pontiff is 56 years old. He came out of the conclave in bad health owing to the pestilential atmosphere and the bodily disorders caused by the vehemence of the passions that affect cardinals in those assemblies, disabling some and killing others. His Holiness is tall, dark, with regular features and black hair turning grey. He is exceptionally elegant and refined in all details of his dress; has a graceful and aristocratic bearing and exquisite taste. He is an excellent speaker and debater, writes verses and patronises poets and men of letters.

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