Biography – Pope Clement X – The Papal Library

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Clement X
1670-1676

Emilio Altieri born 1590

Clement X was born at Rome on the 15th of July, 1590, son of Lorenzo Altieri and Victoria Deiphini, a Venetian lady. The Altieri family had enjoyed the highest consideration at Rome for several centuries, and had occasionally contracted alliances with the Colonnas and the Orsinis.

After finishing his studies, Emilio was named, in 1623, auditor of John Baptist Lancellotti, in the nunciature of Poland. On his return to Rome, he was created Bishop of Camerino, and then governor of Loretto and of all Umbria.

Innocent X sent him as nuncio to Naples, where he remained eight years.

Alexander VII confided to him a mission to Poland. Clement IX named him, in 1667, his maestro di camera, and just before the death of the pope also gave him the purple. He was then about seventy-nine years of age; and Clement, when making him a member of the Sacred College, said to him: "You will be our successor."

After the funeral of Clement sixty-two electors entered into conclave on the 20th of December, 1669. Forty-two votes were necessary, and warm discussion prevailed for four months. Cardinal John Nicholas Conti was supported by twenty-two votes; Cardinal Rospigliosi, nephew of Clement IX, had thirty, or, as some say, thirty-three, with two at the accesso, so that he needed only seven more votes to gain the tiara. Cardinal Cerri obtained twenty-three votes. At length the cardinals agreed to propose Cardinal Altieri. He, however, objected on the score of age, for he was eighty, and exclaimed, "I am too old to bear such a burden." Pointing to cardinal Brancacci, Altieri said he was the cardinal whom they ought to elect. He persisted in refusing, protesting that he no longer had strength or memory; but at length, vanquished by the entreaties of the best theologians, he with tears accepted, on the 29th of April, 1670, that pontificate which was offered to him by fifty-nine cardinals present at the election–only two being against him.

He took the name of Clement in memory of his benefactor, Clement IX, and was crowned on the 11th of May following.

On the 8th of June he took possession of Saint John Lateran. On the 11th of June he confirmed the Minor Observantines in the Holy Land in the privileges and indulgences granted to those who visit the holy places, according to the decree of of Popes Alexander VII and Clement IX.

In the same month he granted to the prelate-clerks of the chamber the use of the violet-colored band around their hats.

Like all the pontiffs, Clement advised the Christian princes to love each other, and to prove it by an entire confidence, by generous measures, and by a prudent and scrupulous conduct. It was especially between Spain and France that the pope desired to witness a renewal of feelings of good understanding.

Clement in 1671 confirmed the exemptions granted by Gregory XIII to the German College at Rome; and then, on the 16th of October, 1672, he ordered the pupils to swear that at the close of their studies they would set out for Germany without a day's delay.

On the 15th of March, 1671, the pope published an edict by which he declared that a noble might be a merchant without loss of his nobility, provided always that he did not sell by retail.

On the 12th of April, 1671, Clement canonized five new saints: (1) Saint Gaetan of Thiene, founder of the Clerks of Divine Providence, better known by their other title of Theatines. (2) Saint Francis Borgia, fourth Duke of Gandia, Marquis of Lombay, and viceroy of Catalonia, born in 1510. He took the habit of the Jesuits in 1547, and became general and one of the most illustrious ornaments of that religious order. (3) Saint Philip Benizzo, a noble Florentine, a religious of the order of Servants of Mary, of which he was the reviver, and not, as has been stated by some, the founder. Leo X beatified him on the 24th of January, 1516. (4) Saint Louis Beltran, or Bertrand, a Spaniard, of the family of Saint Vincent Ferrer, and like him a Dominican. (5) Saint Rose, of the third order of Saint Dominic, born at Lima, in Peru, on the 20th of April, 1586; died on the 24th of August, 1617. Saint Rose, beatified by Clement IX, was the first American saint.

On the 13th of January, 1672, Clement regulated the formalities to be observed in removing the relics of saints from sacred cemeteries. No one was to remove such relics without the permission of the cardinal-vicar. They were not to be exposed for the veneration of the faithful, unless previously examined by the same cardinal. The principal relics of the martyr–that is to say, the head, the legs, the arms, and the part in which they suffered–were to be exposed only in the churches, and they were not to be given to private persons, but only to princes and high prelates; and even to them but rarely, lest the too great profusion should deprive relics of the respect which they ought to inspire. The Holy Father decreed severe penalties against all who gave a relic any name but that given by the cardinal-vicar. The pain of excommunication was pronounced against all who should demand any sum whatever for sealed and authentic relics.

These decrees, and others made by preceding popes, were confirmed by Clement XI, on the 19th of February, 1704. Besides beatifying Pope Pius V, Francis Solano, and John of the Cross, all subsequently canonized by Clement XI and Benedict XIII, Clement X, on the 24th of November, 1673, beatified nineteen martyrs of Gorcum, imprisoned at that place in Holland, and put to death on the 9th of July, 1572, in hatred of the Catholic faith, the primacy of the pope, the Roman Church, and the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. Of the nineteen Gorcum martyrs, eleven were Franciscan priests; Peter Ascanius and Cornelius Vican, laymen; one Dominican, two Premonstratensian monks, a regular canon of Saint Augustine, and four secular parish priests.

Clement, seeing the results of the apostolic labors of the early French missionaries in Canada, the number of the faithful, and the wide field of labor, resolved to give the Church an independent organization, and erected a see at Quebec, the bishop to depend directly on the Holy See–a provision which, in the designs of Providence, secured its permanence after the country passed into the hands of England. The first bishop was Monsignor Laval de Montmorency.

In 1673 there arrived at Rome ambassadors from the Grand Duke of Muscovy, John Basilowitz. He solicited from the pope the title of Czar, which, however, he had already conferred upon himself. At the same time it could not be forgotten that he had assisted the King of Poland in the last war against the Turks. But Paul Nanes, a Scotchman, who was the ambassador, could not obtain the grant or sanction of that title, though he was received with great magnificence and had many precious gifts to carry back to his master. The Grand Duke of Muscovy did not profess the Catholic faith in such a manner as to give any assurance of his intentions, and the King of Poland had looked upon the embassy with displeasure.

Meantime Rome had reason to fear trouble. Cardinal Altieri, who was at the head of the government, determined to increase the revenues, and he established a new tax of three percent upon all merchandise entering the city, including even