Clement XI

Pope from 1700. Born Giovanni Francesco Albani, native of Urbino, he was educated at Rome, gaining a doctorate in civil and canon law. He entered the papal administration, success at which brought him the appointment of secretary of papal briefs in 1687. Three years later he was made cardinal, and ten years later he reluctantly accepted election as pope. His reign occurred during the period of the War of Spanish Succession, and he was set between the interests of the Hapsburgs and the Bourbons. Not surprisingly his political actions were unsuccessful. In 1701 he vainly protested at the elector of Brandenburg’s use of the title “king of Prussia.” In the same year he was forced to recognize Philip of Anjou, but in 1709 he had to abandon him in favor of the Archduke Charles. The result was the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), with Clement’s rights in Sicily, Sardinia, Parma, and Piacenza being ignored. Also in 1709 Clement quarreled with the duke of Savoy over his rights of investiture in Sicily. The unhappy outcome was that Clement issued an interdict, from which his clergy suffered most, because all who accepted it were banned from Sicily until it was conquered by Philip V of Spain in 1718. He further failed to gain the support of the princes when the Turks declared war on Venice in 1714. On the pastoral side, Clement had to deal with Jansenism,* which he condemned in a bull entitled Vineam Domini Sabaoth (1705). In 1708 he condemned the work of P. Quesnel* usually called Réflexions morales. In 1713 he issued the famous bull Unigenitus Dei Filius, in which he attacked Quesnel’s thesis that grace is irresistible and without it man is incapable of spiritual good. This produced a pessimistic theology and subsequent harshness and moral rigidity. Clement had also to judge between Franciscans and Jesuits concerning Chinese Rites,* and he upheld the Dominican position. He took a similarly conservative decision about the Malabar* Rite in India. In 1708 he made obligatory the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.* He secured for the Vatican Library one of its most valuable collections of manuscripts from the East, made by J.S. Assemani. When he died, his reign had lasted longer than any other pope for five centuries.