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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > C > Pope Clement VIII

Pope Clement VIII

(IPPOLITO ALDOBRANDINI).

Born at Fano, March, 1536, of a distinguished Florentine family; died at Rome, 5 March, 1605. He was elected pope 30 January, 1592, after a stormy conclave graphically described by Ranke (Geschichte der römischen Päpste, 9th ed., II, 150 sqq.). In his youth he made excellent progress in jurisprudence under the direction of his father, an able jurist. Through the stages of consistorial advocate, auditor of the Rota and the Datary, he was advanced in 1585 to the dignity of Cardinal-Priest of the Title of St. Pancratius and was made grand penitentiary. He won the friendship of the Hapsburgs by his successful efforts, during a legation to Poland, to obtain the release of the imprisoned Archduke Maximilian, the defeated claimant to the Polish throne. During the conclave of 1592 he was the unwilling candidate of the compact minority of cardinals who were determined to deliver the Holy See from the prepotency of Philip II of Spain. His election was greeted with boundless enthusiasm by the Italians and by all who knew his character. He possessed all the qualifications needed in the Vicar of Christ. Blameless in morals from childhood, he had at an early period placed himself under the direction of St. Philip Neri, who for thirty years was his confessor. Upon Clement's elevation to the papacy, the aged saint gave over this important office to Baronius, whom the pope, notwithstanding his reluctance, created a cardinal, and to whom he made his confession every evening. The fervour with which he said his daily Mass filled all present with devotion. His long association with the Apostle of Rome caused him to imbibe the saint's spirit so thoroughly, that in him St. Philip himself might be said to have ascended the papal chair. Though vast political problems clamoured for solution, the pope first turned his attention to the more important spiritual interests of the Church. He made a personal visitation of all the churches and educational and charitable institutions of Rome, everywhere eliminating abuses and enforcing discipline. To him we owe the institution of the Forty Hours' Devotion. He founded at Rome the Collegio Clementino for the education of the sons of the richer classes, and augmented the number of national colleges in Rome by opening the Collegio Scozzese for the training of missionaries to Scotland. The "Bullarium Romanum" contains many important constitutions of Clement, notably one denouncing duelling and one providing for the inviolability of the States of the Church. He issued revised editions of the Vulgate (1598), the Breviary, the Missal, also the "Cæremoniale", and the "Pontificale".

The complicated situation in France presented no insuperable difficulties to two consummate statesmen like Henry of Navarre and Clement VIII. It was clear to Henry that, notwithstanding his victories, he could not peacefully retain the French Crown without adopting the Catholic Faith. He abjured Calvinism 25 July, 1593. It was equally clear to Pope Clement that it was his duty to brave the selfish hostility of Spain by acknowledging the legitimate claims of Henry, as soon as he convinced himself that the latter's conversion was something more than a political manoeuvre. In the autumn of 1595 he solemnly absolved Henry IV, thus putting an end to the thirty years' religious war in France and winning a powerful ally in his struggle to achieve the independence of Italy and of the Holy See. Henry's friendship was of essential importance to the pope two years later, when Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara, died childless (27 Oct., 1597), and Pope Clement resolved to bring the stronghold of the Este dynasty under the immediate jurisdiction of the Church. Though Spain and the empire encouraged Alfonso's illegitimate cousin, Cesare d'Este, to withstand the pope, they were deterred from giving him aid by Henry's threats, and the papal army entered Ferrara almost unopposed. In 1598 Pope Clement won still more credit for the papacy by bringing about a definite treaty of peace between Spain and France in the Treaty of Vervins and between France and Savoy. He also lent valuable assistance in men and money to the emperor in his contest with the Turks in Hungary. He was as merciless as Sixtus V in crushing out brigandage and in punishing the lawlessness of the Roman nobility. He did not even spare the youthful patricide Beatrice Cenci, over whom so many tears have been shed. (Bertolotti, Francesco Cenci e la sua famiglia, Florence, 1879.) On 17 Feb., 1600, the apostate Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake on the Piazza dei Fiori. The jubilee of 1600 was a brilliant witness to the glories of the renovated papacy, three million pilgrims visiting the holy places. In 1595 was held the Synod of Brest, in Lithuania, by which a great part of the Ruthenian clergy and people were reunited to Rome (Likowski, Union zu Brest, 1094). Although Clement, in spite of constant fasting, was tortured with gout in feet and hands, his capacity for work was unlimited, and his powerful intellect grasped all the needs of the Church throughout the world. He entered personally into the minutest detail of every subject which came before him, e.g., in the divorce between Henry IV and Margaret of Valois, yet more in the great controversy on grace between the Jesuits and the Dominicans (see BAÑEZ, MOLINA). He was present at all the sessions of the Congregatio de auxiliis (q.v.), but wisely refrained from issuing a final decree on the question. Clement VIII died in his seventieth years after a pontificate of thirteen years. His remains repose in Santa Maria Maggiore, where the Borghesi, who succeed the Aldobrandini in the female line, erected a gorgeous monument to his memory.

Sources

Vita Clem. VIII in LABBE AND COSSART, Coll. Conc., XXI, 1323; WADDING, Vita Clem. VIII (Rome, 1723); VON RANKE, The Roman Popes in the Last Four Centuries (1834-37); PELESZ, Gesch. der Union der ruthenischen Kirche mit Rom (Würzburg, 1881); ROSSI, Di una controversia tra la republica di Venezia e Clem. VIII in Archivio Veneto (1889), fasc. 74; SERRY, Hist. controv. de auxiliis (Antwerp, 1709); RGNON, Bañez et Molina (Paris, 1883); DE MONTOR, Lives of the Roman Pontiffs (New York, 1857).

About this page

APA citation. Loughlin, J. (1908). Pope Clement VIII. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04027a.htm

MLA citation. Loughlin, James. "Pope Clement VIII." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04027a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Gerald Rossi.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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