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Pope Innocent X: stubborn but smart

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 26, 2022

📍 🇮🇹  Pope Innocent X: stubborn but smart

“E troppo vero!” - “it is much too real” - reacted Pope Innocent X (1574-1655) when looking at his portrait by Velazquez for the first time. “A cunning and stubborn muleteer's head”, captured French historian Henri Focillon much later on, in a 1929 letter.

Representing one of Rome’s most powerful families, Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pamphilj (the future Pope Innocent X) was nonetheless an outsider when the 1644 Vatican conclave to elect a new Pope began. Many deserved the papacy. Many battled for it. But bitter rivalries and the extreme heat of that excruciating month of August played in his favor. He was more resilient than others in his old age.

Elected in 1644 then! But death not long after in 1655. Only a decade in charge of Christian souls, and often on the losing side of history one may argue: he stood firmly against the (lasting) 1648 Peace of Westphalia which put an end to decades of war between Catholics and Protestants - a peace obtained by granting the right for rulers to determine the religion of their territories. The same ideological drive led him to support the independence of Irish Catholics (with “papal” gunpowder), but English General Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) counter-attacked and prevented such separation.

In spite of these defeats, and in spite of being 72 years old when elected (72 years old in the 17th century…), Innocent X left behind the memory of a resolute leader. “He speaks to all with pleasure and lets everyone explain themselves ; truly a fair man, full of fire, vivacity, unshakeable in his resolutions. He was always sober, lived with few things, hated luxury, saved on superfluous expenses while spending magnificently on necessary matters…” (Fèvre).

____ Sources ____

>> Mgr Fèvre, “Histoire de l’Eglise”, 1885
>> Focillon, “Lettres d’Italie”, 1929
>> Leone, “The Pamphilj and the Arts”, 2011

17th CE