Pope Alexander VIII

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Innocent XII
Ordinationc. 1630
Consecration27 December 1654
by Marcantonio Bragadin
Created cardinal19 February 1652
by Innocent X
Personal details
Pietro Vito Ottoboni

(1610-04-22)22 April 1610
Died1 February 1691(1691-02-01) (aged 80)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post(s)
Coat of armsAlexander VIII's coat of arms
Other popes named Alexander

Pope Alexander VIII (Italian: Alessandro VIII; 22 April 1610 – 1 February 1691), born Pietro Vito Ottoboni, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 6 October 1689 to his death in February 1691.

Alexander VIII is known for having overturned many of the policies of his predecessor,

Society of Jesus.[1] Also during his papacy, King Louis XIV of France restored Avignon to the Holy See as a territory of the Papal States.[2]


Early life

Cardinal Ottoboni before his election.

Pietro Vito

Ottoboni was born in 1610 of a noble Venetian family,[1] and was the youngest of nine children of Vittoria Tornielli and Marco Ottoboni, grand chancellor of the Republic of Venice.[2]

His early studies were made with marked brilliance at the

Sacred Roman Rota

Episcopate and cardinalate

Portrait of Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni by Ludovico Dorigny (before 1689, Museo antoniano, Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua)

episcopal consecration in the church of San Marco in Rome. He would spend a quiet decade in his diocese. He opted to be Cardinal-Priest of San Marco in 1660 and resigned as Bishop of Brescia in 1664. Ottoboni also opted to become Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere in 1677 and later as Cardinal-Priest of Santa Prassede in 1680. He later became the Cardinal-Bishop of Sabina in 1681 and then to Frascati in 1683. His last swap was that of Porto e Santa Rufina
in 1687.

Ottoboni was also the Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals from 1687 to his pontifical election.


Papal election

Papal styles of
Pope Alexander VIII
His Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleNone
Pope Alexander VIII depicted on a gold quadruple Italian scudo from 1689. Saints Peter and Paul on the reverse. Engraved by Antonio Travani, a goldsmith and medalist in Rome.[4]

The ambassador of King

Gallican church.[1]

He chose the pontifical name of "Alexander VIII" in gratitude to

Basilica of Saint John Lateran
on 28 October 1689.

Originally, the allies of Cardinal Flavio Chigi proposed a Venetian in the form of

Cardinal Medici made certain that the Imperial and Spanish factions would also support Ottoboni's candidacy. The determination to elect Ottoboni came conclusively when Ottoboni himself indicated that he was strongly in favor of reconciliation with the French, something that greatly appeased Louis XIV who had been in a more conciliatory mood of late.[6]

Old but of a strong constitution, Alexander VIII was said to be an able diplomat. During his brief pontificate he managed to destroy most of his predecessor's good work. All the money saved by Innocent XI was spent on enriching the Ottoboni family and to a cardinal he said: "I have no time to lose; for me the day is almost done!"[7] Known to be an upright man who was generous and possessed a peaceful disposition, he held a profound compassion and attentiveness for the poor which was often squandered and abused by his nepotistic relatives upon whom he generously heaped riches that they, on their own behalf and to the discredit of his papacy, squandered for their own personal ends.[2]

Alexander VIII was almost an octogenarian when elected to the papacy, which lasted only sixteen months, during which time little of importance was done. Louis XIV, whose political situation was now critical, profited by the peaceful dispositions of the new pope, restored Avignon to him, and renounced the long-abused right of asylum for the French Embassy.[2]


On 29 November 1690, the pontiff established that no more than ten thousand ducats could be spent on the funeral of a pope. That same year, he also forbade that any furnishings of the conclave could not be stripped to be sold for profit.

On 30 March 1690, the pope established and confirmed the rights of the neophytes in Southeast Asia in the papal brief Animarum salutes.

Reversing the economic policies of his immediate predecessor, Alexander VIII attempted to reduce the tax burden on the populace as a means of providing financial assistance to the more disadvantaged peoples. However, this backfired due to the pope's focus on large-scale charity initiatives and his focus on the Great Turkish War against the Ottoman Empire, which quickly depleted papal funds which Innocent XI had been very careful to grow and safeguard.

Financial controversies

Charities on a large scale and unbounded nepotism exhausted the papal treasury,

Christina of Sweden for the Vatican Library.[3] Alexander VIII assisted his native Venice by generous subsidies in the war against the Turks,[2] as well as sending seven galleys and 2,000 infantry for the campaign in Albania

The tomb of Alexander VIII in Saint Peter's Basilica.

In 1690 he condemned the doctrines of the so-called

Jesuit schools.[1]
He also held three consistories that saw 14 new cardinals elevated.

Foreign policy


A Venetian himself, Alexander VIII largely supported the Republic of Venice in its military campaign against the Ottoman Empire for control of Peloponnese in Greece and the Aegean Sea, donating enough food to fill seven galleys while also sending infantry for their campaign in Albania.


Condemning the precepts of the Gallican proposals which had been ratified in 1682, the pope attempted to try and mend the despairing relationship between the Holy See and the French which had been largely strained by his predecessor. Despite this, the proposals were revoked in 1693 only after Alexander VIII had died, in exchange for papal recognition of the right of the crown to administer to vacant dioceses.[9] At the time as Louis XIV found his own political situation to be precarious, the monarch profited from the pope's peaceful dispositions while Louis XIV decided to renounce the long-abused right of asylum for the French embassy.[2]

Beatifications and canonizations

Alexander VIII confirmed the cultus of

John of Sahagun, John of God and John of Capistrano


The pope created 14 cardinals in three consistories and elevated individuals such as his grandnephew Pietro Ottoboni in a restoration of nepotism that had not been seen in his predecessor's reign. Among those whom he named was Gianfrancesco Albani, the future Pope Clement XI.

The pontiff also named Toussaint de Forbin-Janson to the cardinalate in 1690 despite his immediate predecessor having firmly refused to do so. While Innocent XI had refused to name him as a cardinal due to Forbin-Janson's support for the Gallican proposals in 1682, Alexander VIII opted to name him a cardinal in an attempt to smooth over tense relations with King Louis XIV who had been on relatively poor terms with Innocent XI. As a further overture to the French monarch, Alexander VIII also named two more French cardinals, a move that largely irked Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor and saw the emperor withdraw his ambassador to the Holy See. Moreover, the pontiff was less concerned with the emperor's actions primarily because the emperor had primarily been indifferent to defending against the Ottoman Empire in favor of hostility with the French.

Death and burial

Alexander VIII died on 1 February 1691. His grandiose tomb in

Angelo de' Rossi, while the bronze statue of the pope was cast by Giuseppe Bertosi.[10]

On 16 October 1690, the day that he celebrated a canonization Mass, it was noticed that Alexander VIII appeared to look relatively sluggish and hence seemed like he had fallen ill. While it was hypothesized that he may have had a minor stroke, his doctors suggested that the pope rest but were unsure of what exactly had caused the pope to fall ill. On 20 January 1691, Cardinal Forbin Janson informed King Louis XIV that the pope was seriously ill, and on 22 January, that his condition had dramatically deteriorated and that his nephew was pessimistic about his uncle's chances. On 27 January, it was reported that gangrene had set in while Alexander VIII met with twelve cardinals on 30 January. Alexander VIII died at 4:00pm on 1 February 1691 while a plague from Naples had spread to Rome, infecting the pope and hastening his death.[11]

Episcopal succession

Pope Alexander VIII was the

principal consecrator of:[12]

  • Bishop of Piacenza
  • Titular Archbishop
    of Corinthus (1656);
  • Archbishop of Durrës
  • Bishop of Bergamo
  • Bishop of Concordia
  • Bishop of Ceneda
  • Bishop of Verona
    (1668); and
  • Bishop of Vieste

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alexander (popes)". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 556.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Alexander VIII". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  3. ^ .
  4. ^ Forrer, L. (1916). Biographical Dictionary of Medallists. Vol. 6. Spink & Son, LTD. p. 129.
  5. ^ Olszewski E. page 13.
  6. ^ John Paul Adams (11 August 2015). "SEDE VACANTE 1689". CSUN. Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  7. ^ "Pope Alexander VIII: Proceedings of the Conclave that led to his election". Pickle Publishing. 2005. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  8. ^ Olszewski E. page 5.
  9. ^ "Alexander VIII, pope". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  10. .
  11. ^ John Paul Adams (11 August 2015). "Sede Vacante 1691". CSUN. Retrieved 7 March 2022.
  12. ^ "Pope Alexander VIII - Pietro Vito Ottoboni" Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 27 June 2017
  • Rendina, Claudio (1984). I papi. Storia e segreti. Rome: Newton Compton.

External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Pope
6 October 1689 – 1 February 1691
Succeeded by