An important family of Siena, Italy, mentioned in sources since the 13th century; ennobled in 1377. About that time it was distinguished by two and perhaps three members who were beatified in the era of Fabio Chigi, who became Pope alexander vii.
Bl. Giovanni da Lecceto, b. Maciareto, near Siena, 1300. He entered the order of the augustinians of Lecceto as a lay brother and lived an exemplary life, first in Vallaspra, then in Siena, and Pavia, and again in Siena, where he died Oct. 28, 1363.
Bl. Angela, niece of Giovanni da Lecceto, also belonged to a congregation of hermits of St. Augustine. She lived in Siena where she died a holy death in 1400. She was never officially beatified. (See the Vitae synopsis, supplements to the Roman editions of Hoyerus, cited below.)
Bl. Giuliana was recently affiliated (rightly or wrongly) with the Chigi family. After being widowed four times, she spent her remaining years as a tertiary of St. Augustine, and died in Siena in 1400 (A. Mercati and A. Pelzer, Dizionario ecclesiastico 1:609).
The head of the family is said to have been Agostino, known as the Elder, from whom the various branches of the family descended: the Chigi-Albani; the Chigi Camollia, later the Chigi-Saracini; the Chiga di citta, or of Siena, extinct in 1758: the Chigi of Rome, extinct in 1573; the Chigi of Viterbo, later the Chigi-Montoro and the Montoro-Patrizi; and the Chigi Zondadari. Mariano (1439–1504) was the most prominent of Agostino's sons. He was a prosperous banker in Siena, the founder of a banking house, and on occasion an ambassador of Siena to the court of Pope alexander vi and to the Republic of venice. He became a humanist and patron of the arts.
Agostino the Magnificent (1464–1520) was the most outstanding among Mariano's sons. As the representative of his father's banking house, he established himself in Rome and embarked on a successful career. Having won the confidence of three successive popes (Alexander VI; julius ii, who adopted him into his family; and leo x, who honored him with his visits), he obtained several monoplies (on grain, salt, alum, and right of entry), and carried on an international trade, using the Porto d'Ercole, obtained from the Republic of siena. As a patron of the arts, he showed favor to men of letters, such as P. Bembo, Giovio, and P. Aretino; and to architects, especially Baltasar Peruzzi who built his superb palace, the Farnesina; as well as to the painters raphael sanzio, Perino del Vaga, Julius Romano, and J. A. Bazzi, who decorated the Farnesina and the chapel of the Chigi in Santa Maria del Popolo. Agostino founded a printing establishment and a library. At his death in 1520, his enterprises were liquidated; his lineage became extinct in 1575.
The Chigi of Siena returned to Rome through the descendants of Sigismondo (1479–1525), second son of Mariano, prosperous banker. His great grandson, Fabio, a young ecclesiastic, came to Rome, where he made his career. When he became Pope Alexander VII (1655), he practiced nepotism, giving his family every sort of advantage. His nephew Agostino, the founder of the Chigi-Albani family, obtained for himself and his family the title of marshal of the Church and guardian of the Conclave. His niece Agnes married Ansano Zondadari, and founded the Chigi-Zondadari family. Beginning with the pontificate of Alexander VII, the Chigi were cardinals. First, there were his three nephews: Flavio (1631–93), legate, librarian; Sigismondo (1649–78) of the Order of Malta, legate; and Antonio Bichi (1614–90), son of one of the Pope's half-sisters, internuncio at Brussels, and Bishop of Osimo. Later there were also the following cardinals: Flavio the Younger (1711–71), prefect of the Congregation of Rites; Flavio Chigi-Albani (1801–73), nuncio in Bavaria and France; and two members of the Chigi-Zondadari family, Antonio Felice the Elder (1665–1737), nuncio in Spain, and Antonio Felice the Younger (1740–1823), internuncio at Brussels and Archbishop of Siena.
The Chigi Library was one of the glories of the Chigi family. Fabio Chigi began the collection in his palace in Rome and took advantage of his pontificate to enlarge it. The Chigi cardinals, especially Flavio the Elder, continued its growth. It now contains about 3,000 MSS (86 with miniatures, 56 Greek, 190 Latin, and many volumes of archival materials). Purchased by the Italian Government in 1918 and ceded to the Vatican in 1923, it has been integrated into the vatican library. Besides the Greek MSS, described by Pio Franchi de Cavalieri (Rome 1927), the other MSS also have been well catalogued.
Bibliography: m. hoyerus, Vita b. Joannis Chisii (Antwerp 1641; Rome 1655–75). Acta Sanctorum Oct. 12:724–735. a. masseron, Les "Exemples" d'un ermite siennois (Paris 1924). g. cugnoni, "Agostino Chigi il magnifico," Archivio della società romana di storia patria, 2–4 (1879–81), 6 (1883). u. frittelli, Albero genealogico della nobile famiglia Chigi (Siena 1922). p. paschini, I Chigi (Le grandi famiglie romane 3; Rome 1946). m. h. laurent, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 12:684–685.