Urban VIII, Pope
URBAN VIII, POPE
Pontificate: Aug. 6, 1623, to July 29, 1644; b. Maffeo Barberini, Florence, Italy. This fifth son of a prominent, non-aristocratic family was born in April 1568. When he was three years old, his father died; as a child he was educated by the Jesuits in Florence according to the wishes of his mother. Later he went to Rome to live with his uncle, Francesco Barberini, Prothonotary Apostolic, and to study at the Roman College. In 1589 he obtained the degree of doctor of laws from the University of Pisa. After receiving his doctorate, Maffeo returned to Rome and filled various offices in the Church. In 1601 he was sent to France as papal legate to present Clement VIIl's felicitations to King Henry IV on the birth of the Dauphin, the future King Louis XIII. Three years later he was appointed archbishop of Nazareth and sent as nuncio to France, where he became influential with the King. On Sept. 11, 1606, Maffeo became a cardinal with the titular church of S. Pietro in Montorio, which he exchanged on Sept. 6, 1610, for that of S. Onofrio. After being made bishop of Spoleto on Oct. 17, 1608, he convened a synod, completed the construction of one diocesan seminary, and built two others, at Visso and Spello. Paul V appointed him legate of Bologna and prefect of the Segnatura di Giustizia in 1617.
Election as Pope. On Aug. 6, 1623, he was elected Pope by 50 votes from 55 cardinals who had entered conclave on July 19 after the death of Gregory XV. On the very day of his election, Urban VIII issued the bulls of canonization of St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Philip Neri, who had all been canonized by Gregory XV. During his pontificate he canonized St. Elizabeth of Portugal and St. Andrew Corsini, and beatified James of the Marches, a Minorite (Aug. 12, 1624); Francis Borgia, a Jesuit (Nov. 23, 1624); Andrew Avelino (June 10, 1625); Felix of Cantalice, a Minorite (Oct. 1, 1625); Mary Magdalen de'Pazzi (May 8, 1626); John of God (Sept. 21, 1630); and Josaphat Kuncevyč (May 16, 1643). The right of beatification was reserved during his reign to the Holy See. In 1642 Urban reduced the number of holy days of obligation to 34, not including Sundays, and introduced many new offices into the Roman breviary. In 1631 he accepted and incorporated into the official 1632 edition of the Roman Breviary the recommendations of a committee appointed for its reform in 1629. Subsequent scholars have criticized these recommendations as ill advised and incomplete. Completed form was given to the famous bull In Coena Domini by Urban VIII in 1627. In 1628 he approved the Congregation of Our Saviour, a reformed branch of the Augustinian Canons founded by Peter Fourier in 1609; the Lazarists, or Priests of the Mission (Vincentians), founded by St. Vincent de Paul, were approved in 1632. During Urban VIII's reign, all ruling bishops, including cardinals, were instructed to adhere to the standards of episcopal residence as decreed by the Council of Trent.
Urban VIII was a strong supporter of the Church's global missionary activity. He formed dioceses and vicariates in various mission territories and encouraged missionaries by word and financial assistance. He enlarged the work of the Congregation for the propagation of the faith and in 1627 founded the Collegium Urbanum for the training of missionaries. In 1633 he opened China and Japan to all missionaries, nullifying the missionary monopoly that gregory xiii had awarded the Jesuits in 1585. Slavery of any kind among the natives of Brazil, Paraguay, and the entire West Indies was prohibited by a bull of April 22, 1639. The disturbed state of the realm, plus dissension between regulars and seculars over the question of whether the time was ripe for a bishop to be present in England, largely negated attempts to strengthen Catholicism in that country.
International Diplomacy. In his relations with the Catholic sovereigns of Europe, Urban VIII tried to follow a policy commensurate with his desire to work for the common benefit of the Church. Contrary to Leopold von Ranke and Ferdinand Gregorovius, he did not endeavor to humiliate the Hapsburgs during the period of the Thirty Years' War by favoring France. On the other hand, he was not blind to the threat that Hapsburg power posed regarding
the temporal sovereignty of the pope or to the anti-Hapsburg foundations of French policy in Europe. His position as the father of Christendom, however, prompted him to be unbiased. In an effort to be impartial he neglected to support the Catholic cause in Germany as strongly as he might have and in this way contributed to the making of the peace of westphalia, which was not approved by the papacy.
The weakness of Urban VIII's pontificate resided in his excessive nepotism and his failure to evaluate properly the new currents of intellectual energy that were increasing in importance during his reign. During his pontificate, his brother Antonio, a Capuchin, and two nephews, Francesco and Antonio, were created cardinals and given high offices in the Church. Carlo, the father of the two nephews, and his third son, Taddeo, were helped by Urban VIII to acquire property and titles. The wealth acquired by his nephews was so great that scruples induced the Pope twice to appoint special committees of theologians to investigate whether it was lawful for them to retain their possessions. On both occasions the committees reported favorably for the nephews. Over a question of protocol involving his nephews and Odoardo Farnese, the Duke of Parma, Urban VIII engaged in an unsuccessful war against the duke and his allies, Tuscany, Modena, and Venice. As part of his appreciation of the political and military situation, Urban VIII spent large sums on the production of armaments and the construction of fortifications for use by the papal government. His activities in this regard are countered by the support he gave to Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini and other artists in beautifying St. Peter's Basilica, the streets and piazzas of Rome, and other places. Urban VIII erected the Vatican Seminary as well as other religious and artistic edifices. During Urban VllI's long pontificate, the longest of the seventeenth century, there occurred the second trial and condemnation of Galileo by the Roman Inquisition. On March 6, 1642, the bull In eminenti condemning the Augustinus of Cornelius Jansenius was issued. Urban VIII's private life was above reproach; some of his poetical compositions were published during his pontificate. Use of the bronze girders of the Pantheon in the making of guns and the furthering of other projects by Urban VIII prompted the epigram "What the barbarians did not do the Barberini did."
Bibliography: a. nicoletti, Vita di Papa Urbano VIII e. Storia del suo pontificato, 9 v. (MSS in Vatican Library, Coll. Barberini). l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London-St. Louis 1938–61) v.28 and 29, see v.29, app. 584–590, for evaluation of Nicoletti's work. p. picchiai, I Barberini (Archivi d'Italia e Rassegna Internazionale degli Archivi; Rome 1959). g. albion, Charles I and the Court of Rome (London 1935). a. leman, Urban VIII et la rivalité de la France et de la maison d'Autriche de 1631 à 1635 (Paris 1920). h. liebing, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65)3 6:1187. g. mollat, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 1903–50; Tables générales 1951–)15.2:2305–06. a. kraus, Das päpstliche Staatssekretariat unter Urban VIII, 1623–1644 (Rome 1964). s. borsi, Roma di Urbano VIII (Rome 1990). l. nussdorfer, Civic Politics in the Rome of Urban VIII (Princeton 1992). r. feldhay, Galileo and the Church (New York 1995). s. pieralsi, Urbano VIII e Galileo Galileo (Rome 1875). p. redoni, Galileo Heretic, trans. r. rosenthal (Princeton 1987).
[v. ponko, jr.]