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Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini


Well Connected Man About Town

 Maffeo Barberini was born into the Florence side of the Barberini family on the 5th day of April, 1568.    (A later grand nephew Barberini was a Don Barberini. There was a Don Barberini fictional character in a mostly forgotten 1980 movie Umbrella Coup)  Originally this clan resided in the Tuscan town of Barberino Val d'Elsa as minor nobles, then in the 12th century moved to Florence abetting their claim to fame.  Maffeo Barberini's story is tied to this wealthy and influential family that eventually extended to Rome.  Remember only about a hundred years earlier, Niccolò Machiavelli was an influence, and the Protestant Reformation had started to really snowball.  The setting is on the Italian peninsula with warring city-states....no wait, that's the setting for Romeo and Juliet.....no, it's okay, because it's just as if not more relevant here.  Also, in an aside, the Florentines threw the Medicis out of there for being militant Francophiles.

We Are Family

One has to avoid mistaking some of these fathers/brothers/nephews/uncles when you follow them, as they used Antonio, and Francesco's names for later sons. There was nephew Cardinal Antonio Barberini (1607-1671), and his younger brother, Cardinal Antonio Marcello Barberini (18 November 1569 - 11 September 1646).  The two brothers, Antonio (the elder) and Raffaelo were the dominant founders of the financial and political power of the family.  This power was expanded and directed by not just ecclesiastical or secular politics, but with armies spilling fellow Italian Catholic's blood.  Maffeo was to also get his part in this drama paralleling the superpower Medici family because they were tight with Pope, Sixtus V.  (If you're wondering why no information on the next successful candidate, Urban VII?  Malaria took his life one week after his election.)

Movin' on Up 

 In 1588, while Gregory XIII (of Gregorian Calendar fame) was Head Vicar, the twenty year old was made nuncio in Florence.  His widowed mother (father died in around 1561) wanted himf to continue his Jesuit training started in their hometown; so he was enrolled in the Jesuit Collegio Romano. There he lived with and studied under uncle Francesco Barberini.  He was a good reference and connection since he was Protonotary Apostolic: a very nice high church office. In 1589 after studying at the University of Pisa he got his doctor of law degree.  Afterwards he came back to Rome to become abbreviator Apostolic and referendary of justice, the Segnatura di Giustizia by one of the few Franciscan Popes. Sixtus V.  Also,  Maffeo officiated as Prefect of Spoleto (of Lucrezia Borgia fame)  for a time.  Pope Gregory XIV (who was from Fano) made Maffeo the governor there and now he, too would be an Apostolic Prothonotary. This Pope was another who took very literally, 'Take care of your own'," promoting relatives to cardinals.  Maffeo would find it safer in Rome after Sixtus got rid of the system of brigandage, where bandits terrorized Rome and richer as he got them back in black.  This pontiff also warned Galileo, whom will enter stage right, exit stage left, enter again stage right, then maybe a curtain call a bit later.

World Turning

While Maffeo was busy studying, Pope Innocent IV (who indulged in a little nepotism, himself) was there in times when and where French, Spanish and Italian interests all lobbied for Vatican favors, external, and better yet, internal.  Philip II actually interfered with the conclaves stopping a large contingent of cardinals from attending.  This pope actually was doing a lot of the work for his malaria plagued predecessor, Gregory XIV.  This man was responsible for uniting Spain and Venice to achieve the victory of Lepanto over the Turks in 1571 Before he died two years later,  support was given for the Spanish, who helped vote him in.  So Philip II and the Catholic League were helped with an Papal Army against Henry IV of France (1589-1610) in the civil Wars of Religion (1562-1598).  He died not knowing he had failed in this endeavor.  Cardinal Richelieu was going to make sure The French would get their chance soon.  The Counter Reformation applauded that Henry became a Catholic, well, marrying Catherine de Medici didn't hurt, or help depending on your flavor.  A bright spot of French forced emigrants,  would be Cajun music -- which came about because of tous les trials et tribulations.  First to le Canada and Arcadia (derivation to Cajun), then Nouveau Orleans, and la danse.

Bon Appetit

In 1601 he was sent to France, where Pope Clement (the fourth pope in 18 months!)  promoted him to nuncio extraordinary,  basically a permanent position; and he became Papal Legate to Henry IV.  There he was to present "felicitations"  --"the blessed garments" for Henry IV's son, the dauphin: destined to become Louis XIII.  He participated in the important Royal Wedding of King, ]Philip III], with Margaret of Austria.  Four years later he was in absentia (or partibus...no not a party bus!) Archbishop of Nazereth, but he never bothered to pack any bags: Islam prevailed in the Holy Land at this time (Way before the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Kaieda, the Taliban, the UAR and etc).  (Any chance would have to wait until after WWI). Not much happened under the next one,  Leo XI, he lasted a month.

I've Been Workin'

  In 1605 Pope  Paul V, came into power as the top bishop of Rome.  This one also liked helping La Famiglia big time, setting a precedence even more for the loosely translated: "Mio scratcha ue a backa, ue a scratcha la mio."  Their competition, that whole city state of Venice was excommunicated by this pope.   He was dubbed head of the titular church of St. Peter in Montorio and later St. Onofrio. In 1606 Maffeo benefited by being named not only Cardinal, but two years later, Archbishop of Spoleto. In this new lofty role, Barberini convened a synod, finished the building of one seminary before putting up a couple more. He was legate of Bologna and was prefect of the Segnatura di Giustizia.

Quis Eo Sursum Eo Adveho Cata

 In 1610 the new cardinal met Galileo, and at first was enthralled by his genius....but, later as pressures built he had to tow the party line. In 1611, there was a court dinner attended by him, Galileo and Cardinal Gonzaga.  The latter's criticism of the scientist's discussion on floating bodies was rebuffed by Maffeo.  Trouble escalated in 1616 when Cardinal 'geocentric' Bellarmine intervened in the Copernican dialogue, especially after Father Paolo Antonio Foscarini published a defense of Copernican Scriptural veracity.  This actually highlighted it and put it under the microscope (as opposed to Galileo's telescope)  for the powerful clergyman.  (Kind of like a Ching! of Death!)

Cardinal Bellarmine answered the author thus:

...as it seems to one on a ship that the beach moves away from the ship, I shall answer that one who departs from the beach, though it looks to him as though the beach moves away, he knows that he is in error and corrects it, seeing clearly that the ship moves and not the beach. But with regard to the sun and the earth, no wise man is needed to correct the error, since he clearly experiences that the earth stands still and that his eye is not deceived when it judges that the moon and stars move. And that is enough for the present. I salute Your Reverence and ask God to grant you every happiness.

(Man, is he polite, but now look over your shoulder for the ones who'll come and enforce the decrees...."To show a spirit of fair play we'll give you a choice beloved heretic, well, do you want to be stretched on the rack or quartered first?")

 Galileo was next to be told directly not to embrace and expound his Copernican theories:  

...because it has come to the attention of this Congregation that the Pythagorean doctrine which is false and contrary to Holy Scripture, which teaches the motion of the earth and the immobility of the sun, and which is taught by Nicholas Copernicus in De Revolutionibus Orbium Caelestium and by Diego de Zuniga's On Job, is now being spread and accepted by many - as may be seen from a letter of a Carmelite Father entitled 'Letter of the Rev. Father Paolo Antonio Foscarini, Carmelite, on the Opinion of the Pythagoreans and of Copernicus concerning the Motion of the Earth and the Stability of the Sun, and the New Pythagorean System of the World,' printed in Naples by Lazzaro Scoriggio in 1615: in which the said Father tries to show that the doctrine of the immobility of the sun in the center of the world, and that of the earth's motion, is consonant with truth and is not opposed to Holy Scripture.

Therefore, so that this opinion may not spread any further to the prejudice of Catholic truth, it (the Sacred Congregation) decrees that the said Nicholas Copernicus' De Revolutionibus Orbium, and Diego de Zuniga's On Job, be suspended until corrected; but that the book of the Carmelite Father, Paolo Foscarini, be prohibited and condemned, and that all other books likewise, in which the same is taught, be prohibited.

But still, Maffeo, liked Galileo in that heady time of 1616 and he actually opposed Bellarmine's condemnation; though later, as we shall see, he definitely was not as strong in his defense.  After Urban's death, Galileo remembered him kindly and gave him kudos, especially since he wasn't burned, flogged, drawn and quartered, became intimate with the iron maiden....no not the heavy metal group! and other assorted sundries. 

The Envelope Please

When Gregory XV (who interestingly brought in the secret ballot) passed into eternity,  Maffeo's candidacy starting on that 19 July, 1623 was not a shoo-in.  There was one who seemed a sure shot and front runner, Cardinal Octavius Bandini.  The atmosphere was cordial and polite with names bantered about, guesses abound.  But, in what counts -- the ballots, the first one showed not enough votes at all (and there were lots of games being played -- almost like poker,  then eyes turned to the pious Cardinal Anne des Cars de Givry.  There were supposed to be 55 cardinals there to participate,  but  Maffeo thought that though he got 50 majority votes, he wanted to do it over.  So Cardinal Farnese warned Maffeo: "Why, you are elected by more than necessary votes. Even should the missing ballot be a hostile one, you still would be pontiff. In a new ballot electors might change their minds."  Maffeo insisted, and playing hard to get won him over again.  He chose the name Urban VIII after his selection on August 6, 1623.  But like thousands of Romans, he too fell down ill and had to wait upon coronation until Saint Micheal's day, September 6, still sick.  He supposedly fell down at the altar in prayer afterward before putting on the robes.  He prayed for death to proceed any failure on his part to fulfill the office as God would have it.  Right away he finished up some canonization business of his predecessor with Bulls of canonization of Philip Neri, Ignatius Loyola, and Francis Xavier.

When the Whip Comes Down

The next year 1624 Urban got bullish and laid down the law that folks would be excommunicated if they smoked tobacco.  It made sense to him, he thought people got a kind of sexual buzz when they sneezed from it.  He lived his life serious, you should too!   The same year, Urban VIII told Galileo he could publish Copernican theory as  treated  as a mathematical proposition, he was warned about openly criticizing the Scriptures.

Not too long after assuming this role heading the whole Church (Lutherans etc. excluded), he made a law that bishops and cardinals had to reside in their own sees.  He wrote: "Hitherto you could excuse yourselves by saying that the pope knew and tolerated it. We, at least, will not tolerate or permit it!"

Urban VIII during his typical workaholic mode made this following Decree:

The pope is the visible head of the Universal Church, the vicar of God on earth, the bishop of the bishops and the patriarchs; in one word, the successor of Saint Peter, in whom the apostolate and the episcopate had their beginning, and upon whom Jesus Christ founded his Church, giving him the keys of heaven, with the infallibility of the faith, which has immovably endured in his successors to this day.

He put out his update of the Apostolicæ Sedis, which is reservations and censures to wrongdoings, put out also at the Council of Trent in the years from 1545 all the way to 1563. Part of their answers to challenges of Luther et al. (Changed again when Pius IX (1846-78) put out his Apostolicae Sedis Moderationi in 1869; it basically remains the penal code of today's Roman Catholic Church.

Holy Promotion full of Holes

Maffeo reciprocated his relatives' influence by elevating them to Cardinals, (not to be confused with Saint Louis' Cardinals) and taking care of others similarly:  this Pope earned the notoriety as one of the most nepotistic pontifs (and the last of this kind), (and he had stiff competition) causing even the jaded Romans to raise eyebrows.  Brother Antonio Marcello Barberini, his nephews Francesco Barberini and Antonio Barberini were all elevated to cardinals.  The nephew promoted three days after he became Pope!  Then four years later this same relative was the head Vatican Librarian and finally he assumed the Vice-Chancellorship in 1632.  Fortunately he earned his keep, constructing not only a palace in his name, but also a renown library (1902 -- became the Vatican Library) with their moniker.

Not only was nephew Antonia a cardinal (1627),  six years later in Avignon and Urbino he was their legate.  He moved on in 1638  to become Camerlengo, then later he was the Papal Troops Commander-in-Chief.  1641 was a good year for nephew Antonio, too as his legation was now in Bologna, Ferrara, and Romagna.

Now the brother with the same name, ran the Senigaglia Diocese a couple of years after Urban's succession, and joined that hefty college of cardinals in 1628, and I suppose he wanted to keep his hands clean, so he was in the Vatican library as librarian and penitentiary.  Wait, there's nephew Taddeo, he had to be made not just Prince of Palestrina, but Prefect of Rome.  Now to be fair, Urban set up special committees using respected theologians like Father Lupis and Cardinal Lugo, amazingly no conflict of interests found, though the Barberini family was genuflecting all the way to Le Banco

A third nephew of Urban, Taddeo Barberini, was made Prince of Palestrina and Prefect of Rome. It is scarcely credible what immense riches accrued to the Barberini family through Urban's nepotism. Finally, tormented with scruples concerning his nepotism, Urban twice appointed a special committee of theologians to investigate whether it was lawful for his nephews to retain their possessions, but each time the committee decided in favor of his nephews. Among the members of the second committee were Cardinal Lugo and Father Lupis.


Go Out Into All the World

Urban VIII was big on missions, one example was his sending officials to see the Abyssian Emperor Seltan Segued (Sucinius).  In 1626 they gathered all the nobles, and family members together -- including future rulers.  All had to swear in the name of all Ethiopia, to be totally committed in their  obedience to Pope Urban VIII.  He founded a college for missionaries, making dioceses and vicarages overseas.  There was a great deal of interest in reaching the Japanese, notice all those names below beatitifed.  Many missionaries were tortured and killed trying to bring the Church to those islands.

Take Care of Business Mr. Business Man

Urban was a conceited micro-manager, just what the expanding Vatican territories needed.  And there was a weakness on frontier area to their north that he rectified with Fort Urbano at Castelfranco.  More important than augmenting the defense of Porto de Civita Vecchia, was his modernization of the Castel Sant' Angelo.  He got rid of the Alexander VI tower, added an additional wall,  rearranged the entrance and the bridge.  But the next thing he did earned him the calumnious epigram* at the top of this biography, he stripped the ancient Roman Pantheon of all it's bronze, (Vandals --like desperate rednecks around here taking copper from anything not removable),  to make cannons for his new fort.  The four corner bastions were strengthened as well.  His other physical legacies are the College of the Propaganda, the Fountain of the Triton, and the Baldachin at St Peter's Cathedral.  Because he had a vision of three bees they are graphically visible in his escutcheon.

Urban Renewal

Urban, always looking to expansion, in 1626 he took advantage of an elderly Duke Francesco Maria della Rovere, with the old persistent soft cell got the codger's Duchy of Urbino deeded to the Church.   Of the many reforms he was involved in, he stopped the practice of people venerating portraits of every Tom, Dick and Harry they wanted to homage, a ritual started in Venice.  He shortened the honorifics of cardinals to "eminence."   In Brazil, Paraguay, and the West Indies the indigenous people had been used as slaves, this pope ended this practice in 1639. 

 Mama Told Not to Look into the Eyes of the Sun

Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was published in 1632, with an official okay from the Inquisition and with Papal permission.    In 1633 Galileo was called to Rome to present himself to the Inquisition again to recant his heliocentric view of the solar system, now with the Pope's angry breath on him.  You see, back in 1623, in more pleasant times of witty conversation, Maffeo had an argument for God's omnipotence.  Galileo had a straw man, the Aristotelian Simplico, in that published Dialogue that Maffeo recognized as disrespecting him, especially when those arguments went through 400 or so pages of a beating.  Urban did not do anything to intervene in the Inquisition, and the Florence astronomer was deemed heretical and put under lifetime house arrest near his home. By the time that judgmental body in 1638 let him live in Florence, near doctors, it was too late, the eyes that gazed at the stars were dark.  At his Florence home, in 1642, two years before Urban's death, Galileo joined those celestial dwellings.


From Galileo's deposition in front of the inquisition in 1633:


I was in Rome in the year 1616; then I was here in the second year of His Holiness Urban VIII's pontificate; and lastly I was here three years ago, the occasion being that I wanted to have my book printed. The occasion for my being in Rome in the year 1616 was that, having heard objections to Nicolaus Copernicus's opinion on the earth's motion, the sun's stability, and the arrangement of the heavenly spheres, in order to be sure of holding only holy and Catholic opinions, I came to hear what was proper to hold in regard to this topic.

For several days I have been thinking continuously and directly about the interrogations I underwent on the 16th of this month and in particular about the question whether sixteen years ago I had been prohibited, by order of the Holy Office, from holding, defending, and teaching in any way whatever the opinion, then condemned, of the earth's motion and sun's stability.

In regard to my writing of the Dialogue already published, I did not do so because I held Copernicus's opinion to be true. Instead, deeming only to be doing a beneficial service, I explained the physical and astronomical reasons that can be advanced for one side and for the other; I tried to show that none of these, neither those in favor of this opinion or that, had the strength of a conclusive proof and that therefore to proceed with certainty one had to resort to the determination of more subtle doctrines, as one can see in many places in the Dialogue. So for my part I conclude that I do not hold and, after the determination of the authorities, I have not held the condemned opinion.

Having been told that from the book itself and the reasons advanced for the affirmative side, namely that the earth moves and the sun is motionless, he is presumed, as it was stated, that he holds Copernicus's opinion, or at least that he held it at the time, therefore he was told that unless he decided to proffer the truth, one would have recourse to the remedies of the law and to appropriate steps against him. I do not hold this opinion of Copernicus, and I have not held it after being ordered by injunction to abandon it. For the rest, here I am in your hands; do as you please.


Twenty Out of Thirty Ain't Bad

Urban VIII was Pope for twenty years, reigning during the religious wars raging in Europe between Protestant and Catholic factions.  Very politically active and though he was backing France, he also helped the Duke of Nevers, all the while showing favor to protestants by not lending aid to Emperor Ferdinand II in his conflict with Sweden's Gustavus Adolphus (in fact Urban drafted Richelieu in this matter. All practical balance of power chessman-ship deftness -- since he was leery of Austria and the Spanish Hapsburg's power.  He incurred some grumbling over this, and his dilatory dabbling meant the Treaty of Westphalia had not much Papal influence four years after his death.

Et in Arcadia

 Artists Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain received patronage from him, ultimately with other similar expenditures depleted the Vatican's treasury a result of all his adventures, patrones, and associations.  At the Paris Louvre, authored by as he had it, Maphei Cardinalis Barberini Poemata his Latin Poetry was printed.  In 1640 he also published Italian poems -- seventy sonnets, two hymns, and an ode.  Some of what he wrote when he was a cardinal was printed in 1637.  One of his main projects was converting old style iambic dimeters hymns to classic Latin meter as he was an expert in Latin.  Done in 1629 with a commission of four Jesuits who mostly stood by while Pope Urban VIII ne Maffeo rolled his big fat red sleeves up.

No matter what was said about this man, no scandal can ever be found about his personal life.

Not too long after participating in his own way -- a losing war, he died 29th of July 1644.  



Note: There is no verification that Welcome back, Kotter's Vinnie Barbarino is any relation. "Hey, hey, Bob-a reen- oh!"


  • http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15218b.htm
  • http://timelines.com/1623/8/6/maffeo-barberini-urban-viii-elected-pope
  • http://galileo.rice.edu/gal/urban.html
  • http://www.nndb.com/people/281/000094996/
  • http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pope0235.htm
  • http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni/PopeUrbanVIII.html
  • http://www.castles.org/castles/Europe/Western_Europe/Italy/San%20Angelo/index.htm
  • http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1615bellarmine-letter.html
  • The Lives and Times of the Popes., Volume 6:   By Artaud de Montor, Catholic Publication Society of America
  • http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2009/09/compendium-of-reforms-of-roman-breviary_23.html
  • And other links through these links above, including Historical backgrounds of cities, kings, and other dignitaries.
  • Dedicated to his eminence, the Right Reverend Highness Saint Kevin.

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