Pope Innocent XII

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Innocent XII
Bishop of Rome
Pope Innocent XII.PNG
Papacy began12 July 1691
Papacy ended27 September 1700
Predecessor Alexander VIII
Successor Clement XI
Ordinationc. 1643
Consecration27 October 1652
by  Marcantonio Franciotti
Created cardinal1 September 1681
by Innocent XI
Personal details
Birth nameAntonio Pignatelli
Born(1615-03-13)13 March 1615
Spinazzola, Kingdom of Naples
Died27 September 1700(1700-09-27) (aged 85)
Rome, Papal States
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Other popes named Innocent

Pope Innocent XII (Latin : Innocentius XII; 13 March 1615 – 27 September 1700), born Antonio Pignatelli, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 12 July 1691 to his death in 1700.


He took a hard stance against nepotism in the church, continuing the policies of Pope Innocent XI, who started the battle against nepotism but which did not gain traction under Pope Alexander VIII. To that end, he issued a papal bull strictly forbidding it. The pope also used this bull to ensure that no revenue or land could be bestowed to relatives.


Early life

Antonio Pignatelli was born on 13 March 1615 in Spinazzola [1] (now in Apulia) to one of the most aristocratic families of the Kingdom of Naples, which had included several Viceroys and ministers of the crown. He was the fourth of five children of Francesco Pignatelli and Porzia Carafa. His siblings were Marzio, Ludovico, Fabrizio and Paola Maria.

He was educated at the Collegio Romano in Rome where he earned a doctorate in both canon and civil law.

Diplomatic career

At the age of 20 he became an official of the court of Pope Urban VIII. Pignatelli was the Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura and served as the Governor of Fano and Viterbo. Later he went to Malta where he served as an inquisitor from 1646 to 1649, [2] and then governor of Perugia. Shortly after this, he received his priestly ordination.

Episcopate and cardinalate

Cardinal Antonio Pignatelli PIGNATELLI ANTONIO.jpg
Cardinal Antonio Pignatelli

Pignatelli was made Titular Archbishop of Larissa in 1652 and received episcopal consecration in Rome. He served as the Apostolic Nuncio to Poland from 1660 to 1668 and later in Austria from 1668 to 1671. [1] He was transferred to Lecce in 1671. Pope Innocent XI appointed him as the Cardinal-Priest of San Pancrazio in 1681 and then moved him to the see of Faenza in 1682. He was moved to his final post before the papacy, as Archbishop of Naples in 1686.


Papal election

Pope Alexander VIII died in 1691 and the College of Cardinals assembled to hold a conclave to select his successor. Factions loyal to the Kingdom of France, Kingdom of Spain and the broader Holy Roman Empire failed to agree on a consensus candidate.

After five months, Cardinal Pignatelli emerged as a compromise candidate between the cardinals of France and those of the Holy Roman Empire. [2] Pignatelli took his new name in honour of Pope Innocent XI and was crowned on 15 July 1691 by the protodeacon, Cardinal Urbano Sacchetti. He took possession of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran on 13 April 1692.

Innocent XII, 1695 Medaille annuelle en or du Vatican a l'effigie du Pape Innocent XII, 1695.jpg
Innocent XII, 1695


Immediately after his election on 12 July 1691, Innocent XII declared his opposition to the nepotism which had afflicted the reigns of previous popes. The following year he issued the papal bull, Romanum decet Pontificem , banning the curial office of the Cardinal-Nephew and prohibiting popes from bestowing estates, offices, or revenues on any relative. Further, only one relative (and only "if otherwise suitable") was to be raised to the cardinalate. [1]

At the same time he sought to check the simony in the practices of the Apostolic Chamber and to that end introduced a simpler and more economical manner of life into his court. Innocent XII said that "the poor were his nephews" and compared his public beneficence to the nepotism of many predecessors.

That same year he invited Marcello Malpighi to Rome to serve as his personal physician and offered him the position of Professor of Medicine at the Sapienza. Malpighi introduced his Roman colleagues to the use of the microscope. [3]

Innocent XII also introduced various reforms into the States of the Church including the Forum Innocentianum, designed to improve the administration of justice dispensed by the Church. In 1693 he compelled French bishops to retract the four propositions relating to the Gallican Liberties which had been formulated by the assembly of 1682.

In 1699, he decided in favour of Jacques-Benigne Bossuet in that prelate's controversy with Fénelon about the Explication des Maximes des Saints sur la Vie Intérieure of the latter. Innocent XII's pontificate also differed greatly from his predecessors' because of his leanings towards France instead of the Habsburg Monarchy; the first in the 20 years following France's failure to have its candidate elected in 1644 and 1655.


Innocent XII created 30 cardinals in four consistories; two of those he elevated were those he reserved in pectore .

Canonizations and beatifications

He canonized Saint Zita of Lucca on 5 September 1696. Innocent XII beatified Augustin Kažotić on 17 July 1700 and approved the cultus of Angela of Foligno in 1693. He also beatified Osanna Andreasi on 24 November 1694, Mary de Cerevellon on 13 February 1692, Jane of Portugal on 31 December 1692, Umiliana de' Cerchi on 24 July 1694, Helen Enselmini on 29 October 1695 and Delphine in 1694.


Monument to Innocent XII, St. Peter's Basilica Pope Innocent XII Tomb.jpg
Monument to Innocent XII, St. Peter's Basilica

Innocent died on 27 September 1700 and was succeeded by Pope Clement XI (1700–1721). His tomb at St. Peter's Basilica was sculpted by Filippo della Valle.

Innocent in fiction

Innocent appears as one of the narrators in Robert Browning's long poem The Ring and the Book (1869), based on the true story of the pope's intervention in a historical murder trial in Rome during his papacy. Innocent is the most recent pope to have decorative facial hair. [4]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 Ott, Michael. "Pope Innocent XII." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 4 February 2019
  2. 1 2 Miranda, Salvador. "Antonio Pignatelli", Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, Florida International University
  3. Riva, Michele Augusto et al. "The first recorded use of microscopy in medicine: Pope Innocent XII's autopsy report", The Lancet, August 6, 2016
  4. Howse, Christopher (2013-02-22). "Why we won't get a bearded pope".



Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Pietro Vidoni
Cardinal-Priest of San Pancrazio
1681 – 1691
Succeeded by
Bandino Panciatichi
Preceded by
Innico Caracciolo
Archbishop of Naples
1686 – 1691
Succeeded by
Giacomo Cantelmo
Preceded by
Alexander VIII
12 July 1691 – 27 September 1700
Succeeded by
Clement XI