Pope Gregory XV (1554–1623) – a sickly and phlegmatic protector of the Jesuits
The pope came from an aristocratic Bolognese family. The University of Bologna and studies in the Roman Collegio Romano created and managed by the Jesuits provided him not only with an education but also set out his whole spiritual path – especially connections with the Order of the Jesuits, which in time became a pillar of his papal policy. The right-hand man of Gregory XV, or more appropriately the manager of His Eminence was, as soon as he assumed the papacy, his nephew – the 25-year old ambitious and skilled pragmatic Ludovico Ludovisi. It is he who in reality held the reins during the papacy, getting all possible benefits as a result. It was also he who became a truly generous funder and patron of art. In a span of two years of the pontificate of his uncle he did more in this regard for the glory of his family than some nepots had done in many years.
The pope himself did not have much time to occupy himself with art, however, right after assuming the papacy he did bring Guercino from Bologna, a painter who had previously worked for him. It was he who in that time period became a favorite artist and the decorator of the Ludovisi family residence as well as numerous Roman churches. The pope, along with his nepot, was also the initiator of the construction of a grand church of the Jesuits – The Church of Sant’Ignazio.
In 1622 Gregory canonized two Jesuits - Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier, as well Teresa of Ávilia, Phillip Neri and Isidore. The four saints from the Pyrenean Peninsula were also a visible sign of the connection of the pope with the Spanish Crown, which will be nursed by the Ludovisi family in later years.
For the papacy itself, an important reform introduced by Gregory XV was the establishment of the election of the Bishop of Rome by secret ballot, which meant a resignation from the long-lasting practice of open vote.
The pope was laid to rest in a monumental tomb, of which the completion lasted almost a century (it was finished in 1717) and took place in an atmosphere of one of the more shameful arguments between the pope’s heirs and the Jesuits. Ultimately the pope found his place of eternal rest in the Jesuit Church of Sant’Ignazio.
Structures funded by Gregory XV:
Guercino’s altar The Burial of St. Petronella painted for the Basilica of San Pietro in Vaticano – currently in Musei Capitolini – Pinacoteca Capitolina
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Ludovico Ludovisi (1595–1632) – lover of Antiquity and an extremely bright papal nepot
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