Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

(ALESSANDRO OTTAVIANO DE' MEDICI).

Born at Florence in 1535; died at Rome 27 April, 1605, on the twenty-seventh day after his election to the papacy. His mother, Francesca Salviati, was a daughter of Giacomo Salviati and Lucrezia Medici, the latter being a sister of Leo X. From his boyhood he led a life of piety and always had an earnest desire to enter the ecclesiastical state, but could not obtain his mother's consent. After her death he was ordained priest and somewhat later Grand Duke Cosimo of Tuscany sent him as ambassador to Pius V, a position which he held for fifteen years. Gregory XIII made him Bishop of Pistoia in 1573, Archbishop of Florence in 1574, and cardinal in 1583. Clement VIII sent him, in 1596, as legate to France where he did good service for the Church in repressing the Huguenot influence at the court of Henry IV, and helping to restore the Catholic religion. On his return to Italy he was appointed prefect of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars. In 1600 he became Bishop of the suburbicarian Diocese of Albano, whence he was transferred to Palestrina in 1602. Alessandro was an intimate friend of St. Philip Neri with whom he spent much time in spiritual conversation and whose advice he sought in all important matters. When Alessandro was Tuscan ambassador at the court of Pius V Philip predicted his election to the papacy.

On 14 March, 1605, eleven days after the death of Clement VIII, sixty-two cardinals entered the conclave. Prominent among the candidates for the papacy were the great historian Baronius and the famous Jesuit controversialist Bellarmine. But Aldobrandini, the leader of the Italian party among the cardinals, made common cause with the French party and brought about the election of Alessandro against the express wish of King Philip III of Spain. King Henry IV of France, who had learned to esteem Alessandro when papal legate at his court, and whose wife, Maria de' Medici was related to Alessandro, is said to have spent 300,000 écus in the promotion of Alessandro's candidacy. On 1 April, 1605, Alessandro ascended the papal throne as Leo XI, being then seventy years of age. He took sick immediately after his coronation. During his sickness he was importuned by many members of the Curia and by a few ambassadors from foreign courts to confer the cardinalate on one of his grandnephews, whom he had himself educated and whom he loved dearly, but he had such an aversion for nepotism that he firmly refused the request. When his confessor urged him to grant it, he dismissed him and sent for another confessor to prepare him for death.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 3:1-10
1 Once, when Peter and John were going up to the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9
1 Alleluia! Give thanks to Yahweh, call on his name, ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:13-35
13 Now that very same day, two of them were on their ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 23rd, 2014 Image

St. George
April 23: Pictures of St. George usually show him killing a dragon to ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter