Alexander VII, né Fabio Chigi (February 13, 1599 - May 22, 1667) was pope from April 7, 1655 until his death in 1667.
Born Fabio Chigi in Siena, a member of the illustrious banking family and a great-nephew of Pope Paul V, he was privately tutored and eventually received doctorates of philosophy, law, and theology in the University of Siena. In 1627 he began his apprenticeship as vice-legate at Ferrara, and on recommendations from two cardinals he was appointed successively Inquisitor of Malta and nuncio in Cologne (1639-1651). Though expected to take part in the negotiations which led in 1648 to the Peace of Westphalia, he declined to deliberate with heretics, and protested, when it was finally completed, against the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War and established the balance of European power that lasted until the wars of the French Revolution.
Pope Innocent X recalled Chigi to Rome and subsequently made him cardinal secretary of state. When Innocent died, Chigi, the candidate favoured by Spain, was elected pope after eighty days in the conclave, on April 7, 1655. The conclave believed he was strongly opposed to the nepotism then prevalent. Indeed, in the first year of his reign, Alexander VII lived simply and forbade his relations even to visit Rome; but in consistory April 24, 1656, he announced that his brother and nephews would be coming to assist him in Rome. The administration was given largely into the hands of his relatives, and nepotism became as luxuriously entrenched as it even had been in the Baroque Papacy: he gave them the best-paid civil and ecclesiastical offices, and princely palaces and estates suitable to the Chigi of Siena.
Alexander himself disliked business of state, preferring literature and philosophy; a collection of his Latin poems appeared at Paris in 1656 under the title Philomathi Labores Juveniles. He also encouraged architecture, and the general improvement of Rome, where houses were razed to straighten and widen streets and where he had the opportunity to be a great patron for Gianlorenzo Bernini. The decorations of the church of Sta. Maria del Popolo, titular churchs for several of the Chigi cardinals, the Scala Regia, the Chair of St. Peter in the Vatican Basilica, and and in particular he sponsored Gianlorenzo Bernini's construction of the beautiful colonnade in the piazza of St. Peter's Basilica.
During Alexander VII's reign occurred the conversion of Queen Christina of Sweden, who, after her abdication, came to reside in Rome, where on Christmas Day, 1655, she was confirmed in her baptism by the Pope, in whom she found a generous friend and benefactor.
In foreign policy his instincts were not as humanist nor as successful. Alexander's pontificate was shadowed by continual friction with Cardinal Mazarin, advisor to Louis XIV, who had opposed him during the negotiations that led to the Peace of Westphalia and who defended the prerogatives of the Gallican Church During the conclave he had been hostile to Chigi's election, but was in the end compelled to accept him as a compromise. However, he prevented Louis XIV from sending the usual embassy of obedience to Alexander VII, and, while he lived, foiled the appointment of a French ambassador to Rome, diplomatic affairs being meantime conducted by cardinal protectors, generally personal enemies of the Pope. In 1662 the equally hostile Duc de Crequi was made ambassador. By his abuse of the traditional right of asylum granted to ambassadorial precincts in Rome, he precipitated a quarrel between France and the papacy, which resulted in the Pope's temporary loss of Avignon and his forced acceptance of the humiliating treaty of Pisa in 1664.
He favored the Spanish in their claims against Portugal, which had re-established its traditional independence in 1640.
He favored the Jesuits in all their ventures. When the Venetians called for help in Crete against the Ottoman Turks, Alexander extracted in return a promise that the Jesuits should be permitted back in Venetian territory, when they had been expelled in 1606. He also continued to take the Jesuit part in their conflict with the Jansenists (q.v. for fuller details), whose condemnation he had vigorously supported as advisor to Innocent X.. The French Jansenists professed that the propositions condemned in 1653 were not in fact to be found in Augustinus written by Cornelius Jansen. Alexander VII confirmed that they were too, by the Bull Ad Sanctam Beati Petri Sedem (October 16, 1656,) declaring that five propositions of Jansen, mostly concerning grace and the fallen nature of Man, were heretical including the proposition "that Christ died, or shed His blood for all men" ( see Catholic Encyclopedia, link below). He also sent to France his famous "formulary", that was to be signed by all the clergy as a means of detecting and extirpating Jansenism and which inflamed public opinion.
In other decisions he forbade in 1661 the translation of the Roman Missal into French, and in 1665 canonized Francis de Sales. His pontificate was also marked by protracted controversies with Portugal.
He died in 1667, was memorialized in a spectacular tomb by Bernini, and was succeeded by Pope Clement IX.