Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Borghese Family

Team 4: Roman Camarda, Emily Hollenbeck

Unlike other papal families of Reniassance Rome, the Borghese family was not an old, aristocratic noble Roman family. Originating in Siena as far back at the 13th century, they were a middle class family, educated in the law, and holding positions in government and diplomacy. In fact, the Borghese did not enter Rome until the middle of the 16th century.
The Borghese’s first ties to Rome came when Marcantonio Borghese I became the Sienese ambassador to the pope. Both the overtake of Siena by the Medici family of Florence (causing many families to leave Siena), and Marcantonio’s marriage to a member of a noble Roman family, Flaminia Astalli, cemented his place in Rome. Already having ties to one of the noble families, when Marcantonio’s son Camillo became pope in 1605, the Borghese family entered the aristocracy of Rome.

Camillo Borghese, born in Rome in 1552, followed family tradition and was educated in the law, but soon entered the church. With his accomplishments in the church, and after a successful diplomatic mission to Spain, he was made cardinal under Clement VIII. In 1605, after the death of the twenty-six-day pope Leo XI, a stalemate occurred in selecting the new pope, and Camillo was seen as a possible compromise candidate. One of the favored cardinals involved in the stalemate, Pietro Aldobrandini (nephew of Clement VIII), decided to back Camillo, as he believed Camillo would carry on principles of the papacy important to the Aldobrandini family; the Aldobrandini family had also left Florence due to their hatred of the Medici, much in the same way the Borghese had left Siena. Pietro’s support helped Camillo to become pope, and he took the name Paul V. Despite Peitro’s influence in his election, Paul V instead saw it as an intervention of the Holy Spirit, himself being divinely appointed, and would not acknowledge Peitro’s help. This attitude earned Paul V the nickname “The Grand Ingrate,” and set the tone for much of his papal reign.

Along with the belief of his divine appointment, Paul V was seen as opinionated, strict, and inflexible. During his time as pope, he roused several conflicts, and fueled the flames of several others, due to his unyielding attitude. One of the most notable conflicts occurred when he placed Venice in excommunication for new Venetian laws restricting the power of the clergy, and almost used military force against Venice. He finally came to a compromise with Venice out of fear that they would turn to Protestant forces for help, not wanting any kind of Catholic-Protestant alliance to form. Other issues occurred in England, when Paul V forbade English Catholics to take an oath of allegiance required by Parliament in the midst of Catholic-Protestant tensions, and in France, when Paul V condemned the Gallican Church over a dispute of whether the king’s power came directly from god or was mediated by the pope. Paul V’s role in all of these conflicts reflected poorly on the papacy and the church.

Despite these negative attributes, Paul V was highly involved in the reconstruction and restoration of the city of Rome. He closely followed the precedent of urban renewal set by Sixtus V, continuing his work on St. Peter’s, building a funerary chapel similar to one that Sixtus had commissioned, and restoring an ancient aqueduct, just as Sixtus had. Although following Sixtus’ pattern, Paul V made sure that everything he constructed was larger and grander than the counterexample by Sixtus. Meant to restore the city of Rome, both for its citizens and to display its grandeur to the rest of the world, these works commissioned by Paul V were especially meant to restore the image of the papacy and the church, displaying its wealth and power.
Although Paul V was unlike many of his predecessors in that he did not favor nepotism, the appointment of family members to seats of power, he did choose to promote two of his direct nephews to seats of power. The first, Marcantonio II, was granted the title of prince of Sulmona. The second, son of Paul V’s sister Ortensia named Scipione, was named a cardinal.

Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, as his name indicates, was the product of a family alliance between the Caffarelli and Borghese families. As the son of two prominent noble families, Scipione was raised in a very rich cultural environment, and as a result quickly gained a great appreciation for the arts. Once raised to the title of cardinal, Scipione used every ounce of his positional power to collect and commission some of the finest works of art in Rome. Scipione desired works of art from ancient, Renaissance, and contemporary times that he believed might inspire a new golden age. One of the cardinal’s favorite contemporary sculptors was a young Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who the cardinal commissioned not only to create new works of art, but also to restore old ones. Along with sculptures, Scipione also commissioned and collected paintings by artists such as Caravaggio, Raphael, and Lavinia Fontana. With all of this art in his possession, Scipione needed a place to house it, and as a result had the Villa Borghese built in 1612. Besides holding the title of cardinal, before retiring from public life after the death of Paul V in 1621, Scipione had also been appointed Archbishop of Bologna, Archpriest of St. Peter’s, Protector of Flanders of Germany, and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church among many other titles.

After the death of Scipione in 1633, his money, art, and property were all left in the hands of his cousin Marcantonio II, who subsequently became the richest man in Rome and one of the richest men in Italy. The family continued on as a secure fixture of Roman aristocratic society for many years, and of the remaining lineage the members of most interest are Marcantonio IV, born in 1730, and his son Camillo, born in 1775. Marcantonio IV was responsible for many alterations to the Villa Borghese, and due to his alliance with France and the Treaty of Tolentino, was forced to send some of the Villa’s best paintings to France. Camillo served as an even stronger ally to France after being married to Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister Pauline. Just as his father before him, Camillo’s alliance ended up costing him some of the Villa Borghese’s most priceless works of art, this time 344 pieces from the Villa’s archeological collection that to this day constitute the “Borghese Collection” in the Louvre. The rest of the Borghese lineage continued on in the tradition of linking the Borghese family with other noble families through marriage, and until 1902 the Villa Borghese remained under the ownership Borghese family, Paolo Borghese having to sell it and all of the wonderful the art within to the state due to the financial crash of the Bank of Italy in 1891.

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