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Pope Gregory XV

Gregory XV
Papacy began 9 February 1621
Papacy ended 8 July 1623
Predecessor Paul V
Successor Urban VIII
Consecration 1 May 1612
by Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli-Borghese
Created Cardinal 19 September 1616
by Paul V
Personal details
Birth name Alessandro Ludovisio
Born 9 January 1554
Bologna, Papal States
Died 8 July 1623(1623-07-08) (aged 69)
Rome, Papal States
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Other popes named Gregory

Pope Gregory XV (Latin: Gregorius XV; 9 January 1554 – 8 July 1623), born Alessandro Ludovisio[1] or Ludovisi, was Pope from 9 February 1621 to his death in 1623.


  • Biography 1
  • Early life 2
  • Papacy 3
    • Papal conclave 3.1
  • Death 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • References 8


Papal styles of
Pope Gregory XV
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None

Early life

He was born in Bologna to Pompeo Ludovisi, Count of Samoggia, now Savigno in the Province of Bologna, and of Camilla Bianchini, being one of seven children.

Gianlorenzo Bernini: a bust of Pope Gregory XV

Educated at the Roman College run by the Jesuits in Rome, he went to the University of Bologna to get degrees in canon and Roman law, June 1575. His early career was as a papal jurist in Rome, and there is no evidence that he had been ordained. In March 1612, however, Pope Paul V appointed him as the Archbishop of Bologna, for which he was presumably ordained and then he was consecrated a bishop on 1 May of that year.

In August 1616 the pope sent him as nuncio to the Duchy of Savoy, to mediate between Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy and Philip III of Spain in their dispute concerning the Gonzaga Marquisate of Montferrat.[2] In September 1616, Paul V created him Cardinal Priest, his titular church being Santa Maria in Traspontina.


Papal conclave

Ludovisi remained in his episcopal see in Bologna until he went to Rome after the death of Pope Paul V to take part in the conclave at which he was chosen as pope.

At the moment of his election, chiefly through the influence of Cardinal Borghese, at his advanced age (he was 67) and with his weak state of health he saw at once that he would need an energetic man, in whom he could place implicit confidence, to assist him in the government of the Church. His nephew Ludovico Ludovisi, a young man of 25 years, seemed to him to be the right person and, at the risk of being charged with nepotism, he created him cardinal on the third day of his pontificate. On the same day, his youngest brother Orazio was appointed Captain General of the Church at the head of the papal army.

Pope Gregory XV with his cardinal-nephew of unprecedented income and authority, Ludovico Ludovisi, known as il cardinale padrone.

The future revealed that Gregory XV was not disappointed in his nephew. The Catholic Encyclopedia allows that "Ludovico, it is true, advanced the interests of his family in every possible way, but he also used his brilliant talents and his great influence for the welfare of the Church, and was sincerely devoted to the pope." Gregory secured for the Ludovisi two dukedoms, one for his brother Orazio, made a Nobile Romano and Duke of Fiano Romano, 1621, and the other, the Duchy of Zagarolo, purchased from the Colonna family by his nephew Ludovico Ludovisi in 1622. A second nephew, Niccolò, was made reigning Prince of Piombino and Lord of the Isola d'Elba in 1634, having married the heiress, 30 March 1632.

Gregory XV interfered little in European politics, beyond assisting Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, and the Catholic League against the Protestants—to the tune of a million gold ducats—as well as Sigismund III Vasa, King of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, against the Ottoman Empire. His Declaration against Magicians and Witches (Omnipotentis Dei, 20 March 1623) was the last papal ordinance against witchcraft. Former punishments were lessened, and the death penalty was limited to those who were "proved to have entered into a compact with the devil, and to have committed homicide with his assictance(CE).

He was a learned theologian and manifested a reforming spirit. As an example, his papal bull of 15 November 1621, Aeterni Patris, regulated papal elections, which henceforth were to be by secret ballot; three methods of election were allowed: by scrutiny, compromise and quasi-inspiration. On 6 January 1622, he established the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the missionary arm of the Holy See. His pontificate was marked by the canonizations of Teresa of Avila, Francis Xavier, Ignatius Loyola, Philip Neri and Isidore the Farmer. He also beatified Peter of Alcantara. He was influential in bringing the Bolognese artist Guercino to Rome, a landmark in the development of the High Baroque style. He sat for his portrait busts, one of which was by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and by Alessandro Algardi, whose restrained bust in a tondo is in the Church of Santa Maria in Vallicella.


Gregory XV died in the Quirinal Palace on 8 July 1623, and was buried in the Church of Sant'Ignazio. He was succeeded by Pope Urban VIII.

See also


  1. ^ "Gregory XV." in the Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed, Vol. XI. 1880.
  2. ^ The dispute eventually led to the War of the Mantuan Succession, which lasted 1628–31.


  • Günther Wassilowsky, Hubert Wolf: Päpstliches Zeremoniell in der Frühen Neuzeit – Das Diarium des Zeremonienmeisters Paolo Alaleone de Branca während des Pontifikats Gregors XV. (1621–1623). Rhema-Verlag, Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-930454-80-8


  • :Catholic Encyclopedia "Pope Gregory XV"
  • Some revised text from the ninth edition (1880) of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Alessandro Ludovisi
  • Genealogy of the Ludovisi: Alessandro Ludovisi, no. F3
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Scipione Borghese
Archbishop of Bologna
12 March 1612 – 9 February 1621
Succeeded by
Ludovico Ludovisi
Preceded by
Paul V
9 February 1621 – 8 July 1623
Succeeded by
Urban VIII
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