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Pope Innocent XII

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Pope Innocent XII

Innocent XII
Papacy began 12 July 1691
Papacy ended 27 September 1700
Predecessor Alexander VIII
Successor Clement XI
Consecration 27 October 1652
by Marcantonio Franciotti
Created Cardinal 1 September 1681
by Innocent XI
Personal details
Birth name Antonio Pignatelli
Born (1615-03-13)13 March 1615
Spinazzola, Kingdom of Naples
Died 27 September 1700(1700-09-27) (aged 85)
Rome, Papal States
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Other popes named Innocent

Pope Innocent XII (Latin: Innocentius XII; 13 March 1615 – 27 September 1700), born Antonio Pignatelli, was Pope from 12 July 1691 to his death in 1700.

Early life

Pignatelli was born on 13 March 1615 in Spinazzola (current Puglia) to one of the most aristocratic families of the Kingdom of Naples, which included many Viceroys, and ministers of the crown. He was educated at the Jesuit college in Rome.

At the age of 20 he became an official of the court of Pope Urban VIII. He served successive popes as nuncio to Florence, Vienna and Poland. Later he went to Malta where he served as an inquisitor.[1]


In 1681 he was elevated to Cardinal by Pope Innocent XI and was made Cardinal-Priest of the Church of San Pancrazio in Rome. Later that year he was appointed Archbishop of Naples.


Innocent XII, 1695
Papal styles of
Pope Innocent XII
Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None

Pope Alexander VIII died in 1691 and the College of Cardinals assembled to hold a conclave. Factions loyal to the Kingdom of France, Kingdom of Spain and the broader Holy Roman Empire failed to agree on a consensus candidate. After five months, Cardinal Pignatelli emerged as a compromise candidate between the cardinals of France and the Holy Roman Empire.[1]

Immediately after his election on 12 July 1691, Innocent XII declared his opposition to the nepotism which had afflicted the reigns of previous popes. The following year he issued the papal bull, Romanum decet Pontificem, banning the curial office of the Cardinal-Nephew and prohibiting popes from bestowing estates, offices, or revenues on any relative. Further, only one relative (and only "if otherwise suitable") was to be raised to the cardinalate.

At the same time he sought to check the simony in the practices of the Apostolic Chamber and to that end introduced a simpler and more economical manner of life into his court. Innocent XII said that "the poor were his nephews" and compared his public beneficence to the nepotism of many predecessors.

Innocent XII also introduced various reforms into the States of the Church including the Forum Innocentianum, designed to improve the administration of justice dispensed by the Church. In 1693 he compelled French bishops to retract the four propositions relating to the Gallican Liberties which had been formulated by the assembly of 1682.

In 1699, he decided in favour of Jacques-Benigne Bossuet in that prelate's controversy with Fénelon about the Explication des Maximes des Saints sur la Vie Intérieure of the latter. Innocent XII's pontificate also differed greatly from his predecessors' because of his leanings towards France instead of Germany; the first in the 20 years following France's failure to have its candidate elected in 1644 and 1655.

Monument to Innocent XII, St. Peter's Basilica.

Innocent XII died on 27 September 1700 and was succeeded by Pope Clement XI (1700–1721). His tomb at St. Peter's Basilica was sculpted by Filippo della Valle.


Innocent XII appears as one of the narrators in Robert Browning's long poem "The Ring and the Book" (1869), based on the true story of the pope's intervention in a historical murder trial in Rome during his papacy.

See also


  1. ^ a b S. Miranda: Antonio Pignatelli


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Pietro Vidoni
Cardinal-Priest of San Pancrazio
1681 – 1691
Succeeded by
Bandino Panciatichi
Preceded by
Innico Caracciolo
Archbishop of Naples
1686 – 1691
Succeeded by
Giacomo Cantelmo
Preceded by
Alexander VIII
12 July 1691 – 27 September 1700
Succeeded by
Clement XI
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