Bernardino Spada

Bernardino Spada (21 April 1594 – 10 November 1661)[1] was an Italian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and a patron of the arts whose collection is housed in the Palazzo Spada in Rome.

Bernardino Spada
Portrait of Bernardino Spada (by Guido Reni) – Galleria Spada.jpg
Cardinal Spada. Oil painting by Guido Reni, c. 1631. Galleria Spada, Rome
Other post(s)Cardinal-bishop of Palestrina
Consecration8 December 1623
by Guido Bentivoglio d'Aragona
Created cardinal19 January 1626
by Pope Urban VIII
RankCardinal-priest, later cardinal-bishop
Personal details
Born(1594-04-21)21 April 1594
Died10 November 1661(1661-11-10) (aged 67)
Rome, Italy
BuriedSan Girolamo della Carità, Rome
DenominationRoman Catholic
ParentsPaolo Spada
Previous post(s)Apostolic nuncio to France (1623–1627)
Titular archbishop of Tamiathis (1623–1626)
Cardinal-priest of Santo Stefano al Monte Celio (1627–1642)
Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals (1638–1639)
Cardinal-priest of San Pietro in Vincoli (1642–1646)
Cardinal-bishop of Albano (1646–1652)
Cardinal-bishop of Frascati (1652)
Cardinal-bishop of Sabina (1652–1655)
Alma materUniversity of Bologna
University of Perugia

Early lifeEdit

Spada was born in Brisighella, current province of Ravenna (Romagna). His father was the rich merchant Paolo Spada (unrelated to the Spada family of ancient nobility) who had directed him early on to a career in the church, though the generations before his had been colliers. Bernardino studied law in Bologna, Perugia and Rome and received a doctorate. He served in the Papal Curia from 1617.

Ecclesiastic careerEdit

On 8 December 1623, he was consecrated bishop in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome by Cardinal Guido Bentivoglio d'Aragona, assisted by Guillaume du Nozet, Titular Archbishop of Seleucia, and by François Boyvin de Péricard, Bishop of Evreux.[2] In December 1623 he was appointed papal nuncio to the court of France, in preparation for which he was ordained titular archbishop of Tamiathis. He served as nuncio until 1627, when he became papal legate in Bologna. He was made a cardinal 19 January 1626 by Pope Urban VIII. When the plague epidemic hit Bologna in 1630/1631, he helped organize the health care system there.

From 1631 he served again in Rome, filling several influential positions in the Curia. In 1632 he purchased what is now called the Palazzo Spada in the rione Regola, facing Piazza Capo di Ferro with a garden looking over the Tiber, and commissioned Francesco Borromini to modify it for him in a more Baroque style, to house his growing collections.[2]

War of CastroEdit

During the First War of Castro he served as plenipotentiary of Pope Urban VIII; sent to negotiate a truce with the Duchy of Parma, together with his brother Virgilio. Spada successfully negotiated a truce but when the pope's military leaders became aware that the dukes were massing troops to counter their troops (in case discussions with Spada came to nought), Urban VIII declared the articles of peace null and void and claimed Spada had negotiated them without his consent.[3] Spada was furious and later published a manifesto detailing his version of events which, according to contemporary John Bargrave, many accepted to be the truth.

Andrea CasaleEdit

In his profile of Spada, from his own observations and those of others, Bargrave also recounts Spada's dealings with Bologna nobleman Andrea Casale.[3] Casale had been sent to Germany to fight in the armies of the Holy Roman Empire during the 30 Years' War where he was captured. While a prisoner, Casale inherited a large estate which Spada then came to manage on behalf of Casale's relatives (who expected Casale to never return). Casale was eventually released and returned to Bologna where he had great difficulty proving he was, in fact, Andrea Casale. But a nurse who had treated Casale as a young man came forward and identified him from specific marks on his body. Nonetheless, Spada had the man imprisoned where he was beaten to death. Bargrave recounted that the story had been told to him in Rome, "much to the Cardinal's disadvantage".

Later ecclesiastic careerEdit

Spada was successively Bishop of Albano, Frascati, Sabina and Palestrina.[2] Bernardino supported the church careers of several of his family members. His nephew Giovanni Battista Spada became cardinal in 1654 and his great-nephew Fabrizio Spada became cardinal in 1675 and Cardinal Secretary of State in 1691. He died in Rome in 1661 and was interred in the family grave in the church of San Girolamo della Carità.[citation needed]

Literary influence and patronageEdit

Spada was the patron of Martha Marchina, an Italian soapmaker who wrote poetry in Latin, for ten years. Spada recognized her literary talents after exchanging epigrams about the plague that was ravaging Italy at that time.[4] Spada was largely responsible for the publication of Musa Posthuma, a collection of Marchina's poetry, though it was first published after his death in 1662. Spada included some of his own poetry, including a dedicatory poem written in Latin, addressed to the former queen of Sweden, Christine.[5] Several of Spada's letters to Marchina and to his brother Vergilius Spada are also included in Musa Posthuma, which are written in Italian and Latin. Several of Marchina's poems written about Spada are also included in the book.[6]

Episcopal successionEdit


  1. ^ Miranda – Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Bernardino Spada
  2. ^ a b c d e Cheney, David M. "Bernardino Cardinal Spada". Retrieved 16 June 2018. [self-published]
  3. ^ a b Pope Alexander the Seventh and the College of Cardinals by John Bargrave, edited by James Craigie Robertson (reprint; 2009)
  4. ^ Rossi, Gian Vittorio (1645–1648). Pinacotheca imaginum illustrium, doctrinae vel ingenii laude, virorum. Amsterdam. p. 238.
  5. ^ Marchina, Martha (1662). Musa Posthuma. Rome. p. 7.
  6. ^ Marchina, Martha (1662). Musa Posthuma. Rome.


  • Arne Karsten: Kardinal Bernardino Spada; Eine Karriere im barocken Rom, Goettingen 2001 (German) ISBN 3525362498
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Titular Archbishop of Tamiathis
Succeeded by
Preceded by Apostolic Nuncio to France
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal-Priest of Santo Stefano al Monte Celio
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal-Priest of San Pietro in Vincoli
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal-Bishop of Albano
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal-Bishop of Sabina
Succeeded by
Preceded by Cardinal-Bishop of Palestrina
Succeeded by