Pope Innocent XII

Pope Innocent XII (Latin: Innocentius XII; Italian: Innocenzo XII; 13 March 1615 – 27 September 1700), born Antonio Pignatelli, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 12 July 1691 to his death in September 1700.

Innocent XII
Bishop of Rome
Antonio Zanchi – Papa Innocenzo XII.jpg
Portrait by Antonio Zanchi, c. 1691 – 99
ChurchCatholic Church
Papacy began12 July 1691
Papacy ended27 September 1700
PredecessorAlexander VIII
SuccessorClement XI
Ordinationc. 1643
Consecration27 October 1652
by Marcantonio Franciotti
Created cardinal1 September 1681
by Innocent XI
Personal details
Antonio Pignatelli

(1615-03-13)13 March 1615
Died27 September 1700(1700-09-27) (aged 85)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post(s)
Coat of armsInnocent XII's coat of arms
Other popes named Innocent

He took a hard stance against nepotism in the Church, continuing the policies of Pope Innocent XI, who started the battle against nepotism but which did not gain traction under Pope Alexander VIII. To that end, he issued a papal bull strictly forbidding it. The pope also used this bull to ensure that no revenue or land could be bestowed on relatives.

Antonio Pignatelli, born on 13 March 1615, was a prominent figure in the Roman Catholic Church. He was educated at the Collegio Romano in Rome and served in various positions, including as an inquisitor in Malta, Governor of Fano and Viterbo, and Apostolic Nuncio to Poland and Austria. He was made a cardinal in 1681 and later became Archbishop of Naples in 1686.

Pignatelli was elected pope in 1691, taking the name Innocent XII. He sought to reform the Apostolic Chamber and introduced a simpler lifestyle in his court. Innocent XII's pontificate was characterized by his leanings towards France rather than the Habsburg monarchy.

He created 30 cardinals during his tenure and canonized and beatified several individuals. Innocent XII was already severely ill with gout in 1699, and he died on 27 September 1700. He was succeeded by Pope Clement XI.


Early lifeEdit

Antonio Pignatelli was born on 13 March 1615 in Spinazzola[1] (now in Apulia) to one of the most aristocratic families of the Kingdom of Naples, which had included several Viceroys and ministers of the crown. He was the fourth of five children of Francesco Pignatelli and Porzia Carafa. His siblings were Marzio, Ludovico, Fabrizio and Paola Maria.

He was educated at the Collegio Romano in Rome where he earned a doctorate in both canon and civil law.

Diplomatic careerEdit

At the age of 20 he became an official of the court of Pope Urban VIII. Pignatelli was the Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura and served as the Governor of Fano and Viterbo. Later he went to Malta where he served as an inquisitor from 1646 to 1649,[2] and then governor of Perugia. Shortly after this, he received his priestly ordination.

Episcopate and cardinalateEdit

Cardinal Antonio Pignatelli

Pignatelli was made Titular Archbishop of Larissa in 1652 and received episcopal consecration in Rome. He served as the Apostolic Nuncio to Poland from 1660 to 1668 and later in Austria from 1668 to 1671.[1] He was transferred to Lecce in 1671. Pope Innocent XI appointed him as the Cardinal-Priest of San Pancrazio in 1681 and then moved him to the see of Faenza in 1682. He was moved to his final post before the papacy, as Archbishop of Naples in 1686.


Papal electionEdit

Innocent XII, 1695.

Pope Alexander VIII died in 1691 and the College of Cardinals assembled to hold a conclave to select his successor. 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 those of the Holy Roman Empire, particularly after Cardinal Gregorio Barbarigo was no longer considered a viable candidate for the papacy.[2] Having received 53 out of 61 votes, Pignatelli took his new name in honour of Pope Innocent XI and was crowned on 15 July 1691 by the protodeacon, Cardinal Urbano Sacchetti. He took possession of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran on 13 April 1692.


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.[1]

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.

That same year he invited Marcello Malpighi to Rome to serve as his personal physician and offered him the position of Professor of Medicine at the Sapienza. Malpighi introduced his Roman colleagues to the use of the microscope.[3]

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 the Habsburg monarchy; the first in the 20 years following France's failure to have its candidate elected in 1644 and 1655.


Innocent XII created 30 cardinals in four consistories; two of those he elevated were those he reserved in pectore.

Canonizations and beatificationsEdit

He canonized Saint Zita of Lucca on 5 September 1696. Innocent XII beatified Augustin Kažotić on 17 July 1700 and approved the cultus of Angela of Foligno in 1693. He also beatified Osanna Andreasi on 24 November 1694, Mary de Cervellione on 13 February 1692, Jane of Portugal on 31 December 1692, Umiliana de' Cerchi on 24 July 1694, Helen Enselmini on 29 October 1695 and Delphine in 1694.


The tomb and monument to Innocent XII in Saint Peter's Basilica.

Innocent XII was already considerably ill on 25 December 1699 with gout (a rheumatic disease) and was therefore unable to attend the solemn opening of the Holy Door at Saint Peter's Basilica to mark the beginning of the Jubilee for 1700, hence, Cardinal Emmanuel-Théodose de La Tour d'Auvergne represented the pontiff in the solemn celebration. On Easter Sunday in 1700, the seriously ill pontiff gave a blessing from his balcony to the large crowds outside of the Quirinal Palace. Despite his illness, he named three new cardinals in June 1700.

Innocent died on 27 September 1700 and was succeeded in the next conclave by Pope Clement XI (1700–21). His tomb in Saint Peter's Basilica was sculpted by Filippo della Valle.

In fictionEdit

Innocent 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. Innocent is the most recent pope to have decorative facial hair.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Ott, Michael. "Pope Innocent XII." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 4 February 2019
  2. ^ a b "Miranda, Salvador. "Antonio Pignatelli", Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, Florida International University". Archived from the original on 2018-02-13. Retrieved 2012-08-09.
  3. ^ "Riva, Michele Augusto et al. "The first recorded use of microscopy in medicine: Pope Innocent XII's autopsy report", The Lancet, August 6, 2016".
  4. ^ Howse, Christopher (2013-02-22). "Why we won't get a bearded pope".


  • Ago, R. (1994), "La carriera curiale di Antonio Pignatelli," in: Riforme, religione e politica durante il pontificato di Innocenzo XII (1691-1700), pp. 23–30.
  • Ago, Renata (2000), "Innocenzo XII," Enciclopedia dei Papi (Treccani: 2000). (in Italian)
  • Pastor, Ludwig (1891). The history of the popes from the close of the Middle Ages Volume 32. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner.
  • Pellegrino, B. (ed.). Riforme, religione e politica durante il pontificato di Innocenzo XII (1691-1700) Lecce 1994. (in Italian) [collection of studies]
  • Spedicato, M. (1994), "L'episcopato di Antonio Pignatelli a Lecce (1671-82): un governo pastorale a distanza?," in: Riforme, religione e politica, pp. 31–44. (in Italian)


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Cardinal-Priest of San Pancrazio
1681 – 1691
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Naples
1686 – 1691
Succeeded by
Preceded by Pope
12 July 1691 – 27 September 1700
Succeeded by