Barberini family

The Barberini are a family of the Italian nobility that rose to prominence in 17th century Rome. Their influence peaked with the election of Cardinal Maffeo Barberini to the papal throne in 1623, as Pope Urban VIII. Their urban palace, the Palazzo Barberini, (completed in 1633 by Bernini), today houses Italy's Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica (National Gallery of Ancient Art).

Coat of arms of the House of Barberini

Barberini coat of arms.
FoundedBetween 1530 and 1559
FounderAntonio Barberini (1494–1559)
Current headBenedetto Francesco Barberini, Prince of Palestrina (born 1961)
Cadet branches (By marriage of female heirs - male line became extinct twice. )

Early history

The Barberini family were originally a family of minor nobility from the Tuscan town of Barberino Val d'Elsa, who settled in Florence during the early part of the 11th century.[1]

Carlo Barberini (1488–1566) and his brother Antonio Barberini (1494–1559) were successful Florentine grain, wool and textile merchants. In 1530 Antonio participated in the defense of the Florentine Republic but after the capture of the city by Imperial troops, and the return to power of the Medici, Antonio grew weary of Medici rule and left Florence in 1537 to oversee Barberini business in Rome.[2]

In 1552, Carlo's son Francesco followed his uncle to Rome and business flourished. Francesco became a very rich man and bought a number of high offices within government and the Catholic church. In 1559, his uncle Antonio was murdered by forces loyal to the Medici.

Francesco continued to build his fortune and amass titles until his death in 1600. Ordinarily his estate would have been "fined" by the Camera Apostolica for operating a business while holding church office but his relatives successfully appealed to the head of the organization Francesco had, himself, once directed. The continuation of Barberini business fell to his nephews (the sons of his brother, also Antonio Barberini, who had died in 1571) including Maffeo Barberini.

Maffeo Barberini as Pope Urban VIII

Testone UrbanoVIII
Barberini coat-of-arms (three bees) surmounted by papal tiara and crossed keys on coin struck for Pope Urban VIII.

The Barberini acquired great wealth and influence when Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was elected to the papal throne in 1623, taking the name Pope Urban VIII. He elevated a brother Antonio Marcello Barberini (Antonio the Elder) and two nephews, Francesco Barberini and Antonio Barberini, to the cardinalate.[3] He made another brother Duke of Monterotondo, and gave a third nephew, Taddeo Barberini, the principality of Palestrina.[1] Taddeo was also made Gonfalonier of the Church, Prefect of Rome and Commander of Sant'Angelo.[3]

The ecclesiastical, diplomatic and cultural accomplishments of Urban's reign were overshadowed by the nepotism the pope practised. Urban's contemporary, John Bargrave, wrote:[4]

Upon his elevation, his kindred flew from Florence to Rome like so many bees (which are the Barberini's arms), to suck the honey of the Church, which they did excessively.

Likewise, the War of Castro, toward the end of Urban's papacy, sullied Urban's reputation and the popularity of those family members who survived him. It is estimated that during the course of Urban's reign, the Barberini amassed 105 million scudi in personal wealth.[3]

When the pope removed the ancient bronze beams from the portico of the Pantheon to procure bronze for the baldachin of St. Peter's Basilica and for the papal cannon foundry, an anonymous critic punningly wrote:[5]

Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini

This translates to "What the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did". The pope erected a tablet proudly proclaiming his re-use of these hidden beams for the glory and defense of the church.

Wars of Castro, exile and restoration

Palais Barberini de Palestina (aile droite)
The Palazzo Colonna Barberini in Palestrina; the comune over which various Barberini family members were given control.

The Barberini participated extensively in the First War of Castro. The conflict began when Odoardo Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, visited Rome and insulted the pope's nephews by suggesting the brothers were too young to manage the Pope's affairs. The war produced no clear victor, and Pope Urban died in 1644, only months after a peace accord was signed.[3]

Despite Urban's appointment of a number of relatives as cardinals, the College of Cardinals elected Pope Innocent X of the Pamphili family. Almost immediately, Innocent X launched an investigation into the conduct of various members of the Barberini family during the wars.[3]

The three nephews who had risen to prominence under their uncle Pope Urban VIII, cardinals Antonio and Francesco and Prince Taddeo were forced into exile and fled to Paris under the protection of Cardinal Mazarin. Antonio and Taddeo left first, by sea, but not before hanging the French coat of arms above the door of the Palazzo Barberini to confirm they were under the protection of France. Francesco joined his brothers soon after.

Taddeo's wife, Anna Colonna also joined her husband and children in Paris but not before making a passionate appeal (in person) to the Pope, urging him not to strip the Barberini of their assets. The Pope agreed and, though he paid some debts out of the Barberini estate, left the Barberini alone.[3]

In Paris they relied on the hospitality of Louis XIV, King of France, until 1653 when most of the family finally returned to Rome. Though Taddeo died in exile in 1647, his brothers eventually reconciled with the papacy through the marriage of Taddeo's younger son Maffeo with Olimpia Giustiniani, a niece of Pope Innocent. Maffeo was given his father's former title, that of Prince of Palestrina.

Taddeo's older son Carlo Barberini was made a cardinal by Pope Innocent X. Taddeo's daughter, Lucrezia Barberini, married Francesco I d'Este, Duke of Modena (who had previously sided with the Farnese during the First War of Castro), further stabilizing relations.

Modern history

Palazzo Tafani da Barberino, stemma barberini
Family coat-of-arms at the Palazzo Barberini.

The 1627 marriage of Taddeo Barberini and Anna Colonna, daughter of Filippo I Colonna began the century-long process which would eventually see the Barberini merge with the Colonna family.

In 1728, the Carbognano branch (Colonna di Sciarra) of the Colonna family added the name Barberini to its family name when Giulio Cesare Colonna di Sciarra married Cornelia Barberini, daughter of Urbano Barberini, the last legitimate male Barberini heir.[6]

Though Urbano's wives bore him no legitimate male heirs, Urbano fathered a son, Maffeo Callisto Barberini in 1688 prior to any one of his three marriages. The will of Urbano Barberini's last wife, Maria Teresa Boncompagni, makes mention of this Maffeo Callisto as the Marquis of Corese. A large portion of the Barberini estate was left for him in her will.[7]

Later her progeny came into conflict with his over claims to the Barberini estate but the quarrel was settled with an agreement signed in Paris in 1811 which divided the estate between the two claimant branches of the family.

The Colonna line became extinct again on the death of Prince Enrico Barberini-Colonna and the name went to his daughter and heiress Maria and her husband Marquis Luigi Sacchetti, who received the title of Prince of Palestrina and permission to use the Barberini name.

On 21 June 2005, Augusto Barberini, the 13th Prince of Palestrina, died in Rome.[8] The family is now represented by Benedetto Francesco Barberini, Prince of Palestrina (born 1961), whose heir is his eldest son.

Patrons of the arts

The Palazzo Barberini, the Barberini library (now a core section of the Vatican's Biblioteca Apostolica), and the many buildings, altars, and other projects spread across Rome (and marked with the heraldic three bees) give evidence of the family's wealth, taste and magnificence in the seventeenth century. The family commissioned many artists, such as Lorenzo Ottoni, to undertake various Barberini-centric projects. The family were also important early patrons of opera, maintaining "star" singers like Marc'Antonio Pasqualini on payroll, and building the private Teatro delle Quattro Fontane. Many objects from the Barberini art collections are scattered in museums around the world including:

A nucleus remains in the hands of the family, as well as in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, which occupies part of the Palazzo Barberini in Rome. The cultural influence of the dynasty was considerable, and provided the subject for a major international conference in December 2004 (and subsequent publication), entitled I Barberini e la Cultura Europea.

Barberini family tree

Family tree of the 16th and 17th century Barberini[6] (hereditary patriarchy of the family is indicated by the colored squares).

Carlo Barberini
(born 1488)
Cassandra del Branca
Antonio Barberini
(born 1494)
Francesco Barberini
Antonio Barberini
Camilla Barbadori
Carlo Barberini
Costanza Magalotti
Alessandro Barberini
Niccolo Barberini
Pope Urban VIII
Antonio Marcello Barberini
Francesco Barberini (senior)
Camilla Barberini
Maria Barberini
Taddeo Barberini
Anna Colonna
Clarice Barberini
Antonio Barberini
Francesco I d'Este
Lucrezia Barberini
Carlo Barberini
Maffeo Barberini
Olimpia Giustiniani (Pamphili)
Rinaldo d'Este
Costanza Barberini
Camilla Barberini
Francesco Barberini (junior)
Urbano Barberini (1664–1722)
Taddeo Barberini

See also

External links


  1. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Barberini" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 386. This cites:
    • A. von Reumont, Geschichte der Stadt Rom (Berlin, 1868), iii. b. 611–612, 615, 617, &c.
    • Almanach de Gotha (Gotha, 1902).
    • J. H. Douglas, The Principal Noble Families of Rome (Rome, 1905).
  2. ^ Rietbergen, P. J. A. N. (2006). Power And Religion in Baroque Rome: Barberini Cultural Policies. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. ISBN 9004148930.
  3. ^ a b c d e f von Ranke, Leopold (1901). History of the popes; their church and state (Volume III). The Colonial Press.
  4. ^ Bargrave, John (1867). James Craigie Robertson, ed. "Pope Alexander the Seventh and the College of Cardinals". Works of the Camden Society. Royal Historical Society. 92.
  5. ^ Chisholm 1911.
  6. ^ a b "Worldroots - Barberini". Archived from the original on 6 March 2008.
  7. ^ "Testamento Barberini: Donna Maria Teresa Boncompagni" (in Italian).
  8. ^ "Italian Genealogy of the Noble Families" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 2012-09-09.
Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power (Cortona)

The Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power is a fresco by Italian painter Pietro da Cortona, filling the large ceiling of the grand salon of the Palazzo Barberini in Rome, Italy. Begun in 1633, it was nearly finished in three years; upon Cortona's return from Venice, it was extensively reworked to completion in 1639. The Palazzo, since the 1620s, had been the palatial home of the Barberini family headed by Maffeo Barberini, by then Urban VIII, who had launched an extensive program of refurbishment of the city with art and architecture.

Antonio Barberini

Antonio Barberini (5 August 1607 – 3 August 1671) was an Italian Catholic cardinal, Archbishop of Reims, military leader, patron of the arts and a prominent member of the House of Barberini. As one of the cardinal-nephews of Pope Urban VIII and a supporter of France, he played a significant role at a number of the papal conclaves of the 17th century. With his brothers Cardinal Francesco Barberini and Taddeo Barberini he helped to shape politics, religion, art and music of 17th century Italy. He is sometimes referred to as Antonio the Younger or Antonio Barberini iuniore to distinguish him from his uncle Antonio Marcello Barberini.

Antonio Marcello Barberini

Antonio Marcello Barberini, O.F.M. Cap. (18 November 1569 – 11 September 1646) was an Italian cardinal and the younger brother of Maffeo Barberini, later Pope Urban VIII. He is sometimes referred to as Antonio the Elder to distinguish him from his nephew Antonio Barberini.

Carlo Barberini

Not to be confused with his grandfather, Carlo Barberini (1562–1630).Carlo Barberini (1 June 1630 – 2 October 1704) was an Italian Catholic cardinal and member of the Barberini family. He was the grand-nephew of Maffeo Barberini (Pope Urban VIII) and son of Taddeo Barberini (Prince of Palestrina).

Carlo Barberini (1562–1630)

Carlo Barberini, Duke of Monterotondo, (28 May 1562 – 26 February 1630) was an Italian nobleman of the Barberini family and lieutenant general of the papal army. He was the brother of Maffeo Barberini, who was elected to the papal throne as Pope Urban VIII.

Carlo Barberini was the son of Antonio Barberini and Camilla Barbadori. As their eldest son he became patriarch of the Barberini family.

In 1594, he married Costanza Magalotti (1575–1644), daughter of Vincenzo Magalotti and Clarice Capponi and sister of Lorenzo Magalotti.

They had six children including Taddeo Barberini, Francesco Barberini and Antonio Barberini (Antonio the Younger). When Barberini's brother was elected to the papal throne as Pope Urban VIII, Francesco and Antonio were both elevated to Cardinal. Taddeo was given the title of Prince of Palestrina, later passed on to successive Barberini patriarchs.

Barberini did not escape his brother's famous nepotism; he was appointed Gonfalonier of the Church and Duke of Monterotondo, a commune Barberini later bought.

In 1626, he published a treatise concerning the disciplinary and administrative reorganization of the Papal army. He also left an unpublished synopsis on The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli.

Francesco Barberini (1597–1679)

Francesco Barberini (23 September 1597 – 10 December 1679) was an Italian Catholic Cardinal. The nephew of Pope Urban VIII (reigned 1623–1644), he benefited immensely from the nepotism practiced by his uncle. He was given various roles within the Vatican administration but his personal cultural interests, particularly in literature and the arts, meant that he became a highly significant patron. His secretary was the antiquarian Cassiano dal Pozzo who was also a discerning patron of the arts. Francesco was the elder brother of Cardinal Antonio Barberini and Taddeo Barberini who became Prince of Palestrina.

Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica

The Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica (GNAA), or National Gallery of Ancient Art, is an art gallery in Rome, Italy, located on two sites: the Palazzo Barberini and the Palazzo Corsini.The Palazzo Barberini was designed for Pope Urban VIII, a member of the Barberini family, by 16th century Italian architect Carlo Maderno on the old location of Villa Sforza. Its central salon ceiling was decorated by Pietro da Cortona with the visual panegyric of the Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power to glorify the papal Barberini family.

The Palazzo Corsini, formerly known as Palazzo Riario, is a 15th-century palace that was rebuilt in the 18th century by architect Ferdinando Fuga for Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini. For a partial list of artworks, see Palazzo Corsini entry.

Lucrezia Barberini

Lucrezia Barberini (24 October 1628 – 24 August 1699) was an Italian noblewoman and, by marriage, Duchess of Modena. Born into the Barberini family, she was the last wife of Francesco I d'Este, Duke of Modena.

Luigi Mattei

Luigi Mattei (died 1675) was an Italian military General and Marquis de Belmonte. During the 17th century he commanded troops loyal to the papal armies of Barberini Pope Urban VIII and Pamphili Pope Innocent X during the Wars of Castro.

Maffeo Barberini (1631–1685)

Maffeo Barberini (19 August 1631 – 28 November 1685) was an Italian nobleman of the Barberini and Prince of Palestrina. He was appointed Gonfalonier of the Church.

Olimpia Giustiniani

Olimpia Giustiniani (18 May 1641 – 27 December 1729) was an Italian noblewoman of the houses of Giustiniani and Barberini. She was the granddaughter of Olimpia Maidalchini, grand-niece of Pope Innocent X and wife of Maffeo Barberini, Prince of Palestrina.

Palazzo Barberini

The Palazzo Barberini (English: Barberini Palace) is a 17th-century palace in Rome, facing the Piazza Barberini in Rione Trevi. It houses the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica.


Palestrina (ancient Praeneste; Ancient Greek: Πραίνεστος, Prainestos) is modern Italian city and comune (municipality) with a population of about 22,000, in Lazio, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) east of Rome. It is connected to the latter by the Via Prenestina. It is built upon the ruins of an ancient city of the same name.

Palestrina is the birthplace of composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

Piazza Barberini

Piazza Barberini is a large piazza in the centro storico or city center of Rome, Italy and situated on the Quirinal Hill. It was created in the 16th century but many of the surrounding buildings have subsequently been rebuilt.

The current appellation was given in 1625 when it was named after the Palazzo Barberini, the substantial Baroque palace built in an elevated position on the south side of the piazza for the Barberini. Originally, there was a large entrance gateway to the palace designed by the Baroque painter and architect Pietro da Cortona on the south east corner of the piazza but this was demolished to make way for the construction of a new road in the 19th century. However, its appearance is known from engravings and early photographs of the piazza.At the centre of the piazza is the Fontana del Tritone or Triton Fountain (1642–3) sculpted by Bernini. Another fountain, the Fontana delle Api (1627–1629), also by Bernini is in the nearby Via Vittorio Veneto but it has been reconstructed somewhat arbitrarily following its removal from its previous position on the corner of a palace where the Piazza Barberini meets the Via Sistina.Until the 18th century, unknown human corpses were displayed here for public identification. Between 1632 and 1822 an antique obelisk stood here; it was transferred to Villa Medici.

Pope Urban VIII

Pope Urban VIII (Latin: Urbanus VIII; baptised 5 April 1568 – 29 July 1644) reigned as Pope from 6 August 1623 to his death in 1644. He expanded the papal territory by force of arms and advantageous politicking, and was also a prominent patron of the arts and a reformer of Church missions.

However, the massive debts incurred during his pontificate greatly weakened his successors, who were unable to maintain the papacy's longstanding political and military influence in Europe. He was also involved in a controversy with Galileo and his theory on heliocentrism during his reign.

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini

Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, or Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins, is a church in Rome, Italy, commissioned in 1626 by Pope Urban VIII, whose brother, Antonio Barberini, was a Capuchin friar. It is located at Via Veneto, close to Piazza Barberini.

Taddeo Barberini

Taddeo Barberini (1603–1647) was an Italian nobleman of the House of Barberini who became Prince of Palestrina and Gonfalonier of the Church; commander of the Papal Army. He was a nephew of Pope Urban VIII and brother of Cardinals Francesco Barberini and Antonio Barberini. Thanks to their uncle's famous nepotism, the brothers shaped 17th-century Italian politics, religion, art, music and architecture.


Valmontone is a comune (municipality) in the Metropolitan City of Rome in the Italian region Lazio, located about 45 kilometres (28 miles) southeast of Rome.

Wars of Castro

The Wars of Castro were a series of conflicts during the mid-17th century revolving around the ancient city of Castro (located in present-day Lazio, Italy), which eventually resulted in the city's destruction on 2 September 1649. The conflict was a result of a power struggle between the papacy – represented by members of two deeply entrenched Roman families and their popes, the Barberini and Pope Urban VIII and the Pamphili and Pope Innocent X – and the Farnese dukes of Parma, who controlled Castro and its surrounding territories as the Duchy of Castro.

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