Pope Innocent XII

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.

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 to relatives.


Innocent XII
Bishop of Rome
Pope Innocent XII
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
Birth nameAntonio Pignatelli
Born13 March 1615
Spinazzola, Kingdom of Naples
Died27 September 1700 (aged 85)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post
Other popes named Innocent


Early life

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 career

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 cardinalate

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 election

Papal styles of
Pope Innocent XII
C o a Innocenzo XII
Reference styleHis Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleNone

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.[2] 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.

Médaille annuelle en or du Vatican à l'effigie du Pape Innocent XII, 1695
Innocent XII, 1695


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.

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 beatifications

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 Cerevellon 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.


Pope Innocent XII Tomb
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.

Innocent is notable for being the last pope to have facial hair to date.[3]

See also


  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
  3. ^ Howse, Christopher. "Why we won’t get a bearded pope", The Telegraph, February 22, 2013

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Pope Innocent XII". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.


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
Cardinals created by Innocent XII

Pope Innocent XII (r. 1691–1700) created 30 cardinals in four consistories.

Carlo Loffredo

Carlo Loffredo, C.R. (31 March 1635 – January 1701) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Capua (1698–1701), Archbishop of Bari-Canosa (1691–1698), and Bishop of Molfetta (1670–1691).

Carolus de Tilly

Carolus de Tilly or Carlo de Tilly (1642–1698) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Monopoli (1697–1698) and Bishop of Acerra (1692–1697).

Domenico Belisario de Bellis

Domenico Belisario de Bellis (2 March, 1647 – 17 January 1701) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Molfetta (1696–1701).

Fabrizio Paolucci

Fabrizio Paolucci (2 April 1651 – 12 June 1726) was an Italian cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, appointed by Pope Innocent XII.

Francesco Antonio Triveri

Francesco Antonio Triveri, O.F.M. Conv. (1631–1697) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Melfi e Rapolla (1696–1697) and Bishop of Andria (1692–1696).

François Marie Sacco

François Marie Sacco, C.R. or Francesco Maria Sacco (1643–1721) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Brugnato (1697–1721) and Bishop of Ajaccio (1695–1697).

Giovanni Andrea Monreale

Giovanni Andrea Monreale (1653–1726) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Reggio Calabria (1696–1726) and Archbishop of Lanciano (1695–1696).

Giovanni Battista Capilupi

Giovanni Battista Capilupi (27 December, 1643 – 3 May, 1716) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Polignano (1694–1716).

Giuseppe Bologna

Giuseppe Bologna (1634 – 2 August, 1697) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Capua (1691–1697) and Archbishop of Benevento (1674–1680).

Juan Alfonso Valerià y Aloza

Juan Alfonso Valerià y Aloza, O.F.M. or Joan de Santamaríi Alonso i Valeria (1643–1700) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as

Bishop of Lérida (1699–1700) and

Bishop of Solsona (1694–1699).

Juan Francisco de Padilla y San Martín

Juan Francisco de Padilla y San Martín, O. de M. (August 16, 1646 – 1700) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra (1699–1700) and Bishop of Puerto Rico (1683–1699).

Matteo Gagliani

Matteo Gagliani (9 October 1655 – September 1717) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Sora (1703–1717) and Bishop of Fondi (1693–1703).

Pietro Luigi Malaspina

Pietro Luigi Malaspina, C.R. (1637 – December, 1705) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Massa Marittima (1695–1705) and Bishop of Cortona (1684–1695).

Pietro Martire Giustiniani

Pietro Martire Giustiniani, O.P. (1645–1715) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop (Personal Title) of Tinos (1700–1715) and Archbishop of Naxos (1691–1700).

Pietro Vecchia (bishop)

Pietro Vecchia, O.S.B. (8 January 1628 – July 1695) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Molfetta (1691–1695) and Bishop of Andria (1690–1691).

Romanum decet pontificem

Not to be confused with Decet Romanum Pontificem.

Romanum decet Pontificem (named for its Latin incipit: "it befits the Roman Pontiff") is a papal bull issued by Pope Innocent XII (1691—1700) on June 22, 1692, banning the office of cardinal-nephew, limiting his successors to elevating only one cardinal relative, eliminating various sinecures traditionally reserved for cardinal-nephews and capping the stipend or endowment the nephew of a pope could receive to 12,000 scudi.Romanum decet Pontificem was later incorporated into the Code of Canon Law of 1917 in canons 240, 2; 1414, 4; and 1432, 1. In 1694, Innocent XII's series of reforms was capped off with an expensive campaign to eliminate the venality of offices while reimbursing their current holders.However, following Romanum decet Pontificem, only three of the eight popes of the 18th century did not make a nephew or brother cardinal, and two of the three were members of monastic orders, that is without a family in the proper sense.The bull is available in Latin here: Innocentius XII, Papa. 1870. “Romanum decet Pontificem [...] Dat. die 22 iunii 1692, pontif. anno 1.” In Bullarium romanum (Volume 20): Bullarum diplomatum et privilegiorum santorum romanorum pontificum - taurinensis editio locupletior facta collectione novissima plurium brevium, epistolarum, decretorum actorumque S. Sedis a S. Leone Magnus usque ad praesens, edited by Francesco Gaude, Luigi Tomassetti, Charles Cocquelines, and Luigi Bilio, 441–6. Augustae Taurinorum: Seb. Franco et Henrico Dalmazzo editoribus.

Sebastiano Perissi

Sebastiano Perissi (1631 – November 1701) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Grosseto (1700–1701) and Bishop of Nocera de' Pagani (1692–1700).

Stefano Giuseppe Menatti

Stefano Giuseppe Menatti (died 5 August 1695) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Como (1694–1695).

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