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Pope Leo XII: Wikis


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Papacy began 28 September 1823
Papacy ended 10 February 1829
Predecessor Pius VII
Successor Pius VIII
Personal details
Birth name Annibale Francesco Clemente Melchiorre
Girolamo Nicola della Genga
Born August 22, 1760(1760-08-22)
Genga or Spoleto, Papal State
Died February 10, 1829 (aged 68)
Rome, Papal State

Pope Leo XII (22 August 1760 – 10 February 1829), born Annibale Francesco Clemente Melchiore Girolamo Nicola della Genga, was Pope from 1823 to 1829.



Della Genga was born of a noble[1] family from La Genga,[2] a small town in what is now the province of Ancona, then part of the Papal States. The place of his birth is uncertain, the usual candidates being Genga, Ancona, and Spoleto. He was educated at the Accademia dei Nobili Ecclesiastici at Rome, where he was ordained priest in 1783. In 1790 the attractive and articulate[3] della Genga attracted favourable attention by a tactful oration commemorative of the late Emperor Joseph II.

He was the uncle of Gabriele della Genga Sermattei who in the 19th century was the only cardinal-nephew of a Pope to be elevated to cardinal.

Private secretary to Pope Pius VI

In 1792 Pope Pius VI made him his private secretary, in 1793 creating him titular archbishop of Tyre and despatching him to Lucerne as nuncio. In 1794 he was transferred to the nunciature at Cologne, but owing to the war had to make his residence in Augsburg. During the dozen or more years he spent in Germany he was entrusted with several honourable and difficult missions, which brought him into contact with the courts of Dresden, Vienna, Munich and Württemberg, as well as with Napoleon I of France. It is, however, charged at one time during this period that his finances were disordered, and his private life was not above suspicion. After the Napoleonic abolition of the States of the Church (1798), he was treated by the French as a state prisoner, and lived for some years at the abbey of Monticelli, solacing himself with music and with bird-shooting, pastimes which he continued even after his election as Pope.


In 1814 della Genga was chosen to carry the Pope's congratulations to Louis XVIII of France, upon his restoration; in 1816 he was created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Later he was appointed Archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, and appointed to the episcopal see of Sinigaglia, which he resigned in 1818.

In 1820 Pope Pius VII gave him the distinguished post of Vicar-General of His Holiness for the Diocese of Rome.

Election as pope

Papal styles of
Pope Leo XII

Emblem of the Papacy SE.svg

Reference style His Holiness
Spoken style Your Holiness
Religious style Holy Father
Posthumous style None

In the conclave of 1823, he was the candidate of the zelanti and in spite of the active opposition of France, he was elected Pope by the Cardinals on the 28th of September, taking the name of Leo XII. His election had been facilitated because he was thought to be at death's door; but he unexpectedly rallied.

Foreign policy

Pius' Secretary of State, Ercole Consalvi, who had been Della Genga's rival in the consistory, was immediately dismissed, and the policies of Pius VII rejected.[4] Leo XII's foreign policy, entrusted at first to the octogenarian Giulio Maria della Somaglia and then to the more able Tommaso Bernetti, negotiated certain concordats very advantageous to the papacy. Personally most frugal, Leo XII reduced taxes, made justice less costly, and was able to find money for certain public improvements; yet he left the Church's finances more confused than he had found them, and even the elaborate jubilee of 1825 did not really mend financial matters.

Papal Rome in the time of Leo XII, by Silvestr Feodosievich Shchedrin

Domestic policy

Leo XII's domestic policy was one of extreme conservatism: "He was determined to change the condition of society, bringing it back to the utmost of his power to the old usages and ordinances, which he deemed to be admirable; and he pursued that object with never flagging zeal."[5] He condemned the Bible societies, and under Jesuit influence reorganised the educational system, placing it entirely under priestly control through his bull Quod divina sapientia and requiring that all secondary instruction be carried out in Latin, as he required of all court proceedings, also now entirely in ecclesiastical hands. All charitable institutions in the Papal States were put under direct supervision.

Laws such as that forbidding Jews to own property and allowing them only the shortest possible time in which to sell what they owned, and that requiring all Roman residents to listen to Catholic catechism commentary, led many of Rome's Jews to emigrate, to Trieste, Lombardy and Tuscany. [6][7]

"The results of his method of governing his states soon showed themselves in insurrections, conspiracies, assassinations and rebellion, especially in Umbria, the Marches and Romagna; the violent repression of which, by a system of espionage, secret denunciation, and wholesale application of the gibbet and the galleys, left behind it to those who were to come afterwards a very terrible, rankling and long-enduring debt of party hatreds, of political and social demoralisation, and— worst of all— a contempt for and enmity to the law, as such."[8] In a regime that saw the division of the population into Carbonari and Sanfedisti, he hunted down the Carbonari and the Freemasons with their liberal sympathisers.

"Leo XII made himself intensely unpopular with his subjects by constraining them to observe endless rules and regulations concerning private as well as public matters. For instance, he decreed that any dressmaker who sold low or transparent dresses would be ipso facto excommunicated. To ensure against any possible disregard of this spiritual chastisement, the penalties for wearing the offending garments were made tangible and immediate, so it is unlikely that the seamstresses' pious allegiance was often put to the test.

Leo is also said to have prohibited vaccination, but this accusation is put into question by Donald J. Keefe in his paper "Tracking the footnote"[9]. Keefe traces the assertion to "an unverified citation" upon which a number of highly respected scholars have relied.

See also


  1. ^ His father's family had been ennobled by Leo XI in 1605. (Catholic Encyclopedia).
  2. ^ The town is now simply Genga, in.
  3. ^ "He was of handsome person and engaging manners" (Catholic Encyclopedia).
  4. ^ Francis A. Burkle-Young, Papal Elections in the Age of Transition, 1878-1922, 2000:22ff.
  5. ^ Luigi Carlo Farini, Lo stato Romano, dell'anno 1815 a 1850, (Turin, 1850) vol. I, p. 17, quoted by Thomas Adolphus Trollope, The Story of the Life of Pius the Ninth vol. I (1877:39f)
  6. ^ Farini, 'eo. loc.
  7. ^ Valérie Pirie, The Triple Crown: An Account of the Papal Conclaves
  8. ^ Trollope, p. 41.
  9. ^ [1].


External links

Catholic Church titles
Last known title holder:
Vincenzo Ranuzzi
Titular Archbishop of Tyre
21 February 1794 – 8 March 1816
Succeeded by
Giacomo Giustiniani
Preceded by
Giulio Gabrielli
Archbishop of Senigallia
8 March 1816 – 18 September 1816
Succeeded by
Fabrizio Sceberras Testaferrata
Preceded by
Pius VII
28 September 1823 – 10 February 1829
Succeeded by


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