X was born at Rome on the 15th of July, 1590, son of Lorenzo
Altieri and Victoria Deiphini, a Venetian lady. The Altieri
family had enjoyed the highest consideration at Rome for several
centuries, and had occasionally contracted alliances with the
Colonnas and the Orsinis.
After finishing his studies, Emilio was named, in 1623,
auditor of John Baptist Lancellotti, in the nunciature of
Poland. On his return to Rome, he was created Bishop of Camerino,
and then governor of Loretto and of all Umbria.
Innocent X sent him as nuncio to Naples, where he remained
Alexander VII confided to him a mission to Poland. Clement IX
named him, in 1667, his maestro di camera, and just before the
death of the pope also gave him the purple. He was then about
seventy-nine years of age; and Clement, when making him a member
of the Sacred College, said to him: "You will be our successor."
After the funeral of Clement sixty-two electors entered into
conclave on the 20th of December, 1669. Forty-two votes were
necessary, and warm discussion prevailed for four months.
Cardinal John Nicholas Conti was supported by twenty-two votes;
Cardinal Rospigliosi, nephew of Clement IX, had thirty, or, as
some say, thirty-three, with two at the accesso, so that he
needed only seven more votes to gain the tiara. Cardinal Cerri
obtained twenty-three votes. At length the cardinals agreed to
propose Cardinal Altieri. He, however, objected on the score of
age, for he was eighty, and exclaimed, "I am too old to bear
such a burden." Pointing to cardinal Brancacci, Altieri said he
was the cardinal whom they ought to elect. He persisted in
refusing, protesting that he no longer had strength or memory;
but at length, vanquished by the entreaties of the best
theologians, he with tears accepted, on the 29th of April, 1670,
that pontificate which was offered to him by fifty-nine
cardinals present at the election–only two being against him.
He took the name of Clement in memory of his benefactor,
Clement IX, and was crowned on the 11th of May following.
On the 8th of June he took possession of Saint John Lateran.
On the 11th of June he confirmed the Minor Observantines in the
Holy Land in the privileges and indulgences granted to those who
visit the holy places, according to the decree of of Popes
Alexander VII and Clement IX.
In the same month he granted to the prelate-clerks of the
chamber the use of the violet-colored band around their hats.
Like all the pontiffs, Clement advised the Christian princes
to love each other, and to prove it by an entire confidence, by
generous measures, and by a prudent and scrupulous conduct. It
was especially between Spain and France that the pope desired to
witness a renewal of feelings of good understanding.
Clement in 1671 confirmed the exemptions granted by Gregory
XIII to the German College at Rome; and then, on the 16th of
October, 1672, he ordered the pupils to swear that at the close
of their studies they would set out for Germany without a day's
On the 15th of March, 1671, the pope published an edict by
which he declared that a noble might be a merchant without loss
of his nobility, provided always that he did not sell by retail.
On the 12th of April, 1671, Clement canonized five new
saints: (1) Saint Gaetan of Thiene, founder of the Clerks of
Divine Providence, better known by their other title of
Theatines. (2) Saint Francis Borgia, fourth Duke of Gandia,
Marquis of Lombay, and viceroy of Catalonia, born in 1510. He
took the habit of the Jesuits in 1547, and became general and
one of the most illustrious ornaments of that religious order.
(3) Saint Philip Benizzo, a noble Florentine, a religious of the
order of Servants of Mary, of which he was the reviver, and not,
as has been stated by some, the founder. Leo X beatified him on
the 24th of January, 1516. (4) Saint Louis Beltran, or Bertrand,
a Spaniard, of the family of Saint Vincent Ferrer, and like him
a Dominican. (5) Saint Rose, of the third order of Saint
Dominic, born at Lima, in Peru, on the 20th of April, 1586; died
on the 24th of August, 1617. Saint Rose, beatified by Clement
IX, was the first American saint.
On the 13th of January, 1672, Clement regulated the
formalities to be observed in removing the relics of saints from
sacred cemeteries. No one was to remove such relics without the
permission of the cardinal-vicar. They were not to be exposed
for the veneration of the faithful, unless previously examined
by the same cardinal. The principal relics of the martyr–that is
to say, the head, the legs, the arms, and the part in which they
suffered–were to be exposed only in the churches, and they were
not to be given to private persons, but only to princes and high
prelates; and even to them but rarely, lest the too great
profusion should deprive relics of the respect which they ought
to inspire. The Holy Father decreed severe penalties against all
who gave a relic any name but that given by the cardinal-vicar.
The pain of excommunication was pronounced against all who
should demand any sum whatever for sealed and authentic relics.
These decrees, and others made by preceding popes, were
confirmed by Clement XI, on the 19th of February, 1704. Besides
beatifying Pope Pius V, Francis Solano, and John of the Cross,
all subsequently canonized by Clement XI and Benedict XIII,
Clement X, on the 24th of November, 1673, beatified nineteen
martyrs of Gorcum, imprisoned at that place in Holland, and put
to death on the 9th of July, 1572, in hatred of the Catholic
faith, the primacy of the pope, the Roman Church, and the Holy
Sacrament of the Eucharist. Of the nineteen Gorcum martyrs,
eleven were Franciscan priests; Peter Ascanius and Cornelius
Vican, laymen; one Dominican, two Premonstratensian monks, a
regular canon of Saint Augustine, and four secular parish
Clement, seeing the results of the apostolic labors of the
early French missionaries in Canada, the number of the faithful,
and the wide field of labor, resolved to give the Church an
independent organization, and erected a see at Quebec, the
bishop to depend directly on the Holy See–a provision which, in
the designs of Providence, secured its permanence after the
country passed into the hands of England. The first bishop was
Monsignor Laval de Montmorency.
In 1673 there arrived at Rome ambassadors from the Grand Duke
of Muscovy, John Basilowitz. He solicited from the pope the
title of Czar, which, however, he had already conferred upon
himself. At the same time it could not be forgotten that he had
assisted the King of Poland in the last war against the Turks.
But Paul Nanes, a Scotchman, who was the ambassador, could not
obtain the grant or sanction of that title, though he was
received with great magnificence and had many precious gifts to
carry back to his master. The Grand Duke of Muscovy did not
profess the Catholic faith in such a manner as to give any
assurance of his intentions, and the King of Poland had looked
upon the embassy with displeasure.
Meantime Rome had reason to fear trouble. Cardinal Altieri,
who was at the head of the government, determined to increase
the revenues, and he established a new tax of three percent upon
all merchandise entering the city, including even goods for
cardinals and ambassadors. AIthough the government complained
that ambassadors had abused their privilege, the diplomatic
corps showed discontent that they were not expressly exempted in
the new tax law. Another edict confirmed the first, and ordered
the confiscation without distinction of all goods that did not
pay the new tax. The cardinals at first complained, though with
moderation. But the ambassadors held different language. The
cardinal nephew maintained that the pope, within his own State,
might make what rules he pleased. Then the ambassadors of the
empire, of France, Spain, and Venice, sent their secretaries to
demand an audience of the pope. The chief chamberlain replied
that the pope was engaged that day. And for four days in
succession the chamberlain gave the same answer to the same
applicants. The pope, learning at length what had occurred,
declared that he had given no such order. The ambassadors then
sent their secretaries to ask an audience of Cardinal Altieri.
He not only refused to admit them, but closed his doors and
increased the guard at the pontifical palace, so that the
offence could go no further.
Subsequently the cardinal nephew wrote to the nuncios who
resided in the courts of Europe, stating that the excesses
committed by the ambassadors had induced the pope to publish the
edict. The ambassadors, on the contrary, assured their
sovereigns that the accusation was a pretext.
The conflict lasted for about a year; and Clement, who loved
peace, at length referred the matter to a congregation. Some
time after, Cardinal Altieri declared that he had not Intended
to comprise the ambassadors among those for whom the edict was
intended, and that the pope had never contemplated subjecting
them to it.
In the year 1675 Clement celebrated the fourteenth jubilee of
the holy year. Notwithstanding his age, he visited the churches,
regretting that the gout prevented him from making that holy
visit more than five times. He went twelve times to Trinity
hospital to wash the feet of the pilgrims, and after the
ceremony gave them liberal alms.
However, Rome made some complaints, and said that, though
Clement was pope in name, Cardinal Altieri was pope in fact.
On the 22nd of July, 1676, the agonies of the gout became so
violent that the pope died under them. He was eighty-six years
old, and had governed the Church six years, two months, and
twenty-four days. He was interred at the Vatican.
This biographical data is from
"The Lives and Times of the Popes" by The Chevalier Artaud De
Montor. Published by The Catholic Publication Society of New
York in ten volumes in 1911.