Born Fabio Chigi in Siena, he was successively inquisitor at Malta, vice-legate at Ferrara and nuncio in Cologne (1639-1651). Though expected to take part in the negotiations which led in 1648 to the Peace of Westphalia, he refused to deliberate with heretics, and protested against the treaties when completed.
Pope Innocent X subsequently made him cardinal secretary of state. When Innocent died, Chigi, the candidate favoured by Spain, was elected pope on April 7, 1655. The conclave believed he was strongly opposed to the nepotism then prevalent.
In the first year of his reign, Alexander VII forbade his relations even to visit Rome; but in 1656 he gave them the best-paid civil and ecclesiastical offices, also palaces and princely estates. Alexander disliked business of state, preferring literature and philosophy; a collection of his Latin poems appeared at Paris in 1656 under the title Philomathi Labores Juveniles. He also encouraged architecture, and in particular sponsored Gianlorenzo Bernini's construction of the beautiful colonnade in the piazza of St. Peter's Basilica.
He favoured the Jesuits, especially in their conflict with the Jansenists, forbade in 1661 the translation of the Roman Missal into French, and in 1665 canonized Francis de Sales. His pontificate was marked by protracted controversies with France and Portugal. He died in 1667, and was succeeded by Pope Clement IX.
Pope Innocent X
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Pope Clement IX