Gregory XV

(Alessandro Ludovisi; r. 1621-1623)
   Gregory XV was from a noble family from Bologna, where he was born in 1554. He received his doctorate in law from the University of Bologna in 1575. In 1612, he was appointed the city's archbishop and, in this capacity, he negotiated peace between Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy and Philip III of Spain, for which he was rewarded with the cardinalate in 1616. When he ascended the papal throne in 1621, he appointed his nephew, Ludovico Ludovisi, to the cardinalate, increasing the family's income in great measure. It was Gregory who decreed that voting during papal elections be kept secret by using written ballots in an effort to eliminate external political pressures. He also was the founder of the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda Fide, responsible for propagating the faith through missionary work, and for carrying out the Counter-Reformation. Gregory canonized St. Theresa of Avila, who had founded the Order of the Discalced Carmelites; Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order; Philip Neri of the Oratorians; and Francis Xavier, the disciple of Ignatius and an ardent Christian missionary.
   Gregory did much to change the course of art in the 17th century. He favored the masters of the Bolognese School, which resulted in the popularization of their style at the expense of Caravaggism. Among the works created for Gregory and the Ludovisi are Guercino's Aurora in the Casino Ludovisi, Rome (1621), a painting that symbolizes the dawn of a new era under the new pope's rulership. Domenichino's portrait Pope Gregory XV and Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi of 1621-1623 (Béziers, Musée des Beaux-Arts) he commissioned to commemorate the family's good fortune effected by his ascent to the throne.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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