In the conclave which followed the death of Clement IX, Emilio Altieri was scarcely an outstanding favorite. He had been made a cardinal only a few weeks before, and he was an old man of almost eighty. Yet it was Emilio Altieri who emerged from this long and stubbornly contested conclave as Pope Clement X. The conclave which had begun on December 20, 1669, ended only when there was a general swing to Altieri on April 29, 1670. Even then Altieri objected that he was too old, but he was overruled and installed as Pope Clement X.
Emilio Altieri was born at Rome on July 13, 1590, of a noble and pious family. Educated at the Roman College, he went on to take his law degree at the Roman University. Although he became a brilliant attorney, Emilio entered the ranks of the clergy and rose to be bishop of Camerino in I627. Urban VIII made him governor of Loreto and apostolic visitor for the Papal States. Innocent X sent him as nuncio to Naples, where he ran into the torrid situation created by Masaniello's rising against Spain. He fell into disfavor with Innocent and returned to his diocese, but Alexander VII recalled him to Rome, and Clement IX made him a cardinal at long last on November 27, 1669.
Clement X, though an octogenarian, was able to work hard. Indeed his hours dismayed the members of his household, for he always rose two hours or more before daybreak and was often at work by five o'clock in the morning. Clement was very charitable and did much for the poor, not only by generous alms but by social legislation. He tried to improve agriculture and foster industry in the Papal States. At first Clement did not do much for his relations, but as he grew older he grew softer toward them.
Clement was much preoccupied with the problem of Poland. That fair land was not only invaded by Turks but torn with civil dissension. The Pope despatched a nuncio to work for unity. At the death of the weak young King Michael the Pope worried lest a Protestant mount the Polish throne. Clement was relieved when the fighting nobleman John Sobieski was elected. To help Sobieski the Pope sent a subsidy, and he had the satisfaction of hearing that Sobieski had defeated the Turks near Lvov. Clement tried hard to get the Powers to help the hard-pressed Poles.
Clement had to suffer from French arrogance, but he entertained hopes that the French invasion of Holland would aid the Church. He sent a legate to the peace congress of Nijmegen.
The octogenarian Pope had celebrated the jubilee of 1675, but in 1676 dropsy attacked Clement and on July 22, 1676, a fever carried him off.
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