Pope Clement XII
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Born in Florence, the son of Bartolomeo Corsini, Marquis of Casigliano and his wife Isabella Strozzi, sister of the Duke of Bagnuolo, Corsini had been an aristocratic lawyer and financial manager under preceding pontiffs. He is known for building the new façade of the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, beginning construction of the Trevi Fountain, and the purchase of Cardinal Albani's collection of antiquities for the papal gallery.
Under Pope Benedict XIII (1724–30), the finances of the Papal States had been delivered into the hands of Cardinal Coscia and other members of the curia, who had drained the financial resources of the see. After deliberating for four months, the College of Cardinals selected Cardinal Lorenzo Corsini, 78 years old and with failing eyesight, who had held all the important offices of the Roman Curia. Clement XII was the oldest man to be elected Pope. (Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in the April, 2005 conclave three days after turning 78.) As a Corsini, with his mother a Strozzi, the new pope represented a family in the highest level of Florentine society, with a cardinal in every generation for the previous hundred years.
Corsini was a lawyer, with a degree from the University of Pisa, who had practiced law under the able direction of his uncle, Cardinal Neri Corsini. After the death of his uncle and his father, in 1685, Lorenzo, now thirty-three, would have become head of the Corsini. Instead he resigned his right of primogeniture and from Pope Innocent XI (1676–89) he purchased, according to the custom of the time, for 30,000 scudi, a position of prelatial rank and devoted his wealth and leisure to the enlargement of the library bequeathed to him by his uncle.
In 1696 Corsini was appointed treasurer-general and governor of the Castel Sant'Angelo. His good fortune increased during the pontificate of Pope Clement XI (1700–21), who employed his talents as a courtier and rewarded him with a cardinal's hat, on May 17, 1706, retaining his services as papal treasurer.
He advanced still further under Pope Benedict XIII, who made him prefect of the judicial tribunal known as the Segnatura di Giustizia. He was successively Cardinal-Priest of San Pietro in Vincoli and Cardinal-Bishop of Frascati.
Though he was blind and compelled to keep to his bed, from which he gave audiences and transacted affairs of state, he surrounded himself with capable officials, many of them his Corsini relatives, but he did little for his family except to purchase and enlarge the palace built in Trastevere for the Riarii, and now known as the Palazzo Corsini (the seat of the Regia Accademia dei Lincei). In 1754, his nephew, Cardinal Neri Corsini, founded there the famous Corsini Library.