Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Bees of Rome

To this day, if you go to Rome you can see the Barberini heraldic symbol of the bees in many important locations. The Barberini family was a family of minor nobility from the Tuscan town of Val d'Elsa. They settled in Florence later where brothers, Carlo and Antonio Barberini became successful merchants of grain, wool and textiles. Antonio Barberini took part in defending the Florentine Republic when the Medici's tried to take control. The Medici succeeded, causing Antonio's leave to Rome.

Success in Rome

In 1552, his nephew, Francesco, son of Carlo Barberini, joined him. Their textile business flourished and so did Francesco. He used his wealth to acquire high titles with the government as well as the Catholic church. This furthered the family wealth, making it easier for him to promote Maffeo Barberini, his nephew, to clerical importance. He was eventually elected as Pope  in 1623 and took the title of Pope Urban VIII.


Pope Urban VIII was the one responsible for changing the family crest from a horsefly, to the bee that is well known all around Rome. Although he was a patron of the arts and was responsible for diplomatic as well as ecclesiastical accomplishments, his triumphs were overshadowed by the acts of nepotism committed. Once under the papal role, brothers, nephews and other family rose to clerical importance.


This led people to despise the Barberini family name. Conflicts arose with other powerful families such as the Farnese. They formed a league and defeated the Barberini in 1644. This, along with the death of Pope Urban VIII, weakened the strong position of the Barberini family. When Pope Innocent X was elected, investigations were raised to investigate the misuse of clerical money by the Barberini. The Barberini fled to Paris where they were protected by French cardinal, Jules Mazarin. All but Taddeo Barberini, who died in exile, eventually returned to Rome.


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