Facts about Urban
Urban VIII Biography
Pope Urban VIII’s long reign included the Catholic church’s involvement in the Thirty Years War and the condemnation of Galileo as a heretic. He was born into a powerful Florentine family, but was raised mostly by his uncle in Rome and educated by Jesuits. He took a degree in law from the University of Pisa in 1589 and soon began his rapid rise through the church hierarchy. He was appointed papal legate to France in 1601, and by 1606 he had been elevated to Cardinal-priest. Urban VIII succeeded Pope Gregory XV in 1623 and spent 21 years as pope. He expanded Catholic missionary programs, sided with the French in their wars against the Hapsburg dynasty, built fortifications and increased military might, and famously enriched his own family members (including his brother and two nephews, whom he made cardinals soon after becoming pope). Although Urban VIII was an educated supporter of the arts and a one-time friend and patron of Galileo’s, the scientist’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World caused a break in their relationship in 1632. Urban agreed with Galileo’s foes that the treatise was heretical and made no effort to reduce Galileo’s indefinite prison sentence.