Albani, John Francis

, nephew to the preceding, and heir to his taste and munificence, was born in Rome, 1720, and educated for the church, in which he was speedily promoted to the highest honours, being advanced to the purple, soon after he entered the priesthood, in 1747, and not long afterwards appointed arch-priest of the Basilic of St. Maria Maggiore, and bishop of Porto, one of the seven suburban sees which depend on the pope as on their immediate metropolitan. He derived more lustre, however, from following the example of his uncle in patronizing learning and learned men, and in adding to those rare and valuable monuments of art, which so long rendered the villa Albani the resort of the virtuosi of Europe.

In 1767, when the question of the suppression of the Jesuits was agitated, the cardinal took an active part at the court of Rome in their favour, but without discovering the principles of a very enlightened mind. He dreaded in this suppression the commencement of the downfall of the church, and considered any concession to those monarchs who were for the measure, as a dangerous symptom of servility on the part of the church. In 1775, he was appointed bishop of Ostia and Velletri, and consequently dean of the sacred college; and in 1779, he succeeded to his uncle Alexander in almost all the charges which that prelate had long possessed. He was appointed plenipotentiary of the house of Austria, protector of the kingdom of Poland, of the order of Malta, of the republic of Ragusa, and what was most congenial to his temper, of the college of La Sapienza in Rome. He was also presented | with some rich abbeys and priories, both in the Roman and in the Neapolitan state.

The circumstances of his being almost set apart from every affair of government, and of possessing a large income, were a source of refined gratifications to himself, and of signal benefit to all the literary characters in Rome who had gained his esteem. He renewed towards the close of the century, that example which about the middle of it had been set by his illustrious uncle. Besides his patronage of men of established fame, of such men as Visconti, Fea, Testa, and Piranesi, whenever among the children of his servants and dependants he discovered a promising, genius, he took upon himself the care of his education. He increased the valuable library of his uncle from twenty-five to thirty thousand volumes; and in the year 1793, it was computed that the villa Albani contained about two hundred thousand works of art, and specimens of antiquities.

The cardinal w r as now in his seventy-seventh year, and. in all probability expected to close his life in the full enjoyment of his. splendid and unrivalled collections, when the French took possession of Rome. The depredations they committed in the Vatican and other public places of Rome, and the violences offered by them to the most eminent persons in that metropolis, may be easily accounted for from their characteristic rapacity, and the hatred which they then professed for religion under any shape. But the outrages which they practised on the family of Albani had such a Jjase and spiteful motive, as to brand them with eternal infamy. Owing to the successive marriages of the two last princesses of Carrara and of Modena, the family of Albani was a relative to the imperial house of Austria; and the French thought that the distress and humiliation, of the one would be communicated to the other. The estates were confiscated, the magnificent and elegant palace, within the precincts of Rome, was, sacked, and the unrivalled villa was plundered and destroyed. “This palace,” says Mr. Duppa, “which is not yet razed to the ground, nor its villa made an absolute heath, now remains (1798) a melancholy monument of the Vandalism of the eighteenth century. Every statue, every bust, every column, every chimney-piece, every piece of marble that served for ornament or use, was torn from its situation, and was either sent to Paris, or became the | perquisite of certain agents employed by the Directory to see that there might be nothing wanting to the entire completion of its ruin: even the shrubs in the garden were rooted up, and sold.

During this devastation, the cardinal took refuge, first, in a Camaidolese convent on the southern frontiers of the Roman state; but, it being intimated that he could not be safe there, he went to Naples; and, on the approach of the French, to Messina. In 1800 he was present at Venice, at the election of the reigning pope; and when the Austrian and Neapolitan troops reconquered the Roman territory, he returned to Rome, where he took private lodgings, but never had strength of mind to view either his palace or villa, nor could they be mentioned in his presence without throwing him into the deepest sorrow. Here he died, in 1803, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. He was handsome in person, sprightly and eloquent; sincere, cordial, unassuming, and affable; and both from his intellectual and moral qualifications, he was justly considered as one of the most accomplished characters of the age. 1


Athenæum, vol. III.—Duppa’s Subversion of the Papal Government, p. 131, edit. 1799. It is remarkable that none of the recently published French biographies take the least notice of Cardinal Albani.