digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















Maidalchini, Olimpia
Born 26 May 1591
Died 27 September 1657
Contemporary portrait of Olimpia Maidalchini by an unknown artist.

Olimpia Maidalchini (26 May 1591[1] – 27 September 1657), (also spelled Olympia and known as Donna Olimpia or Olimpia Pamphili), was the sister-in-law of Pope Innocent X (Pamphili). She rose to prominence as one of the most powerful women in Rome of her era and influenced foreign and domestic papal policy as well as several papal conclaves.

Early life[edit]

Maidalchini was born in Viterbo, the daughter of Sforza Maidalchini, a condottiere, and Vittoria Gualterio, patrician of Orvieto and Rome, noble of Viterbo (illegitimate daughter of Sebastiano Gualterio, Bishop of Viterbo, Papal Nuncio to France and the Council of Trent). Her family was only moderately wealthy, but she married two wealthy men. Her first marriage to Paolo Nini lasted only a year or two. One of the wealthiest men in Viterbo, Nini died prematurely. Her second marriage was with Pamphilio Pamphili, brother of Cardinal Giambattista, the future Pope Innocent X.


After Pamphili's death, she became Innocent X's effective advisor. The pope elevated to the office of Cardinal Nephew the son, nephew and cousin of Olimpia Maidalchini: Camillo Francesco Maria Pamphili, Francesco Maidalchini, and Camillo Astalli, respectively.[2][3] On 14 November 1644, Innocent X made Camillo Pamphili cardinal-nephew, general of the church, legate to Avignon, secretary of briefs, and prefect of the judicial tribunal known as the Segnatura di Giustizia; Camillo Pamphili de facto shared the role of Cardinal Secretary of State with Giovanni Giacomo Panciroli.[3] However, on 21 January 1647, Camillo renounced the cardinalate to marry Olimpia Aldobrandini, the grand-niece of Pope Clement VIII and widow of Paolo Borghese, on 10 February.[3]

Donna Olimpia Maidalchini is a woman of great spirit, but her sole title to influence is that of a rigid economist. When offices fell vacant at court, nothing was decided without her good pleasure; when church livings were to be distributed, the ministers of the dataria had orders to defer all appointments until, notice having been given to her of the nature of those benefices, she might then select such as best pleased her for her own disposal; if episcopal sees were to be conferred, it was to her that the candidates applied; and that which most effectually revolted every upright mind was to see that those were preferred who were most liberal in giving.
Cavalier Giustiniani, 1652[4]

Afterwards, Innocent X promoted Francesco Maidalchini, the cousin of Olimpia Maidalchini, to replace Camillo Pamphili, but Francesco was viewed as incompetent and his appointment as disgraceful.[3] Thereafter, Innocent X adopted Camillo Astalli, and gave him the prerogatives of the cardinal-nephew on 19 September 1650,[3] including the Palazzo Pamphili.[4] However, Olimpia had Astalli deposed and sent away from Rome, making herself the "absolute mistress in the house".[4]


Like other Popes of the same era, Pope Innocent X, as Monarch of the Papal States, bestowed royal titles on some of his closest confidants and family. On 7 October 1645, Maidalchini received the honorific title, Princess of San Martino, effectively turning the small enclave of San Martino al Cimino into her personal principality. The title came with no more power or responsibility than that which she already held as Pamphili matriarch.


Maidalchini's influence waned after Innocent X recalled Fabio Chigi from Germany, made him secretary of state and subsequently a cardinal on 10 February 1652; Chigi succeeded Innocent X as Pope Alexander VII.[3]

According to papal historian Ludwig von Pastor, "the misfortune of Pope Pamphili was that the only person in his family who would have had the qualities necessary to fill such a position was a woman."[3]


Algardi's bust of Maidalchini

Maidalchini's reputation can be seen in her unflattering bust by Alessandro Algardi (circa 1650), currently in the Doria Pamphili Gallery. Maidalchini was notorious for guarding access to Innocent X, and utilizing it to her own financial benefit. Her wired widow's hood in the bust was interpreted by Ann Sutherland[5] as a jab at the fact that neither Maidalchini nor her family provided for the burial of Innocent X after his death in 1655, which was paid for by Innocent X's former butler.

Eleanor Herman says that Olimpia locked the Pope alone in his chamber on the night from 26 to 27 December and she went to her palace in fear that the Pope died that night and that her palace was sacked and burned.[6]:361 The morning of the 27th, she was barred access to Innocent X's chamber, much to her chagrin since she was expecting to steal the two chests full of gold that were hidden under Innocent's bed.[6]:362 Right after Innocent's body was removed on 29 December, she entered the chamber, removed the chests, and then ran to her palace to lock herself in fear of what angry mobs could do to her.[6]:364 Olimpia, and many other people, removed papal treasures from the papal palace during the convalescence of Innocent,[7] to the point where he died in absolute poverty since everything had already been stolen from him by his last days of life.[6]:362–364 Olimpia allowed the pontiff's body to stay unburied for three days, and to be buried in "the simplest of forms imaginable".[7] claiming that she was a poor widow that couldn't arrange a proper burial.[8]

Some historians describe Innocent X as "entirely under the control" of Maidalchini.[9] This legacy is tied up in the accounts of the Roman Pasquinade as well as French (Innocent X had shunned France in favor of Spain[10] and Protestant sources.[3] The Catholic Encyclopedia refers to Maidalchini as the "great blemish" on the pontificate of the "blameless" Innocent X, whom it styles a "lover of justice."[11] Maidalchini is sometimes referred to as "the papessa" ("lady pope"), a variant of a title also applied to Pasqualina Lehnert (confidant of Pope Pius XII), and (the legendary) Pope Joan.[12] Some sources even allege that Maidalchini was Innocent X's lover, an accusation which goes back to Gregorio Leti's Vita di Donna Olimpia Maidalchini (1666), written under the pseudonym Gualdus,[11] and that she poisoned cardinals (with the help of her pharmacist, Exili) to open up additional vacancies for simony.[12] German historian Leopold von Ranke concluded that she was not Innocent X's lover.[4]


  1. ^ Ludwig von Pastor: History of the Popes vol. 30, London 1940, p. 32, says that she was born in 1594 and this date is followed by many other authors. However, Eleanor Herman, a recent biographer of Olimpia, indicates that she was born on 26 May 1591 and that she died at the age of 66. She adds that this date is confirmed by the baptismal registers in the episcopal archive of Viterbo. An account on the website of the Galleria Doria-Pamphilj also says that she was born in 1591.
  2. ^ Chadwick, Owen (1981). The Popes and European Revolution. Oxford University Press. p. 303. ISBN 0198269196. .
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Boutry, Philippe; Levillain, Philippe (2002). "Innocent X". The Papacy: an encyclopedia. Routledge. pp. 801–802. ISBN 0415922283. .
  4. ^ a b c d Williams, 2004, p. 110.
  5. ^ Harris, Ann Sutherland (2005). Seventeenth-century art & architecture. Laurence King Publishing. p. 93. ISBN 1856694151. .
  6. ^ a b c d Eleanor Herman (July 2008). Mistress of the Vatican. HarperCollins e-books. ISBN 978-0-06-169869-9. 
  7. ^ a b Williams, George L. (2004). Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes. McFarland & Company. pp. 4,110,footnote in page 246. ISBN 0-7864-2071-5. His corpse stayed for three days "in a damp corner of a sacristy and [was] buried in the simplest form imaginable" (citing Ludwig von Pastor's The History of the Popes, volume XXX, page 46) 
  8. ^ George L. Williams, Papal Genealogy: The Families and Descendants of the Popes, "'Donna Olimpia declared that she was a poor widow, and it was 'beyond her power' to have the body properly interred.", this is a cite of Leopold von Ranke's The History of the Popes, volume III, p. 36
  9. ^ Stearns, Peter N.; William Leonard Langer (2001). The Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, Chronologically Arranged. Houghton Mifflin Books. p. 333. ISBN 0395652375. .
  10. ^ Williams, 2004, p. 109.
  11. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg "Pope Innocent X" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  12. ^ a b León, Vicki (1999). Uppity Women of the Renaissance. Conari. p. 55. ISBN 157324127X. .

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olimpia_Maidalchini — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
6 videos found

Ciapica's Confidential Big Band - Castro città-bosco - Caffeina 2011

Anno Domini 1537: Papa Paolo III Farnese decide di fondare la città di Castro per regalarla al proprio figlio Pier Luigi con annesso ducato. Cento anni dopo Papa Innocenzo X Pamphili decide...

Fontana del nettuno già fontana dei calderai - piazza navona ( roma )

La fontana del Nettuno, già fontana dei Calderai, è la fontana che si trova all'estremità settentrionale (quella curva) di piazza Navona a Roma. Il vecchio nome le derivava dal fatto di...

Fontana dei quattro fiumi - piazza navona- Opera di gian lorenzo bernini ( roma )

La scultura detta Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (o anche solo fontana dei Fiumi) si trova a Roma al centro di piazza Navona (davanti alla chiesa di Sant'Agnese in Agone, realizzata su progetto...

Rustico / Casale in Vendita, Viterbo - Viterbo

Vedi tutti i dettagli dell'annuncio su Immobiliare.it: http://www.immobiliare.it/49673027-Vendita-Rustico-Casale-820-mq-Viterbo.html Descrizione annuncio: La Maidalchina, denominata anche...

Dialogues, 5 questions à Céline Minard

5 questions posées à Céline Minard à l'occasion de la parution de son livre Olimpia (Denoël).


Sede dell'Ambasciata del Brasile a Roma. Palazzo Pamphilij - DVD "Música Brasileira na Sala Palestrina" vol 2 - concertos do ano de 2008. Direção Francesco de Melis - Produção de Patrizia...

6 videos found

42 news items

Viterbo News 24
Fri, 06 Mar 2015 17:11:03 -0800

VITERBO - Donna Olimpia Maidalchini era una delle viterbesi più ambiziose di cui questa città abbia memoria che infatti, quando rimase vedova del facoltoso concittadino Paolo Nini, non esitò a trasferirsi a Roma desiderosa di entrare a far parte ...


Sun, 19 Jun 2011 08:11:15 -0700

Il marmo ritrae la celebre cognata del pontefice Innocenzo X Pamphilj (1644-55), passata alla storia per la sua ambizione e per i suoi intrighi di potere. Sposa di Pamphilio Pamphili, fratello del papa, si guadagnò in città i soprannomi di papessa e di ...
New York Times
Wed, 31 Oct 2012 23:00:46 -0700

According to Ms. Leone, there also is an added dimension in that Olimpia Maidalchini, the pope's sister-in-law, is considered to have been the driving force behind the building project. “This building is a very unusual example in Rome where a woman ...


Wed, 10 Dec 2014 01:03:19 -0800

Quest'ultima fu fatta dal Bernini per ingraziarsi i favori della Pimpaccia, ovvero donna Olimpia Maidalchini, cognata di papa Innocenzo X, sua amante e intrigante consigliera, che per questo fece aggiudicare a Bernini la commissione della fontana di ...
ilmamilio.it - L'informazione dei Castelli romani
Sun, 02 Nov 2014 07:45:00 -0800

... lo stendardo dipinto per la Confraternita del Santissimo Sacramento e del Rosario di San Martino al Cimino, feudo pamphiliano e roccaforte della famosa e temuta Olimpia Maidalchini (madre di Camillo Pamphilj) che commissionò l'opera per il Giubileo ...
06blog.it (Blog)
Wed, 29 Oct 2014 02:36:10 -0700

Sul ponte potrebbe apparire il fantasma di Beatrice Cenci, a Piazza Navona il fantasma di Donna Olimpia Maidalchini detta “La Pimpaccia” e tra Piazza Farnese e Campo de'Fiori, Alessandro conte di Cagliostro con la moglie e Papa Alessandro VI Borgia.
Country Life
Fri, 10 Jul 2009 00:21:33 -0700

Nonetheless, he was an often irresolute and suspicious Pope, unduly influenced by his brother's widow, Olimpia Maidalchini, who controlled the papal purse-strings and was nicknamed the 'Popess' (Papessa). Gossip inevitably said she was his mistress, ...

Comicsblog (Blog)

Comicsblog (Blog)
Tue, 01 Jul 2014 23:00:00 -0700

Il nuovo numero di Dampyr ci presenta Donna Olimpia Maidalchini in Pamphili, cognata di Papa Innocenzo X. E' una nobildonna ambiziosa e spregiudicata, vissuta nella Roma del primo Seicento. Tra i vicoli oscuri della Capitale la sua leggenda nera non è ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight