Innocent XI, Pope 1676-1689
Muntoni 5; Berman 2069, PCGS graded MS-62
Rome. INNOCEN · XI · PONT · MAX · AN · I ·, bust of Innocent XI right, wearing camauro, mozzetta and stola decorated ith lions and eagles. Reverse: SVB · TVVM · · PRÆSIDIVM, the Virgin seated facing within portico, holding Infant Jesus who is raising hand in benediction and holding globus cruciger; around, the nimbate figures of Saints Lorenzo, Agostino, Stefano, and Francesco d’Assisi; in exergue, arms dividing RO-MÆ. Extremely Rare.
Born into a minor noble family of Como in Italy, Benedetto Odescalchi, rose through the Church hierarchy to become a cardinal in 1645. After initial French opposition to his candidacy, Odeschalchi was elected Pope in 1676. Taking the throne name of Innocent XI, the new Bishop of Rome began an extensive program of reform. He enacted ordinances against nepotism, particularly within the College of Cardinals, drastically reduced the expenses of the Curia, and attempted to improve Roman moral standards by closing theaters and opera houses. Over the course of his reign, Innocent XI struggled against the absolutist regime of Louis XIV, which refused to recognize papal authority in France, and against the Ottoman Empire, which threatened to conquer the states of Eastern and Central Europe. While he was never able to bring Louis XIV to heel, the Pope’s organization of a Holy League in 1684 was instrumental in rolling back the Ottoman advance after the failed Turkish siege of Vienna the previous year. Thanks to the members of Innocent’s league and to the large sums of money that he used to support it, by 1699 the European border of the Ottoman Empire had been pushed east from the environs of Vienna to the territory of Belgrade. For his important role in ending the Ottoman threat to Central Europe, Innocent XI was honored with a statue in Budapest and declared the “Savior of Hungary.” This extremely rare quadruple scudi d’oro was struck in the inaugural year of Innocent’s pontificate. The obverse type features a portrait of the pope while the reverse depicts the enthroned Virgin Mary and the Christ child worshipped by the kneeling figures of St. Augustine (left) and St. Francis of Assisi (right) and flanked by standing figures of St. Lawrence (left) and St. Stephen (right). This collection of saints was chosen to illustrate the character that Innocent XI intended for his reign. St. Augustine was a patron of theologians and a Doctor of the Church, St. Francis was a patron of the poor known for his abandonment of personal wealth, St. Lawrence was one of the martyred early deacons of Rome who distributed Church wealth to the poor, and St. Stephen was the first martyr of the Christian Church.