Clement VIII, né Ippolito Aldobrandini (March 1536 - March 5, 1605) was pope from 1592 to 1605.
Born at Fano to a distinguished Florentine family, he studied law under his his father, an able jurist; his ecclesiastical career was as a lawyer: consistorial advocate, auditor of the Rota and the Datary, he was made a cardinal in 1585. He placed himself under the direction of the reformer Philip Neri, who for thirty years was his confessor. Aldobrandini won the gratitude of the Hapsburgs by his successful diplomatic efforts, during a legation to Poland, to obtain the release of the imprisoned Archduke Maximilian, the defeated claimant to the Polish throne.
After the death of Innocent IX, another stormy conclave ensued, where a determined minority of Italian cardinals were unwilling to be dictated to by Philip II of Spain. Cardinal Aldobrandini's election on January 30, 1592, was received as a portent of more balanced and liberal Papal policy in European affairs. He took the non-politicized name Clement VIII. Clement proved to be an able ruler, with an unlimited capacity for work and a lawyer's eye for detail, and a wise statesman, the general object of whose policy was to free the Papacy from its undue dependence upon Spain.
The most remarkable event of his reign was the reconciliation to the church of Henry IV of France, after long negotiations, carried on with great dexterity through Cardinal Arnaud d'Ossat, that resolved the complicated situation in France. Henry embraced Catholicism July 25, 1593. After a pause to assess Henry's sincerity, Clement braved Spanish displeasure, and in the autumn of 1595 he solemnly absolved Henry IV, thus putting an end to the thirty years' religious war in France and winning a powerful ally.
Henry's friendship was of essential importance to the Papacy two years later, when Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara, died childless (October 27, 1597), and Clement resolved to attach the stronghold of the Este family to the states of the Church. Though Spain and the Empire encouraged Alfonso's illegitimate cousin, Cesare d'Este, to withstand the pope, they were deterred from giving him any material aid by Henry's threats, and a papal army entered Ferrara almost unopposed. This bold annexation was the last addition to the Papal States.
In 1598 Pope Clement won more credit for the papacy by bringing about a definite treaty of peace between Spain and France in the Peace of Vervins which put an end to their long contest, and he negotiated peace between France and Savoy as well. He also lent valuable assistance in men and money to the Emperor in his contest with the Turks in Hungary.
Clement VIII was as merciless as Sixtus V in crushing brigandage in central Italy and in punishing the lawlessness of the Roman nobility. He did not even spare the youthful parricide Beatrice Cenci. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in the Campo dei Fiori, a blot upon an exemplary pontificate.
The jubilee of 1600 was a brilliant witness to the glories of the renovated papacy, three million pilgrims visiting the holy places. In 1595 was held the Synod of Brest , in Lithuania, by which a great part of the Ruthenian clergy and people were reunited to Rome.
He presided at the conferences to determine the questions of grace and free will, controverted between the Jesuits and Dominicans, were commenced under him, but he wisely abstained from pronouncing a decision. He died in March 1605, leaving a high character for prudence, munificence, and capacity for business. His reign is especially distinguished by the number and beauty of his medals.
Clement founded at Rome the Collegio Clementino for the education of the sons of the richer classes, and augmented the number of national colleges in Rome by opening the Collegio Scozzese for the training of missionaries to Scotland. Coffee aficionados claim that the spread of coffee's popularity in the early 1600's is due to Clement's influence. Upon being pressured by his advisers to declare coffee to be a drink of the devil because of its popularity among Muslims in the middle east, he instead declared that, "This devil's drink is so good ... we should cheat the devil by baptizing it." It is not clear whether this is a true story.
See also: other popes named Clement.