Cardinal Lorenzo Corsini.
Under Benedict XIII, the finances of the Papal States had been delivered into the hands of Cardinal Niccolò Coscia and other members of the curia, who had drained the financial resources of the see. Benedict died in 1730, and in the conclave that followed his death, after deliberating for four months, the College of Cardinals selected Corsini, 78 years old and with failing eyesight, who had held all the important offices of the Roman Curia. Clement XII was one of the oldest men to be elected pope.
As a Corsini, with his mother a Strozzi, the new pope represented a family in the highest level of Florentine society, with a cardinal in every generation for the previous hundred years.
His first moves as Pope Clement XII were to restore the papal finances. He demanded restitution from the ministers who had abused the confidence of his predecessor. The chief culprit, Cardinal Niccolò Coscia, was heavily fined and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. Papal finances were also improved through reviving the public lottery, which had been suppressed by the severe morality of Benedict XIII. Soon it poured into Clement XII's treasury an annual sum amounting to nearly a half million scudi, enabling him to undertake the extensive building programs for which he is chiefly remembered, but which he was never able to see.
A competition for the majestic façade of the San Giovanni in Laterano was won by architect Alessandro Galilei. The façade he designed is perhaps more palatial than ecclesiastic, and was finished by 1735. Clement XII erected in that ancient basilica a magnificent chapel dedicated to his 14th century kinsman, St. Andrew Corsini. He restored the Arch of Constantine and built the governmental palace of the Consulta on the Quirinal. He purchased from Cardinal Alessandro Albani for 60,000 scudi a famous collection of statues, inscriptions, etc., and added it to the gallery of the Capitol. He paved the streets of Rome and the roads leading from the city, and widened the Corso. He began the triumphant Baroque Fontana di Trevi, one of the noted ornaments of Rome. Under his reign a port was built at Ancona, with a highway that gave easy access to the interior. He drained the malarial marshes of the Chiana near Lake Trasimeno.
Politically, however, this was not a successful papacy among the secular powers of Europe. When the attempt of papal forces to take over the ancient independent Republic of San Marino failed, Clement XII disavowed the arbitrary action of his legate, Cardinal Giulio Alberoni, in seizing San Marino, and restored its independence. He was also rebuffed in Papal claims over the Duchies of Parma and Piacenza.
In August 1730 he gave permission for Victor Amadeus II of Savoy to carry out a morganatic marriage to Anna Canalis di Cumiana. Victor Amadeus II subsequently abdicated his throne causing great unrest in Savoy.
In ecclesiastic affairs he issued In eminenti apostolatus, the first papal decree against the Freemasons on 28 April 1738. He canonized Saint Vincent de Paul and proceeded with vigour against the French Jansenists. He campaigned for the reunion of the Roman and Orthodox churches, received the Patriarch of the Coptic Church and persuaded the Armenian Patriarch to remove the anathema against the Council of Chalcedon and Pope Leo I (440–461). He dispatched
Joseph Simeon Assemani to the East for the twofold purpose of continuing his search for manuscripts and presiding as legate over a national council of Maronites. He created the youngest Cardinal ever when on 19 December 1735, he named Luis Antonio Jaime de Borbón y Farnesio, Royal Infant of Spain, age 8, to the Sacred College.
Though he was blind and compelled to keep to his bed, from which he gave audiences and transacted affairs of state, he surrounded himself with capable officials, many of them his Corsini relatives, but he did little for his family except to purchase and enlarge the palace built in Trastevere for the
Riarii, and now known as the Palazzo Corsini (the seat of the
Regia Accademia dei Lincei). In 1754, his nephew, Cardinal Neri Corsini, founded there the famous Corsini Library.