However, the massive debts incurred during his pontificate greatly weakened his successors, who were unable to maintain the papacy's longstanding political and military influence in Europe. He was also involved in a controversy with Galileo and his theory on heliocentrism during his reign.
No pope since has taken the name Urban.
He was born Maffeo Barberini in April 1568 to Antonio Barberini, a Florentine nobleman, and Camilla Barbadoro. His father died when he was only three years old and his mother took him to Rome, where he was put in the charge of his uncle, Francesco Barberini, an apostolic protonotary. At the age of 16 he became his uncle's heir. He was educated by the Society of Jesus, ("Jesuits") and received a doctorate of law from the University of Pisa in 1589.
In 1601, Barberini, through the influence of his uncle, was able to secure from Pope Clement VIII appointment as a papal legate to the court of King Henry IV of France. In 1604, the same pope appointed him as the Archbishop of Nazareth, an office joined with that of Bishop of the suppressed Dioceses of Canne and Monteverde, with his residence at Barletta. At the death of his uncle, he inherited his riches, with which he bought a palace in Rome which he made into a luxurious Renaissance residence.
Pope Paul V also later employed Barberini in a similar capacity, afterwards raising him, in 1606, to the order of the Cardinal-Priest, with the titular church of San Pietro in Montorio and appointing him as a papal legate of Bologna.
Upon Pope Urban VIII's election, Zeno, the Venetian envoy, wrote the following description of him: