In the first half of the 1500s, Cristoforo Boncompagni, father of Ugo, obtained land to expand the building from the Bologna Senate, with the intention of turning it into something more than a prestigious family palace.
It is said that the well-known merchant loved to confide in his friends that the palace he was working on was not for himself but for a Pope. Cristoforo died in 1546 and never knew that a Pope had actually lived in the Palazzo.
Scipione Pulzone, “Ritratto di Giacomo Boncompagni”, 1574
For his part, Ugo had a strong sense of family, and prior to becoming Pope but while already a man of the church, he decided to have a son to whom he could leave the building. He confessed to having “worked to provide you with children who could live in that house if I wanted to stay in Rome”.
In this regard, the response that the Pope gave to a cardinal, who complained of having voted him into the Conclave only because he was unaware of his paternity, remains famous:
“The Holy Spirit knew perfectly well.”