1471-1503 History of Italy 1534-1566

Papal State and Papacy, 1503-1534

Pope Julius II. (Giuliano della Rovere) ruled from 1503 to 1513. He was succeeded by Leo X. (1513-1521, Giovanni de Medici), Adrian VI. (1522-1523, Adriaan Florensz d'Edel) and Clement VII. (1523-1534, Giulio de Medici).
General Church Policy. In order to counter the Council of Pisa, called for by a synod of French bishops in 1510, Pope Julius II. called for a council to be held in the Lateran Palace in 1512. The Pisan Council lost support at the expense of the Lateran Council, and finally disbanded (1513). The reform suggested by the Lateran Council, which was dissolved in 1517, Pope Leo X. did not implement. A conspiracy of cardinals attempted to assassinate the pope. In 1514 Pope Leo X. granted a dispense to Alnrecht von Brandenburg, a prince who held the archbishopric of Magdeburg and the bishopric of Halberstadt; for an extra payment of 10,000 ducats he was permitted to become archbishop of Mainz, in addition to the positions he held already (canon law forbade one person to hold several bishoprics). Just one example of the corruption of the church at that time. Pope Leo X. promoted the construction of St. Peter's Cathedral, the expenses of which exceeded the papal revenue considerably. In order to collect extra revenue, Leo X. promoted the sale of Letters of Indulgence. In 1517, during the pontificate of Leo X., by nailing his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Martin Luther began the Reformation. In 1520, Pope Leo X. excommunicated Luther (encyclical Exsurge Domine).

Foreign Policy. In the struggle with Cesare Borja, Pope Juilus II. regained the Romagna; Cesare Borja died in 1507. The Republic of Venice occupied much of the territory previously held by the Borja. Pope Julius II. declared the ban against the most serene republic and joined the League of Cambrai (1509), in which the Emperor, France and Spain (Castile, Aragon) had allied themselves against Venice. The Venetian troops were defeated in the Battle of Agnadello; Venice evacuated the occupied stretches of the Romagna, and the pope signed peace, thus leaving the League of Cambrai, simultaneously lifting the ban. Now France dominated northern Italy.
Pope Julius II. turned on a French ally and papal vassall, Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso d'Este; he was excommunicated, his fiefs declared confiscated. King Louis XII. had a French national synod reinstate the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1510), call for a general council at Pisa in 1511. Emperor Maximilian approved the French project and is said to have contemplated to have himself elected pope (Julius II. was severely ill in 1511). Julius II. countered by calling for a general council to be assembled in the Lateran Palace in 1512.
Both councils met; the declaration by the Emperor's representative to recognize the Lateran Council (Dec. 3rd 1512) gave the latter more weight. In 1511, the Pope, Spain and Venice formed the Holy League directed against France. The League suffered a severe blow in the Battle of Ravenna (1512); then Swiss troops entered the war on the side of the League; the French were in the defensive. With Emperor and England threatening to join the Holy League, France gave in; the political situation in northern Italy was revised by the Congress of Mantua. The Papal State annexed Parma, Piacenza and Reggio.
In 1515, Pope Leo X., after a defeat of the League at the hands of France, had to cede Parma and Piacenza; he now established close relations with France; French King Francis I. cancelled the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges. A Concordat was signed which granted far-reaching autonomy to the church of France and placed it under the king. (1516).
In 1519, Emperor Maximilian had died. Among the candidates to succeed him were King Francis I. of France, Duke Frederick the Wise of Ernestine Saxony (the protector of Martin Luther) and Spanish King Charles I., future Emperor Charles V. Papal diplomacy, fearing an overbearing power united under the Habsburg family, supporteed the Saxon, without success. Once crowned Emperor, Charles V. found himself facing a French-Ottoman alliance; in this situation, the papacy sided with Habsburg's enemies. Leo X. died in 1521 and was succeeded by Adrian VI. (1522-1523), a Dutchman who was Emperor Charles V.' favourite; he died the year after and was succeeded by Clement VII. (1523-1534).
While the papacy had been preoccupied with trying to avoid a Habsburg hegemony, the Ottoman Empire expanded, taking Belgrade in 1521, Rhodes in 1522, crushing the Hungarian monarchy in 1526 and appearing in front of Vienna in 1529. Adrian VI. had signed a defensive alliance against the Ottoman Empire in 1523, shortly before he died. Clement VII. again sided with the French; in 1525, the Emperor defeated the French in the Battle of Pavia; in 1526 Pope Clement formally joined the Holy League of Cognac, directed against the Habsburgs. Then, on May 6th 1527, Imperial troops took Rome (Sacco di Roma). The Treaty of Barcelona (1529) reconciled both sides. In 1530, Clement VI. formally crowned Charles V. Emperor.
Pope Clement VII. was so entangled in foreign policy that he neither took sufficient notice of Ottoman expansion nor of the reformation spreading during his rule. Even worse, the Sacco di Roma in 1527 plainly showed to the world that his authority lacked the power to enforce it. Not only protestant reformers challenged it; so did King Henry III. of England, by separating the Church of England from Rome (1534).

The Papal State. Julius II. reestablished the Papal State, secured the Romagna, gained Reggio, Parma, Piacenza. In 1506, the Swiss Guard was established. During the pontificate of Julius II., Bramante, Michelangelo and Raffael worked in Rome; Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Leo X., a Medici, was a nepotist and enjoyed court life. Intending to transfer the Duchy of Urbino, held by a relative of his predecessor, Francesco della Rovere, to a Medici, Pope Leo X. fought de duke. It was a costly and lengthy war, and unsuccessful. Leo X. began the construction of St. Peter's Cathedral.
The foreign diplomacy of Clement VII. ended in a disaster, the Sacco di Roma (sack of Rome) by Imperial troops in 1527.

Biography of Pope Julius II., from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
Biography of Pope Leo X., from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
Biography of Adrian VI., from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907 edition
Biography of Clement VII., from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908 editoion
Article Pragmatic Sanction, from Catholic Encyclopedia 1911 edition
Giulio II - Lega Cambrai - Lega Santa, from Cronologia, in Italian
Guerra d'Urbino, from Cronologia, in Italian
Seconda Lega Santa - Sacco di Roma, from Cronologia, in Italian
Ultimi Anni di Clemente VII, from Cronologia, in Italian
Article Holy League, from infoplease
Le Concordat 1516, from Renaissance France, in French
The League of Cambrai 1508, from Virtual History of Venice
Article Fifth Lateran Council, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910 edition
DOCUMENTS Il Sacco di Roma (1527), texts and documents, in Italian
Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, 1438, from Medieval Sourcebook
Exsurge Domine, Bull by Pope Leo X., 1520, from Papal Library
Letter of Indulgence, 1502, from DHM, scan
REFERENCE Book Reviews : Papal State, from History Book Reviews

Franz Xaver Seppelt, Georg Schwaiger, Geschichte der Päpste (History of the Popes), München : Kösel 1964, 572 pp., in German [G]
Christopher Hibbert, Rome. The Biography of a City, Penguin 1988, 387 pp. [G]

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First posted on September 7th 2002, last revised on March 29th 2006

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