Pope Paul III (29 February 1468 – 10 November 1549), born Alessandro Farnese, was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1534 to his death in 1549. He came to the papal throne in an era following the sack of Rome in 1527 and rife with uncertainties in the Catholic Church following the Reformation. During his reign, and in the spirit of the Counter-Reformation, new Catholic religious orders and societies, such as the Jesuits, the Theatines, the Barnabites and the Congregation of the Oratory, attracted a popular following and he convened the Council of Trent in 1545. He was a significant patron of the arts and employed nepotism to advance the power and fortunes of his family.
Born in Canino, Latium (then part of the Papal States), Alessandro Farnese was the oldest son of Pier Luigi Farnese, Signore di Montalto (1435-1487) and his wife Giovanna Caetani, a member of the Caetani family which had also produced Pope Boniface VIII. The Farnese family had prospered over the centuries but it was Alessandro’s ascendency to the papacy and his dedication to furthering family interests which saw the vastly significant increase in the family’s wealth and power.
Alessandro’s humanist education was at the University of Pisa and the court of Lorenzo de’ Medici. Initially trained as an apostolic notary , he joined the Roman Curia in 1491 and in 1493 Pope Alexander VI appointed him Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Cosma e Damiano. Pope Alexander's mistress, Giulia, was Farnese's sister; and he was sometimes mockingly referred to as the "Borgia brother-in-law." Under Pope Clement VII (1523–34) he became Cardinal Bishop of Ostia and dean of the College of Cardinals, and on the death of Clement VII in 1534, was elected as Pope Paul III.
One of the few popes to have fathered children before his election, he had four illegitimate offspring. By Silvia Ruffini, he fathered Pier Luigi Farnese, whom he created Duke of Parma; others included Ranuccio Farnese and Costanza Farnese. His first app...