Pietro Barbo (Paul II) elected Pope

Pope Paul II (February 23, 1417 – July 26, 1471), born Pietro Barbo, was Pope from 1464 until his death in 1471.

He was born in Venice, and was a nephew of Pope Eugene IV (1431–1447), through his mother. His adoption of the spiritual career, after having been trained as a merchant, was prompted by his uncle's election as Pope. His consequent promotion was rapid; he became a cardinal in 1440 and gained popularity through his tender-hearted generosity.
He was elected Pope by the accessus in the first ballot, by a majority of fourteen of the nineteen cardinals in conclave on August 30, 1464, to succeed Pope Pius II (1458 – 1464). Beforehand, in order to secure to the cardinals a greater share of power than they had enjoyed under Pius II, a capitulation was subscribed by all except Ludovico Trevisan; it bound the future pope to continue the Turkish war, but he was not to journey outside Rome without the consent of a majority of the cardinals, nor to leave Italy without the consent of all. The maximum number of cardinals was limited to twenty-four, and any new pope was to be limited to only one cardinal-nephew. All creations of new cardinals and advancements to certain important benefices, were to be made only with the consent of the College of Cardinals. Upon taking office, Paul II was to convene an ecumenical council within three years. But these terms of subscription were modified by Paul II at his own discretion, and this action lost him the confidence of the College of Cardinals. The justification for setting aside the capitulations, seen to be under way by the Duke of Milan's ambassador as early as 21 September, lay in connecting any abridgement of the pope's absolute monarchy in the Papal States with a consequent abridgement of his sole authority in spiritual matters. Almost from his coronation, Paul withdrew and became inaccessible: audiences were only granted at night; even good friends waited a fortnight to see him; his suspiciousness was widely attested.


A sore point was his abuse of the practice of creating cardinals in pectore, without publishing their names. Anxious to raise new cardinals to increase the number who were devoted to his interests, but restricted by the terms of the capitulation, which gave the College a voice in the creation of new members, in the winter of 1464–65 Paul created two secret cardinals both of whom died before their names could be published. In his fourth year he created eight new cardinals (18 September, 1467); five were candidates pressed by kings, placating respectively James II of Cyprus, Edward IV of England, Louis XI of France, Matthias Corvinus of Hungary and Ferdinand I of Naples; one was the able administrator of the Franciscans; the last two elevated his old tutor and a first cardinal-nephew. Two further cardinal-nephews were added on 21 November, 1468. In a sign of his increasing secretiveness and paranoia, he added two more cardinals secretly at the same consistory, and four more at the beginning of 1471, expecting to reveal them only in his testament.
Tensions with the College of Cardinals came to the fore when in 1466, attempting to downsize redundant offices, Paul II proceeded to annul the college of abbreviators, whose function it was to formulate papal documents; a storm of indignation arose, inasmuch as rhetoricians and poets with humanist training, of which Paul deeply disapproved, had long been accustomed to benefiting from employment in such positions. Bartolomeo Platina, who was one of these, wrote a threatening letter to the Pope, and was imprisoned but later discharged. However, in 1467 Platina was again imprisoned on the charge of having participated in a conspiracy against the Pope, and was tortured along with other abbreviators, like Filip Callimachus who fled to Poland in 1478, all of whom had been accused of pagan views. Not unaccountably, Platina, in his Vitae pontificum, set forth an unfavorable delineation of the character of Paul II.

Final years

Pope Paul rejected King George of Podebrady of Bohemia on the grounds that he upheld the conventions of Basel in favor of the Utraquists. In August 1465, Paul II summoned Podebrady before his Roman tribunal, and, when the King failed to come, allied himself with the insurgents in Bohemia, and released the King's subjects from their oath of allegiance. In December, 1466, he pronounced the ban of excommunication and sentence of deposition against Podebrady. Podebrady's apologist, Gregory of Heimberg, subsequently accused Paul of immorality; a move that resulted in Gregory's own excommunication.
Just when ultimately the King's good success disposed the Pope in favor of reconciliation, Paul II died, on July 26, 1471 of a stroke allegedly whilst being sodomized by a page boy. After his death, one of his successors suggested that he should rather have been called Maria Pietissima, "Our Lady of Pity", because he was inclined to break into tears at times of crisis. Some historians have suggested the nickname was rather due either to Paul propensity to enjoy dressing up in sumptuous ecclesiastical finery, or his likely homosexuality
As a result of Paul's death a power vacuum was created in Central Europe, especially after Podebrady himself died in 1471.


Although Paul II was a committed opponent of humanist learning, he oversaw and approved the introduction of printing into the Papal State, first at Subiaco in 1464 by Arnold Pannartz and Konrad Sweynheim, and at Rome itself in 1467. The result was that books and other documents became far more numerous, and less expensive to procure than the previous handwritten manuscripts. Printing put the materials needed for an advanced education into the hands of more people than ever before, including an increasing number of laypeople. The output of printing presses at this period was, as a matter of course, subject to governmental scrutiny; during Paul II's reign, books produced in the Papal State were largely limited to Latin classical literature and ecclesiastical texts.
The chronicler Stefano Infessura's republican and anti-papal temper makes his diary a far from neutral though well-informed witness. But it is certain that though Paul II opposed the humanists, he was second to none in providing for popular amusements: in 1466 he permitted the horse-race that was a feature of Carnival to be run along the main street, the Via Lata, which now became known from this annual event as the Via del Corso. He displayed an extravagant love of personal splendor that gratified his sense of self-importance. After his death Sixtus IV and a selected group of cardinals inspected the treasure laid up against expenditures against the Turks: they found fifty-four silver shells filled with pearls, to a value of 300,000 ducats, jewels and gold intended for refashioning, worth another 300,000 ducats, and a magnificent diamond worth 7,000 ducats, which was sent to Cardinal d'Estouteville to cover monies he had advanced to the pontiff. The coin was not immediately found. The story of Cardinal Ammanati that he meant to take the name Formosus II ("handsome"), but was persuaded not to, is more often repeated than the story that he was dissuaded from Marcus, being Venetian and the Cardinal of San Marco, because it was also the war-cry of Venice.
However, the Catholic Encyclopedia asserts, "justice requires notice of his strict sense of equity, his reforms in the municipal administration, and his fight against official bribery and traffic in posts of dignity."
In statecraft, Paul II lacked eminence and achieved nothing of consequence for Italy. In the Papal States, however, he terminated, in 1465, the regime of the counts of Anguillara, a house that had played a consistent anti-papal role since the plot of Stefano Porcari and the unruly insurrection of Tiburzio di Maso in 1460.

Born at Venice, 1417; elected 30 August, 1464; died 26 July, 1471; son of Niccolo Barbo and Polixena Condulmer, sister of Eugene IV. Although he studied for a business career he received an excellent religious education and, at the elevation of his uncle to the papacy, entered the ecclesiastical state. He became Archdeacon of Bologna, Bishop of Cervia and of Vicenza, and in 1440 cardinal-deacon. Noted for his generosity and imposing appearance, the Cardinal of Venice, as he was called, was very influential under Eugene IV, Nicholas V, and Calixtus III, less so under Pius II. He became the latter's successor, and owed his election partly to the dissatisfaction of some of the cardinals with the policy of his predecessor. To this could be traced the oath which Barbo swore to at the conclave, but which he rightfully set aside after election, since it was opposed to the monarchial constitution of the Church. Paul II delighted in display. He introduced splendid carnival festivities, built the palace of S. Marco (now di Venezia), revised the municipal statutes of Rome, organized relief work among the poor, granted pensions to some cardinals, and to all the privilege of wearing the red biretta. His suppression in 1466 of the college of abbreviators aroused much opposition, intensified by a similar measure against the Roman Academy. Platina, a member of both organizations, who had been repeatedly imprisoned, retaliated by writing a calumnious biography of Paul II.

That Paul II was not opposed to Humanistic studies, as such, is evidenced by the fact that he protected universities, encouraged the art of printing, and was himself a collector of works of ancient art. The suppression of the Roman Academy was justified by the moral degeneracy and pagan attitude which it fostered. On the other hand the charge of immorality brought against Paul II by Gregory of Heimburg is untenable. The pope punished the Fraticelli in the Papal States, prosecuted heretics in France and Germany, decreed in 1470 the observance of the jubilee every twenty-five years, and made an unsuccessful attempt at uniting Russia with the Church. The Turkish question received his earnest attention, particularly after the fall of Negropont (1470). Financial assistance was granted to Hungary and the Albanian leader Scanderbeg. No general results were obtained, however, owing to the lack of co-operation among the Christian powers; to disturbances in the Papal States, where Paul II suppressed the robber knights of Anguillara, and perhaps chiefly to the conflict between the papacy and King George Podiebrad of Bohemia.