Giovanni di Lorenzo de Medici (Leo X) elected Pope
Pope Leo X (11 December 1475 – 1 December 1521) was Pope from 1513 to his death.
He was the last non-priest to be elected Pope. He is known primarily for the sale of indulgences to reconstruct St. Peter's Basilica and his challenging of Martin Luther's 95 theses. He was the second son of Lorenzo de' Medici, the most famous ruler of the Florentine Republic, and Clarice Orsini. His cousin, Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici, would later succeed him as Pope Clement VII (1523–34).
Giovanni di Lorenzo de Medici was born in Florence, the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Head of the Florentine Republic, and Clarissa Orsini.
From an early age he was destined for an ecclesiastical career. He received the tonsure at the age of seven and was soon loaded with rich benefices and preferments. His father prevailed on his relative Innocent VIII to name him cardinal-deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica in March 1489, although he was not allowed to wear the insignia or share in the deliberations of the college until three years later. Meanwhile he received a careful education at Lorenzo's brilliant humanistic court under such men as Angelo Poliziano, Pico della Mirandola, Marsilio Ficino and Bernardo Dovizio Bibbiena. From 1489 to 1491 he studied theology and canon law at Pisa under Filippo Decio and Bartolomeo Sozzini.
On 23 March 1492 he was formally admitted into the Sacred College and took up his residence at Rome, receiving a letter of advice from his father. The death of Lorenzo on the following April 8, however, called the sixteen-year-old cardinal to Florence. He participated in the conclave of 1492 which followed the death of Innocent VIII, and unsuccessfully opposed the election of Cardinal Borgia. He made his home with his elder brother Piero at Florence throughout the agitation of Savonarola and the invasion of Charles VIII of France, until the uprising of the Florentines and the expulsion of the Medici in November 1494. While Piero found refuge at Venice and Urbino, Cardinal Giovanni travelled in Germany, in the Netherlands and in France.
In May 1500 he returned to Rome, where he was received with outward cordiality by Pope Alexander VI, and where he lived for several years immersed in art and literature. In 1503 he welcomed the accession of Pope Julius II to the pontificate; the death of Piero de' Medici in the same year made Giovanni head of his family. On 1 October 1511 he was appointed papal legate of Bologna and the Romagna, and when the Florentine republic declared in favour of the schismatic Pisans, Julius II sent him against his native city at the head of the papal army. This and other attempts to regain political control of Florence were frustrated, until a bloodless revolution permitted the return of the Medici. Giovanni's younger brother Giuliano was placed at the head of the republic, but the cardinal actually managed the government.
Giovanni was elected Pope on 9 March 1513, and this was proclaimed two days later. On the 15 March he was ordained priest, and consecrated as bishop on the 17th. He was crowned Pope on 19 March at the age of 37.
Role in Italian Wars
At the very time of Leo's accession Louis XII of France, in alliance with Venice, was making a determined effort to regain the duchy of Milan, and Leo, after fruitless endeavours to maintain peace, joined the league of Mechlin on 5 April 1513 with the emperor Maximilian I, Ferdinand I of Spain and Henry VIII of England. The French and Venetians were at first successful, but were defeated in June at the Battle of Novara. The Venetians continued the struggle until October. On 9 December the fifth Lateran council, which had been reopened by Leo in April, ratified the peace with Louis XII and officially registered the conclusion of the Pisan schism.
While the council was engaged in planning a crusade and in considering the reform of the clergy, a new crisis occurred between the pope and the new king of France, Francis I, an enthusiastic young prince, dominated by the ambition of recovering Milan and the Kingdom of Naples. Leo at once formed a new league with the emperor and the king of Spain, and to ensure English support made Thomas Wolsey a cardinal.
Francis entered Italy in August and on 14 September won the battle of Marignano. In October Leo signed an agreement binding him to withdraw his troops from Parma and Piacenza, which had been previously gained at the expense of the duchy of Milan, on condition of French protection at Rome and Florence. The king of Spain wrote to his ambassador at Rome "that His Holiness had hitherto played a double game and that all his zeal to drive the French from Italy had been only a mask"; this reproach seemed to receive some confirmation when Leo held a secret conference with Francis at Bologna in December 1515. The ostensible subjects under consideration were the establishment of peace between France, Venice and the Empire, with a view to an expedition against the Turks, and the ecclesiastical affairs of France. Precisely what was arranged is unknown.
During these two or three years of incessant political intrigue and warfare it was not to be expected that the Lateran council should accomplish much. Its three main objectives, the peace of Christendom, the crusade (against the Turks), and the reform of the church, could be secured only by general agreement among the powers, and either Leo or the council, or both, failed to secure such agreement.
Its most important achievements were the registration at its eleventh sitting (9 December 1516) of the abolition of the pragmatic sanction, which the popes since Pius II had unanimously condemned, and the confirmation of the concordat between Leo X and Francis I, which was destined to regulate the relations between the French Church and the Holy See until the French Revolution. Leo closed the council on 16 March 1517. It had ended the Pisan schism, ratified the censorship of books introduced by Alexander VI and imposed tithes for a war against the Turks. It raised no voice against the primacy of the pope.
War of Urbino
The year which marked the close of the Lateran council was also marked by Leo's war against the duke of Urbino Francesco Maria I della Rovere. Leo was proud of his family and had practiced nepotism from the outset. His cousin Giulio, who subsequently became Clement VII, had been made the most influential man in the curia as vice-chancellor of the Holy See.
Leo had intended his younger brother Giuliano and his nephew Lorenzo for brilliant secular careers. He had named them Roman patricians; the latter he had placed in charge of Florence; the former, for whom he planned to carve out a kingdom in central Italy of Parma, Piacenza, Ferrara and Urbino, he had taken with himself to Rome and married to Filiberta of Savoy.
The death of Giuliano in March 1516, however, caused the pope to transfer his ambitions to Lorenzo. At the very time (December 1516) that peace between France, Spain, Venice and the Empire seemed to give some promise of a Christendom united against the Turks, Leo was preparing an enterprise as unscrupulous as any of the exploits of Cesare Borgia. He obtained 150,000 ducats towards the expenses of the expedition from Henry VIII of England, in return for which he entered the imperial league of Spain and England against France.
The war lasted from February to September 1517 and ended with the expulsion of the duke and the triumph of Lorenzo; but it revived the allegedly nefarious policy of Alexander VI, increased brigandage and anarchy in the Papal States, hindered the preparations for a crusade and wrecked the papal finances. Francesco Guicciardini reckoned the cost of the war to Leo at the prodigious sum of 800,000 ducats. But ultimately Lorenzo was confirmed as the new duke of Urbino.
Plans for a Crusade
The war of Urbino was further marked by a crisis in the relations between pope and cardinals. The sacred college had allegedly grown especially worldly and troublesome since the time of Sixtus IV, and Leo took advantage of a plot of several of its members to poison him, not only to inflict exemplary punishments by executing one and imprisoning several others, but also to make a radical change in the college.
On 3 July 1517 he published the names of thirty-one new cardinals, a number almost unprecedented in the history of the papacy. Among the nominations were such notable men such as Lorenzo Campeggio, Giambattista Pallavicini, Adrian of Utrecht, Thomas Cajetan, Cristoforo Numai and Egidio Canisio. The naming of seven members of prominent Roman families, however, reversed the policy of his predecessor which had kept the political factions of the city out of the Curia. Other promotions were for political or family considerations or to secure money for the war against Urbino. The pope was accused of having exaggerated the conspiracy of the cardinals for purposes of financial gain, but most of such accusations appear unsubstantiated.
Leo, meanwhile, felt the need of staying the advance of the Ottoman sultan, Selim I, who was threatening western Europe, and made elaborate plans for a crusade. A truce was to be proclaimed throughout Christendom; the pope was to be the arbiter of disputes; the emperor and the king of France were to lead the army; England, Spain and Portugal were to furnish the fleet; and the combined forces were to be directed against Constantinople. Papal diplomacy in the interests of peace failed, however; Cardinal Wolsey made England, not the pope, the arbiter between France and the Empire; and much of the money collected for the crusade from tithes and indulgences was spent in other ways.
In 1519 Hungary concluded a three years' truce with Selim I, but the succeeding sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent, renewed the war in June 1521 and on 28 August captured the citadel of Belgrade. The pope was greatly alarmed, and although he was then involved in war with France he sent about 30,000 ducats to the Hungarians.
Leo treated the Uniate Greeks with great loyalty, and by bull of 18 May 1521 forbade Latin clergy to celebrate mass in Greek churches and Latin bishops to ordain Greek clergy. These provisions were later strengthened by Clement VII and Paul III and went far to settle the chronic disputes between the Latins and Uniate Greeks.
Reformation and last years
Leo was disturbed throughout his pontificate by heresy and schisms, especially the Reformation touched off by Martin Luther.
The Protestant Schism
Main article: Protestant Reformation
In response to concerns about misconduct from some servants of the church, in 1517 Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the church door at Wittenberg. This escalated to a widespread revolt against the church in Rome. Leo failed to fully comprehend the importance of the movement, and in February 1518 he directed the vicar-general of the Augustinians to impose silence on his monks.
On 30 May, Luther sent an explanation of his theses to the pope; on 7 August he was summoned to appear at Rome. An arrangement was effected, however, whereby that summons was cancelled, and Luther went instead to Augsburg in October 1518 to meet the papal legate, Cardinal Cajetan; but neither the arguments of the cardinal, nor Leo's dogmatic papal bull of 9 November requiring all Christians to believe in the pope's power to grant indulgences, moved Luther to retract. A year of fruitless negotiations followed, during which the controversy took popular root across the German States.
A further papal bull of 15 June 1520 condemned forty-one propositions extracted from Luther's teachings, and was taken to Germany by Eck in his capacity as apostolic nuncio. Leo followed by formally excommunicating Luther by bull on 3 January 1521; in a brief the Pope also directed the Holy Roman Emperor to take energetic measures against heresy.
It was also under Leo that the Protestant movement emerged in Scandinavia. The pope had repeatedly used the rich northern benefices to reward members of the Roman curia, and towards the close of the year 1516 he sent the impolitic Arcimboldi as papal nuncio to Denmark to collect money for St Peter's. King Christian II took advantage of the growing dissatisfaction on the part of the native clergy toward the papal government, and of Arcimboldi's interference in the Swedish revolt, in order to expel the nuncio and summon (1520) Lutheran theologians to Copenhagen. Christian approved a plan by which a formal state church should be established in Denmark, all appeals to Rome should be abolished, and the king and diet should have final jurisdiction in ecclesiastical causes. Leo sent a new nuncio to Copenhagen (1521) in the person of the Minorite Francesco de Potentia, who readily absolved the king and received the rich bishopric of Skara. The pope or his legate, however, took no steps to remove abuses or otherwise reform the Scandinavian churches. (Some Scandinavian countries still have Protestant state churches.)
That Leo did not do more to check the anti-papal rebellion in Germany and Scandinavia is to be partially explained by the political complications of the time, and by his own preoccupation with papal and Medicean politics in Italy. The death of the emperor Maximilian in 1519 had seriously affected the situation. Leo vacillated between the powerful candidates for the succession, allowing it to appear at first that he favoured Francis I while really working for the election of a minor German prince. He finally accepted Charles V of Spain as inevitable, and the election of Charles (28 June 1519) revealed Leo's desertion of his French alliance, a step facilitated by the death at about the same time of Lorenzo de' Medici and his French wife.
Leo was now anxious to unite Ferrara, Parma and Piacenza to the States of the Church (The Papal States). An attempt late in 1519 to seize Ferrara failed, and the pope recognized the need for foreign aid. In May 1521 a treaty of alliance was signed at Rome between him and the emperor. Milan and Genoa were to be taken from France and restored to the Empire, and Parma and Piacenza were to be given to the Church on the expulsion of the French. The expense of enlisting 10,000 Swiss was to be borne equally by pope and emperor. Charles V took Florence and the Medici family under his protection and promised to punish all enemies of the Catholic faith. Leo agreed to invest Charles V with the Kingdom of Naples, to crown him Holy Roman Emperor, and to aid in a war against Venice. It was provided that England and the Swiss might also join the league. Henry VIII announced his adherence in August 1521. Francis I had already begun war with Charles V in Navarre, and in Italy, too, the French made the first hostile movement on June 23, 1521. Leo at once announced that he would excommunicate the king of France and release his subjects from their allegiance unless Francis I laid down his arms and surrendered Parma and Piacenza to the Church. The pope lived to hear the joyful news of the capture of Milan from the French and of the occupation by papal troops of the long-coveted provinces (November 1521).
Having fallen ill of malaria, Pope Leo X died on December 1, 1521, so suddenly that the last sacraments could not be administered; but the contemporary suspicions of poison were unfounded. He was buried in Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
In the past many conflicting estimates were made of the character and achievements of the pope during whose pontificate Protestantism first took form. More recent studies have served to produce a reportedly fairer and more honest opinion of Leo X. A report of the Venetian ambassador Marino Giorgi bearing date of March 1517 indicates some of his predominant characteristics:
The pope is a good-natured and extremely free-hearted man, who avoids every difficult situation and above all wants peace; he would not undertake a war himself unless his own personal interests were involved; he loves learning; of canon law and literature he possesses remarkable knowledge; he is, moreover, a very excellent musician.
Several historians have suggested that Leo may have been homosexual. Some contemporary tracts and accounts such as that of Francesco Guicciardini have been found to allude to active same-sex relations – alleging Count Ludovico Rangone and Galeotto Malatesta among his lovers. Some tracts (possibly libellous) contend that he died while in bed engaged in a sexual act with a youth.
Cesare Falconi has examined Leo's infatuation with the Venetian noble Marcantonio Flaminio, arranging the best education that could be offered for the time. Von Pastor has argued, however, against the credibility of these testimonies, and rejected accusations of immorality as anti-papal polemic. Gucciardini was not resident at the papal court during Leo's pontificate, while other contemporaries such as Matteo Herculano took pains to praise his chastity. Paul Strathern, a British writer and academic, argues that Leo was not sexually active as pope, despite identifying notable members of that family as such.
When he became pope, Leo X is reported to have said to his brother Giuliano: "Since God has given us the Papacy, let us enjoy it." The Venetian ambassador who related this of him was not unbiased, nor was he in Rome at the time, nevertheless the phrase illustrates fairly the Pope's pleasure-loving nature and the lack of seriousness that characterized him. And enjoy he did, traveling around Rome at the head of a lavish parade featuring panthers, jesters, and Hanno, a white elephant.
Under his pontificate, Latin Christianity assumed a pagan, Greco-Roman character, which, passing from art into manners, gives to this epoch a strange complexion. Crimes for the moment disappeared, to give place to vices; but to charming vices, vices in good taste, such as those indulged in by Alcibiades and sung by Catullus. Alexandre Dumas, père
Leo X was also lavish in charity: retirement homes, hospitals, convents, discharged soldiers, pilgrims, poor students, exiles, cripples, the sick, and the unfortunate of every description were generously remembered, and more than 6,000 ducats were annually distributed in alms.
His extravagance offended not only people like Martin Luther, but also some cardinals, who, led by Alfonso Petrucci of Siena, plotted an assassination attempt. Eventually, Pope Leo found out who these people were, and had them followed. The conspirators died of "food poisoning." Some people argue that Leo X and his followers simply concocted the assassination charges in a moneymaking scheme to collect fines from the various wealthy cardinals Leo X detested.
As a patron of learning Leo X deserves a prominent place among the popes. He raised the Church to a high rank as the friend of whatever seemed to extend knowledge or to refine and embellish life. He made the capital of Christendom, Rome, the center of European culture. While yet a cardinal, he had restored the church of Santa Maria in Domnica after Raphael's designs; and as pope he had San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, on the Via Giulia, built, after designs by Jacopo Sansovino and pressed forward the work on St Peter's Basilica and the Vatican under Raphael and Agostino Chigi.
Leo's constitution of 5 November 1513 reformed the Roman university, which had been neglected by Julius II. He restored all its faculties, gave larger salaries to the professors, and summoned distinguished teachers from afar; and, although it never attained to the importance of Padua or Bologna, it nevertheless possessed in 1514 a faculty (with a good reputation) of eighty-eight professors.
Leo called Janus Lascaris to Rome to give instruction in Greek, and established a Greek printing-press from which the first Greek book printed at Rome appeared in 1515. He made Raphael custodian of the classical antiquities of Rome and the vicinity. The distinguished Latinists Pietro Bembo and Jacopo Sadoleto were papal secretaries, as well as the famous poet Bernardo Accolti.
Other poets such as Marco Girolamo Vida, Gian Giorgio Trissino and Bibbiena, writers of novelle like Matteo Bandello, and a hundred other literati of the time were bishops, or papal scriptors or abbreviators, or in other papal employ.
Leo's lively interest in art and literature, to say nothing of his natural liberality, his alleged nepotism, his political ambitions and necessities, and his immoderate personal luxury, exhausted within two years the hard savings of Julius II, and precipitated a financial crisis from which he never emerged and which was a direct cause of most of what, from a papal point of view, were calamities of his pontificate.
He sold cardinals' hats. He sold membership in the "Knights of Peter". He borrowed large sums from bankers, curials, princes and Jews. The Venetian ambassador Gradenigo estimated the paying number of offices on Leo's death at 2,150, with a capital value of nearly 3,000,000 ducats and a yearly income of 328,000 ducats.
The ordinary income of the pope for the year 1517 had been reckoned at about 580,000 ducats, of which 420,000 came from the States of the Church, 100,000 from annates, and 60,000 from the composition tax instituted by Sixtus IV. These sums, together with the considerable amounts accruing from indulgences, jubilees, and special fees, vanished as quickly as they were received. Then the pope resorted to pawning palace furniture, table plate, jewels, even statues of the apostles. Several banking firms and many individual creditors were ruined by the death of Leo.
Several minor events of Leo's pontificate are worthy of mention. He was particularly friendly with King Manuel I of Portugal on account of the latter's missionary enterprises in Asia and Africa. His concordat with Florence (1516) guaranteed the free election of the clergy in that city.
His constitution of 1 March 1519 condemned the king of Spain's claim to refuse the publication of papal bulls. He maintained close relations with Poland because of the Turkish advance and the Polish contest with the Teutonic Knights. His bull of July 1519, which regulated the discipline of the Polish Church, was later transformed into a concordat by Clement VII.
Leo showed special favours to the Jews and permitted them to erect a Hebrew printing-press at Rome.
He approved the formation of the Oratory of Divine Love, a group of pious men at Rome which later became the Theatine Order, and he canonized Francis of Paola.
Born at Florence, 11 December, 1475; died at Rome, 1 December, 1521, was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent (1449-1492) and Clarice Orsini, and from his earliest youth was destined for the Church. He received tonsure in 1482 and in 1483 was made Abbot of Font Douce in the French Diocese of Saintes and appointed Apostolic prothonotary by Sixtus IV. All the benefices which the Medici could obtain were at his disposal; he consequently became possessed of the rich Abbey of Passignano in 1484 and in 1486 of Monte Cassino. Owing to the constant pressure brought to bear by Lorenzo and his envoys, Innocent VIII in 1489, created the thirteen year-old child a cardinal, on condition that he should dispense with the insignia and the privilege of his office for three years. Meanwhile his education was completed by the most distinguished Humanists and scholars, Angelo Poliziano, Marsilio Ficino, and Bernardo Dovizi (later Cardinal Bibbiena). From 1489 to 1491 Giovanni de' Medici studied theology and canon law, at Pisa, under Filippo Decio and Bartolomeo Sozzini. On 9 March, 1492, at Fiesole, he was invested with the insignia of a cardinal and on 22 March entered Rome. The next day the pope received him in consistory with the customary ceremonies. The Romans found the youthful cardinal more mature than his age might warrant them to expect. His father sent him an impressive letter of advice marked by good sense and knowledge of human nature, besides bearing witness to the high and virtuous sentiments to which the elder Lorenzo returned towards the end of his life. In this letter he enjoins upon his son certain rules of conduct, and admonishes him to be honourable, virtuous, and exemplary, the more so as the College of Cardinals at that time was deficient in these good qualities.
In the very next month Lorenzo's death recalled the cardinal to Florence. He returned once more to Rome for the papal election, which resulted, very much against his approval, in the elevation of the unworthy Alexander VI, after which Giovanni remained in Florence from August, 1492, until the expulsion of the Medici in 1494, when he fled from his native city in the habit of a Franciscan monk. After several fruitless attempts to restore the supremacy of his family, he led the life of a literary and artistic amateur. Patronage, liberality, and poor financial administration frequently reduced him even then to distressing straits; indeed, he remained a bad manager to the last. But though his manner of life was quite worldly he excelled in dignity, propriety, and irreproachable conduct most of the cardinals. Towards the end of the pontificate of Julius II (1503-1513), fortune once more smiled on Giovanni de' Medici. In August, 1511, the pope was dangerously ill and the Medici cardinal already aspired to the succession. In October, 1511, he became legate in Bologna and Romagna, and cherished the hope that his family would again rule in Florence. The Florentines had taken the part of the schismatic Pisans (see JULIUS II) for which reason the pope supported the Medici. Meanwhile the cardinal suffered another reverse. The army, Spanish and papal, with which he was sojourning, was defeated in 1512 at Ravenna by the French and he was taken prisoner. But it was a Pyrrhic victory, for the French soon lost all their possessions in Italy, and the cardinal, who was to have been taken to France, succeeded in making his escape. The supremacy of the Medici in Florence was re-established in September, 1512, and this unexpected change in the fortunes of his family was only the prelude to higher honours.
Julius II died on 21 February, 1513, and on 11 March Giovanni de' Medici, then but thirty-eight years old, was elected pope. In the first scrutiny he received only one vote. His adherents, the younger cardinals, held back his candidacy until the proper moment. The election met with approval even in France, although here and there a natural misgiving was felt as to whether the youthful pope would prove equal to his burden. In many quarters high hopes were placed in him by politicians who relied on his pliancy, by scholars and artists of whom he was already a patron, and by theologians who looked for energetic church reforms under a pacific ruler. Unfortunately he realized the hopes only of the artists, literati, and worldlings who looked upon the papal court as a centre of amusement.
Leo's personal appearance has been perpetuated for us in Raphael's celebrated picture at the Pitti Gallery in Florence, which represents him with Cardinals Medici and Rossi. He was not a handsome man. His fat, shiny, effeminate countenance with weak eyes protrudes in the picture from under a close-fitting cap. The unwieldy body is supported by thin legs. His movements were sluggish and during ecclesiastical functions his corpulence made him constantly wipe the perspiration from his face and hands, to the distress of the bystanders. But when he laughed or spoke the unpleasant impression vanished. He had an agreeable voice, knew how to express himself with elegance and vivacity, and his manner was easy and gracious. "Let us enjoy the papacy since God has given it to us", he is said to have remarked after his election. The Venetian ambassador who related this of him was not unbiased, nor was he in Rome at the time, nevertheless the phrase illustrates fairly the pope's pleasure-loving nature and the lack of seriousness that characterized him. He paid no attention to the dangers threatening the papacy, and gave himself up unrestrainedly to amusements, that were provided in lavish abundance. He was possessed by an insatiable love of pleasure, that distinctive trait of his family. Music, the theatre, art, and poetry appealed to him as to any pampered worldling. Though temperate himself, he loved to give banquets and expensive entertainments, accompanied by revelry and carousing; and notwithstanding his indolence he had a strong passion for the chase, which he conducted every year on the largest scale. From his youth he was an enthusiastic lover of music and attracted to his court the most distinguished musicians. At table he enjoyed hearing improvisations and though it is hard to believe, in view of his dignity and his artistic tastes, the fact remains that he enjoyed also the flat and absurd jokes of buffoons. Their loose speech and incredible appetites delighted him. In ridicule and caricature he was himself a master. Pageantry, dear to the pleasure-seeking Romans, bull-fights, and the like, were not neglected. Every year he amused himself during the carnival with masques, music, theatrical performances, dances, and races. Even during the troubled years of 1520 he took part in unusually brilliant festivities. Theatrical representations, with agreeable music and graceful dancing, were his favourite diversions. The papal palace became a theatre and the pope did not hesitate to attend such improper plays as the immoral "Calendra" by Bibbiena and Ariosto's indecent "Suppositi". His contemporaries all praised and admired Leo's unfailing good temper, which he never entirely lost even in adversity and trouble. Himself cheerful, he wished to see others cheerful. He was good-natured and liberal and never refused a favour either to his relatives and fellow Florentines, who flooded Rome and seized upon all official positions, or to the numerous other petitioners, artists and poets. His generosity was boundless, nor was his pleasure in giving a pose or desire for vainglory; it came from the heart. He never was ostentatious and attached no importance to ceremonial. He was lavish in works of charity; convents, hospitals, discharged soldiers, poor students, pilgrims, exiles, cripples, the blind, the sick, the unfortunate of every description were generously remembered, and more than 6000 ducats were annually distributed in alms.
Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that the large treasure left by Julius II was entirely dissipated in two years. In the spring of 1515 the exchequer was empty and Leo never after recovered from his financial embarrassment. Various doubtful and reprehensible methods were resorted to for raising money. He created new offices and dignities, and the most exalted places were put up for sale. Jubilees and indulgences were degraded almost entirely into financial transactions, yet without avail, as the treasury was ruined. The pope's income amounted to between 500,000 and 600,000 ducats. The papal household alone, which Julius II had maintained on 48,000 ducats, now cost double that sum. In all, Leo spent about four and a half million ducats during his pontificate and left a debt amounting to 400,000 ducats. On his unexpected death his creditors faced financial ruin. A lampoon proclaimed that "Leo X had consumed three pontificates; the treasure of Julius II, the revenues of his own reign, and those of his successor." It is proper, however, to pay full credit to the good qualities of Leo. He was highly cultivated, susceptible to all that was beautiful, a polished orator and a clever writer, possessed of good memory and judgment, in manner dignified and majestic. It was generally acknowledged, even by those who were unfriendly towards him, that he was unfeignedly religious and strictly fulfilled his spiritual duties. He heard Mass and read his Breviary daily and fasted three times a week. His piety cannot truly be described as deep or spiritual, but that does not justify the continued repetition of his alleged remark: "How much we and our family have profited by the legend of Christ, is sufficiently evident to all ages." John Bale, the apostate English Carmelite, the first to give currency to these words in the time of Queen Elizabeth, was not even a contemporary of Leo. Among the many sayings of Leo X that have come down to us, there is not one of a sceptical nature. In his private life he preserved as pope the irreproachable reputation that he had borne when a cardinal. His character shows a remarkable mingling of good and bad traits.
The fame of Leo X is due to his promotion of literature, science, and art. Under him Rome became more than ever the centre of the literary world. "From all parts", wrote Cardinal Riario in 1515 to Erasmus at Rotterdam, "men of letters are hurrying to the Eternal City, their common country, their support, and their patroness." Poets were especially numerous in Rome and few princes have been so lauded in verse as Leo X. He lavished gifts, favours, positions, titles, not only on real poets and scholars, but often on poetasters and commonplace jesters. He esteemed particularly the papal secretaries Bembo and Sadoleto, both celebrated poets and prose writers. Bembo charmed everyone by his polish and wit. His classic Ciceronian letters exhibit a remarkably varied intercourse with almost all the celebrities of his day. Among other things, he prepared a critical edition of Dante's works and was a zealous collector of manuscripts, books, and works of art. His conduct was not in accord with his position as papal notary, count palatine, and incumbent of numerous benefices, for he was worldly and self-indulgent. Sadoleto was quite another man. He led a pure and spotless life, was a model priest, united in himself the different phases of ancient and modern culture and was an ardent enthusiast for antiquity. In elegance and polish he was in no way inferior to Bembo. Among the Latin poets of Medicean Rome we may briefly mention Vida, who composed a poem of great merit, the "Christiade" and was extolled by his contemporaries as the Christian Virgil; Sannazaro, author of an epic poem on the birth of Christ which is a model of style; the Carmelite Spagnolo Mantovano with his "Calendar of Feasts"; Ferreri, who in the most naïve way recast the hymns in the Breviary with heathen terms, images, and allusions. The total number of these poets exceeds one hundred; and a lampoon of 1521 says they were more numerous than the stars in heaven. Most of them have fallen into well-deserved oblivion.
This is equally true of the contemporary Italian poetry—more prolific than notable. Among the Italian poets Trissino wrote a tragedy, "Sophonisba", and an epic "L'Italia liberata dai Gothi", but had no real success with either in spite of earnest purpose and beauty of language. Rucellai, a relative of the pope, whose clever and sympathetic didactic poem on bees met with great approval from his contemporaries, owed his reputation chiefly to an inferior work, the tragedy of "Rosmonda". The celebrated improvisatore, Tebaldeo wrote in both Latin and Italian. Towards Ariosto the pope was remarkably harsh. Archæology received great encouragement. One of its most distinguished representatives was Manetti. In 1521 the first collection of Roman topographical inscriptions appeared and introduced a new era. Important progress was due to the works of the learned antiquary, Fulvio. Fulvio, Calvo, Castiglione, and Raphael had planned an archæological survey of ancient Rome with accompanying text. Raphael's early death abruptly interrupted the work which was carried on by Fulvio and Calvo. The Greek language also found favour and encouragement; Aldus Manutius, the Venetian publisher, whose excellent and correct editions of Greek classics became so popular, was one of Leo's protégés. Andreas Johannes Lascaris and Musurus were summoned from Greece to Rome and founded a Greek college, the "Medicean Academy". Moreover, the pope encouraged the collection of manuscripts and books. He recovered his family library which had been sold by the Florentines in 1494 to the monks of San Marco, had it brought to Rome, and enforced the regulations of Sixtus IV for the Vatican Library. The most distinguished of his librarians was Inghirami, less indeed through any learned works than for his gift of eloquence. He was called the Cicero of his age and played an important rôle at court. In 1516 he was succeeded by the Bolognese Humanist Beroaldo. Leo tried, as Nicholas V had formerly done, to increase the treasures of the Vatican Library, and with this object sent emissaries in all directions, even to Scandinavia and the Orient, to discover literary treasures and either obtain them, or borrow them for the purpose of making copies. The results, however, were unimportant. The Roman university, which had entered on decay, was reformed, but did not long flourish. On the whole, Leo, as a literary Mæcenas, has been overrated by his biographer Giovio and later panegyrists. Relatively little was accomplished, partly on account of the constant lack of money and partly because of the thoughtlessness and haste which the pope often showed in distributing his favours. He was in reality only a dilettante. Yet he gave an important stimulus to scientific and literary life, and was a potent factor in the cultural development of the West.
More important results ensued from his promotion of art, though he was unquestionably inferior in taste and judgment to his predecessor Julius II. Leo encouraged painting beyond all other branches of art; pre-eminent in this class stand the immortal productions of Raphael. In 1508 he had come to Rome, summoned by Julius II, and remained there until his death in 1520. The protection extended to this master genius is Leo's most enduring claim on posterity. Raphael's achievements, already numerous and important, took on more dignity and grandeur under Leo. He painted, sketched, and engraved from antique works of art, modeled in clay, made designs for palaces, directed the work of others by order of the pope, gave advice and assistance alike to supervisors and workmen. "Everything pertaining to art the pope turns over to Raphael", wrote an ambassador in 1518. This is not, of course, the place to treat Raphael's prodigious activity. We limit ourselves to brief mention of a few of his works. He finished the decoration of the Vatican halls or "Stanze" begun under Julius II, and in the third hall cleverly referred to Leo X by introducing scenes from the pontificates of Leo III and Leo IV. A more important commission was given him to paint the cartoons for the tapestries of the Sistine Chapel, the highest of Raphael's achievements, the most magnificent of them being "St. Peter's miraculous draught of fishes" and "St. Paul preaching in Athens". A third famous enterprise was the decoration of the Vatican Loggia done by Raphael's pupils under his direction, and mostly from his designs. The most exquisite of his paintings are the wonderful Sistine Madonna and the "Transfiguration". Sculpture showed a marked decline under Leo X. Michaelangelo offered his services and worked from 1516 to 1520 on a marble façade for the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, but did not finish it. On the other hand the pope gave especial attention and encouragement to the minor arts, e.g. decorative carving, and furthered the industrial arts. The greatest and most difficult task of Leo was in the field of architecture and was inherited from his predecessor, viz., the continuation of the new St. Peter's. Bramante remained its chief architect until his death in 1514. Raphael succeeded him, but in his six years of office little was done, much to his regret, through lack of means.
We may now turn to the political and religious events of Leo's pontificate. Here the bright splendour that diffuses itself over his literary and artistic patronage, is soon changed to deepest gloom. His well-known peaceable inclinations made the political situation a disagreeable heritage, and he tried to maintain tranquillity by exhortations, to which, however, no one listened. France desired to wreak vengeance for the defeat of 1512 and to reconquer Milan. Venice entered into an alliance with her, whereupon Emperor Maximilian, Spain, and England in 1513 concluded a Holy League against France. The pope wished at first to remain neutral but such a course would have isolated him, so he decided to be faithful to the policy of his predecessors and sought accordingly to oppose the designs of France, but in doing so, to avoid severity. In 1513 the French were decisively routed at Novara and were forced to effect a reconciliation with Rome. The schismatic cardinals (see JULIUS II) submitted and were pardoned, and France then took part in the Lateran Council which Leo had continued.
But success was soon clouded by uncertainty. France endeavoured to form an alliance with Spain and to obtain Milan and Genoa by a matrimonial alliance. Leo feared for the independence of the Papal States and for the so-called freedom of Italy. He negotiated on all sides without committing himself, and in 1514 succeeded in bringing about an Anglo-French alliance. The fear of Spain now gave way to the bugbear of French supremacy and the pope began negotiating in a deceitful and disloyal manner with France and her enemies simultaneously. Before he had decided to bind himself in one way or the other, Louis XII died and the young and ardent Francis I succeeded him. Once more Leo sought delay. He supported the League against France, but until the last moment hoped for an arrangement with Francis. But the latter shortly after his descent upon Italy, won the great victory of Marignano, 13-14 September, 1515, and the pope now made up his mind to throw himself into the arms of the Most Christian King and beg for mercy. He was obliged to alter his policy completely and to abandon to the French king Parma and Piacenza, which had been reunited with Milan. An interview with King Francis at Bologna resulted in the French Concordat (1516), that brought with it such important consequences for the Church. The Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438), deeply inimical to the papacy, was revoked, but the pope paid a high price for this concession, when he granted to the king the right of nomination to all the sees, abbeys, and priories of France. Through this and other concessions, e.g. that pertaining to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the royal influence over the French Church was assured. Great discontent resulted in France among the clergy and in the parliaments. The abolition of the Pragmatic Sanction, drawn up in compliance with the decrees of the Council of Basle, affected the adherents of the conciliar system of church government. The abolition of free ecclesiastical elections affected grievously the interests of many and opposition to the Concordat was maintained for centuries. The advantage to the Church and the pope of such a great sacrifice was that France, hitherto schismatical in attitude, now stood firmly bound to the Holy See, which thus turned aside the danger of complete estrangement. However, the way in which the French crown abused its control over the Church led at a later period to great evils.
Meanwhile the Lateran Council, continued by Leo after his elevation to the papacy, was nearing its close, having issued numerous and very timely decrees, e.g. against the false philosophical teachings of the Paduan professor, Pietro Pompanazzi, who denied the immortality of the soul. The encroachments of pagan Humanism on the spiritual life were met by the simultaneous rise of a new order of philosophical and theological studies. In the ninth session was promulgated a Bull that treated exhaustively of reforms in the Curia and the Church. Abbeys and benefices were henceforth to be bestowed only on persons of merit and according to canon law. Provisions of benefices and consistorial proceedings were regulated; ecclesiastical depositions and transfers made more difficult; commendatory benefices were forbidden; and unions and reservations of benefices, also dispensations for obtaining them, were restricted. Measures were also taken for reforming the curial administration and the lives of cardinals, clerics, and the faithful. The religious instruction of children was declared a duty. Blasphemers and incontinent, negligent, or simoniac ecclesiastics were to be severely punished. Church revenues were no longer to be turned to secular uses. The immunities of the clergy must be respected, and all kinds of superstition abolished. The eleventh session dealt with the cure of souls, particularly with preaching. These measures, unhappily, were not thoroughly enforced, and therefore the much-needed genuine reform was not realized. Towards the close of the council (1517) the noble and highly cultured layman, Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, delivered a remarkable speech on the necessity of a reform of morals; his account of the moral condition of the clergy is saddening, and reveals the many and great difficulties that stood in the way of a genuine reform. He concluded with the warning that if Leo X left such offences longer unpunished and refused to apply healing remedies to these wounds of the Church, it was to be feared that God Himself would cut off the rotten limbs and destroy them with fire and sword. That very year this prophetic warning was verified. The salutary reforms of the Lateran Council found no practical acceptance. Pluralism, commendatory benefices, and the granting of ecclesiastical dignities to children remained customary. Leo himself did not scruple to set aside repeatedly the decrees of the council. The Roman Curia, then much despised and against which so many inveighed with violence, remained as worldly as ever. The pope was either unwilling or not in a position to regulate the unworthy and immoral conduct of many of the Roman courtiers. The political situation absorbed his attention and was largely responsible for the premature close of the council.
In March, 1516, Emperor Maximilian crossed the Alps to make war on the French and Venetians. The pope followed his usual course of shifting and dissimulation. At first, when events seemed favourable for the French, he supported Francis. But his former double-dealing had left Francis in such ill-humour that he now adhered to an antipapal policy, whereupon Leo adopted an unfriendly attitude towards the king. Their relations were further strained apropos of the Duchy of Urbino. During the French invasion the Duke of Urbino had withheld the assistance which he was in duty bound to render the pope, who now exiled him and gave the title to his nephew, Lorenzo de' Medici. The French king was highly displeased with the papal policy, and when Francis I and Maximilian formed the alliance of Cambrai in 1517 and agreed on a partition of Upper and Central Italy, Pope Leo found himself in a disagreeable position. In part by reason of his constant vacillation he had drifted into a dangerous isolation, added to which the Duke of Urbino reconquered his duchy; to crown all other calamities came a conspiracy of cardinals against the pope's life. The ringleader, Cardinal Petrucci, was a young worldly ecclesiastic who thought only of money and pleasure. He and the other cardinals who had brought about Leo's selection, made afterwards such numerous and insistent demands that the pope could not yield to them. Other causes for discontent were found in the unfortunate war with Urbino and in the abolition of the election capitulations and the excessive privileges of the cardinals. Petrucci bore personal ill-will towards the "ungrateful pope", who had removed his brother from the government of Siena. He tried to have the pope poisoned by a physician, but suspicion was aroused and the plot was betrayed through a letter. The investigation implicated Cardinals Sauli, Riario, Soderini, and Castellesi; they had been guilty at least of listening to Petrucci, and perhaps had desired his success, though their full complicity was not actually proved. Petrucci was executed and the others punished by fines; Riario paid the enormous sum of 150,000 ducats.
The affair throws a lurid light on the degree of corruption in the highest ecclesiastical circles. Unconcerned by the scandal he was giving, Leo took advantage of the proceeding to create thirty-one new cardinals, thereby obtaining an entirely submissive college and also money to carry on the unlucky war with Urbino. Not a few of these cardinals were chosen on account of the large sums they advanced. But this wholesale appointment also brought several virtuous and distinguished men into the Sacred College, and it was further important because it definitively established the superiority of the pope over the cardinals. The war with Urbino, encouraged by Francis I and Maximilian for the purpose of increasing Leo's difficulties, was finally brought to a close, after having cost enormous sums and emptied the papal treasury. Lorenzo de' Medici remained in possession of the duchy (1517). Faithful to the ancient tradition of the Holy See, from the very beginning of his reign, Leo zealously advocated a crusade against the Turks, and at the close of the war with Urbino took up the cause with renewed determination. In November, 1517, he submitted an exhaustive memorial to all the princes of Europe, and endeavored to unite them in a common effort, but in vain. The replies of the powers proved widely dissimilar. They were suspicious of one another and each sought naturally to realize various secondary purposes of its own. Leo answered a threatening letter from the sultan by active exertions. Religious processions were held, a truce of five years was proclaimed throughout Christendom and the Crusade was preached (1518). The pope showed real earnestness, but his great plan miscarried through lack of cooperation on the part of the powers. Moreover, Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of England, thwarted the pope's peaceful efforts and thus dealt a grievous blow to the international prestige of the papacy. When the Crusade was preached in Germany, it found a large section of the people strongly predisposed against the Curia, and furnished them with an occasion to express their views in plain terms. It was believed that the Curia merely sought to obtain more money. One of the numerous spiteful pamphlets issued declared that the real Turks were in Italy and that these demons could only be pacified by streams of gold. The good cause was gradually merged with an important political question, the succession to the imperial throne. Maximilian sought the election for his grandson, Charles of Spain. A rival appeared in the person of Francis I, and both he and Charles vied with each other in seeking to win the pope's favour by repeated assurances of their willingness to move against the Turks. The event of the election relegated the crusade to the background. In 1519 the pope realized that there was no longer any prospect of carrying out his design.
Leo's attitude towards the imperial succession was influenced primarily by his anxiety concerning the power and independence of the Holy See and the so-called freedom of Italy. Neither candidate was acceptable to him, Charles, if possible, less than Francis, owing to the preponderance of power that must result from his accession. The pope would have preferred a German electoral prince, that of Saxony or later, the Elector of Brandenburg. He "sailed", as usual, "with two compasses", held both rivals at bay by a double game played with matchless skill, and even succeeded in concluding simultaneously an alliance with both. The deceitfulness and insincerity of his political dealings cannot be entirely excused, either by the difficult position in which he was placed or by the example of his secular contemporaries. Maximilian's death (January, 1519) ended the pope's irresolution. First he tried to defeat both candidates by raising up a German elector. Then he worked zealously for Francis I in the endeavour to secure his firm friendship in case Charles became emperor, an event which grew daily more likely. Only at the last moment when the election of Charles was certain and unavoidable did Leo come over to his side; after the election he watched in great anxiety the attitude the new emperor might assume.
The most important occurrence of Leo's pontificate and that of gravest consequence to the Church was the Reformation, which began in 1517. We cannot enter into a minute account of this movement, the remote cause of which lay in the religious, political, and social conditions of Germany. It is certain, however, that the seeds of discontent amid which Luther threw his firebrand had been germinating for centuries. The immediate cause was bound up with the odious greed for money displayed by the Roman Curia, and shows how far short all efforts at reform had hitherto fallen. Albert of Brandenburg, already Archbishop of Magdeburg, received in addition the Archbishopric of Mainz and the Bishopric of Hallerstadt, but in return was obliged to collect 10,000 ducats, which he was taxed over and above the usual confirmation fees. To indemnify hiim, and to make it possible to discharge these obligations Rome permitted him to have preached in his territory the plenary indulgence promised all those who contributed to the new St. Peter's; he was allowed to keep one half the returns, a transaction which brought dishonour on all concerned in it. Added to this, abuses occurred during the preaching of the Indulgence. The money contributions, a mere accessory, were frequently the chief object, and the "Indulgences for the Dead" became a vehicle of inadmissible teachings. That Leo X, in the most serious of all the crises which threatened the Church, should fail to prove the proper guide for her, is clear enough from what has been related above. He recognized neither the gravity of the situation nor the underlying causes of the revolt. Vigorous measures of reform might have proved an efficacious antidote, but the pope was deeply entangled in political affairs and allowed the imperial election to overshadow the revolt of Luther; moreover, he gave himself up unrestrainedly to his pleasures and failed to grasp fully the duties of his high office.
The pope's last political efforts were directed to expanding the States of the Church, establishing a dominating power in central Italy by means of the acquisition of Ferrara. In 1519 he concluded a treaty with Francis I against Emperor Charles V. But the selfishness and encroachments of the French and the struggle against the Lutheran movement, induced him soon to unite with Charles, after he had again resorted to his double-faced method of treating with both rivals. In 1521 pope and emperor signed a defensive alliance for the purpose of driving the French out of Italy. After some difficulty, the allies occupied Milan and Lombardy. Amid the rejoicings over these successes, the pope died suddenly of a malignant malaria. His enemies are wrongly accused of having poisoned him. The magnificent pope was given a simple funeral and not until the reign of Paul III was a monument erected to his memory in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. It is cold, prosaic, and quite unworthy of such a connoisseur as Leo.
The only possible verdict on the pontificate of Leo X is that it was unfortunate for the Church. Sigismondo Tizio, whose devotion to the Holy See is undoubted, writes truthfully: "In the general opinion it was injurious to the Church that her Head should delight in plays, music, the chase and nonsense, instead of paying serious attention to the needs of his flock and mourning over their misfortunes". Von Reumont says pertinently—"Leo X is in great measure to blame for the fact that faith in the integrity and merit of the papacy, in its moral and regenerating powers, and even in its good intentions, should have sunk so low that men could declare extinct the old true spirit of the Church."