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ABRIDGED HISTORY OF ROME - PART III
II - SPLENDOUR AND CRISIS
In this page:
The Renaissance Man
Pope Julius II (Palazzo dei Tribunali)
A Roman Cenacle
Pope Leo X
Between France and Spain - Pope Adrian VI
Pope Clement VII and the Sack of Rome
The Renaissance Man
Renaissance is the French translation of the Italian word Rinascita or Rinascimento and it means "rebirth"
with a reference to the revival of philosophical and artistic concepts typical of the ancient Greek and Roman world.
In Florence a group of philosophers and artists supported by Lorenzo il Magnifico
developed the theoretical principles supporting a new approach to the role of man, so that while Renaissance is usually referred to arts, Humanism
is the term defining the philosophical aspect of the same movement.
Marsilio Ficino in particular revived the knowledge of Neoplatonist philosophers who in the IIIrd century AD through their own reading of Plato's
works and in particular of Timaeus, believed human perfection and happiness were attainable in this world, without awaiting an afterlife; beauty
was an essential element in the path towards this objective. Ficino chaired an Academy founded by the Medici which in a
way revived Plato's school; he was the tutor of Lorenzo. They both shared the view that the time was ripe for a new
golden age of the arts which included poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, music..
These views were placed into
a generic Christian frame, mainly to avoid charges of heresy.
In a simplified way Lorenzo summarized the mood of his time with these verses:
|Quant' e bella giovinezza||How beautiful is youth,
|Che si fugge tuttavia! ||that is always slipping away!|
|Chi vuol esser lieto, sia: ||Whoever wants to be happy, let him be so:|
|Di doman non c'e certezza. ||about
tomorrow there's no knowing.|
(from Trionfo di Bacco e Arianna, a short poem celebrating Bacchus and Ariadne;
these verses rephrase Horace's
carpe diem quam minimum credula postero - seize the day, and trust as little as possible in the future - Odes 1.11).
The Medici cenacle, the artistic and literary clique grouped around Lorenzo, did not represent the
whole Florentine society and in 1494, when the Medici were overthrown, Girolamo Savonarola, a Dominican friar
who called for an austere lifestyle, became the de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic; his supporters were
derogatorily called Piagnoni (weepers), but they were able to stay in power for three years; in February 1497 they carried
out the Bonfire of the Vanities; they burnt in Piazza della Signoria books, statues,
paintings, musical instruments, dresses, mirrors and even (like modern Talebans) chess sets.
Savonarola preached against the corruption at the court of Pope Alexander VI; the pope did not react immediately,
he preferred to wait his time.
Calendimaggio (the first day of May) was a traditional medieval festivity which recalled pagan celebrations of
fertility. In Florence it had become a sort of carnival, celebrated in a song by Agnolo Poliziano, the main poet at the court of Lorenzo:
|Ben venga maggio,
|E 'l gonfalon selvaggio! ||and the bunch of wild flowers!|
|Ben venga primavera, ||Welcome spring,|
|che vuol ch’uom s’innamori;||which makes men fall in love;|
|e voi donzelle, a schiera
||and you, young women, lined up
|con li vostri amadori,||with your lovers,|
|che di rose e di fiori ||you, who with roses and flowers|
|vi fate belle il maggio, ||embellish yourselves in May,|
|venite alla frescura||come under the shadow|
|delli verdi arbuscelli. ||of the green branches.|
Savonarola banished all May celebrations, but his sermon on Ascension Day (May 4) was met with boos; there were riots:
taverns reopened and men gambled again; on May 13, Pope Alexander VI excommunicated Savonarola and demanded his arrest
and execution: after a trial during which Savonarola was tortured he was sentenced to death and in May 1498 he was hanged
and burnt in Piazza della Signoria where the Bonfire of the Vanities had taken place.
(left) Main door of Palazzo di Sora; (centre) window of Palazzo Vidoni; (right) a Renaissance house in Via del Governo Vecchio near Palazzo Nardini
Renaissance artists admired classic works of arts, they studied them,
they investigated their proportions, but they did not
imitate them; while in the late XVIIIth century and in the early XIXth century
Neoclassic architects designed town halls, tribunals and churches which had the exterior
appearance of ancient temples,
Renaissance artists "moved forward" from the classic models (window of Palazzo Vidoni)
and even when they made use of
some elements of these models they combined them in new ways (entrance of Palazzo di Sora): the typical ordinary
Renaissance houses were designed with the aim of obtaining a
large surface which was used for graffiti, a particular kind of paintings (see below).
Pope Julius II
On August 18, 1503 Pope Alexander VI died after a very short illness; Cesare, his son, was ill too, as well as a
cardinal they had lunch with: historians tend to attribute the death to malaria,
also taking into consideration the season when it occurred, but at the time many thought the pope and his son had poisoned themselves by mistake with cantarella, an arsenic based powder they had used to kill their enemies.
Cesare, although ill, tried to influence the outcome of the conclave; the cardinals granted that he would retain his possessions in Romagna if he promised not to interfere with their decision. The cardinals chose not to choose in the sense that they
elected a cardinal who was very ill: Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, nephew of Pope Pius II: he became Pope Pius III and his pontificate lasted only 26 days.
During this period Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, nephew of Pope Sistus IV,
understood that the
ailing pope was close to death and he made agreements with the other cardinals
to secure his election in the forthcoming conclave.
He had a very strong personality and military and diplomatic skills: his self-esteem was so high
that he almost did not change his name when he was appointed pope: he became Pope Julius II.
Notwithstanding the assurance he had given to Cesare Borgia prior to his election, he soon managed to oust him from his
possessions, which in part Venice had occupied, profiting from a revolt in Faenza and Rimini.
The pope tried to convince the Venetians to return these towns to the Church,
but his diplomatic efforts failed. He then managed to organize a large coalition (League of Cambrai, after the French town where negotiations took place), which included
King Louis XII of France, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and the German
Emperor Maximilian I; it was the beginning of the Italian Wars: four wars which saw the involvement of almost all the
European nations and which ended in 1516 to start again in 1519 and continue
In April 1509 Venice was attacked on all fronts and in a matter of
months it nearly lost all its Italian possessions: the Venetian Senate sent
emissaries to the pope and by promising to help him in seizing the Duchy of Ferrara, a French ally, they
convinced the pope to agree on a reconciliation.
The next phase of the war saw the Venetian and Papal troops fighting against the French ones: the pope hired an army of Swiss mercenaries to attack the French, but King Louis managed to bribe them and was left
free to march towards Bologna, which in May 1511 was conquered. Pope Julius blamed this defeat on his nephew, Francesco Maria Della Rovere, Duke of Urbino.
The young duke suspected that his uncle's behaviour was suggested by Cardinal Francesco Alidosi,
a very close friend of the pope: the duke did not hesitate to stab the cardinal to death. There are two famous portraits of Francesco Maria della Rovere: one by Raphael painted most likely in 1504 when the duke was
fourteen (the duke was portrayed by Raphael also in The School of Athens): due to the age and the fine features of the face the duke has a sexually ambiguous look;
the second portrait was painted by Titian in 1532-38: the duke was depicted as a very manly military leader: the two portraits could not be more different (see the Iconography section for the links to the works of art mentioned in this page).
(left) Via Giulia;
(right) wall of the never completed Palazzo dei Tribunali
Pope Julius II continued his predecessors' renovation program of Rome of and
focussed his attention on the rioni along the river and in particular Regola and
He opened a new street in Regola which was named
after him: it provided a direct link between the Florentine quarter in Ponte and Ponte Sisto, the
bridge built by his uncle. He wanted to give importance to the new street and he planned to locate
there the various Tribunals which existed in Rome: in 1508 he commissioned the new building to Bramante
who designed a square courtyard surrounded by a portico and by the offices of the
tribunals: the project was abandoned after the death of the pope in 1513 and the area at a later stage was acquired by a
brotherhood which built small houses on top of the external walls of the palace conceived by Bramante.
Pope Julius II opened an even longer street on the other bank of the river:
Via della Lungara linked Porta S. Spirito
with Porta Settimiana: it was called Sub Janiculo because it was located at the foot of that hill: the
street continued beyond Porta Settimiana and was called
Via Transtiberina because it crossed Trastevere (today it is called Via della Lungaretta).
A Roman Cenacle
In June 1511 the French had conquered most of Romagna and Pope Julius II launched a sort of crusade against them:
he convinced not only Ferdinand II of Aragon and the German Emperor Maximilian I to declare war on Louis XII of France, but even
King Henry VIII joined the alliance (the Holy League) with the aim of expanding the English holdings in northern France.
During the initial phase of the war the French held their positions, but by May 1512 they had to retreat to Milan,
which was attacked by another Swiss army hired by the pope: this time the mercenaries
did not defect and the French had to withdraw across the Alps.
The winners met at Mantua to discuss the partition of
the conquered territories, but were unable to reach an agreement;
Pope Julius received Modena and Parma and also the assurance that the Spanish troops would overthrow the govenment of the
Florentine Republic, which the pope had reproached for having hosted a council promoted by the French. He could not however
obtain Ferrara: there were other disagreements among the members of the Holy League, but Pope
Julius II did not have any say in the upcoming fourth phase of the war because he died in February
Pope Julius II was the founder of the Swiss Guard: for this reason the morion (* external link) the guards wear on particularly solemn occasions is decorated with the pope's coat of arms (an oak).
(left) 1512 inscription celebrating Pope Julius II opposite Palazzo del Banco di S. Spirito; (right) Renaissance house in the Florentine quarter opposite S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini
What Lorenzo il Magnifico had been for the Florentine Renaissance, Pope Julius II was for the Roman Renaissance; notwithstanding his personal
involvement in the Italian Wars he attracted the most important artists of that period to Rome: Bramante was charged with the design of
S. Pietro Nuovo: Pope Julius II laid the first stone of the new basilica on April 18, 1506: work started from the pillar which subsequently became known as that of Veronica: the tomb of St Peter, the papal altar and the choir were protected by Bramante's Tegurium (protection) a temporary building: religious
celebrations took place in what was left of the old basilica for more than a century until November 1609 (for an overview of the completion of S. Pietro click
here). The pope wanted to be buried in a monument at the centre of the new basilica
and in 1505 he commissioned it to Michelangelo, who with his statue of David in Florence had become the most acclaimed Italian sculptor: the monument was never completed, in part due to a controversy between the pope and the artist
(according to Michelangelo, Bramante and Raphael were envious of him
and spoke badly of him to the pope): the monument (much smaller than originally designed)
was eventually placed in S. Pietro in Vincoli. Michelangelo returned to Florence, but the pope wanted him back: the two met in Bologna and Michelangelo accepted a new commission:
a titanic challenge for him as Pope Julius asked him to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: Michelangelo did not regard
himself as a painter, but rather as a sculptor: in order to overcome his resistance the pope left him free to paint what he thought worked best,
a recognition of an artist's right to follow his inspiration: when eventually in October 1512 the scaffolding was removed and the
ceiling became visible the admiration was general and unreserved.
Pope Julius II acquired two ancient statues which greatly influenced Renaissance artists: when he was a cardinal he bought
a statue of Apollo which in 1511 he placed in Palazzo del Belvedere, so that the statue became known as Apollo Belvedere; in January 1506 the pope acquired
a statue which had just been unearthed on the site of Terme di Tito: it
portrayed an event in Virgil's Aeneid (Book 2): the
Trojan priest Laocoön and his two sons strangled by sea snakes,
sent by the gods who favoured the Greeks, because Laocoön had tried to warn the Trojan citizens of the danger of
bringing the wooden horse into Troy.
In 1508 Pope Julius II commissioned to Raphael the decoration of his secret
library in the papal apartment in the Vatican palace: the School of Athens, one of
the frescoes of this room (known as Stanza della Segnatura) can be regarded as a visual summary of the
Renaissance Neoplatonist philosophy.
Pope Julius' patronage of the arts was supplemented
by that of Agostino Chigi, a banker from Siena, who made a fortune with the exploitation of the
alum mines at Tolfa: he helped the pope and in return he was appointed treasurer of the Apostolic Camera and he was allowed
to add to the mountains of his coat of arms the oak of the Della Rovere.
He lived in a sumptuous residence decorated by Raphael on the Via della Lungara opened by the pope. This residence was a gathering point for artists and
poets: he and his mistress Imperia, one of the most celebrated Roman
courtesans, offered lavish banquets which were followed by philosophical and artistic discussions:
he revived in Rome the Florentine Medici cenacle. He also commissioned from
Raphael the Chigi Chapel in S. Maria del Popolo and had him paint another Chigi Chapel in S. Maria della Pace.
The pope and Agostino Chigi tried to curb the power of the Florentine bankers and new financial institutions were
founded in what is called Via dei Banchi Nuovi (to distinguish it from Via dei Banchi Vecchi in the Florentine quarter).
Pope Leo X
At the conclave which followed the death of Pope Julius II Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici was elected pope. He took the name of Leo (X)
and many lions were painted or sculptured in Rome to please the pope, but he was not a lion at all. The war in northern Italy
entered its fourth phase with the dissolution of the
Holy League and a new alliance between France and Venice; Francis I, the new French king, defeated the Swiss in 1515 and conquered
again Milan: Pope Leo X met with the king in Bologna and signed the peace although this meant losing Parma and Modena.
In 1517 he did not take seriously the initial acts of Martin Luther, a German
Dominican monk who challenged the doctrine of the Church and condemned the behaviour of the Curia.
One of the reasons for the slow and ineffective reaction of the pope
lay in the fact that Luther was protected by Frederick the Wise, a German prince who was the pope's candidate for the role of Holy Roman Emperor. King Ferdinand I of Spain died in 1516 and Emperor Maximilian I died in 1519:
their heir was Charles, their common grandson (son of Philip the Handsome (of Austria) and Joanna of Castile). Pope Leo X feared that if Charles became emperor he
would achieve far too great a power, so to please his candidate he delayed a tough action to
repress the views of Luther. It was only after Charles had managed to be elected emperor
that Pope Leo X issued the bull Exsurge Domine to excommunicate Luther and his followers.
The election of Charles raised the envy of Francis and a new war broke out in Italy: Pope Leo X made an alliance
with Charles V in the hope of having his support against the Lutherans. In November 1521 Imperial and Papal (Swiss) forces defeated the French and forced them to abandon Milan and withdraw from Italy;
the pope rejoiced at the news, but just for a few days, because on December 1st he died.
Roma picta (painted Rome): graffiti at Palazzo Ricci and Palazzo Milesi (della Maschera d'Oro) detail portraying Apollo killing Niobe's children
Pope Leo X did not leave room for scandal on moral grounds as his
predecessors had done,
but his passion for all sorts of entertainment was not appropriate for the spiritual leadership he was expected to exert.
Jesters (including some friars) competed to amuse the pope and they had access to his private apartments at any time; another papal
leisure activity was to organize parades through the streets of Rome to show off a white elephant presented to him by the King of Portugal.
Raphael continued the decoration of the papal apartment and he portrayed the pope as
his great predecessor Pope Leo I in the act of warning Attila not to invade Italy: in another fresco,
under the pretext of showing an episode in the life of Pope Leo IV, Raphael portrayed the destruction of Troy
and the flight of Aeneas. There was little spiritual breath in these fine works by
Raphael; the growing concern for the developments of the Reformation promoted
by Martin Luther led Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, cousin of Pope Leo X to ask Raphael to paint for
him the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor: according to Giorgio Vasari who wrote the biographies of the main Renaissance artists ('The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects'),
this painting, Raphael's last, was "the most celebrated, the most beautiful and the most divine".
Painting was so popular that not only the interior of the richest residences was painted,
but also the façades were decorated using a particular technique called
graffito: usually only black and white were used, but in some
cases a touch of gold was added: in its simplest form the graffito was
limited to the design of architectural elements such as lintels, frames and pillars,
but it sometimes included strips of images: the subjects were mainly taken from the history of Ancient Rome or from mythological
Pope Leo X followed the steps of his predecessor in opening a new long and straight street which was named after
him Via Leonina, but which eventually became known as Via di Ripetta:
it linked an area where the Medici had several possessions (Palazzo Medici Lante, Palazzo Madama and Palazzo di Fiorenza) with Piazza del Popolo.
He promoted a wide restoration of S. Maria in Domnica and
his pontificate saw the initial construction or the modification of several churches: among others S. Luigi dei Francesi, S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini, S. Eligio degli Orefici and S. Marcello al Corso.
The palaces which were started during the pontificate of pope Leo X included Palazzo Baldassini, Palazzo Valle, Palazzo Salviati
and Villa Madama.
Between France and Spain
Franza o Spagna, purchè se magna (either France or Spain, as long as we can eat)
this popular saying summarizes the conditions of Italy in the XVIth century because the country became the main battlefield in the struggle between King Francis I of France and Emperor
Charles V: the troops involved in the war were mainly soldiers of fortune; they were faithful only to their leaders who in turn were ready to switch from one side to the other if they were not
paid enough: destruction and looting affected both northern Italy (where most of the battles occurred) and the peninsula, as the Spanish troops moved northwards from Naples.
Another factor in the Italian decline was
the growing importance of the oceanic routes to India and the New World: the Portuguese established colonies in India and begun a naval
blockade of the maritime trade between that country and the Arab world
to force all trade to Europe to
use the route they controlled around southern Africa. They conquered Socotra in 1507 and
Hormuz in 1508 thus gaining control of the accesses to the Red Sea and to the Persian Gulf. A few years later Sultan Selim I with a swift campaign conquered Syria and Egypt: the Eastern Mediterranean Sea became an Ottoman
lake: the Venetian and Genoese trade routes with Syria and Alexandria lost most of their importance.
Pestilences and the continuing spread of syphilis contributed to the impoverishment of Italy.
The conclave which followed the death of Pope Leo X was not an easy one as the cardinals felt the
pressure of Spain and France and in general the feeling that a major crisis was looming for the Church: they eventually chose a cardinal
who had not taken part in the assembly: Cardinal Adrian Florisz who became Pope Adrian VI had been the tutor of
Charles V, he was trusted by the emperor, being Dutch he was thought to be able to
regain the confidence of those who had adhered to the Reformation and finally he was immaculate from a moral viewpoint.
The new pope took his time to reach Rome where he arrived in August 1522: he knew very little about the Roman Curia and trusted only a few Dutch and Spanish friends he had brought with him: understanding that one of the causes of
the crisis of the Church lay with the political and military role which had characterized
some of his predecessors, he proclaimed the neutrality of the Church, but this only
led to dissatisfying both the French king and the Emperor.
The acknowledgement by the pope of the responsibilities of the Church for the current situation led
Martin Luther to further attack him claiming that he was an agent of Evil. The pope's calls for unity among the Christian rulers to
face the Ottoman threat (in December 1522 Sultan Suleyman had conquered Rhodes) fell flat: the pope was eventually forced to join
the alliance between Charles V, Henry VIII and Venice against Francis I who was
preparing an expedition to Italy to re-conquer Milan: this happened just a few days before the death of the pope.
(left) S. Maria in Porta Paradisi; (right) SS. Trinità dei Monti
Pestilences and sexual diseases led the popes to build S. Giacomo degli Incurabili, a new hospital to care for the sick:
an inscription above the entrance into S. Maria in Porta Paradisi,
the hospital mortuary chapel, recalls the 1523 pestilence, a very severe one.
The conflict between France and Spain was fought also outside the battlefields: the
Spanish with S. Pietro in Montorio on Mount Janiculum had a church which could be seen from all parts of Rome; the French responded by building on Mount Pincio a church (SS. Trinità dei Monti) and a
monastery which had equal visibility: even today a Spanish school is located very near S. Pietro in Montorio and the convent of
Trinità dei Monti hosts a very exclusive French school.
The events of the early XVIth century led two Florentine writers to analyze the causes of Italy's inability to
form a united nation: Niccolò Macchiavelli (1469-1527) wrote a treatise where he developed
a political theory on how a Prince could achieve power and effectively rule: in his view force and prudence are the key elements of statesmanship: he is mainly known for having claimed that "the ends justify the means": Machiavelli however placed a number of
restrictions on the evil actions which could be accepted; Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540) wrote a History of Italy between 1494 and 1532, which is regarded as the first modern history book, due to the use of documents to support the account of events.
He saw the best form of government in the Venetian constitution: he also investigated the root causes of the Italian political crisis and found them in a national characteristic, the particulare, by which he meant, not so much the defence of petty interests, but an excess of individualism, not accompanied by an appropriate understanding of its long term consequences.
Pope Adrian VI was the last non-Italian pope for many centuries: he was buried in S. Maria dell'Anima, the church of the German nation: Proh Dolor! Quantum refert in quae tempora vel optimi cuiusque virtus incidat (Oh disgrace! The actions of even the best of men depend on the times he lives in)
the inscription on his monument, summarized the unhappy pontificate of this pope.
Pope Clement VII
The conclave which led to the election of Cardinal Giulio de' Medici
(Pope Clement VII) lasted more than 50 days; he was the candidate of Charles V, while Francis I favoured the
election of Cardinal Alexander Farnese: in the end it was Cardinal Pompeo Colonna,
the representative of the still powerful Roman family, who decided the election.
Pope Clement VII soon departed from the policy of neutrality which his predecessor had tried to follow and
in January 1525, envisaging a final victory of France, he switched side and promised Francis I to help him; it was a very untimely decision, because in February of that same year Francis was defeated at Pavia and taken prisoner: he wrote to his mother ".. all is lost to me save honour and life, which is safe..". He was forced to sign
the Treaty of Madrid by which he renounced all his claims in Italy and Flanders.
Maybe to stick to his family's heraldic symbol (a salamander which goes unscathed through fire), after he returned to France, Francis
declared he had no intentions of complying with the provisions of the treaty, claiming he had signed it under duress; Pope Clement VII supported Francis' position and the two promoted a league
(League of Cognac) against Charles V. In Rome Cardinal Colonna, whose family had many possessions in the Kingdom of Naples which belonged to the emperor, reacted negatively
to the pope's decision and with Neapolitan troops he took control of the city and
forced the pope to ask for a truce;
when the cardinal's troops returned to Naples, the pope deprived him of all his charges
and seized some fiefdoms of the Colonna.
Charles V decided to punish the pope for
what he saw as treasonous: a composed army made of German, Spanish and Italian mercenaries under the command of Charles of Bourbon, a French nobleman who had split from his
king over a matter of heritage partition, invaded the Papal State and moved towards Rome;
the Duke of Urbino, who had reasons for not helping the Medici pope, did not intervene as he could have done: in May the Imperial army reached Rome: on May 6, 1527 the Vatican was attacked
at Porta S. Spirito: 147 out of 189 Swiss Guards died in the fight to give time to other members of the guard to escort the pope through il Passetto to Castel Sant'Angelo:
the clash caused also the death of many students of Collegio Capranica and of many inhabitants of Borgo. Benvenuto Cellini, then a young musician at the papal court, claimed in his autobiography that he shot the
bullet which killed Charles of Bourbon on the first day of the assault.
For one month the pope resisted in the fortress, while the many Lutherans who were
part of the German troops made mock processions on Ponte Sant'Angelo
calling for Martin Luther to become pope. Having lost their leader the Imperial
troops felt free to sack Rome. The situation worsened two days later when Cardinal
Colonna brought to Rome another army: contrary to the traditional account which puts the blame only on
the landsknechts, the Lutheran mercenaries, all the nationalities of the Imperial army took part in the looting and the killing. The abbot of
S. Agostino wrote that the Germans behaved badly,
the Italians did worse, but the Spanish were the worst of all.
On June 5 the pope surrendered and for seven months was held prisoner in Castel Sant'Angelo; in December, by bribing some officers, he managed
to escape in disguise and reach Orvieto. It is estimated that the population of Rome was halved as a
result of the Sack of Rome.
The war between Francis and Charles eventually ended in 1529 with a peace which confirmed the provisions of the treaty of Madrid; Pope Clement VII had no other option than to reconcile
with Charles V, whom in 1530 he crowned Holy Roman Emperor in S. Petronio, the cathedral of Bologna: the reconciliation was celebrated with the engagement between Margaret, natural daughter of the Emperor and Alessandro de' Medici, whom many historians believe to be the illegitimate son of the pope.
Charles helped the Medici to regain control of Florence by sending an Imperial Army
to lay siege to the city which resisted for nine months, with Michelangelo in charge of its
Pope Clement VII continued to raise the suspicions of Charles V as he gave indications of
leaning again towards France: in 1533 the pope travelled to Marseille to celebrate the marriage between
Catherine, a distant cousin of the pope whom he regarded as a niece, and Henri,
son of the French king who in 1547 became king of France;
after the death of her husband in 1559,
Catherine was to play a major role during the French Wars of Religion (see a Renaissance fountain in Paris celebrating Catherine and Henri).
The pope, by continuously delaying his approval of the divorce of King Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon, caused the establishment of an independent Church of England. He did not see the final phase of this development, the November 1534 Supremacy Act which declared Henry supreme head of the Church in England, because he died in September 1534.
(left) Statue of St Paul at Ponte S. Angelo; (right) inscription in Collegio Capranica celebrating the sacrifice of its students during the Sack of Rome to protect the flight of Pope Clement VII (DUM CLEMENS VII P.M. IN ARCEM CONFUGERET)
In his last days Pope Clement VII commissioned the Last Judgement to Michelangelo:
he had been imprisoned, he had seen Rome sacked, the Church in disarray, his political plans fail: it is not surprising
that he felt the need to assert the existence of a divine justice. It is most likely for the same reason that he placed at the beginning of Ponte S. Angelo
a statue of St Paul brandishing a sword: in October 1530 a flood (recorded in an inscription in
S. Maria sopra Minerva) damaged the bridge and the pope promoted its restoration and the construction of two small
chapels on the square leading to it; the choice of the statues of St Peter and St Paul as
a proper introduction to the Vatican may seem obvious, but while St Peter is portrayed in a rather conventional manner, St Paul is
depicted while he announces the punishment for the sinners. Hic retributio superbis (here the retribution for the haughty), the
inscription at the base of the statue, hints to the kind of sinners the pope despised most.
Like his cousin Pope Leo X, Clement VII gave his name to a new street (Via Clementina) which is no longer called after him: it is Via del Babuino which with
Via di Ripetta and Via del Corso makes up the Tridente, the three streets converging on Piazza del Popolo.
The street facilitated the access to SS. Trinità dei Monti, a French church, so in a
way it served a political purpose.
The many calamities which occurred during the pontificate of Pope Clement VII left few resources for new palaces or churches.
In 1533 Baldassare Peruzzi started to build a palace for the Massimo family whose residence had been damaged during the Sack of
Rome. Other buildings of this period were Palazzo del Banco di S. Spirito which was decorated
by a gigantic (lost) coat of arms of the Medici popes; Villa Lanti; S. Silvestro al Quirinale; Palazzo Orsini, built on top of the ruins of Teatro di Marcello.
* The image used as a background for this page shows Adam portrayed by Michelangelo in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The following links show works of art portraying characters and events
mentioned in this page:
The burning of Girolamo Savonarola by an unknown contemporary painter - Museo di S. Marco - Florence.
The School of Athens fresco by Raphael (1509) in the Papal apartments - Rome.
Portrait of Francesco Maria Della Rovere by Raphael (1504) - Uffizi Gallery - Florence.
Portrait of Francesco Maria Della Rovere by Titian (1532) - Uffizi Gallery - Florence.
David by Michelangelo (1501-04) - Galleria dell'Accademia - Florence
Apollo Belvedere - Vatican Museums - Rome.
Laocoon - Vatican Museums - Rome.
Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo (1509-12) - Sistine Chapel - Rome.
Portrait of Pope Julius II by Raphael - Uffizi Gallery - Florence.
Portrait of Pope Leo X by Raphael - Uffizi Gallery - Florence.
Incendio di Borgo (The Flight from Troy) by Raphael (1514) in the Papal apartments - Rome
The Transfiguration by Raphael (1518) - Vatican Museums - Rome.
Portrait of Pope Clement VII by Sebastiano del Piombo (1531) - Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte - Naples.
Last Judgement by Michelangelo (1535-41) - Sistine Chapel - Rome.
III - A Period of Change
Part I: Ancient Rome:
I - The foundation and the early days of Rome
II - The early republican period
III - The Romans meet the elephants
IV - Expansion in the eastern Mediterranean
V - Pompey and Caesar
VI - Augustus
VII - From Tiberius to Nero
VIII - The Flavian Dynasty
IX - From Nerva to Marcus Aurelius
X - A Century of Turmoil (180-285)
XI - From Diocletian to Constantine
XII - The End of Ancient Rome
Part II: Medieval Rome:
I - Byzantine Rome
II - The Iron Age of Rome
III - The Investiture Controversy
IV - The Rise and Fall of Theocratic Power
V - The Popes Leave Rome
VI - From Chaos to Recovery
Part III: Modern Rome:
I - Rome's Early Renaissance