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
Che si fugge tuttavia!
Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
Di doman non c'e certezza.
|How beautiful our Youth is|
That's always flying by us!
Who'd be happy, let him be so:
Nothing's sure about tomorrow.
(from Trionfo di Bacco e Arianna, a short poem celebrating Bacchus and Ariadne - translation by A.S. Kline; 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).
Archaeological Museum of Florence: The Medici Horse, a IVth century BC bronze statue which Lorenzo de' Medici had in the garden of his Florentine palace
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 books, statues,
paintings, musical instruments, dresses, mirrors and even chess sets in Piazza della Signoria.
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 leading poet at the court of Lorenzo:
|Ben venga maggio,
E 'l gonfalon selvaggio!
Ben venga primavera,
che vuol ch'uom s'innamori;
e voi donzelle, a schiera
con li vostri amadori,
che di rose e di fiori
vi fate belle il maggio,
venite alla frescura
delli verdi arbuscelli.
and the bunch of wild flowers!
which makes men fall in love;
and you, young women, lined up
with your lovers,
you, who with roses and flowers
embellish yourselves in May,
come under the shadow
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.
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).
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. They 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 elected: 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 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 until 1530.
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 him 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: he 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: 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 these works of art).
Pope Julius II continued his predecessors' plans for the redesign of Rome (Renovatio Urbis) 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).
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 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. The Pope 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 the Pope did not have any say in the upcoming fourth phase of the war because he died in February 1513.
Pope Julius II was the founder of the Swiss Guard: for this reason the morion (Spanish helmet) the guards wear on particularly solemn occasions is decorated with the Pope's coat of arms (a sessile oak, see it on the fašade of S. Maria della Querce outside Viterbo and on Hotel du Roure in Avignon).
(left) 1512 inscription celebrating Pope Julius II for having freed Italy from the French and for his initiatives in Rome opposite Palazzo del Banco di S. Spirito; (right)
Renaissance house in the Florentine quarter
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. 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 the Pope asked him to paint the ceiling of Cappella Sistina: 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. The image used as a background for this page shows the Creation of Adam.
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.
Museo Pio-Clementino - Cortile Ottagono: Laoco÷n; Pope Julius II, based on the advice of Raphael, approved the addition of an outstretched right arm to the bearded figure of Laoco÷n, but in 1957 the missing arm was found: it was not outstretched, but bent down as suggested by Michelangelo
The Laocoon stands in a sort of Nich, not so near the Wall but that one may go round it: 'Tis upon a Pedestal near the height of a Man from the Ground, and much Bigger than the Life; of Fine, White, Transparent Marble, so that it has a very Pleasing Look, without considering the Work, which is the most Exquisite that can be imagined, and highly Finish'd, the Fore part, but not Behind, being made (it seems) to stand as it does, against a Wall. Part of its Beauty is however impaired, for the Right-arm of the Principal Figure (..) is lost, and one of TerraCotta substituted in its place. This being Rough, Unfinish'd, and not good Work, and moreover of a Colour Disagreeable, the Eye is something offended. (..) The Sculptors have fix'd Their point of Time to that when his Strength was
in a great measure exhausted, and he ready to sink under the Weight of his Vast Calamity; His Mouth is opened but a little, and he looks
up as Imploring Pity and Succour from the Gods, without any Appearance however of Hope, but seeming in great Pain.
Jonathan and Jonathan Richardson - Account of Some of the Statues, etc. in Italy - 1722
There is something about the Laocoon which reminds one of Bernini; or of Bernini as he would have been had he been born a Greek.
George Stillman Hillard - Six Months in Italy in 1847-1848
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) and it was highly praised by Pliny the Elder: the Trojan priest Laoco÷n and his two sons strangled by sea snakes, sent by the gods who favoured the Greeks, because Laoco÷n had tried to warn the Trojans of the danger of bringing the wooden horse into Troy.
In 1508 Pope Julius II commissioned to Raphael the decoration of his private library in the papal apartment in the Vatican: 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).
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. The Pope 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 II of Aragon 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 of 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. The Pope made an alliance with Charles 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 to withdraw from Italy; the Pope rejoiced at the news, but just for a few days, because on December 1st he died.
Florence - Galleria Palatina: Raphael: portraits of Cardinal Dovizi da Bibbiena (left) and of Tommaso Inghirami (right); they were influential members of the Curia, the papal court
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 Hanno, 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".
Roma picta (painted Rome): graffiti at Palazzo Ricci and Palazzo Milesi (della Maschera d'Oro): detail portraying Apollo killing Niobe's children; see other Renaissance painted houses in Via del Pellegrino
Painting was so popular that not only the interior of the richest residences was painted,
but also the fašades were decorated using a 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 Dominica 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. Outside Rome it is worth mentioning among the Pope's initiatives: the marble casing of the Holy House of Loreto, the portico of SS. Annunziata in Florence and Collegiata di S. Cristina at Bolsena.
Franza o Spagna, purchŔ 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 of Cape of Good Hope which they controlled. 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 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 his death.
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: Spain with S. Pietro in Montorio on the Janiculum had a church which could be seen from all parts of Rome; the French responded by building a church (SS. TrinitÓ dei Monti) and a monastery on Mount Pincio which had equal visibility: even today a Spanish school is located very near S. Pietro in Montorio and the convent of TrinitÓ dei Monti houses 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: Niccol˛ 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 troubled pontificate of this Pope.
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 a treaso: an 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 prior of S. Agostino wrote that "the Germans behaved badly, the Italians did worse, but the Spaniards 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, 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 fortifications.
Pope Clement VII continued to raise the suspicions of Charles V as he gave indications of leaning again towards France: in 1533 he 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 Francis 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 (Charles' aunt), 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.
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 at 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 S. Pietro 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 and holds a sword. 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.
Similar to 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 departing from Piazza del Popolo. The street facilitated the access to SS. TrinitÓ 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 Massimi 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 Savelli Orsini, built on top of the ruins of Teatro di Marcello.
The following links show works of art portraying characters and events
mentioned in this page; they open in another window:
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
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.
Hanno, the elephant in a drawing by Raphael and a real one.
Incendio di Borgo (The Flight from Troy) by Raphael (1514) in the Papal apartments - Rome
Pope Leo I and Attila 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.
Next page: Part III: Modern Rome
III - A Period of Change
Previous pages: 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 Sea
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