In this page:
Pope Paul III and the Defence of Rome
The Farnese Dynasty
Initial Steps towards the Reformation of the Catholic Church
Pope Julius III
The Tridentine Council
Pope Paul IV and the Jewish Ghetto
The cardinals who met in Rome in October 1534 to choose the successor of Pope Clement VII
did not have many doubts about who could best lead the Catholic Church:
Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, aged 67, had more than 40 years of experience as a cardinal
and this gave him some authority over both Charles V and Francis I, the leaders of the
two main European powers. He chose to be called Paul III.
The rivalry between France and Spain and the religious split caused by the Reformation weakened the efforts to contain the Ottoman expansion. After the 1522 conquest of Rhodes, Sultan Suleyman thought he could expand his European possessions by invading Hungary: some of the local nobles resented the growing influence on their kingdom of the Habsburg Emperor, while the peasants oppressed by heavy taxes, turned towards the new Protestant movement: in 1526 at Mohacs, the Ottoman artillery easily defeated the disorganized troops of the Hungarian king. In 1529 the Ottomans briefly besieged Vienna, thus threatening an invasion of Central Europe. In 1532 an Ottoman expedition ravaged Austria; in the 1533 peace, Ferdinand, brother of Charles V had to recognize the sultan as "father and suzerain" and agree to pay an annual tribute for retaining the possession of some minor Hungarian territories.
Suleyman's attack on Europe followed also a different path: he supported Hayruddin Barbarossa (red beard) who established a pirate state at Algiers and from there raided the coasts of Spain and Italy and their islands; in 1534 he landed at Ostia, causing the church bells in Rome to ring the alarm. In 1535 Barbarossa captured Capri, the island at the mouth of the Gulf of Naples, and in 1537 he took part in an unsuccessful attempt to seize Corf¨; the island was pillaged, but the Venetian fortress withstood the Ottoman assaults.
Pope Paul III managed to arrange an alliance between the Republic of Venice and Spain to contain the Ottoman threat in the Mediterranean: the Papal State and the Knights of Malta contributed to the gathering in Corf¨ of a Christian fleet of about 300 ships: however the rivalry between Andrea Doria, the Genoese supreme commander in charge of the Spanish fleet and the Venetian admirals led in September 1538 to a disastrous defeat near Preveza.
Bastione del Sangallo: (left) detail of the bastion; (right) detail of Paul III's coat of arms: the key
is decorated with lilies, his heraldic symbol
The Ottoman threat and the scars left by the Sack of Rome explain why Pope Paul III devoted so many efforts to strengthening the defences of Rome: he first completed the fortress of Civitavecchia: a very wise decision because in 1544 the new fortifications designed by Michelangelo and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger proved effective in resisting an attack by Barbarossa. He then asked Sangallo to develop a comprehensive study to upgrade the ancient walls of Rome to the needs of modern warfare. In 1536 Sangallo built a large bastion along the walls between Porta S. Sebastiano and Porta S. Paolo and a smaller one in Testaccio. The new fortifications were impressive but their cost was impressive too and the pope had to content himself with strengthening the Vatican walls at Porta S. Spirito and near Palazzo del Belvedere. Pope Paul III built a comfortable papal apartment in Castel Sant'Angelo, in case he and his successors had to seek again safety there.
Pope Paul III had three legitimate sons and went to great lengths to ensure the future of his family: one of his first acts was to appoint cardinal his 15 years old
grandson Alessandro who was to become a great protector of the arts in the second half of the century; he managed to assign to his son Pier Luigi several fiefdoms in northern
Latium (Nepi, Ronciglione and the Duchy of Castro). In 1545 he assigned to Pier Luigi also the Duchy of Parma, which the Farnese ruled for two centuries.
Pope Paul III arranged in 1538 the marriage of his grandson Ottavio with Margaret, natural daughter of Emperor Charles V; it was Margaret's second marriage. Her first husband Alessandro de' Medici, thought to be the illegitimate son of Pope Clement VII, had been assassinated in 1537.
Palazzo Farnese: (left) detail of the cornice;
(right) coat of arms of Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma, with the Chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece
Pope Paul III is usually associated with his imposing palace in Regola; Margaret, the wife of his grandson Pier Luigi lived in Palazzo Madama and in her fiefdom at Castel Madama,
Cardinal Alessandro started to build a large countryside palace at Caprarola and bought the land where he designed one of the first Italian gardens, the Orti Farnesiani.
Palazzo dei Pupazzi is another palace built during the pontificate of Pope Paul III.
Pope Paul III realized that the hopes of eradicating the Reformation by
military and diplomatic means as it had occurred in the past with the Cathars were ill based:
the conflict between Francis I and Charles V made impossible a joint action to reunite Western Europe Christians: by supporting Charles' action against the Lutheran princes in Germany,
the pope endangered the allegiance of France: in 1539 Francis signed the edict which made French the administrative
language of the country instead of Latin and in 1543 he made an alliance with the Ottomans for a joint naval assault on Nice, then a
possession of the Duke of Savoy, an ally of Charles V.
The pope took steps towards strengthening the moral authority of the church by appointing some new cardinals who advised him about theological matters and suggested the changes needed to meet the expectations of those who had embraced the Reformation: among them Cardinal Reginald Pole who was to play a major role in the temporary return of England to Catholicism; Cardinal Gasparo Contarini who in his Consilium de Emendanda Ecclesia suggested changes meant to reduce the criticism about the papal court; Cardinal Giovanni Morone who often met with Lutheran bishops to try to find an agreement on how to start a reconciliation process; Cardinal Marcello Cervini, a close advisor to the pope and his nephew Cardinal Alessandro Farnese.
At the request of Charles V, Pope Paul III agreed to hold an ecumenical council which would put an end to the religious conflict as the Council of Constance had done in 1415. The council eventually was convened in 1545 at Trento, an Italian town in the Alps ruled by a prince-bishop and which because of its position close to Germany was a sort of neutral location.
In 1540 Pope Paul III recognized the Society of Jesus, a new religious order founded by Ignatius of Loyola, which was to play a major role in the following years. In 1542 the pope reorganized the Roman Inquisition (Sant'Offizio) to examine and proscribe errors and false doctrines.
(left) Portico leading to the Franciscan Monastery of S. Maria d'Aracoeli;
(right) Palazzo dei Conservatori: portico
Pope Paul III opened new streets to link Ponte S. Angelo with S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini (Via Paola) and Porto di Ripetta with
TrinitÓ dei Monti (Via Trinitatis today known as Via dei Condotti), but the area where he focussed his attention was the
Campidoglio: the access to the hill was facilitated by opening a street which from the Papal street
reached the foot of the hill: from there a cordonata, a sloping road composed of transversal stripes, allowed the transit of donkeys and horses.
The square at the top of the hill as well as the cordonata are thought to have been designed by Michelangelo,
who surely designed the base upon which the statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius was relocated.
The redesign of the area is generally attributed to the papal desire to receive Emperor Charles V on the hill which was a symbol of the Ancient Roman Empire, but it also
served a more private purpose, as the pope had built a summer residence on the northern side of the hill: the building which mainly consisted of a huge tower (Torre di Paolo III) was pulled down to make room for
the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II. The access to the tower was embellished by an elegant portico decorated with lilies, the Farnese heraldic symbol (later on Sixtus V, a Franciscan pope, donated the portico to the nearby monastery).
The palaces (Palazzo Senatorio, Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo) designed by Michelangelo were completed in the XVIIth century, but there is a general consensus that this was done in line with the original plan.
The conclave which followed the death of Pope Paul III was very long:
it lasted more than two months from November 1549 to February 1550 thus its final sessions coincided with the Roman
carnival: the Romans took enjoyment from going around dressed like cardinals and re-enacting the not so secret
dealings which were going on in the conclave. Whether because of the Carnival atmosphere or just
because Cardinal Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte had given enough assurances of his future loyalty to both the French and the Spanish cardinals,
the choice fell on a man who was far away from that severe moral lifestyle which would have helped in restoring the moral
authority of the pope.
Pope Julius III, as Cardinal del Monte chose to be called in honour of Pope Julius II, who had appointed him bishop, had nothing of the energy of that pope, but very much like Pope Leo X he was mainly interested in enjoying life (see a page on the happy days of Pope Julius III). The celebrations for his appointment had more of a carnival festivity than of a religious ceremony.
Pope Julius III managed to keep the Papal State outside the continuing conflict between France and Spain; he rejoiced at the news that Mary, the new Queen of England, who had replaced her younger brother Edward VI in 1553, was seeking to undo many of the Protestant reforms introduced in the country and thought that England was returning to the Catholic faith.
Palazzo Spada: detail of the fašade
The gaiety of Pope Julius' days is very well represented by the decoration of
Palazzo Spada: located just a few yards away from Palazzo Farnese and built a few years later it has nothing of the
neat design of that palace: it marks the move from Renaissance to
Mannerism (after It. maniera - style) which in architecture meant
an elaborate decoration making use of stucco, a light,
easily shaped form of plaster, modelled around a metal structure and mixed
with marble powder. Art historians call horror vacui (fear of empty spaces) the filling of the entire surface of a fašade
with ornamental details, typical of Mannerist architecture.
Pope Julius III used to arrange parties in the suburban villa he built outside Porta del Popolo and which can be regarded as a transition to the new style, although its decoration is not as rich as that of Palazzo Spada.
The works of the Council of Trento were suspended in 1547 due to a pestilence; Pope Paul III asked the participants to move to Bologna, but the Lutherans were not prepared to relocate to a town which was under papal control so the proceedings went ahead without them. Pope Julius III in an
attempt to overcome their resistance transferred the council back to Trento and a certain number of
German bishops took the opportunity presented to return to the council; but Henry II, the French king who replaced in 1547 his father Francis I, ordered the French clergy not to participate and soon
after he made an alliance with Maurice of Saxony, a leader of the German protestants and declared war on Charles V: although the war was
inconclusive it blocked the proceedings of the council: a French attempt to conquer Florence by supporting the Republic of Siena ended in defeat:
Cosimo I de' Medici helped by Charles V conquered the rival town and became the first Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Pope Julius III tried to implement a reformation of the Catholic Church based on the preliminary council recommendations but he died before issuing the papal bull he was working on.
The cardinals in the following conclave had no doubts about who was the best man to carry forward the task of reuniting the Christians or at least of summing up the council proceedings. During the council Cardinal Marcello Cervini had shown both his religious zeal and his preparedness to listen to other views and he was acclaimed pope. Pope Marcellus II (as he chose to retain his name as a sign of consistency with his previous action) abolished all the pomp associated with the coronation ceremonies and told his relatives in Montepulciano not to attend them. Unfortunately he soon fell ill and after just 22 days of pontificate he died: he was celebrated by Pierluigi da Palestrina in his Missa Papae Marcelli.
1552 steps of Palazzo Senatorio
Pope Julius III continued many of the initiatives started by his predecessor: he built a portico in Palazzo dei Conservatori which mirrored that leading to the Farnese Tower; two gigantic statues were placed in the niches of the new
steps of Palazzo Senatorio; the walls between Porta Salaria and Porta Pinciana were strengthened; the pope built Tempio di S. Andrea near his villa to celebrate the day he was freed by Emperor Charles V after the Sack of Rome.
Pope Julius III often availed himself of Jacopo Barozzi, known as il Vignola from the small town near Modena where he was born: he designed for the pope Villa Giulia, the portico and Tempio di S. Andrea: in the following years and until his death in 1573 he was regarded as one of the leading architects.
The cardinals who met at the conclave which followed the death of Pope Marcellus II defied the veto of Emperor Charles V and elected
the 79 years old Neapolitan Cardinal Gian Pietro Carafa, a great opponent of the Spanish influence in Italy. He had been appointed cardinal by Pope Paul III and for this reason he chose
to be called Pope Paul IV. He soon clashed with the heirs of Emperor Charles V who abdicated in 1556
leaving the empire (Austrian possessions) to his brother Ferdinand and Spain, Milan, Naples,
the Low Countries and the colonies to his son Philip.
The pope did not recognize the act of abdication and soon after, at the suggestion of his nephew Carlo Carafa, he made an alliance with King Henry II of France and declared war on Spain.
Don Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba, governor of the Spanish possessions in Italy invaded the Papal State and easily defeated the papal troops at Paliano. Another Sack of Rome was looming on the horizon, but the Duke chose to offer the pope generous peace terms and did not march towards Rome.
In 1557 the Spanish won a decisive battle over the French at St. Quentin: in the following peace of Cateau-Cambresis King Henry II renounced all his claims to Italy. Spain directly ruled Sicily, Sardinia, Naples and Milan: the Spanish hegemony over Italy lasted for 150 years.
Pope Paul IV did not reconvene the council and he managed relations badly with Queen Elizabeth I who replaced her half-sister Mary in 1558: the rigidity of the pope led the young queen towards the re-establishment of a separate national church.
Site of the Old Ghetto: the modern Synagogue
Pope Paul IV when he was a cardinal was in charge of the Roman Inquisition: one of his first acts as a pope was to increase the powers of this institution and the penalties associated with heresy: even some cardinals were charged with heresy and Cardinal Morone was imprisoned in Castel Sant'Angelo as a hidden Lutheran.
The pope imposed on the Romans a very austere lifestyle, but allowed his nephew Carlo Carafa
to profit from his position to enrich himself and, according to widespread rumours, to behave badly from a moral viewpoint.
He forced the Jews of the Papal State to live in two ghettos in Rome and Ancona: he built walls around an area of Rione Sant'Angelo which was subject to floods: the Jews were not allowed to live elsewhere and during the day had to go about wearing a distinctive sign: the gates of the ghetto were pulled down in 1848; the whole area was entirely rebuilt at a raised level in 1888 and walls along the river protected it from floods (for a view of the ghetto before 1888 click here).
Pope Paul IV died in August 1559: the Romans reacted to the news by setting fire to the Inquisition palace and by destroying all the coats of arms of the pope: his statue in Campidoglio was beheaded and the head was rolled down the cordonata.
The following links show works of art portraying characters and events
mentioned in this page:
Pope Paul III and his grandsons by Titian (1546) - Museo di Capodimonte - Naples.
Emperor Charles V by Titian (1548) - Alte Pinakothek - Munich.
Pope Paul III by Titian (1548) - The Hermitage - St. Petersburg.
Monument to Paul III by Guglielmo Della Porta (1515-77) - S. Pietro - Rome.
Andrea Doria as Neptune by Agnolo Bronzino (1503-72) - Pinacoteca di Brera - Milan
Cardinal Reginald Pole by Sebastiano Del Piombo (1485-1547) - The Hermitage - St. Petersburg.
Sessions of the Tridentine Council - various painters - Trento.
Next page: Part III: Modern Rome
IV - The Counter-Reformation
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
II - Splendour and Crisis