Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two Hundred Twenty-fourth Pope: Pius IV - 0 comments

Pius' real passion was architecture. The papal resources were fairly thin at the time, but he managed to help expand and fortify Rome. He named some of these after himself (the Via Pia, the Porta Pia, the Ville Pia), and employed Michalangelo for a small architecture gig at Santa Maria degli Angeli.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Two Hundred Twenty-third Pope: Paul IV - 0 comments

Paul ruled from 1555 to 1559; he's called the Father of the Roman Inquisition. The Inquisition was an attempt to root out Protestantism, as well as consolidate Papal power in Rome - Paul learned his dirty tactics while serving as nuncio in Spain.

As if this weren't bad enough, Paul also created a Jewish ghetto inside Rome, and forced Jews to wear special yellow hats. He made a habit of banning books.

Two Hundred Twenty-second Pope: Marcellus II - 0 comments

Marcellus played the organ.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Two Hundred Twenty-first Pope: Julius III - 0 comments

Julius was elected as a compromise pope - a mutually unexciting choice among the rival parties of cardinals. Julius threw himself into ecclesiastic reform and working out a more peaceful political footing with Europe. But, finding it rather hard, he more or less gave up. He retired to his palaces, hosted lavish dinners, arranged for frescoes of questionable decency to be painted wherever possible. His real scandal rests on Innocenzo del Monte, a close 'friend' of his whom he picked up from the streets of Parma as a seventeen-year-old. He and Innocenzo were constant companions, despite their age differences, and Julius made him a Cardinal.

Two Hundred Twentieth Pope: Paul III - 0 comments

Paul III defended the rights of Native Americans against the conquistadores and explorers. In 1537 he issued the Sublimus Dei, a papal bull stating that the native peoples of the Americas were in fact human, were capable of rational thought, had souls, and must not be enslaved. Paul condemned slavery, and declared that any people at all - recently discovered or still shrouded in the mists of geography - must never be enslaved.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Two Hundred Nineteenth Pope: Clement VII - 0 comments

Clement, who ruled from 1523 to 1534, was an Italian of the Medici family. He marks an important point in our little history - from Clement VII all the way until Pope John Paul II, every elected pope, for the next four hundred years, will be Italian. Things did not go well for Clement during his tenure.

Before his election, Clement VII was a high-ranking church official, and saw the Protestant Schism tear apart the continent. Clement didn't really try to heal this division - it was too far gone at this point - but ended up being responsible for the English Reformation. Henry VIII wanted papal approval to divorce his wife, Catherine, and marry his alleged lover Anne Boleyn. Clement stalled, asked for investigations, sent spies to verify the situation, but ultimately Henry lost patience, and (with Parliament's help) split from Rome and founded the Church of England.

Clement's real trouble came before that. He had constant internal troubles with the bickering Italian families - the Medici, the Orsini, and most importantly Pompeo Colonna. This ultimately led to the Sack of Rome, which marks the end of the medieval period of that city. While Clement was barely holding on to power in the city, Pompeo Colonna took charge of thirty-five thousand Imperial mercenaries nearby (they happened to be in the neighborhood, just finishing up a war with France in Italy). The Empire didn't have the cash to pay the mercenaries, so Pompeo stepped in and suggested that they attack Rome instead. Clement was taken prisoner, and the hordes trashed this city - with a mix of Protestant indignation and pecuniary zeal.

We do have one good thing to count on Clement's side - he commissioned Michelangelo to paint The Divine Judgement*, on a wall of the Sistine Chapel. He died shortly after, and never even saw the first sketches.

Two Hundred Eighteenth Pope: Adrian VI - 0 comments

Adrian VI, a dutchman* originally named Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens, attempted to begin a counter-reformation, to combat Luther's explosive Protestant movement. This didn't catch on in any meaningful way. He also tried to ally the European princes to fight the Turks - an all-out Christians vs. Pagans war, with Europe in the balance. He didn't succeed at that, either, and died just a eighteen months into his papacy.

*well, not technically. His hometown is now in the Netherlands; at the time it was a region controlled by the Holy Roman Empire, which officially makes him a German pope.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two Hundred Seventeenth Pope: Leo X - 0 comments

Leo X spent the first part of his pontificate concerned with European wars. As a part of the Medici family, his first priority was to protect Italy. He warily eyed the Ottomans, who seemed ready to attack Europe - but Leo was ultimately distracted by someone inside the Empire.

Leo's is mostly known for failing to squash Martin Luther's Reformation. Luther posted his 95 Theses in 1517, four years into Leo's reign. He excommunicated the reformer in 1521, and despite the willing help of European monarchs (Henry VIII wrote a book against him, the Emperor banned him from the Empire), Luther successfully turned much of Germany and Scandinavia against Rome.

Leo is known for some really good quotes that show his mercenary, Medici nature. He told his brother, "Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it." - they then proceeded to parade around Rome with a menagerie of elephants and panthers. He's also quoted as saying, "It has served us well, this myth of Christ."

He died suddenly of malaria in 1521.

Two Hundred Sixteenth Pope: Julius II - 0 comments

Julius, who held the chair from 1503 to 1513, ruled like a King. He's called The Warrior Pope, and spent all his energy in establishing and expanding temporal power for the papacy. He crushed the local Borgia family, made peace with other important Roman clans, and then started pushing outward. He made strategic alliances with other European monarchs (which he called Holy Leagues), and drove the French out of Italy.

He funded and planned the new St. Peter's Basilica (laying the foundationstone himself), and commissioned artwork from Michaelangelo and Raphael.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Two Hundred Fifteenth Pope: Pius III - 0 comments

Pius is among the shortest-reigning of the popes: only twenty-six days in 1503. He attempted to reform the court and arrest the leader of the evil Borgia family - but then he died of an ulcer.

Or maybe - just maybe - he was poisoned.

Two Hundred Fourteenth Pope: Alexander VI - 1 comments

Alexander VI took the office in 1492 (the year Columbus sailed something), and was part of the notorious Borgia family of Renaissance Italy. The Borgias were really something of a scourge on Italy - they were rich, powerful, completely without scruple, and deadly. They became famous for poisoning people.

Alexander himself led a debauched life, hanging out with Saracen captives, holding feasts with prostitutes, making boatloads of money selling indulgences, starting wars, and even financing his own iniquitous empire by 'confiscations': arresting rich church officials on spurious accusations, and confiscating their wealth for his own use. He was admired by Machiavelli.

He ruled from 1492 until his death in1503. His body, which may have been poisoned, exhibited signs of fantastic decomposition. Contemporary observers said that the body was, "the ugliest, most monstrous and horrible dead body that was ever seen, without any form or likeness of humanity." This kind of super-decomposition is sometimes thought of as a sign of God's particular disapproval.*

*Like how vampires dissolve into dust? Or witches melt? I think we've still got the idea stuck pretty deep in our brains.

Two Hundred Thirteenth Pope: Innocent VIII - 0 comments

Innocent VIII never lived up to his name. He's known mostly for corruption: selling off church offices, marrying his illegitimate children into the Medici family (he paid by giving a cardinalship to the bride's thirteen-year-old brother!), and so forth. Supposedly he had sixteen children.

There's also a story - thankfully unsubstantiated - that three young boys died while transfusing blood to Innocent VIII. Wow!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Two Hundred Twelfth Pope: Sixtus IV - 0 comments

Sixtus spent most of his reign involved in local Italian squabbles. He made other forays into international politics - a half-hearted crusade against the Turks, small gestures towards unification with the Greek Orthodox church - but these didn't really go anywhere.

We can note, however, that he was the pope who officially sanctioned the Inquisition*, under political pressure from some powerful Spaniards. He didn't expect it to go as far as it did, however, and expressed regret at their exuberance.

*Who expected that? No one, that's who.

Two Hundred Eleventh Pope: Paul II - 0 comments

Paul reigned from 1464 until his death in 1471. I think this little excerpt from Wikipedia pretty much stands on its own:

After Paul II's death, one of his successors suggested that he should be called Maria Pietissima, "Our Lady of Pity", because he was inclined to break into tears at times of crisis [verification needed]. However, some commentators have suggested that the nickname was rather due to Paul II's propensity to enjoy dressing up in sumptuous ecclesiastical finery. He was described as "a collector of statuary, jewelry, and (it was said) handsome youths" [verification needed], though rumours of homosexuality may have been introduced by critics to undermine his reputation.

Two Hundred Tenth Pope: Pius II - 0 comments

Pius was the only pope ever to write his own autobiography (in thirteen volumes!), and also collected and published his own letters. In fact, he was a prolific author, writing comedies, poems, and (heck, why not?) an erotic novel.

He ruled from 1458 until his death in 1464.

Two Hundred Ninth Pope: Callixtus III - 0 comments

Callixtus was elected in 1455, and is primarily known for being weak and ineffectual. There's a great story, although largely unsupported, that he excommunicated Haley's Comet. Seriously.

Two Hundred Eighth Pope: Nicholas V - 0 comments

Nicholas had a really busy eight years as pope, from 1447 to 1455. He spent much of it restoring Rome, which had been in a bad way since the invasions of the 700's. The fortifications were crumbling, the aqueducts hadn't worked for centuries, the Vatican and St. Peter's were in poor shape. He rebuilt all of these, and polished up the rest of the city along with it. He encouraged the growth of humanist scholarship, and was a patron of great artists like Fra Angelico.

Unlike his predecessor, Nicholas took a particularly shameful stance on slavery. In several major documents, he specifically authorized European traders to enslave any Muslim, Saracens, or 'unbelievers' into permanent slavery. The infidels got their back, somewhat, by conquering the city of Constantinople in 1453.

Two Hundred Seventh Pope: Eugene IV - 0 comments

Eugene's papacy lasted sixteen years, but he spent nearly ten of them as an exile from Rome. He struggled against the cardinals at the Council of Basel, against the powerful Correr clan (a Roman family who could count several popes among them), against the combatants of the Wars of Lombardy, and against a slew of European monarchs and religious sects.

He took a really admirable stance against slavery. At the time, Spanish slave trading was a growing profession, kidnapping most of their stock from the Canary Islands. Eugene condemned the practice with a papal bull, demanding that the slaves be released immediately, without any kind of compensation to the traders.

Two Hundred Sixth Pope: Martin V - 0 comments

Martin V apparently had a really boring run as pope, from 1417 to 1431. He concerned himself mostly with administrative and internal clerical affairs. He might have been destined for something more exciting, however; his original name was Odo Colonna, which I think should have foretold some special coolness.

I mean, come on! Odo Colonna!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Two Hundred Fifth Pope: Gregory XII - 0 comments

Gregory was elected in 1406 during the riotous Western Schism, when two opposing parties had set up Popes: one in Avignon, another in Rome (the church now considers only the Romans true Popes, so that's who we're drawing here). The cardinals who elected him extracted a promise that if Benedict XIII, the current Avignon pope, would abdicate, then Gregory would abdicate as well - freeing up all the cardinals at once to get together and elect a new pope for the whole Western Church.

Believe it or not, this actually worked - although not the way they planned. It even looked like it might backfire for a while. The cardinals got together several times between 1407 and 1409, asking both popes to come join a council, where they could both peacefully abdicate, without the risk of capture by the other party, or being burned at the stake. Neither pope could overcome these worries however, and at one council in Pisa, the cardinals had had enough.

They declared both popes as heretics, and elected another pope, at Pisa! For six years from 1409 to 1415, there were three reigning popes: Rome, Avignon, and Pisa. Eventually, they all did get together and peacefully abdicate. The cardinals worked out compromises that satisfied all the powerful families with extra church positions, and elected one new Pope to rule over the whole Western Church, ending the schism.

Gregory retired, and spent the remainder of his life out of the spotlight. He died in 1417.

Two Hundred Fourth Pope: Innocent VII - 0 comments

Innocent VII only managed a short spell as Pope, from 1404 until his death in 1406. During that time, one of his most notable mistakes was bringing his nephew Ludovico up to the level of Cardinal. Shortly after taking the new office, Ludovico kidnapped and killed eleven people from the opposition party, throwing them out the window of his house. This enraged the locals, who chased the papal party clear out of Rome in a riot that killed thirty churchmen.

Two Hundred Third Pope: Boniface IX - 0 comments

Boniface was elected as Urban VI's successor, and maintained the Italian side of the Western Schism. This long split within the church was a big worry to nearly everybody: many of his supporters actually asked him to abdicate, and allow the current Avignon Pope to rule in his stead. This included some big names in Europe: Richard II of England, Jolly Old King Wenceslas, and John Wyclif (who we can't really count as a supporter).

Boniface maintained his position throughout his life, however, sometimes brutally crushing those that opposed him. For instance: at one point a growing movement of fanatic/troublemaking Christians donned white, hooded robes and started a pilgrimage toward Rome. They were a sect of flagellants, but generally caused trouble along their way. Boniface burnt their leader at the stake.

He ruled for fifteen years, and died in 1404 - making him our first pope of the fifteenth century!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Two Hundred Second Pope: Urban VI - 0 comments

One could say that the Western Schism, which marks its beginning with Urban VI, started with some local Roman trouble. The college of cardinals, gathered in Italy to elect the next pope after Gregory's death, felt threatened by the crowds of locals. They elected the Italian Bartolomeo Prigano, who then took the name Urban VI.

The French cardinals later set up a rival pope at Avignon, Clement VII. As usualy, these anti-popes screw up the numbering system for everybody, and don't do much of any good. Clement was officially designated an (the?) anti-christ, the French said some equally mean things about Urban, and it ended, as things do, with open warfare.

Urban died, while still campaigning, of a fall from his mule in 1389.

Two Hundred First Pope: Gregory XI - 0 comments

Gregory XI was the pope who, after the greater part of a century, moved the papacy back to Rome. Although a Frenchman himself, he was convinced by the entreaties of Catherine of Siena.

This didn't go down well with the French faction: when Gregory died they set up a new, competing pope, back in Avignon. This era, with two combatative seats of power, is known as the Western Schism. By the end of it, a third papacy was set up in Pisa as well - but only the Roman popes are deemed to be legitimate by today's church. And since I'm following their list, I won't be drawing popes from the other sides of the Schism.

Two Hundredth Pope! Urban V - 0 comments

Two Hundred Popes! How about that? Only sixty-five more to go . . .

Urban V ruled from 1362 to 1370, and spent time working to move the see back to Italy. It didn't work out in the end; eventually he caved in to pressure from the Cardinals. He was apparantly a major patron of education, founding and assisting universities throughout Europe.

One Hundred Ninety-ninth Pope: Innocent VI - 0 comments

Another ten-year pope, Innocent VI continued the Avignon dominance. He brokered a peace between England and France, which ended the first part of the Hundred Year's War.

One Hundred Ninety-eighth Pope: Clement VI - 0 comments

Clement was a steady Frenchman, and worked to solidify the French party's gains with the papacy located in Avignon. He purchased the city from Queen Joan, but never got around to delivering the money. As wikipedia puts it, "Clement VI may have deemed that he gave the queen a full equivalent by absolving her from the murder of her husband."

Indeed. His papacy from 1342 to 1352 saw most of the Black Death. He bravely ignored the advice of his physicians and helped with the sick and overseeing burial of the dead. When pogroms erupted agains the Jews (they were accused of being responsible for it), he defended them.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

One Hundred Ninety-seventh Pope: Benedict XII - 0 comments

Benedict, who ruled from 1334 to 1342, was a peacemaker and reformer. He settled things with Emperor Louis IV, and the Franciscan order. He spent much of his time working on theology, and most of his work is accepted today - except his campaign against the Immaculate Conception.

One Hundred Ninety-sixth Pope: John XXII - 0 comments

Another Pope from a humble background! Jacques d'Euse was in fact also the son of a cobbler; he studied medicine and law, and then rose quickly through the ranks of the church. He had an astonishingly long reign as pope, from 1316 until 1334.

He spent most of it mucking about in European politics, but he's also known for a major controversy that revolves around the 'Beatific Vision.' John XXII said that dead Christians were not immediately admitted to Heaven, but had to wait until the Last Judgement. It might sound innocuous to Protestants, but this would also imply that supplication to saints is useless - if they're, you know, still dead. He held this position during his whole papacy, but never went so far as to make it official doctrine. His successor rescinded it nearly immediately.

One Hundred Ninety-fifth Pope: Clement V - 0 comments

Clement V, who ruled from 1305 to 1314, moved the papal see from Rome to Avignon*. At the time, the church was divided into two main bickering parties, Italian and French. Clement, whose real name was Bertrand de Goth, came from Aquitaine.

This move to Avignon was a big deal, mostly because it seemed to give the French party an edge. The Avignon papacy lasted until 1377, but we'll learn more about it later.

*At the time Avignon was not an official part of France - it was an independent fiefdom, ruled by the King of Sicily. Go figure!

One Hundred Ninety-fourth Pope: Benedict XI - 0 comments

Benedict was pope from 1303 to '04; he mostly supported Boniface's policies, and had nearly as many enemies. His rather sudden death is often attributed to poisoning, a plot carried out by William of Nogaret, who Benedict had excommunicated.

One Hundred Ninety-third Pope: Boniface VIII - 2 comments

Boniface VIII had a decently-long reign as pope, from 1294-1303, but at great cost to the church. He bought his way into the seat (Dante's Nicholas III expects him to end up in the Eighth Circle of inferno, reserved for simoniacs), bullied his way through Europe (unsuccessfully, marking a real turning point in the temporal and political power of the church against the monarchies), and left a trail of heresies behind (investigation of these took a decade after his death).

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

One Hundred Ninety-second Pope: Celestine V - 0 comments

Celestine V was born to a poor family, the eleventh of twelve children, and joined a monastery at a young age. His whole life was marked by extreme piousness: he founded the Celestine Order, and the papacy was forced on him. In fact, it's reported that he attempted to flee from the College of Cardinals, but they kept him in place. He took the seat in July 1254, and one of his first actions (with his new power of infallibility) was to set up a rule allowing popes to abdicate their power. He abdicated just a few months later in December, so he could pursue his ascetic life at the monastery.

This didn't really work out for him, at least in this life: his wicked, wicked successor Boniface VIII imprisoned him until his death two years later. Officially Celestine died from illness, although it was rumored at the time that Boniface did him in. He's now considered a saint.

One Hundred Ninety-first Pope: Nicholas IV - 0 comments

Nicholas IV was a moderate man, offending few and inspiring no one. He left history a treatise on taxation of the English and Welsh churches.

One Hundred Ninetieth Pope: Honorius IV - 0 comments

One of Honorius' first positions within the church (back when he was known as Giacomo Savelli), was a sinecure in Norwich, -- even thought he never actually visited the England, ever.

One Hundred Eighty-ninth Pope: Martin IV - 0 comments

Martin IV was elected unanimously in 1281 - but only after Charles of Anjou forcibly arrested the few cardinals who dissented. Martin was pretty much Charles' creature during the first part of his reign, following his lead in most papal policy. When Charles died in 1282 (in the Sicilian Vespers - that's a good story by itself), Martin had to flee from Rome, and spent the rest of his term - until his death in 1285 - in exile.