« Prev Leo X. 1513-1521 Next »

§ 56. Leo X. 1513–1521.

The warlike Julius II. was followed on the pontifical throne by the voluptuary, Leo X.,—the prelate whose iron will and candid mind compel admiration by a prince given to the pursuit of pleasure and an adept in duplicity. Leo loved ease and was without high aims. His Epicurean conception of the supreme office of Christendom was expressed in a letter he sent a short time after his election to his brother Julian. In it were these words, "Let us enjoy the papacy, for God has given it to us."847847    These words are upon the testimony of the contemporary ambassador, Marino Giorgi, and cannot be set aside. Similar testimony is given by a biographer of Leo in Cod. Vat., 3920, which Döllinger quotes, Papstthum, p. 484, and which runs volo ut pontificatu isto quam maxime perfruamur. Pastor, IV. 353, while trying to break the force of the testimony for Leo’s words, pronounces the love of pleasure a fundamental and insatiable element of his nature—eine unersättliche Vergügungssucht, etc. Hefele-Knöpfler, Kirchengesch., p. 488, speak in the same vein when they say, Des neuen Papstes vorzüglichstes Streben galt heiterem Lebensgenuss, etc. The last pontificate of the Middle Ages corresponded to the worldly philosophy of the pontiff. Leo wanted to have a good time. . The idea of a spiritual mission never entered his head. No effort was made, emanating from the Vatican, to further the interests of true religion.

Born in Florence, Dec. 11, 1475, Giovanni de’ Medici, the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, had every opportunity which family distinction, wealth and learned tutors, such as Poliziano, could give. At 7 he received the tonsure, and at once the world of ecclesiastical preferment was opened to the child. Louis XI. of France presented him with the abbey of Fonte Dolce, and at 8 he was nominated to the archbishopric of Aix, the nomination, however, not being confirmed. A canonry in each of the cathedral churches of Tuscany was set apart for him, and his appointments soon reached the number of 27, one of them being the abbacy of Monte Cassino, and another the office of papal pronotary.848848    See Vaughan, p. 13 sq.

The highest dignities of the Church were in store for the lad and, before he had reached the age of 14, he was made cardinal-deacon by Innocent VIII., March 9, 1489. Three years later, March 8, 1492, Giovanni received in Rome formal investment into the prerogatives of his office. The letter, which Lorenzo wrote on this latter occasion, is full of the affectionate counsels of a father and the prudent suggestions of the tried man of the world, and belongs in a category with the letters of Lord Chesterfield to his son. Lorenzo reminded Giovanni of his remarkable fortune in being made a prince of the church, all the more remarkable because he was not only the youngest member of the college of cardinals, but the first cardinal to receive the dignity at so tender an age. With pardonable pride, he spoke of it as the highest honor ever conferred upon the Medicean house. He warned his son that Rome was the sink of all iniquities and exhorted him to lead a virtuous life, to avoid ostentation, to rise early, an admonition the son never followed, and to use his opportunities to serve his native city. Lorenzo died a few months later.849849    The famous letter is given by Roscoe, Bohn’s ed., pp. 285-288, and Vaughan, p. 23 sqq. Forthwith the young prelate was appointed papal legate to Tuscany, with residence in his native city.

When Julius died, Giovanni de’ Medici was only 37. In proceeding to Rome, he was obliged to be carried in a litter, on account of an ulcer for which an operation was performed during the meeting of the conclave. Giovanni, who belonged to the younger party, had won many friends by his affable manners and made no enemies, and his election seems to have been secured without any special effort on his part. The great-grandson of the banker, Cosimo, chose the name of Leo X. He was consecrated to the priesthood March 17, 1513, and to the episcopate March 19. The election was received by the Romans with every sign of popular approval. On the festivities of the coronation 100,000 ducats, or perhaps as much as 150,000 ducats, were expended, a sum which the frugality of Julius had stored up.

The procession was participated in by 250 abbots, bishops and archbishops. Alfonso of Este, whom Julius II. had excommunicated, led the pope’s white horse, the same one he had ridden the year before at Ravenna. On the houses and

[picture with title below]

Pope Leo X

on the arches, spanning the streets, might be seen side by side statues of Cosmas and Damian, the patrons of the Medicean house, and of the Olympian gods and nymphs. On one arch at the Piazza di Parione were depicted Perseus, Apollo, Moses and Mercury, sacred and mythological characters conjoined, as Alexander Severus joined the busts of Abraham and Orpheus in his palace in the third century. A bishop, afterwards Cardinal Andrea della Valle, placed on his arch none but ancient divinities, Apollo, Bacchus, Mercury, Hercules and Venus, together with fauns and Ganymede. Antonio of San Marino, the silversmith, decorated his house with a marble statue of Venus, under which were inscribed the words—

Mars ruled; then Pallas, but Venus will rule forever.850850    See Schulte, p. 198 sq., and Reumont, III., part II., p. 67. In front of the house of the banker, Agostino Chigi, were seen two persons representing Apollo and Mercury, and two little Moors, together with the inscription—
   Olim habuit Cypria sua tempora, tempora Mavors

   Olim habuit, sua nunc tempora Pallas habet.

   The goddess of Cyprus had her day and also Mars,

   But now Minerva reigns.

As a ruler, Leo had none of the daring and strength of his predecessor. He pursued a policy of opportunism and stooped to the practice of duplicity with his allies as well as with his enemies. On all occasions he was ready to shift to the winning side. To counteract the designs of the French upon Northern Italy, he entered with Maximilian, Henry VIII. and Ferdinand of Spain into the treaty of Mechlin, April 5, 1513. He had the pleasure of seeing the French beaten by Henry VIII. at the battle of the Spurs851851   August 15, 1513. The Scotch king, James IV., who had married Henry’s sister, Margaret, joined the French. The memorable defeat at Flodden followed, Sept. 9, 1513. James and the flower of the Scotch nobility fell. Leo recognized Henry’s victories by conferring upon him the consecrated sword and hat which it was the pope’s custom to set aside on Christmas day. and again driven out of Italy by the bravery of the Swiss at Novara, June 6. Louis easily yielded to the pope’s advances for peace and acknowledged the authority of the Lateran council. The deposed cardinals, Carvajal and Sanseverino, who had been active in the Pisan council, signed a humiliating confession and were reinstated. Leo remarked to them that they were like the sheep in the Gospel which was lost and was found. A secret compact, entered into between the pontiff and King Louis, and afterwards joined by Henry VIII., provided for the French king’s marriage with Mary Tudor, Henry’s younger sister, and the recognition of his claims in Northern Italy. But at the moment these negotiations were going on, Leo was secretly engaged in the attempt to divorce Venice from the French and to defeat the French plans for the reoccupation of Milan. Louis’ career was suddenly cut short by death, Jan. 1, 1515, at the age of 52, three months after his nuptials with Mary, who was sixteen at the time of her marriage.

The same month Leo came to an understanding with Maximilian and Spain, whereby Julian de’ Medici, the pope’s brother, should receive Parma, Piacenza and Reggio. Leo purchased Modena from the emperor for 40,000 ducats, and was sending 60,000 ducats monthly for the support of the troops of his secret allies.

At the very same moment, faithless to his Spanish allies, the pope was carrying on negotiations with Venice to drive them out of Italy.

Louis’ son-in-law and successor, Francis I., a warlike and enterprising prince, held the attention of Europe for nearly a quarter of a century with his campaigns against Charles V., whose competitor he was for the imperial crown. Carrying out Louis’ plans, and accompanied by an army of 35,000 men with 60 cannon, he marched in the direction of Milan, inflicting at Marignano, Sept., 1515, a disastrous defeat upon the 20,000 Swiss mercenaries.852852    The battle is vividly described by D. J. Dierauer, Gesch. der schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, 2 vols., Gotha, 1892, vol. II. 451 sqq. On the second day of the battle, the arrival of the Venetian troops gave victory to the French. Of the 12,000 left on the field dead, the most were Swiss. Before entering the battle, as was their custom, the mountaineers engaged in prayer, and the leader, Steiner of Zug, after repeating the usual formula of devotion unto death, threw, in the name of the Trinity, a handful of earth over his fellow-soldiers’ heads. At the first news of the disaster, Leo was thrown into consternation, but soon recovered his composure, exclaiming in the presence of the Venetian ambassador, "We shall have to put ourselves into the hands of the king and cry out for mercy." The victory, was the reply, "will not inure to your hurt or the damage of the Apostolic see. The French king is a son of the Church." And so it proved to be. Without a scruple, as it would seem, the pope threw off his alliances with the emperor and Ferdinand and hurried to get the best terms he could from Francis.

They met at Bologna. Conducted by 20 cardinals, Francis entered Leo’s presence and, uncovering his head, bowed three times and kissed the pontiff’s hand and foot. Leo wore a tiara glittering with gems, and a mantle, heavy with cloth of gold. The French orator set forth how the French kings from time immemorial had been protectors of the Apostolic see, and how Francis had crossed the mountains and rivers to show his submission. For three days pontiff and king dwelt together in the same palace. It was agreed that Leo yield up Parma and Piacenza to the French, and a concordat was worked out which took the place of the Pragmatic Sanction. This document, dating from the Council of Basel, and ratified by the synod of Bourges, placed the nomination to all French bishoprics, abbeys and priories in the hands of the king, and this clause the concordat preserved. On the other hand, the clauses in the Pragmatic Sanction were omitted which made the pope subject to general councils and denied to him the right to collect annates from French benefices higher and lower.

The election of a successor to the emperor Maximilian, who died Jan., 1519, put Leo’s diplomacy to the severest test. Ferdinand the Catholic, who had seen the Moorish domination in Spain come to an end and the Americas annexed to his crown, and had been invested by Julius II. in 1510 with the kingdom of Naples, died in 1516, leaving his grandson, Charles, heir to his dominions. Now, by the death of his paternal grandfather Maximilian, Charles was heir of the Netherlands and the lands of the Hapsburgs and natural claimant of the imperial crown. Leo preferred Francis, but Charles had the right of lineage and the support of the German people. To prevent Charles’ election, and to avoid the ill-will of Francis, he agitated through his legate, Cajetan, the election of either Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, or the elector of Brandenburg. Secretly he entered into the plans of Francis and allowed the archbishops of Treves and Cologne to be assured of their promotion to the sacred college, provided they would cast their electoral vote for the French king. But to be sure of his ground, no matter who might be elected, Leo entered also into a secret agreement with Charles. Both candidates had equal reason for believing they had the pope on their side.853853    Pastor, IV. 185 sq., strongly condemns Leo’s two-tongued diplomacy, doppelzüngiges Verhalten. Leo’s brief, authorizing Francis to make a promise of red hats to the two archbishops, is dated March 12, 1519. Finally, when it became evident that Francis was out of the race, and after the electors had already assembled in Frankfurt, Leo wrote to Cajetan that it was no use beating one’s head against the wall and that he should fall in with the election of Charles. Leo had stipulated 100,000 ducats as the price of his support of Charles.854854    One-half was to be paid in cash and the other half to be deposited with the Fuggers, Schulte, p. 196. He sent a belated letter of congratulation to the emperor-elect, which was full of tropical phrases, and in 1521, at the Diet of Worms, the assembly before which Luther appeared, he concluded with Charles an alliance against his former ally, Francis. The agreement included the reduction of Milan, Parma and Piacenza. The news of the success of Charles’ troops in taking these cities reached Leo only a short time before his death, Dec. 1, 1521. For the cause of Protestantism, the papal alliance with the emperor against France proved to be highly favorable, for it necessitated the emperor’s absence from Germany.

In his administration of the papacy, Leo X. was not unmindful of the interests of his family. Julian, his younger brother, was made gonfalonier of the Church, and was married to the sister of Francis I.’s mother. For a time he was in possession of Parma, Piacenza and Reggio. Death terminated his career, 1516. His only child, the illegitimate Hippolytus, d. 1535, was afterwards made cardinal.

The worldly hopes of the Medicean dynasty now centred in Lorenzo de’ Medici, the son of Leo’s older brother. After the deposition of Julius’ nephew, he was invested with the duchy of Urbino. In 1518 he was married to Madeleine de la Tour d’Auvergne, a member of the royal house of France. Leo’s presents to the marital pair were valued at 300,000 ducats, among them being a bedstead of tortoise-shell inlaid with mother-of-pearl and precious stones. They took up their abode at Florence, but both husband and wife died a year after the marriage, leaving behind them a daughter who, as Catherine de’ Medici, became famous in the history of France and the persecution of the Huguenots. With Lorenzo’s death, the last descendant of the male line of the house founded by Cosimo de’ Medici became extinct.

In 1513 Leo admitted his nephew, Innocent Cibo, and his cousin, Julius, to the sacred college. Innocent Cibo, a young man of 21, was the son of Franceschetto Cibo, Innocent VIII.’s son, and Maddelina de’ Medici, Leo’s sister. His low morals made him altogether unfit for an ecclesiastical dignity. Julius de’ Medici, afterwards Clement VII., was the bastard son of Leo’s uncle, who was killed in the Pazzi conspiracy under Sixtus IV., 1478. The impediment of the illegitimate birth was removed by a papal decree.855855    The investigation, started by Leo, resulted in making it appear that Julius’ mother, Floreta, and his father had agreed to regard themselves as married, though a formal service was wanting. Two nephews, Giovanni Salviati and Nicolas Ridolfi, sons of two of Leo’s sisters, were also vested with the red hat, 1517. On this occasion Leo appointed no less than thirty-one cardinals. Among them were Cajetan, the learned general of the Dominicans, Aegidius of Viterbo, who had won an enviable fame by his address opening the Lateran council, and Adrian of Utrecht, Leo’s successor in the papal chair. Of the number was Alfonso of Portugal, a child of 7, but it was understood he was not to enter upon the duties of his office till he had reached the age of 14. Among the other appointees were princes entirely unworthy of any ecclesiastical office.856856    Silvio Passerini, one of the fortunate candidates, was a prince of benefice-hunters. Pastor, IV. 139, gives fifty-five notices of benefices bestowed on him from Leo’s Regesta. He calls the list of the places he received as wahrhaft erschreckend, "something terrifying."

The Vatican was thrown into a panic in 1517 by a conspiracy directed by Cardinal Petrucci of Siena, one of the younger set of cardinals with whom the pope had been intimate. Embittered by Leo’s interference in his brother’s administration of Siena and by the deposition of the duke of Urbino, Petrucci plotted to have the pope poisoned by a physician, Battesta de Vercelli, a specialist on ulcers. The plot was discovered, and Petrucci, who came to Rome on a safe-conduct procured from the pope by the Spanish ambassador, was cast into the Marroco, the deepest dungeon of S. Angelo. On being reminded of the safe-conduct, Leo replied to the ambassador that no one was safe who was a poisoner. Cardinals Sauli and Riario were entrapped and also thrown into the castle-dungeons. Two other cardinals were suspected of being in the plot, but escaped. Petrucci and the physician were strangled to death; Riario and Sauli were pardoned. Riario, who had witnessed the dastardly assassination in the cathedral of Florence 40 years before, was the last prominent representative of the family of Sixtus IV. Torture brought forth the confession that the plotters contemplated making him pope. Leo set the price of the cardinal’s absolution high,—150,000 ducats to be paid in a year, and another 150,000 to be paid by his relatives in case Riario left his palace. He finally secured the pope’s permission to leave Rome, and died, 1521, at Naples.

One of the sensational pageants which occurred during Leo’s pontificate was on the arrival of a delegation from Portugal, 1514, to announce to the pope the obedience of its king, Emmanuel. The king sent a large number of presents, among them horses from Persia, a young panther, two leopards and a white elephant. The popular jubilation over the procession of the wild beasts reached its height when the elephant, taking water into his proboscis, spurted it over the onlookers.857857    The elephant became the subject of quite an extensive literature, poets joining others in setting forth his peculiarities. See Pastor, IV. 52, Note. In recognition of the king’s courtesy, the pope vested in Portugal all the lands west of Capes Bojador and Non to the Indies.

The Fifth Lateran resumed its sessions in April, 1513, a month after Leo’s election. The council ratified the concordat with France, and at the 8th session, Dec. 19, 1513, solemnly affirmed the doctrine of the soul’s immortality.858858    The concordat met with serious resistance in France both from parliament and the University of Paris on the ground that it set aside the decisions of the Councils of Constance and Basel on the question of conciliar authority, and thus overthrew the Gallican liberties. The rector of the university forbade the university printer issuing the document, but he was brought to time by Leo instructing his legate to pronounce censure against him and the university, who "thinking themselves to be wise, had become fools." The affirmation was called forth by the scepticism of the Arabic philosophers and the Italian pantheists. A single vote recorded against the decree came from the bishop of Bergamo, who took the ground that it is not the business of theologians to spend their time sitting in judgment upon the theories of philosophers.

The invention of printing was recognized by the council as a gift from heaven intended for the glory of God and the propagation of good science, but the legitimate printing of books was restricted to such as might receive the sanction of the master of the palace in Rome or, elsewhere, by the sanction of the bishop or inquisitors who were charged with examining the contents of books.859859    Perpetuis futuris temporibus, nullus librum aliquem seu aliam quamcunque scripturam tam in urbe nostra quam aliis quibusvis civitatibus et diocesibus imprimere seu imprimi facere praesumat, Mansi, XXXII. 912 sq. Also in part in Mirbt, p. 177. The condemnation of all books, distasteful to the hierarchy, was already well under way.

The council approved the proposed Turkish crusade and levied a tenth on Christendom. Its collection was forbidden in England by Henry VIII. Cajetan presented the cause in an eloquent address at the Diet of Augsburg, 1518. Altogether the most significant of the council’s deliverances was the bull, Pater aeternus, labelled as approved by its authority and sent out by Leo, 1516.860860    Sacro concilio approbante. Döllinger, Papstthum, p. 185, affirms that, in far-reaching significance, no other rule ever passed in a Roman synod equals this bull. Here the position is reaffirmed—the position taken definitely by Pius II. and Sixtus IV.—that it is given to the Roman pontiff to have authority over all Church councils and to appoint, transfer and dissolve them at will. This famous deliverance expressly renewed and ratified the constitution of Boniface VIII., the Unam sanctam, asserting it to be altogether necessary to salvation for all Christians to be subject to the Roman pontiff.861861    Mansi, XXXII. 968; Mirbt, p. 178. Solum Rom. pontificem auctoritatem super omnia concilia habentem et conciliorum indicendorum transferendorum ac dissolvendorum plenum ius et potestatem habere ... et cum de necessitate salutis existat omnes Christi fideles Romano pontifici subesse, etc. To this was added the atrocious declaration that disobedience to the pope is punishable with death. Innocent III. had quoted Deut. 17:12 in favor of this view, falsifying the translation of the Vulgate, which he made to read, "that whoever does not submit himself to the judgment of the high-priest, him shall the judge put to death." The council, in separating the quotations, falsely derived it from the Book of the Kings.862862    Petri successores ... quibus ex libri Regum testimonio ita obedire necesse est, ut qui non obedierit, morte moriatur.

Nor should it be overlooked that in his bull the infallible Leo X. certified to a falsehood when he expressly declared that the Fathers, in the ancient councils, in order to secure confirmation for their decrees, "humbly begged the pope’s approbation." This he affirmed of the councils of Nice, 325, Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople, 680, and Nice, 787. 214 years before, when Boniface VIII. issued his bull, Philip the Fair was at hand to resist it. The French sovereign now on the throne, Francis I., made no dissent. The concordat had just been ratified by the council.

The council adjourned March 16, 1517, a bare majority of two votes being for adjournment. Writers of Gallican sympathies have denied its oecumenical character. On the other hand, Cardinal Hergenröther regrets that the Church has taken a position to it of a stepmother to her child. Pastor says there was already legislation enough before the Fifth Lateran sat to secure all the reforms needed. Not laws but action was required. Funk expresses the truth when he says, what the council did for Church reform is hardly worth noting down.863863    Kirchengesch., p. 383.

In passing judgment upon Leo X., the chief thing to be said is that he was a worldling. Religion was not a serious matter with him. Pleasure was his daily concern, not piety. He gave no earnest thought to the needs of the Church. It would scarcely be possible to lay more stress upon this feature in the life of Louis XIV., or Charles II., than does Pastor in his treatment of Leo’s career. Reumont864864    III., part II., p. 128 says it did not enter Leo’s head that it was the task and duty of the papacy to regenerate itself, and so to regenerate Christendom. Leo’s personal habits are not a matter of conjecture. They lie before us in a number of contemporary descriptions. In his reverend regard for the papal office, Luther did Leo an unintentional injustice when he compared him to Daniel among the lions. The pope led the cardinals in the pursuit of pleasure and in extravagance in the use of money. To one charge, unchasteness, Leo seems not to have exposed himself. How far this was a virtue, or how far it was forced upon him by nature, cannot be said.

The qualities, with which nature endowed him, remained with him to the end. He was good-humored, affable and accessible. He was often found playing chess or cards with his cardinals. At the table he was usually temperate, though he spent vast sums in the entertainment of others. He kept a monk capable of swallowing a pigeon at one mouthful and 40 eggs at a sitting. To his dress he gave much attention, and delighted to adorn his fingers with gems.

The debt art owes to Leo X. may be described in another place. Rome became what Paris afterwards was, the centre of luxury, art and architectural improvement. The city grew with astonishing rapidity. "New buildings," said an orator, "are planted every day. Along the Tiber and on the Janicular hill new sections arise." Luigi Gradenigo, the Venetian ambassador, reports that in the ten years following Leo’s election, 10,000 buildings had been put up by persons from Northern Italy. The palaces of bankers, nobles and cardinals were filled with the richest furniture of the world. Artists were drawn from France and Spain as well as Italy, and every kind of personality who could afford amusement to others.

The Vatican was the resort of poets, musicians, artists, and also of actors and buffoons. Leo joined in their conversation and laughed at their wit. He even vied with the poets in making verses off-hand. Musical instruments ornamented with gold and silver he purchased in Germany. With almost Oriental abandon he allowed himself to be charmed with entertainments of all sorts.

Among Leo’s amusements the chase took a leading place, though it was forbidden by canonical law to the clergy. Fortunately for his reputation, he was not bound, as pope, by canon law. As Louis XIV. said, "I am the state," so the pope might have said, "I am the canon law." Portions of the year he passed booted and spurred. He fished in the lake of Bolsena and other waters. He takes an inordinate pleasure in the chase, wrote the Venetian ambassador. He hunted in the woods of Viterbo and Nepi and in the closer vicinity of Rome, but with most pleasure at his hunting villa, Magliana. He reserved for his own use a special territory. The hunting parties were often large.865865    Pastor, who gives eight solid pages, IV. 407-415, to an account of Leo’s hunting expeditions, speaks of his passion for the chase as his leidenschaftliche Jagdliebhaberei At a meet, prepared by Alexander Farnese, the pope found himself in the midst of 18 cardinals, besides other prelates, musicians, actors and servants. A pack of sixty or seventy dogs aided the hunters. Magliana was five miles from Rome, on the Tiber. This favorite pleasure castle is now a desolate farmhouse. In strange contrast to his own practice, the pope, at the appeal of the king of Portugal, forbade the privileges of the chase to the Portuguese clergy.

The theatre was another passion to which Leo devoted himself. He attended plays in the palaces of the cardinals and rich bankers and in S. Angelo, and looked on as they were performed in the Vatican itself. Bibbiena, one of the favorite members of his cabinet, was a writer of salacious comedies. One of these, the Calandria, Leo witnessed performed in 1514 in his palace. The ballet was freely danced in some of these plays, as in the lascivious Suppositi by Ariosto, played before the pope in S. Angelo on Carnival Sunday. Another of the plays was the Mandragola, by Machiavelli, to modern performances of which in Florence young people are not admitted.866866    Vaughan, p. 177. An account given of one of these plays by the ambassador of Ferrara, Paolucci, represented a girl pleading with Venus for a lover. At once, eight monks appeared on the scene in their gray mantles. Venus bade the girl give them a potion. Amor then awoke the sleepers with his arrow. The monks danced round Amor and made love to the girl. At last they threw aside their monastic garb and all joined in a moresca. On the girl’s asking what they could do with their arms, they fell to fighting, and all succumbed except one, and he received the girl as the prize of his prowess.867867    See Reumont, III, Part II., 134 sq. And Leo was the high-priest of Christendom, the professed successor of Peter the Apostle!

Festivities of all sorts attracted the attention of the good-natured pope. With 14 cardinals he assisted at the marriage of the rich Sienese banker, Agostino Chigi, to his mistress. The entertainment was given at Chigi’s beautiful house, the Farnesina. This man was considered the most fortunate banker of his day in Rome. The kings of Spain and France and princes of Germany sent him presents, and sought from him loans. Even the sultan was said to have made advances for his friendship. His income was estimated at 70,000 ducats a year, and he left behind him 800,000 ducats. This Croesus was only fifty-five when death separated him from his fortune. At one of his banquets, the gold plates were thrown through the windows into the Tiber after they were used at the table, but fortunately they were saved from loss by being caught in a net which had been prepared for them. On another occasion, when Leo and 18 cardinals were present, each found his own coat-of-arms on the silver dishes he used. At Agostino’s marriage festival, Leo held the bride’s hand while she received the ring on one of her fingers. The pontiff then baptized one of Chigi’s illegitimate children. Cardinals were not ashamed to dine with representatives of the demi-monde, as at a banquet given by the banker Lorenzo Strozzi.868868    Sanuto, as quoted by Pastor, IV. 384. For some of the entertainments given by Cardinal Riario Cornaro, see Vaughan, p. 186 sqq. At one of the banquets given by Cardinal Cornaro, sixty-five courses were served, three dishes to each course, and all served on silver. Such devices as a huge pie, from which blackbirds or nightingales flew forth, or dishes of peacocks’ tails, or a construction of pastry from which a child would emerge to say a piece,—these were some of the inventions prepared for the amusement of guests at the tables of members of the sacred college. But in scandals of this sort Alexander’s pontificate could not well be outdone.

With the easy unconcern of a child of the world, spoiled by fortune, the light-hearted de’ Medici went on his way as if the resources of the papal treasury were inexhaustible. Julius was a careful financier. Leo’s finances were managed by incompetent favorites.869869    Vettori, a contemporary, as quoted by Villari, IV. 4, says, "It was no more possible for his Holiness to keep 1,000 ducats than it is for a stone to fly upwards of itself." Villari, IV. 45, gives a list of Leo’s enormous debts. In 1517 his annual income is estimated to have been nearly 600,000 ducats. Of this royal sum, 420,000 ducats were drawn from state revenues and mines. The alum deposits at Tolfa yielded 40,000; Ravenna and the salt mines of Cervia, 60,000; the river rents in Rome, 60,000; and the papal domains of Spoleto, Ancona and the Romagna, 150,000. According to another contemporary, the papal exchequer received 160,000 ducats from ecclesiastical sources. The vendable offices at the pope’s disposal at the time of his death numbered 2,150, yielding the enormous yearly income of 328,000 ducats.870870    These two lists of figures are taken from the Venetian ambassadors, Giorgi and Gradenigo. Schulte, Die Fugger, p. 97 sq., gives many cases of the payment of annates and the servitia through the Fuggers.

Two years after Leo assumed the pontificate, the financial problem was already a serious one. All sorts of measures had to be invented to increase the papal revenues and save the treasury from hopeless bankruptcy. By augmenting the number of the officials of the Tiber—porzionari di ripa — from 141 to 612, 286,000 ducats were secured. The enlargement of the colleges of the cubiculari and scudieri, officials of the Vatican, brought in respectively 90,000 and 112,000 ducats more. From the erection of the order of the Knights of St. Peter,—cavalieri di San Pietro,—with 401 members, the considerable sum of 400,000 ducats was realized, 1,000 ducats from each knight. The sale of indulgences did not yield what it once did, but the revenue from this source was still large.871871    Schulte, I. 174, 223 sqq. The highest ecclesiastical offices were for sale, as in the reign of Alexander. Cardinal Innocent Cibo paid 30,000 ducats or, at; another report went, 40,000, for his hat, and Francesco Armellini bought his for twice that amount.872872    Pastor, IV. 368, has said, Um Geld herbeizuschaffen schreckte man vor keinem Mittel zurück. Döllinger, Papstthum, p. 485, quotes a contemporary as saying ea tempestate Romae, sacra omnia venalia erant, etc.

The shortages were provided for by resort to the banker and the usurer and to rich cardinals. Loan followed loan. Not only were the tapestries of the Vatican and the silver plate given as securities, but ecclesiastical benefices, the gems of the papal tiara and the rich statues of the saints were put in pawn. Sometimes the pope paid 20 per cent for sums of 10,000 ducats and over.873873    These figures are given by Schulte, I. 224-227, upon the basis of Sanuto and other contemporary writers. The iII odor of usury was avoided by representing the charges of the bankers as gifts. It occasions no surprise that Leo’s death was followed by a financial collapse, and a number of cardinals passed into bankruptcy, including Cardinal Pucci, who had lent the pope 150,000 ducats. From the banker, Bernado Bini, Leo had gotten 200,000 ducats. His debts were estimated as high as 800,000 ducats. It was a common joke that Leo squandered three pontificates, the legacy Julius left and the revenues of his successor’s pontificate, as well as the income of his own.

For the bankers and all sorts of money dealers the Medicean period was a flourishing time in Rome. No less than 30 Florentines are said to have opened banking institutions in the city, and, at the side of the Fuggers and Welsers, did business with the curia. The Florentines found it to be a good thing to have a Medicean pope, and swarmed about the Vatican as the Spaniards had done in the good days of Calixtus III. and Alexander VI., the Sienese, during the reign of Pius II., and the Ligurians while Sixtus IV. of Savona was pope. They stormed the gates of patronage, as if all the benefices of the Church were intended for them.874874    Pastor, IV. 371, in his striking way says,Der Zudrang der Florentiner in der ersten Zeit dieses Pontificats war ein enormer. Die Begehrlichkeit dieser Leute war grenzenlos. The Fuggers, who carried on the most extensive dealings with the papal treasury and the sacred college, had been firmly established in Rome since the beginning of Alexander VI.’s pontificate. They came originally from Langen to Augsburg, where they started business as weavers, and then branched off into trading in spices and other commodities reaching Europe through Venice, and in copper and other metals, under the name of Ulrich Fugger and Brothers (George and Jacob), and their capital, estimated by the taxes they paid, increased, between 1480 and 1501, 1,634 per cent. Schulte, p. 3. After its transfer to Rome, the house became the depository of the papal treasurer and cardinals, and was the intermediary for the payment of annates and servitia to the papal and camera treasuries. The amounts, as furnished in the ledger entries, are given by Schulte.

Leo’s father, Lorenzo, said of his three sons that Piero was a fool, Giuliano was good and Giovanni shrewd. The last characterization was true to the facts. Leo X. was shrewd, the shrewdness being of the kind that succeeds in getting temporary personal gain, even though it be by the sacrifice of high and accessible ends. His amiability and polish of manners made him friends and secured for him the tiara. He was not altogether a degenerate personality like Alexander VI., capable of all wickedness. But his outlook never went beyond his own pleasures. The Vatican was the most luxurious court in Europe; it performed no moral service for the world. The love of art with Leo was the love of color, of outline, of beauty such as a Greek might have had, not a taste controlled by regard for spiritual grace and aims. In his treatment of the European states and the Italian cities, his diplomacy was marked by dissimulation as despicable as any that was practised by secular courts. Without a scruple be could solemnly make at the same moment contradictory pledges. Perfidy seemed to be as natural to him as breath.875875    See Pastor’s terrific indictment, IV. 359 sq.

At the same time, Leo followed the rubrics of religion. He fasted, so it is reported, three times a week, abstained from meat on Wednesday and Friday, daily read his Breviary and was accustomed before mass to seek absolution from his confessor. But he was without sanctity, without deep religious conviction. The issues of godliness had no appreciable effect upon him in the regulation of his habits. Even in his patronage of art and culture, he forgot or ignored Ariosto, Machiavelli, Guicciardini and Erasmus. What a noble substitution it would have been, if these men had found welcome in the Vatican, and the jesters and buffoons and gormandizers been relegated to their proper place! The high-priest of the Christian world is not to be judged in the same terms we would apply to a worldly prince ruling in the closing years of the Middle Ages. The Vatican, Leo turned into a house of revelling and frivolity, the place of all others where the step and the voice of the man of God should have been heard. The Apostle, whom he had been taught to regard as his spiritual ancestor, accomplished his mission by readiness to undergo, if necessary, martyrdom. Leo despoiled his high office of its sacredness and prostituted it into a vehicle of his own carnal propensities. Had he followed the advice of his princely father, man of the world though he was, Leo X. would have escaped some of the reprobation which attaches to his name.

There is no sufficient evidence that Leo ever used the words ascribed to him, "how profitable that fable of Christ has been to us."876876    Quantum nobis nostrisque ea de Christo fabula profuerit, satis est omnibus saeculis notum. The words, said to have been spoken to Cardinal Bembo, were noted down for the first time by Bale in his Pageant of the Popes, ed. 1574, p. 179. Bale, bishop of Ossory, had been a Carmelite. Such blasphemy we prefer not to associate with the de’ Medici. Nevertheless, no sharper condemnation of one claiming to be Christ’s vicar on earth could well be thought of than that which is carried by the words of Sarpi, the Catholic historian of the Council of Trent,877877    I: 1. who said, "Leo would have been a perfect pope, if he had combined with his other good qualities a moderate knowledge of religion and a greater inclination to piety, for neither of which he shewed much concern." Before Leo’s death, the papacy had lost a part of its European constituency, and that part which, in the centuries since, has represented the furthest progress of civilization. The bull which this pontiff hurled at Martin Luther, 1520, was consumed into harmless ashes at Wittenberg, ashes which do not speak forth from the earth as do the ashes of John Huss. To the despised Saxon miner’s son, the Protestant world looks back for the assertion of the right to study the Scriptures, a matter of more importance than all the circumstance and rubrics of papal office and sacerdotal functions. Not seldom has it occurred that the best gifts to mankind have come, not through a long heritage of prerogatives but through the devotion of some agent of God humbly born. It seemed as if Providence allowed the papal office at the close of the mediaeval age to be filled by pontiffs spiritually unworthy and morally degenerate, that it might be known for all time that it was not through the papacy the Church was to be reformed and brought out of its mediaeval formalism and scholasticism. What popes had refused to attempt, another group of men with no distinction of office accomplished.


« Prev Leo X. 1513-1521 Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |