Pope Innocent VIII

Pope Innocent VIII (Latin: Innocentius VIII; 1432 – 25 July 1492), born Giovanni Battista Cybo (or Cibo), was Pope from 29 August 1484 to his death in 1492. Born into a prominent Genoese family, he entered the church and was made bishop in 1467, before being elevated to the rank of cardinal by Pope Sixtus IV. He was elected Pope in 1484, as a compromise candidate, after a stormy conclave.


Innocent VIII
Bishop of Rome
Innocent VIII 1492
Papacy began29 August 1484
Papacy ended25 July 1492
PredecessorSixtus IV
SuccessorAlexander VI
Ordinationc. 1450
Consecration28 January 1467
Created cardinal7 May 1473
by Sixtus IV
Personal details
Birth nameGiovanni Battista Cybo (or Cibo)
Genoa, Republic of Genoa
Died25 July 1492 (aged 59–60)
Rome, Papal States
Previous post
Other popes named Innocent
Papal styles of
Pope Innocent VIII
C o a Innocenzo VIII
Reference styleHis Holiness
Spoken styleYour Holiness
Religious styleHoly Father
Posthumous styleNone

Early years

Giovanni Battista Cybo (or Cibo) was born in Genoa of Greek ancestry,[1][2][3][4] the son of Arano Cybo or Cibo (c. 1375–c. 1455) and his wife Teodorina de Mari (c. 1380–?), of an old Genoese family. Arano Cybo was viceroy of Naples and then a senator in Rome under Pope Calixtus III (1455–58). Giovanni Battista's early years were spent at the Neapolitan court. While in Naples he was appointed a Canon of the Cathedral of Capua, and was given the Priory of S. Maria d'Arba in Genoa.[5] After the death of King Alfonso, friction between Giovanni Battista and the Archbishop of Genoa decided him to resign his Canonry, and to go to Padua and then to Rome for his education.

Early career

In Rome he became a priest in the retinue of cardinal Calandrini, half-brother to Pope Nicholas V (1447–55). In 1467, he was made Bishop of Savona by Pope Paul II, but exchanged this see in 1472 for that of Molfetta in south-eastern Italy. In 1473, with the support of Giuliano Della Rovere, later Pope Julius II, he was made cardinal by Pope Sixtus IV, whom he succeeded on 29 August 1484 as Pope Innocent VIII.[6]

Papal election

The papal conclave of 1484 was riven with factions, while gangs rioted in the streets. In order to prevent the election of the Venetian Cardinal Barbo, Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals, on the evening before the election, after the cardinals had retired for the night, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, nephew of the late Pope, and Cardinal Borgia, the Vice-Chancellor, visited a number of cardinals and secured their votes with the promise of various benefices.[7]

It was claimed that Cardinal della Rovere met secretly with Cardinal Marco Barbo in order to secure him more votes to become pope if he was promised a residence, though Barbo refused in fear it would make the conclave invalid due to simony. Cardinal della Rovere then met with Borgia, who disliked Barbo and wished to block his election, with an offer to turn their votes over to Cibò, promising them benefits for doing so.[7]


Shortly after his coronation Innocent VIII addressed a fruitless summons to Christendom to unite in a crusade against the Turks. A protracted conflict with King Ferdinand I of Naples was the principal obstacle. Ferdinand's oppressive government led in 1485 to a rebellion of the aristocracy, known as the Conspiracy of the Barons, which included Francesco Coppola and Antonello Sanseverino of Salerno and was supported by Pope Innocent VIII. Innocent excommunicated him in 1489 and invited King Charles VIII of France to come to Italy with an army and take possession of the Kingdom of Naples, a disastrous political event for the Italian peninsula as a whole. The immediate conflict was not ended until 1494, after Innocent VIII's death.

Relations with the Ottoman Empire

Bayezid II ruled as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1481 to 1512. His rule was contested by his brother Cem, who sought the support of the Mamluks of Egypt. Defeated by his brother's armies, Cem sought protection from the Knights of St. John in Rhodes. Prince Cem offered perpetual peace between the Ottoman Empire and Christendom. However, the sultan paid the Knights a large amount to keep Cem captive. Cem was later sent to the castle of Pierre d'Aubusson in France. Sultan Bayezid sent a messenger to France and requested Cem to be kept there; he agreed to make an annual payment in gold for his brother's expenses.

In March 1489, Cem was transferred to the custody of Innocent VIII. Cem's presence in Rome was useful because whenever Bayezid intended to launch a military campaign against the Christian nations of the Balkans, the Pope would threaten to release his brother. In exchange for maintaining the custody of Cem, Bayezid paid Innocent VIII 120,000 crowns, a relic of the Holy Lance and an annual fee of 45,000 ducats.[8] Cem died in Capua on February 25, 1495 on a military expedition under the command of King Charles VIII of France to conquer Naples.

Against witchcraft

On the request of German inquisitor Heinrich Kramer, Innocent VIII issued the papal bull Summis desiderantes (5 December 1484), which supported Kramer's investigations against magicians and witches:

"It has recently come to our ears, not without great pain to us, that in some parts of upper Germany, [...] Mainz, Köln, Trier, Salzburg, and Bremen, many persons of both sexes, heedless of their own salvation and forsaking the catholic faith, give themselves over to devils male and female, and by their incantations, charms, and conjurings, and by other abominable superstitions and sortileges, offences, crimes, and misdeeds, ruin and cause to perish the offspring of women, the foal of animals, the products of the earth, the grapes of vines, and the fruits of trees, as well as men and women, cattle and flocks and herds and animals of every kind, vineyards also and orchards, meadows, pastures, harvests, grains and other fruits of the earth; [...]"[9]

The bull was written in response to the request of Dominican Heinrich Kramer for explicit authority to prosecute witchcraft in Germany, after he was refused assistance by the local ecclesiastical authorities,[10] who disputed his authority to work in their dioceses. Some scholars view the bull as "clearly political", motivated by jurisdictional disputes between the local German Catholic priests and clerics from the Office of the Inquisition who answered more directly to the pope.[11]

Malleus maleficarum, Köln 1520, Titelseite
Malleus Maleficarum, 1520 edition

Nonetheless, the bull failed to ensure that Kramer obtained the support he had hoped for, causing him to retire and to compile his views on witchcraft into his book Malleus Maleficarum, which was published in 1487. Kramer would later claim that witchcraft was to blame for bad weather. Both the papal letter appended to the work and the supposed endorsement of Cologne University for it are problematic. The letter of Innocent VIII is not an approval of the book to which it was appended, but rather a charge to inquisitors to investigate diabolical sorcery and a warning to those who might impede them in their duty, that is, a papal letter in the by then conventional tradition established by John XXII and other popes through Eugenius IV and Nicholas V (1447–55).[12]

Other events

In 1487, Innocent confirmed Tomas de Torquemada as Grand Inquisitor of Spain.

Also in 1487, Innocent issued a bull[13] for the extermination of the heretics the Waldensians (Vaudois), offering plenary indulgence to all who should engage in the Crusade against them. Alberto de' Capitanei, archdeacon of Cremona, responded to the bull by organizing a crusade to fulfill its order and launched an offensive in the provinces of Dauphiné and Piedmont. Charles I, Duke of Savoy eventually interfered to save his territories from further confusion and promised the Vaudois peace, but not before the offensive had devastated the area and many of the Vaudois fled to Provence and south to Italy.

The noted Franciscan theologian Angelo Carletti di Chivasso, whom Innocent in 1491 appointed as Apostolic Nuncio and Commissary, conjointly with the Bishop of Mauriana, was involved in reaching the peaceful agreement between Catholics and Waldensians.[14]

In 1486, Innocent VIII was persuaded that at least thirteen of the 900 theses of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola were heretical, and the book containing the theses was interdicted.[15]

In Rome, he ordered the Belvedere of the Vatican to be built, intended for summer use, on an unarticulated slope above the Vatican Palace. His successor would later turn the building into the Cortile del Belvedere. In season, he hunted at Castello della Magliana, which he enlarged. Constantly confronted with a depleted treasury, he resorted to the objectionable expedient of creating new offices and granting them to the highest bidders.[6] The fall of Granada in January 1492, was celebrated in the Vatican and Innocent granted Ferdinand II of Aragon the epithet "Catholic Majesty."


Minnich (2005) notes that the position of Renaissance popes towards slavery, a common institution in contemporary cultures, varied. Minnich states that those who allowed the slave trade did so in the hope of gaining converts to Christianity.[16] In the case of Innocent he permitted trade with Barbary merchants in which foodstuffs would be given in exchange for slaves who could then be converted to Christianity.[16]

King Ferdinand of Aragon gave Innocent 100 Moorish slaves who shared them out with favoured Cardinals.[17] The slaves of Innocent were called "moro", meaning "dark-skinned man", in contrast to negro slaves who were called "moro nero".[18]


The pope named two saints during his pontificate: Catherine of Vadstena (1484) and Leopold III (1485).


Innocent VIII named eight cardinals in one consistory which was held on 9 March 1489; the pope named three of those cardinals in pectore (one of whom being a successor in Giovanni de' Medici who became Pope Leo X) with two of them having their names released after the pope died to ensure that they could vote in the 1492 conclave.


In July 1492 Innocent fell into a fever. He was said to have been given the world's first blood transfusion by his Jewish physician Giacomo di San Genesio, who had him drink the blood of three 10-year-old boys. The boys subsequently died. The evidence for this story, however, is unreliable and may have been motivated by antisemitism. Innocent VIII died himself on the 25th of July.[19]

Mystery over his tomb

A mysterious inscription on his tomb in Saint Peter in Rome states: “Nel tempo del suo Pontificato, la gloria della scoperta di un nuovo mondo” (transl. "During his Pontificate, the glory of the discovery of a new world."). The fact is that he died seven days before the departure of Christopher Columbus for his supposedly first voyage over the Atlantic, raising speculations that Columbus actually traveled before the known date and re-discovered the Americas for the Europeans before the supposed date of October 12, 1492. The Italian journalist and writer Ruggero Marino, in his book Cristoforo Colombo e il Papa tradito (transl. Christopher Columbus and the betrayed Pope) is convinced of this after having studied Columbus's papers for over 25 years.[20]


Innocent had two illegitimate children born before he entered the clergy[6] "towards whom his nepotism had been as lavish as it was shameless".[21] In 1487 he married his elder son Franceschetto Cybo (d. 1519) to Maddalena de' Medici (1473–1528), the daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici, who in return obtained the cardinal's hat for his thirteen-year-old son Giovanni, later Pope Leo X. His daughter Teodorina Cybo married Gerardo Usodimare and had a daughter. Savonarola chastised him for his worldly ambitions.[22]

His grandnephew was Bindo Altoviti, one of the most influential bankers of his time and patron of the arts, being friends with Raphael and Michelangelo.

See also


  • Black Africans in Renaissance Europe, N. H. Minnich, Thomas Foster Earle, K. J. P. Lowe, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-521-81582-7
  • For the glory of God: how monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunts, and the end of slavery, Rodney Stark, p. 330, Princeton University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-691-11436-6
  • The problem of slavery in Western culture, David Brion Davis, Oxford University Press US, 1988, ISBN 0-19-505639-6[23]
  • Doubts over the finding of the Santa Maria of Colombo, Nicolò Carnimeo, IlFattoQuotidiano.it, 2014


  1. ^ Smith, Philip (2009). The History of the Christian Church. General Books LLC. pp. 219–220. ISBN 9781150722455. CHARACTER OF INNOCENT VIII... Cardinal John Baptist Cibo,' who was elected as Innocent VIII. (1484–1492)...His family was of Greek origin, but had been long settled at Genoa and Naples by the name of Tomacelli that to which Boniface IX. belonged. The name of Cibo was taken from the chess-board pattern (itii/30s) in their arms. The father of Innocent had been Viceroy of Naples under King Rene, and Senator of Rome under Calixtus III.
  2. ^ Thomas, Joseph (2010). The Universal Dictionary of Biography and Mythology. Cosimo, Inc. p. 704. ISBN 9781616400712. Cybo or Cibo, che-bo', (Arano or Aaron,) the ancestor of a noble Genoese family, was born of Greek origin at Rhodes in 1377. He was Viceroy of Naples about 1442, and died in 1457, leaving a son, who became Pope Innocent VIII. in 1485.
  3. ^ Munsell, Joel (1858). The every day book of history and chronology: embracing the anniversaries of memorable persons and events in every period and state of the world, from the creation to the present time. Appleton. p. 295. OCLC 1305369. INNOCENT VIII (John Baptist Cibo), pope, died. He was a Genoese nobleman of Greek descent; employed his influence to reconcile the quarrels of the Christian princes with one another, and left behind him the character of a high minded and benevolent man..)
  4. ^ Monstrelet, Enguerrand de ; Dacier, Baron Joseph Bonaventure, Johnes, Thomas (1810). The chronicles of Enguerrand de Monstrelet. London, Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown. p. 366. OCLC 2286229. + Innocent VIII.—John Baptista Cibo, a noble Genoese, but originally of Greek extraction. He was called, prior to his elevation to the papacy, the cardinal of Melfe. He had several children before ho entered holy orders, and did not neglect them during his reign.)CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Francesco Serdonati (1829). Vita e fatti d'Innocenzo VIII., papa CCXVI. Milan: Tip. di V. Ferrario. p. 10.
  6. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg Weber, Nicholas (1910). "Pope Innocent VIII" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  7. ^ a b John Paul Adams, "Sede Vacante August 12, 1484—August 29, 1484", California State University, Northridge, retrieved: 2016-08-03.
  8. ^ Duffy, Eamon (2006). Saints & Sinners – A History of the Popes. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-11597-0, p.196
  9. ^ Wikisource:Summis desiderantes
  10. ^ Kors, Alan Charles; Peters, Edward (2000). Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-1751-9, p.177
  11. ^ Darst, David H. (October 15, 1979). "Witchcraft in Spain: The Testimony of Martín de Castañega's Treatise on Superstition and Witchcraft (1529)". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 123 (5): p. 298
  12. ^ cf., Joyy et al., Witchcraft and Magic In Europe, p. 239 (2002).
  13. ^ Innocent VIII (1669). Id nostri cordis. Histoire générale des Eglises Evangeliques des Vallées du Piemont ou Vaudoises. 2. p. 8.
  14. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Donovan, Stephen (1907). "Bl. Angelo Carletti di Chivasso" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  15. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Lejay, Paul (1911). "Giovanni Pico della Mirandola" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  16. ^ a b Minnich, p. 281
  17. ^ "For the glory of God", Rodney Stark, p. 330, Princeton University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-691-11436-6)
  18. ^ David Brion Davis, p. 101 fn. 21
  19. ^ Duffin, Jacalyn History of Medicine: A scadalously short introduction University of Toronto Press, 1999, p. 171
  20. ^ Carnimeo, Nicolò (2014-05-19). "Haiti, i dubbi sul ritrovamento della Santa Maria di Colombo (Doubts over the finding of the Santa Maria of Colombo)". ilfattoquotidiano.it2014. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  21. ^ Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Innocent/Innocent VIII" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 14 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 581–582. (sub-section within article "innocent", pp. 577–583)
  22. ^ The Life of Girolamo Savonarola (1959) by Roberto Ridolfi
  23. ^ "The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture - Paperback - David Brion Davis - Oxford University Press". Oup.com. 1988-10-20. Archived from the original on 2013-02-04. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Giovanni Arcimboldi
Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals
Succeeded by
Giovanni Michiel
Preceded by
Sixtus IV
29 August 1484 – 25 July 1492
Succeeded by
Alexander VI
1484 papal conclave

The papal conclave of 1484 (August 26–29), elected Pope Innocent VIII after the death of Pope Sixtus IV.

Alessandro Carafa

Alessandro Carafa (died 1503) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Naples (1484–1503).

Alvise Cippico

Alvise Cippico or Ivan Cippicus (16 September 1456 – 2 March 1504) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Zadar (1503) and Bishop of Famagusta (1488–1503).

Antonio da San Gimignano

Antonio da San Gimignano (died 1496) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Bagnoregio (1488–1496).

Belvedere (structure)

A belvedere or belvidere (from Italian for "fair view") is an architectural structure sited to take advantage of a fine or scenic view. While a belvedere may be built in the upper part of a building the actual structure can be of any form, whether a turret, a cupola, or an open gallery. Or it may be a separate pavilion in a garden, or the term may be used for a paved terrace with a good viewpoint, but no actual building.

It may also be used for a whole building, as in the Belvedere, Vienna, a huge palace, or Belvedere Castle, a folly in New York.

On the hillside above the Vatican Palace, Antonio Pollaiuolo built a small pavilion (casino in Italian) named the palazzetto or the Belvedere for Pope Innocent VIII. Some years later Donato Bramante linked the Vatican with the Belvedere, under a commission from Pope Julius II by creating the Cortile del Belvedere ("Courtyard of the Belvedere"), in which stood the Apollo Belvedere, among the most famous of antique sculptures. This began the fashion in the 16th century for the belvedere.

Cardinals created by Innocent VIII

Pope Innocent VIII (r. 1484–1492) created eight new cardinals in one consistory on 9 March 1489, although the names of two of them have been published only after his death:

Lorenzo Cybo de Mari, nephew of the Pope and archbishop of Benevento – cardinal priest of S. Susanna (received the title on 23 March 1489), then cardinal priest of S. Cecilia (1490), cardinal-priest of S. Marco (1496), cardinal bishop of Albano (14 May 1501) and cardinal bishop of Palestrina (29 November 1503), † 21 December 1503

Ardicino della Porta, bishop of Aleria and papal secretary – cardinal priest of SS. Giovanni e Paolo (received the title on 23 March 1489), † 4 February 1493

Antonio Pallavicini Gentili, papal datary and bishop of Orense – cardinal priest of S. Anastasia (received the title on 23 March 1489), then cardinal priest of S. Prassede (31 August 1492), cardinal bishop of Tusculum (10 April 1503), cardinal bishop of Palestrina (22 December 1503), † 10 September 1507

André d'Espinay, archbishop of Bordeaux – cardinal priest of SS. Silvestro e Martino (received the title on 23 March 1489), † 10 November 1500

Pierre d'Aubusson, O.S.Io.Hieros., Grand Master of his Order on Rodos – cardinal deacon of S. Adriano (received the title on 23 March 1489), † 3 July 1503

Giovanni de' Medici, protonotary apostolic, son of Lorenzo de Medici (in pectore, published on 26 March 1492) – cardinal deacon of S. Maria in Domnica, on 11 March 1513 became Pope Leo X, † 1 December 1521

Federico di Sanseverino, protonotary apostolic (in pectore, published on 26 July 1492, after the death of the Pope) – cardinal deacon of S. Teodoro (received the title in 1492), then cardinal deacon of S. Angelo (17 March 1511); deposed and excommunicated on 24 October 1511, reinstated as cardinal deacon of S. Angelo on 27 June 1513, † 7 August 1516

Maffeo Gherardi, O.S.B.Cam., patriarch of Venice (in pectore, published on 3 August 1492, after the death of the Pope) – cardinal priest of SS. Sergio e Bacco (received the title in 1492), † 14 September 1492


The Cybo, Cibo or Cibei family of Italy is an aristocratic family from Genoa of Greek origin. They came to the city in the 12th century. In 1528 the Cybos formed the 17th "Albergo", a union of noble families of Genoa. The family split in many branches, some living in Genoa, other in Naples by the name of Tomacelli. Its most famous members were Pope Boniface IX. and Pope Innocent VIII.

The Cybo married with the most famous Italian families including Medici of Tuscany, Della Rovere of Urbino and Este of Modena and had blood relationship with the banking family Altoviti. Innocent VIII was the uncle of La Papessa Dianora Cybo Altoviti. Her son Bindo Altoviti was one of the most influential bankers and patron of the arts of the Renaissance as well as a close ally of his cousin cardinal Innocenzo Cybo.

Innocent VIII illegitimate son was Franceschetto Cybo, son in law to Lorenzo Il Magnifico de' Medici and brother-in-law to Pope Leo X. He was given by his father the title of Count of the Lateran Palace. Later Pope Julius II award him with the title Duke of Spoleto. His son Lorenzo Cybo, married Ricciarda Malaspina d'Este and became marquis of Massa and Carrara, founding the Cybo-Malaspina branch, later elevated to the dukes of Massa and Carrara.

Fountains of St. Peter's Square

The Fountains of St. Peter's Square (Italian: Fontane di Piazza San Pietro) are two fountains in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, created by Carlo Maderno (1612–1614) and Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1667–1677) to ornament the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica. The older fountain, by Maderno, is on the north side of the square.

Franceschetto Cybo

Franceschetto Cybo (baptized Francesco) (c. 1450 – July 25, 1519) was an Italian nobleman, noteworthy for being the illegitimate son of Pope Innocent VIII (Giovanni Battista Cybo).

Francesco Adami

Francesco Adami or Francesco de Adamo de Lucharo (1457–1497) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Isernia (1486–1497).

Francesco Maria Scelloni

Francesco Maria Scelloni, O.F.M. was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Viterbo e Tuscania (1472–1491) and twice as Bishop of Terni (1472 and 1491–1494).

Gabriele Setario

Gabriele Setario was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Avellino e Frigento (1507–1510) and Bishop of Nardò (1491–1507).

Georg Fabri

Georg Fabri, O.P. (died 1498) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Auxiliary Bishop of Mainz (1490–1498).

Giacomo Antonio Leofanti

Giacomo Antonio Leofanti (died 1494) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Patti (1486–1494).

Giacomo Carduini

Giacomo Carduini (died 1506) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Lipari (1489–1506).

Juan Ruiz de Medina

Juan Ruiz de Medina (died 30 January 1507) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Segovia (1502–1507), Bishop of Cartagena (1495–1502), Bishop of Badajoz (1493–1495), and Bishop of Astorga (1489–1493).

Pedro Beltrán (bishop)

Pedro Beltrán (died 1505) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Tui (1487–1505) and Bishop of Ciudad Rodrigo (1485–1505).

Simone Chiavari

Simone Chiavari was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Brugnato (1492–1502).

Summis desiderantes affectibus

Summis desiderantes affectibus (Latin for "Desiring with supreme ardor"), sometimes abbreviated to Summis desiderantes was a papal bull regarding witchcraft issued by Pope Innocent VIII on 5 December 1484.

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