Pope Sixtus IV (21 July 1414 – 12 August 1484), born Francesco della Rovere, was a Pope and botanist from 9 August 1471 to his death in 1484. His accomplishments as pope included building the Sistine Chapel and the creation of the Vatican Archives. A patron of the arts, the group of artists that he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpieces of the city's new artistic age.
Sixtus aided the Spanish Inquisition though he fought to prevent abuses therein, and he annulled the decrees of the Council of Constance. He was noted for his nepotism and was personally involved in the infamous Pazzi conspiracy.
|Bishop of Rome|
Posthumous portrait of Pope Sixtus IV by Titian
|Papacy began||9 August 1471|
|Papacy ended||12 August 1484|
|Consecration||25 August 1471|
by Guillaume d'Estouteville
|Created cardinal||18 September 1467|
by Paul II
|Birth name||Francesco della Rovere|
|Born||21 July 1414|
Celle Ligure, Republic of Genoa
|Died||12 August 1484 (aged 70)|
Rome, Papal States
|Other popes named Sixtus|
|Papal styles of|
Pope Sixtus IV
|Reference style||His Holiness|
|Spoken style||Your Holiness|
|Religious style||Holy Father|
Ordination history of
Pope Sixtus IV
As a young man, Della Rovere joined the Franciscan Order, an unlikely choice for a political career, and his intellectual qualities were revealed while he was studying philosophy and theology at the University of Pavia. He went on to lecture at Padua and many other Italian universities.
In 1464, Della Rovere was elected Minister General of the Franciscan order at the age of 50. In 1467, he was appointed Cardinal by Pope Paul II with the titular church being the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli. Before his papal election, Cardinal della Rovere was renowned for his unworldliness and had even written learned treatises, entitled On the Blood of Christ and On the Power of God. His pious reputation was one of the deciding factors that prompted the College of Cardinals to elect him pope upon the unexpected death of Paul II at the age of fifty-four.
Upon being elected pope Della Rovere adopted the name Sixtus, which had not been used since the 5th century. One of his first acts was to declare a renewed crusade against the Ottoman Turks in Smyrna. However, after the conquest of Smyrna, the fleet disbanded. Some fruitless attempts were made towards unification with the Greek Church. For the remainder of his pontificate, Sixtus turned to temporal issues and dynastic considerations.
Sixtus IV sought to strengthen his position by surrounding himself with relatives and friends. In the fresco by Melozzo da Forlì, he is accompanied by his Della Rovere and Riario nephews, not all of whom were made cardinals; the protonotary apostolic Pietro Riario (on his right), the future Pope Julius II standing before him; and Girolamo Riario and Giovanni della Rovere, behind the kneeling Platina, author of the first humanist history of the popes. His nephew Pietro Riario also benefited from his nepotism. Pietro became one of the richest men in Rome and was entrusted with Pope Sixtus' foreign policy. However, Pietro died prematurely in 1474, and his role passed to Giuliano Della Rovere.
The secular fortunes of the Della Rovere family began when Sixtus invested his nephew Giovanni with the lordship of Senigallia and arranged his marriage to the daughter of Federico III da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino; from that union came a line of Della Rovere dukes of Urbino that lasted until the line expired, in 1631. Six of the thirty-four cardinals that he created were his nephews.
In his territorial aggrandizement of the Papal States, his niece's son Cardinal Raffaele Riario, for whom the Palazzo della Cancelleria was constructed, was a suspected colluder in the failed Pazzi conspiracy of 1478 to assassinate both Lorenzo de' Medici and his brother Giuliano and replace them in Florence with Sixtus IV's other nephew, Girolamo Riario. Francesco Salviati, Archbishop of Pisa and a main organizer of the plot, was hanged on the walls of the Florentine Palazzo Della Signoria. Sixtus IV replied with an interdict and two years of war with Florence.
According to the later published chronicle of the Italian historian Stefano Infessura, Diary of the City of Rome, Sixtus was a "lover of boys and sodomites", awarding benefices and bishoprics in return for sexual favours and nominating a number of young men as cardinals, some of whom were celebrated for their good looks. However, Infessura had partisan allegiances to the Colonna and so is not considered to be always reliable or impartial. The English churchman and Protestant polemicist John Bale, writing a century later, attributed to Sixtus "the authorisation to practice sodomy during periods of warm weather" to the "Cardinal of Santa Lucia". Although such accusations are easily dismissed as anti-Catholic propaganda, they still prompted the noted historian of the Catholic Church, Ludwig von Pastor, to issue a firm rebuttal.
Sixtus continued a dispute with King Louis XI of France, who upheld the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438), which held that papal decrees needed royal assent before they could be promulgated in France. That was a cornerstone of the privileges claimed for the Gallican Church and could never be shifted as long as Louis XI manoeuvred to replace King Ferdinand I of Naples with a French prince. Louis was thus in conflict with the papacy, and Sixtus could not permit it.
On 1 November 1478, Sixtus published the papal bull Exigit Sincerae Devotionis Affectus through which the Spanish Inquisition was established in the Kingdom of Castile. Sixtus consented under political pressure from Ferdinand of Aragon, who threatened to withhold military support from his kingdom of Sicily. Nevertheless, Sixtus IV quarrelled over protocol and prerogatives of jurisdiction; he was unhappy with the excesses of the Inquisition and condemned the most flagrant abuses in 1482.
As a temporal prince who constructed stout fortresses in the Papal States, he encouraged the Venetians to attack Ferrara, which he wished to obtain for another nephew. Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, was allied with the Sforzas of Milan, the Medicis of Florence along with the King of Naples, normally a hereditary ally and champion of the papacy. The angered Italian princes allied to force Sixtus IV to make peace to his great annoyance. For refusing to desist from the very hostilities that he himself had instigated and for being a dangerous rival to Della Rovere dynastic ambitions in the Marche, Sixtus placed Venice under interdict in 1483. He also lined the coffers of the state by unscrupulously selling high offices and privileges.
In ecclesiastical affairs, Sixtus promoted the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which had been confirmed at the Council of Basle in 1439, and he designated 8 December as its feastday. In 1476, he issued the apostolic constitution Cum Praeexcelsa, establishing a Mass and Office for the feast. He formally annulled the decrees of the Council of Constance in 1478.
The two papal bulls issued by Pope Nicholas V, Dum Diversas of 1452 and Romanus Pontifex of 1455, had effectively given the Portuguese the rights to acquire slaves along the African Coast by force or trade. Those concessions were confirmed by Sixtus in his own bull, Aeterni regis, of 21 June 1481. Arguably the "ideology of conquest" expounded in those texts became the means by which commerce and conversion were facilitated.
In November 1476, Isabel and Fernando ordered an investigation into rights of conquest in the Canary Islands, and in the spring of 1478, they sent Juan Rejon with sixty soldiers and thirty cavalry to the Grand Canary, where the natives retreated inland.
Sixtus's earlier threats to excommunicate all captains or pirates who enslaved Christians in the bull Regimini Gregis of 1476 could have been intended to emphasise the need to convert the natives of the Canary Islands and Guinea and establish a clear difference in status between those who had converted and those who resisted. The ecclesiastical penalties were directed towards those who were enslaving the recent converts.
As a civic patron in Rome, even the anti-papal chronicler Stefano Infessura agreed that Sixtus should be admired. The dedicatory inscription in the fresco by Melozzo da Forlì in the Vatican Palace records: "You gave your city temples, streets, squares, fortifications, bridges and restored the Acqua Vergine as far as the Trevi..." In addition to restoring the aqueduct that provided Rome an alternative to the river water, which had made the city famously unhealthy, he restored or rebuilt over 30 of Rome's dilapidated churches such as San Vitale (1475) and Santa Maria del Popolo, and he added seven new ones. The Sistine Chapel was sponsored by Sixtus IV, as was the Ponte Sisto, the Sistine Bridge (the first new bridge across the Tiber since Antiquity) and the building of Via Sistina (later named Borgo Sant'Angelo), a road leading from Castel Sant'Angelo to Saint Peter. All of that was done to facilitate the integration of the Vatican Hill and Borgo with the heart of Old Rome. That was part of a broader scheme of urbanization carried out under Sixtus IV, who swept the long-established markets from the Campidoglio in 1477 and decreed in a bull of 1480 the widening of streets and the first post-Roman paving, the removal of porticoes and other post-classical impediments to free public passage.
At the beginning of his papacy, in 1471, Sixtus had donated several historically important Roman sculptures that founded a papal collection of art, which would eventually develop into the collections of the Capitoline Museums. He also refounded, enriched and enlarged the Vatican Library. He had Regiomontanus attempt the first sanctioned reorganisation of the Julian calendar and increased the size and prestige of the papal chapel choir, bringing singers and some prominent composers (Gaspar van Weerbeke, Marbrianus de Orto and Bertrandus Vaqueras) to Rome from the north.
In addition to being a patron of the arts, Sixtus was a patron of the sciences. Before he became pope, he had spent time at the very liberal and cosmopolitan University of Padua, which maintained considerable independence from the Church and had a very international character. As Pope, he issued a papal bull allowing local bishops to give the bodies of executed criminals and unidentified corpses to physicians and artists for dissection. It was that access to corpses which allowed the anatomist Vesalius, along with Titian's pupil Jan Stephen van Calcar, to complete the revolutionary medical/anatomical text De humani corporis fabrica.
The pope created 34 cardinals in eight consistories held during his reign; he created three nephews as pope in addition to one grandnephew and one other relative thus continuing the practice of nepotism that he and his successors would engage in during this period.
Sixtus IV named seven new saints with the most notable being Bonaventure (1482); he also beatified one person: John Buoni (1483).
Sixtus IV took ill on 8 August 1484 but this illness worsened on 10 August while the pope was attending an event in Rome. He felt unwell that evening and was forced to cancel a meeting he was to hold with his cardinals the following morning. But the pope grew weaker during the night on 11 August and he was unable to sleep. Pope Sixtus IV died the following evening - 12 August.
Pope Sixtus's tomb was destroyed in the Sack of Rome in 1527. Today, his remains, along with the remains of his nephew Pope Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere), are interred in St. Peter's Basilica in the floor, in front of the monument to Pope Clement X. A marble tombstone marks the site.
His bronze funerary monument, now in the basement Treasury of St. Peter's Basilica, like a giant casket of goldsmith's work, is by Antonio Pollaiuolo. The top of the casket is a lifelike depiction of the Pope lying in state. Around the sides are bas-relief panels depicting with allegorical female figures the arts and sciences (Grammar, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, Painting, Astronomy, Philosophy and Theology). Each figure incorporates the oak tree ("rovere" in Italian) symbol of Sixtus IV. The overall program of the panels, their beauty, complex symbolism, classical references and their relative arrangement are some compelling and comprehensive illustrations of the Renaissance worldview. None of them actually states how he died.
Sixtus created an unusually large number of cardinals during his pontificate (23) who were drawn from the roster of the princely houses of Italy, France and Spain, thus ensuring that many of his policies continued after his death:
Pope Sixtus is portrayed by James Faulkner in the historical fantasy Da Vinci's Demons as having an identical twin, Alessandro. Shortly after the true Pope Sixtus, Francesco, was elected on conclave, Alessandro usurped the Holy See and had his brother locked up in Castel Sant'Angelo. The series implies that many of the more unsavoury parts of Sixtus' reign were really the work of his evil twin, who was out to gain power for himself.
|Catholic Church titles|
9 August 1471 – 12 August 1484
The papal bull Aeterni regis [English: "Eternal king's"] was issued on 21 June 1481 by Pope Sixtus IV. It confirmed the substance of the Treaty of Alcáçovas, reiterating that treaty's confirmation of Castile in its possession of the Canary Islands and its granting to Portugal all further territorial acquisitions made by Christian powers in Africa and eastward to the Indies.Capitoline Wolf
The Capitoline Wolf (Italian: Lupa Capitolina) is a bronze sculpture depicting a scene from the legend of the founding of Rome. The sculpture shows a she-wolf suckling the mythical twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. According to the legend, when Numitor, grandfather of the twins, was overthrown by his brother Amulius, the usurper ordered them to be cast into the Tiber River. They were rescued by a she-wolf who cared for them until a herdsman, Faustulus, found and raised them.
The age and origin of the Capitoline Wolf is controversial. The statue was long thought to be an Etruscan work of the 5th century BC, with the twins added in the late 15th century AD, probably by the sculptor Antonio Pollaiolo. However, radiocarbon and thermoluminescence dating has found that the wolf portion of the statue is likely to have been cast between 1021 and 1153.The image of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus is a symbol of Rome since ancient times and one of the most recognizable icons of ancient mythology. The sculpture has been housed since 1471 in the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Campidoglio (the ancient Capitoline Hill), Rome, Italy, and there are many replicas in various places around the world.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).George Carmichael
George Carmichael [George de Carmichel] was a 15th-century bishop-elect of Glasgow. He was elected to the bishopric in early 1483 soon after the death of his predecessor John Laing. He was never consecrated. The Pope, Pope Sixtus IV, rejected his election because he had previously reserved the see for himself. Sixtus provided instead Robert Blackadder to the bishopric. He may have died in 1484 on the way to the Holy See to appeal the pope's decision.Girolamo Riario
Girolamo Riario (1443 – 14 April 1488) was Lord of Imola (from 1473) and Forlì (from 1480). He served as Captain General of the Church under his uncle Pope Sixtus IV. He took part in the 1478 Pazzi Conspiracy against the Medici, and was assassinated 10 years later by members of the Forlivese Orsi family.Iñigo Manrique de Lara (archbishop)
Iñigo Manrique de Lara (died April 1485) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop of Seville (1483–1485), Bishop of Jaén (1475–1483), Bishop of Coria (1457–1475), and Bishop of Oviedo (1444–1457).Johannes Tideln
Johannes Tideln, O.P. (died 28 Jul 1501) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Auxiliary Bishop of Hildesheim (1477–1501) and Auxiliary Bishop of Minden (1477–1501).Nicolò Trevisan
Nicolò Trevisa (died 1498) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Ceneda (1474–1498).Niels Glob
Niels Glob was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Viborg (1478–1498).Patrick Graham (archbishop)
Patrick Graham (died 1478) was a 15th-century Bishop of Brechin and Bishop of St. Andrews; he was also the first Archbishop of St. Andrews.
He was the son of Robert Graham of Fintry, the son of Sir William Graham of Kincardine by Lady Mary Stewart, daughter of King Robert III of Scotland. He was therefore of royal blood, and the nephew of his predecessor as bishop of St. Andrews, James Kennedy. Before rising to the rank of bishop, Patrick for many years controlled the parish church of Kinneil. Although Patrick paid for the bishopric of Brechin, his election was acknowledged by Pope Pius III, who appointed him to the see sometime before 29 March 1463. However, Patrick was not long bishop of Brechin. On 4 November 1465 Patrick was translated to the bishopric of St. Andrews by Pope Paul II, for which Patrick's proctor, a merchant of Florence called Ricardo de Ricasolis, paid over 3300 gold florins on 29 November the same year.
Patrick became the first Archbishop of St. Andrews when a Bull of Pope Sixtus IV, dated at Rome, 17 August 1472, elevated the bishopric of St. Andrews to archiepiscopal status. Nevertheless, Patrick's individual career was in trouble. The same Pope Sixtus IV ordered an enquiry into Patrick's conduct. He commissioned one John Huseman, Dean of the church of St. Patroclus in Soest in the diocese of Cologne, to investigate charges (of insanity) made against Archbishop Patrick. The result was that Archbishop Patrick was condemned to confine himself to a monastery, residing first at Inchcolm, then Dunfermline, before being imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle. He was formally deposed on 9 January 1478 and died later in the year at Loch Leven. He was buried on St. Serf's Inch in Lochleven.Pierre Fridaricus
Pierre Fridaricus was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Nisyros, one of the Greek islands.Pietro Gaetani
Pietro Gaetani (died 1500) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Fondi (1476–1500).On 31 May 1476, Pietro Gaetani was appointed during the papacy of Pope Sixtus IV as Bishop of Fondi.
He served as Bishop of Fondi until his death in 1500.Ponte Sisto
Ponte Sisto is a bridge in Rome's historic centre, spanning the river Tiber. It connects Via dei Pettinari in the Rione of Regola to Piazza Trilussa in Trastevere. The construction of the current bridge occurred between 1473 and 1479, and was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV (r. 1471-84), after whom it is named, from the architect Baccio Pontelli, who reused the foundations of a prior Roman bridge, the Pons Aurelius, which had been destroyed during the early Middle Ages. Currently traffic on the bridge is restricted to pedestrians.Portrait of Pope Sixtus IV
Portrait of Pope Sixtus IV is a c.1540 painting of pope Sixtus IV by Titian and his studio. It was recorded as being at the Ducal Palace of Urbino in 1568, before moving from there to Florence in 1631 as part of the dowry of Vittoria Della Rovere on her marriage to Ferdinand II, Grand Duke of Tuscany. It moved to the Palazzo Pitti in 1694 as one of the works owned by Francesco Maria de' Medici. It finally moved to the Uffizi in 1897. In June 1940 it and other works from the Uffizi were moved to a wartime refuge at the Villa medicea di Poggio a Caiano. Between 1944 and 1951 it returned to the Palazzo Pitti, followed by a long period in the Uffizi's stores. It was re-exhibited at the Uffizi from 1972 onwards.Sixtus IV Appointing Platina as Prefect of the Vatican Library
Sixtus IV Appointing Platina as Prefect of the Vatican Library is a fresco transferred to canvas by the Italian Renaissance artist Melozzo da Forlì, once decorating the Vatican Library, now housed in the Pinacoteca Vaticana in Rome.
The fresco was executed in 1477 as the central scene of the decoration of the Vatican Library, founded by Sixtus IV two years before, including works by Antoniazzo Romano and the brothers Davide and Domenico Ghirlandaio.
The scene shows the Pope, seen slightly from below, faced by the kneeling humanist Bartolomeo Platina, together with the Pope's nephews: the two cardinals, Giuliano della Rovere, standing in front of the Pope, and Raffaele Riario behind his chair. To the left are Girolamo Riario and Giuliano's brother Giovanni della Rovere on the left. Giuliano della Rovere was later to become Pope Julius II.The background is a perspective representation of a classic architecture with arcades and a gilded coffer ceiling. Platina is pointing to an inscription, written by himself, which boasts Sixtus' deeds.Stefano Moscatelli
Stefano Moscatelli (died 1485) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Bishop of Nusco (1471–1485).Uilliam Ó Fearghail
Uilliam Ó Fearghail (also William O’Ferral)(died 1516) was a Roman Catholic prelate: he served as Bishop of Ardagh (1480–1516).Šimun Vosić
Šimun Vosić (also Simone Vossich) (died August 1482) was a Roman Catholic prelate who served as Archbishop (Personal Title) of Capodistria (1473–1482), Titular Archbishop of Patrae (1473–1482), and Archbishop of Bar (1461–1473).
|Consecrated by||Guillaume d'Estouteville|
|Date||25 August 1471|
|Elevated by||Pope Paul II|
|Date||18 September 1467 in pectore (revealed 19 September 1467)|
|Pierre Engelpert||25 March 1477|
|Georg Hessler||13 February 1480|
|Giuliano della Rovere||1481|
|Matthias Scheit||31 December 1481|
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