The Renaissance Papacy was a period of papal history between the Western Schism and the Protestant Reformation. From the election of Pope Martin V of the Council of Constance in 1417 to the Reformation in the 16th century, Western Christianity was largely free from schism as well as significant disputed papal claimants. There were many important divisions over the direction of the religion, but these were resolved through the then-settled procedures of the papal conclave.
The popes of this period were a reflection of the College of Cardinals that elected them. The College was dominated by cardinal-nephews (relatives of the popes that elevated them), crown-cardinals (representatives of the Catholic monarchies of Europe), and members of the powerful Italian families. There were two popes each from the House of Borgia, House of della Rovere, and House of Medici during this period. The wealthy popes and cardinals increasingly patronized Renaissance art and architecture, (re)building the landmarks of Rome from the ground up.
The Papal States began to resemble a modern nation-state during this period, and the papacy took an increasingly active role in European wars and diplomacy. Popes were more frequently called upon to arbitrate disputes between competing colonial powers than to resolve complicated theological disputes. To the extent that this period is relevant to modern Catholic dogma, it is in the area of papal supremacy. None of these popes have been canonized as a saint, or even regarded as Blessed or Venerable.
The period from end of the Western Schism in 1417 to the Council of Trent (1534–1563) is a rough approximation used by scholars to date the Renaissance Papacy and separate it from the era of the Counter-Reformation.
In 1420, the papacy returned to Rome under Martin V. The Renaissance popes aggressively pursued the temporal interests of the Papal States in Italian politics. In addition to being the head of the Church, the Pope became one of Italy's most important secular rulers, signing treaties with other sovereigns and fighting wars. In practice, though, most of the territory of the Papal States was still only nominally controlled by the Pope, with much of the territory being ruled by minor princes. Control was often contested; indeed it took until the 16th century for the Pope to have any genuine control over all his territories.
The popes of this period used the papal military not only to enrich themselves and their families, but also to enforce and expand upon the longstanding territorial and property claims of the papacy as an institution. Although before the Western Schism the papacy had derived much of its revenue from the "vigorous exercise of its spiritual office," during this period the popes were financially dependent on the revenues from the Papal States themselves. With ambitious expenditures on war and construction projects, popes turned to new sources of revenue from the sale of indulgences and of bureaucratic and ecclesiastical offices . Pope Clement VII's diplomatic and military campaigns resulted in the Sack of Rome in 1527.
Pope Julius II become known as "the Warrior Pope" for his use of military force to increase the territory and property of the papacy. He continued the consolidation of power in the Papal States and continued the process of rebuilding Rome physically. His most prominent project among many was the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica.
The popes of this period became absolute monarchs, but unlike their European peers, they were not hereditary, so they could only promote their family interests through nepotism. The word nepotism originally referred specifically to the practice of creating cardinal-nephews, when it appeared in the English language about 1669. According to Duffy, "the inevitable outcome of all of this was a creation of a wealthy cardinalatial class, with strong dynastic connections."
According to Eamon Duffy, "the Renaissance papacy invokes images of a Hollywood spectacular, all decadence and drag. Contemporaries viewed Renaissance Rome as we now view Nixon's Washington, a city of expense-account whores and political graft, where everything and everyone had a price, where nothing and nobody could be trusted. The popes themselves seemed to set the tone." For example, Leo X was said to have remarked: "Let us enjoy the papacy, since God has given it to us." Several of these popes took mistresses, fathered children, and engaged in intrigue or even murder. Alexander VI had four acknowledged children, including Cesare Borgia and Lucrezia Borgia.
Because the popes had been in Avignon or divided by schism since 1309, Rome remained architecturally underdeveloped from both a utilitarian and artistic perspective. According to Duffy, "Rome had no industries except pilgrimage, no function except as the pope's capital." The patronage of arts and architecture was both a matter of papal policy—to increase the prestige of the institution as a whole—and the personal preferences of individual popes. Leo X is well known for his patronage of Raphael, whose paintings played a large role in the redecoration of the Vatican. Pope Sixtus IV initiated a major drive to redesign and rebuild Rome, widening the streets and destroying the crumbling ruins, commissioning the Sistine Chapel, and summoning many artists from other Italian city-states. Pope Nicholas V founded the Vatican Library.
The "inquisitorial machinery" to deal with heresy remained largely unchanged from the thirteenth century. The two main movements unsuccessfully suppressed during this period were John Wycliffe's Lollardy and Jan Hus's Hussitism. Voices critical of the worldliness of the papacy—such as Savonarola in Florence—were excommunicated. Critics such as Desiderius Erasmus, who remained committed to reform rather than schism, were treated more favorably. The revival of Greek literature during this period made Platonism fashionable again in Catholic intellectual circles.
This was a period of declining religiosity among popes. Although Adrian VI said mass every day for the year he was pope, there is no evidence that his two predecessors—Julius II and Leo X—ever celebrated mass at all.
The reforms of the Council of Constance were unambitious and unenforced. Conciliarism—a movement to assert the authority of ecumenical councils over popes—was also defeated; papal supremacy was maintained and strengthened at the expense of the papacy's moral prestige. The role of the College of Cardinals in theological and temporal policy making also declined during this period. According to Duffy, "the one place where the cardinals were supreme was in Conclave."
The perceived abuses of this period, such as the selling of indulgences, were piled upon pre-existing theological differences and calls for reform, culminating in the Protestant Reformation. Leo X and Adrian VI "failed utterly to grasp the seriousness" of the support of Martin Luther in Germany, and their response to the rise Protestantism was ineffective.
The history of the papacy, the office held by the pope as head of the Roman Catholic Church, according to Catholic doctrine, spans from the time of Peter to the present day.
During the Early Church, the bishops of Rome enjoyed no temporal power until the time of Constantine. After the Fall of the Western Roman Empire (the "Middle Ages", about 476), the papacy was influenced by the temporal rulers of the surrounding Italian Peninsula; these periods are known as the Ostrogothic Papacy, Byzantine Papacy, and Frankish Papacy. Over time, the papacy consolidated its territorial claims to a portion of the peninsula known as the Papal States. Thereafter, the role of neighboring sovereigns was replaced by powerful Roman families during the saeculum obscurum, the Crescentii era, and the Tusculan Papacy.
From 1048 to 1257, the papacy experienced increasing conflict with the leaders and churches of the Holy Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire). The latter culminated in the East–West Schism, dividing the Western Church and Eastern Church. From 1257–1377, the pope, though the bishop of Rome, resided in Viterbo, Orvieto, and Perugia, and then Avignon. The return of the popes to Rome after the Avignon Papacy was followed by the Western Schism: the division of the western church between two and, for a time, three competing papal claimants.
The Renaissance Papacy is known for its artistic and architectural patronage, forays into European power politics, and theological challenges to papal authority. After the start of the Protestant Reformation, the Reformation Papacy and Baroque Papacy led the Catholic Church through the Counter-Reformation. The popes during the Age of Revolution witnessed the largest expropriation of wealth in the church's history, during the French Revolution and those that followed throughout Europe. The Roman Question, arising from Italian unification, resulted in the loss of the Papal States and the creation of Vatican City.List of popes (graphical)
This is a graphical list of the popes of the Roman Catholic Church.
While the term pope (Latin: Papa, 'Father') is used in several churches to denote their high spiritual leaders, in English usage, this title generally refers to the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Holy See. The title itself has been used officially by the head of the Church since the tenure of Pope Siricius.
There have been 266 popes, as listed by the Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook) under the heading 'I Sommi Pontefici Romani' (The Supreme Pontiffs of Rome). Some sources quote a number of 267, with the inclusion of Stephen II, who died four days after his election but before his episcopal consecration. However, only 264 (or 265) men have occupied the chair of Saint Peter, as Benedict IX held the office thrice on separate occasions in the mid–11th century.
The pope bears the titles
Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the Servants of Godand is officially styled 'His Holiness'.
Since the Lateran Treaty of 1929, the pope's temporal title has been Sovereign of the Vatican City State.Pope-elect Stephen
Pope-elect Stephen (d. 26 March 752) was a Roman priest elected pope in March 752 to succeed Zachary; he died of a stroke a few days later, before being consecrated a bishop. Therefore, he is not listed as a pope in the Annuario Pontificio.
In 745, Pope Zachary had made him a cardinal-priest, with the titulus of San Crisogono, the same titulus later held by Cardinal Frederick of Lorraine, who became Pope Stephen IX.Pope Adrian VI
Pope Adrian VI (Latin: Hadrianus VI), born Adriaan Florensz Boeyens (2 March 1459 – 14 September 1523), was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 9 January 1522 until his death on 14 September 1523. The only Dutchman so far to become pope, he was the last non-Italian pope until John Paul II, 455 years later.
Born in the Episcopal principality of Utrecht, Adrian studied at the University of Leuven in the Low Countries, where he rose to the position of professor of theology, also serving as rector (the equivalent of vice-chancellor). In 1507, he became the tutor of the future Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who later trusted him as both his emissary and his regent.
In 1516, Adrian was appointed by Charles, now King of Castile and Aragon, bishop of Tortosa, Spain, and soon thereafter Grand Inquisitor of the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. He was created cardinal by Pope Leo X in 1517 and elected pope in 1522 as a compromise candidate after Leo's death.
Adrian came to the papacy in the midst of one of its greatest crises, threatened not only by Lutheranism to the north but also by the advance of the Ottoman Turks to the east. He refused to compromise with Lutheranism theologically, demanding Luther's condemnation as a heretic. However, he is noted for having attempted to reform the Catholic Church administratively in response to the Protestant Reformation. His efforts at reform, however, proved fruitless, as they were resisted by most of his Renaissance ecclesiastical contemporaries, and he did not live long enough to see his efforts through to their conclusion. He was succeeded by the second Medici pope, Clement VII.
Adrian VI and his eventual successor Marcellus II are the only popes of the modern era to retain their baptismal names after their election.Pope Alexander VI
Pope Alexander VI, born Rodrigo de Borja (Valencian: Roderic Llançol i de Borja [roðeˈɾiɡ ʎanˈsɔl i ðe ˈbɔɾdʒa], Spanish: Rodrigo Lanzol y de Borja [roˈðɾiɣo lanˈθol i ðe ˈβoɾxa]; 1 January 1431 – 18 August 1503), was Pope from 11 August 1492 until his death. He is one of the most controversial of the Renaissance popes, partly because he acknowledged fathering several children by his mistresses. Therefore his Italianized Valencian surname, Borgia, became a byword for libertinism and nepotism, which are traditionally considered as characterizing his pontificate.
Born in the territories of the Crown of Aragon in Spain, his bulls of 1493 confirmed or reconfirmed the rights of the Spanish crown in the New World following the finds of Christopher Columbus in 1492. On the other hand, he sided with France during the second Italian war and supported his son Cesare Borgia as a condottiero for the French King. The scope of his foreign policy was to gain the most advantageous terms for his family.Two of Alexander's successors, Sixtus V and Urban VIII, described him as one of the most outstanding popes since Saint Peter.Pope Boniface II
Pope Boniface II (Latin: Bonifatius II; d. 17 October 532) was the first Germanic pope. He reigned from 17 September 530 until his death in 532. He was born an Ostrogoth.Pope Callixtus III
Pope Callixtus III (31 December 1378 – 6 August 1458), also known as Alfonso de Borgia (Spanish: Alfons de Borja), was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 8 April 1455 to his death in 1458.
He is the most recent pope to have taken the pontifical name of "Callixtus" upon his election. He was also responsible for the retrial of Joan of Arc that saw her vindicated. A member of the powerful Borgia family, Callixtus III was the uncle of Pope Alexander VI, whom he appointed to the College of Cardinals.Pope Clement VII
Pope Clement VII (Italian: Papa Clemente VII; Latin: Clemens VII) (26 May 1478 – 25 September 1534), born Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 19 November 1523 to his death on 25 September 1534.
“The most unfortunate of the Popes,” Clement VII’s reign was marked by a rapid succession of political, military, and religious struggles — many long in the making — which had far-reaching consequences for Christianity and world politics.Elected in 1523 at the end of the Italian Renaissance, Clement VII came to the papacy with a high reputation as a statesman, having served with distinction as chief advisor to both Pope Leo X (1513-1521) and Pope Adrian VI (1522-1523). Assuming leadership in a time of crisis, with the Church nearly bankrupt, Clement VII initially sought to unite Christendom, which was then fragmenting, by making peace among the many Christian leaders then at odds. He also aspired to liberate Italy, which had become a battleground for invading, foreign armies, thereby threatening the Church’s freedom.The complex political situation of the 1520s thwarted Clement's intentions. Inheriting Martin Luther’s growing Protestant Reformation in Northern Europe; a vast power struggle in Italy between Europe’s two most powerful kings, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France, each of whom demanded that the Pope choose a side; and Turkish invasions of Eastern Europe led by Suleiman the Magnificent; Clement's problems were exacerbated by King Henry VIII of England’s contentious divorce, resulting in England breaking away from the Catholic Church; and in 1527, souring relations with Emperor Charles V leading to the violent Sack of Rome, during which the Pope was imprisoned. After escaping confinement in the Castel Sant'Angelo, Clement — with few economic, military, or political options remaining — compromised the Church's and Italy's independence by allying with his former jailor, Emperor Charles V.In contrast to his tortured Papacy, Clement VII was personally respectable and devout, possessing a “dignified propriety of character,” “great acquirements both theological and scientific,” as well as “extraordinary address and penetration — Clement VII, in serener times, might have administered the Papal power with high reputation and enviable prosperity. But with all of his profound insight into the political affairs of Europe, Clement does not seem to have comprehended the altered position of the Pope” in relation to Europe’s emerging nation-states and Protestantism.A discerning patron, Clement VII personally commissioned Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment for the Sistine Chapel; Raphael’s masterpiece, The Transfiguration; as well as celebrated works by Benvenuto Cellini, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Parmigianino, among others. Artistic trends of the era are sometimes called the “Clementine style,” and notable for their virtuosity. In matters of science, Clement VII is best known for personally approving, in 1533, Nicholaus Copernicus’s theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun — 99 years before Galileo Galilei’s heresy trial for similar ideas. Ecclesiastically, Clement VII is remembered for issuing orders protecting Jews from the Inquisition, approving the Capuchin Franciscan Order, and securing the island of Malta for the Knights of Malta.Pope Eugene IV
Pope Eugene IV (Latin: Eugenius IV; 1383 – 23 February 1447), born Gabriele Condulmer, was Pope from 3 March 1431 to his death in 1447. He is the most recent pope to have taken the name "Eugene" upon his election.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.Pope Leo VI
Pope Leo VI (880 – 12 February 929) was Pope for just over seven months, from June 928 to his death in February 929. His pontificate occurred during the period known as the Saeculum obscurum.Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X (11 December 1475 – 1 December 1521), born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, was Pope from 9 March 1513 to his death in 1521.Born into the prominent political and banking Medici family of Florence, Giovanni was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, ruler of the Florentine Republic, he was elevated to the cardinalate in 1489. Following the death of Pope Julius II, Giovanni was elected pope after securing the backing of the younger members of the Sacred College. Early on in his rule he oversaw the closing sessions of the Fifth Council of the Lateran, but struggled to implement the reforms agreed. In 1517 he led a costly war that succeeded in securing his nephew as Duke of Urbino, but which reduced papal finances.
In Protestant circles, Leo is associated with granting indulgences for those who donated to reconstruct St. Peter's Basilica, a practice that was soon challenged by Martin Luther's 95 Theses. He refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the demands of what would become the Protestant Reformation, and his Papal Bull of 1520, Exsurge Domine, condemned Martin Luther's condemnatory stance, rendering ongoing communication difficult. Notwithstanding these divisions, he granted establishment to the Oratory of Divine Love.
He borrowed and spent money without circumspection. A significant patron of the arts, upon election Leo is alleged to have said, "Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it." Under his reign, progress was made on the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica and artists such as Raphael decorated the Vatican rooms. Leo also reorganised the Roman University, and promoted the study of literature, poetry and antiquities. He died in 1521 and is buried in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome. He was the last pope not to have been in priestly orders at the time of his election to the papacy.Pope Martin V
Pope Martin V (Latin: Martinus V; January/February 1369 – 20 February 1431), born Otto (or Oddone) Colonna, was Pope from 11 November 1417 to his death in 1431. His election effectively ended the Western Schism (1378–1417).Pope Nicholas V
Pope Nicholas V (Latin: Nicholaus V; 13 November 1397 – 24 March 1455), born Tommaso Parentucelli, was Pope from 6 March 1447 until his death. Pope Eugene made him a cardinal in 1446 after successful trips to Italy and Germany, and when Eugene died the next year Parentucelli was elected in his place. He took his name Nicholas in memory of his obligations to Niccolò Albergati.
The Pontificate of Nicholas saw the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks and the end of the Hundred Years War. He responded by calling a crusade against the Ottomans, which never materialized. By the Concordat of Vienna he secured the recognition of papal rights over bishoprics and benefices. He also brought about the submission of the last of the antipopes, Felix V, and the dissolution of the Synod of Basle. A key figure in the Roman Renaissance, Nicholas sought to make Rome the home of literature and art. He strengthened fortifications, restored aqueducts, and rebuilt many churches. He ordered design plans for what would eventually be the Basilica of St. Peter.Pope Paul II
Pope Paul II (Latin: Paulus II; 23 February 1417 – 26 July 1471), born Pietro Barbo, was Pope from 30 August 1464 to his death in 1471.Pope Pelagius II
Pope Pelagius II (d. 7 February 590) was Pope from 26 November 579 to his death in 590.Pope Pius II
Pope Pius II (Latin: Pius PP. II, Italian: Pio II), born Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini (Latin: Aeneas Silvius Bartholomeus; 18 October 1405 – 14 August 1464) was Pope from 19 August 1458 to his death in 1464. He was born at Corsignano in the Sienese territory of a noble but impoverished family. His longest and most enduring work is the story of his life, the Commentaries, which is the only autobiography ever written by a reigning pope.Pope Pius III
Pope Pius III (29 May 1439 – 18 October 1503), born Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 22 September 1503 to his death. He had one of the shortest pontificates in papal history.Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV (21 July 1414 – 12 August 1484), born Francesco della Rovere, was Pope from 9 August 1471 to his death in 1484. His accomplishments as Pope included the construction of the Sistine Chapel and the creation of the Vatican Archives. A patron of the arts, he brought together the group of artists who ushered 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.
During the Roman Empire (until 493)
including under Constantine (312–337)
Ostrogothic Papacy (493–537)
Byzantine Papacy (537–752)
Frankish Papacy (756–857)
Papal selection before 1059
Saeculum obscurum (904–964)
Crescentii era (974–1012)
Tusculan Papacy (1012–1044/1048)
Imperial Papacy (1048–1257)
Avignon Papacy (1309–1378)
Western Schism (1378–1417)
Renaissance Papacy (1417–1534)
Reformation Papacy (1534–1585)
Baroque Papacy (1585–1689)
Age of Enlightenment (c. 1640-1740)
Revolutionary Papacy (1775–1848)
Roman Question (1870–1929)
Vatican City (1929–present)
|History of the papacy|