At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

21 February 2016

Death of Pope Julius II

Pope who went into battle to seize back the Romagna

Raphael's portrait of Pope Julius II, which is housed in the National Gallery in London
Raphael's portrait of Pope Julius II, which
is housed in the National Gallery in London
Pope Julius II, who was nicknamed ‘the Warrior Pope’, died on this day in 1513 in Rome.

As well as conducting military campaigns during his papacy he was responsible for the destruction and rebuilding of St Peter’s Basilica and commissioning Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

He is also remembered by students of British history as being the Pope who gave Henry VIII dispensation to marry Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow.

Born Giuliano della Rovere, he was the nephew of Francesco della Rovere, who became Pope Sixtus IV.

His uncle sent him to be educated by the Franciscans and he was made a Bishop soon after his Uncle became Pope.

He later became Cardinal Priest of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome and was very influential in the College of Cardinals.

One of his major rivals was Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia, who was elected Pope Alexander VI in 1492. After accusing him of corruption, della Rovere retreated from Rome until Alexander died in 1503.

He was succeeded by Pope Pius III who died less than a month after becoming Pope and della Rovere was finally elected as Pope Julius II in November 1503.

Julius ordered all traces of the Borgias to be removed or covered up and their apartments remained sealed till the 19th century.

He fought to rid the Romagna of the Republic of Venice and freed Perugia and Bologna from the despots that were ruling them.

He also founded the Swiss Guard to provide a constant supply of soldiers to protect the Pope.

Julius joined in the Italian Wars in league with France and Spain to take territory back from Venice but his allies later switched sides and little was gained from his efforts.

Julius II remained Pope for nine years until he died of fever in 1513.

When Henry VIII later asked for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be annulled so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, he claimed that Pope Julius II should never have issued the dispensation to allow him to marry his sister in law. But the Pope at the time, Clement VII, refused to annul the marriage so Henry VIII divorced the Catholic Church instead, leading to the English Reformation.

During his time as Pope, Julius II had ordered the old St Peter’s Basilica to be demolished and commissioned the building of the new church that was to replace it. He was also a patron of Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo.

The remains of Pope Julius II lie with those of his uncle, Pope Sixtus IV, under the floor in St Peter’s Basilica.

The chains said to have bound St Peter are on display in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli
The chains said to have bound St Peter are on
display in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli
Photo: Raja Patnaik (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

The Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, St Peter in Chains, near the Colosseum in Rome, was the church where Julius was Cardinal. The Church is a shrine for the chains that are believed to have bound St Peter during his imprisonment. It is also the home of Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses, completed in 1515. This was originally intended to be part of a funeral monument for Pope Julius II, but his remains were interred in St Peter’s Basilica instead.

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Travel tip:

The Sistine Chapel is in the Apostolic Palace, where the Pope lives, in Vatican City. The chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, the uncle of Pope Julius II, who had it restored during his papacy. Between 1508 and 1512 Michelangelo painted the ceiling at the request of Pope Julius II. His amazing masterpiece, created by the artist lying on his back, depicts scenes from Genesis in bright colours that are easily visible from the floor and cover more than 400 square metres.

More reading: The death of Michelangelo; February 18, 1564.


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