5 December 2015

Pope Julius II

Patron of the arts who commissioned Michelangelo's greatest works


Giuliano della Rovere, who was to become Pope Julius II, was born on this day in 1443 at Albisola near Genoa.
The Creation of Adam is the most famous scene depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel: Michelangelo's depiction
of the Creation of Adam

He is rem- embered for granting a dispensation to Henry VIII of England to allow him to marry Catherine of Aragon, the widow of his older brother, Arthur, and for commissioning Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.

Giuliano was born into an ecclesiastical family. His uncle, Franceso della Rovere, later became Pope Sixtus IV and it was the future pope Francesco who arranged for his nephew to be educated at a Franciscan friary in Perugia. Giuliano became a bishop in 1471 and then a cardinal before being himself elected Pope in 1503.

Giuliano was 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 ordered the old St Peter’s Basilica to be demolished and commissioned the building of the new church that was to replace it. Some of Michelangelo’s greatest works, including the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, were also commissioned by Julius.
The remains of Pope Julius II lie with those of his uncle, Pope Sixtus IV, under the floor in St Peter’s Basilica.

Travel tip:
The present day St Peter’s Basilica in Rome was completed in 1626, having been commissioned by Pope Julius II during his papacy. It is believed to be the largest church in the world and Michelangelo, Bramante and Bernini were among the artists who contributed to the design.
Pope Julius II ordered St Peter's to be demolished and rebuilt
St Peter's Basilica in Rome was rebuilt
by Pope Julius II
Photo by Jean-Paul Grandmont/CC-BY SA

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.  The artist's amazing masterpiece is in bright colours, easily visible from the floor. It covers more than 400 square metres of the ceiling of the chapel.


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