Showing posts with label 1475. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1475. Show all posts

11 December 2016

Pope Leo X

Renaissance pope supported art but did not foresee the Reformation

Pope Leo X, with cardinals Giulio de Medici  and Luigi de Rossi, in a portrait by Raphael
Pope Leo X, with cardinals Giulio de' Medici
 and Luigi de Rossi, in a portrait by Raphael
Pope Leo X was born as Giovanni de' Medici, on this day in 1475 in Florence.

The second son of Lorenzo de' Medici - Lorenzo Il Magnifico - who ruled the Florentine Republic, Leo X has gone down in history as one of the leading Renaissance popes, who made Rome a cultural centre during his papacy.

He is also remembered for failing to take the Reformation seriously enough and for excommunicating Martin Luther.

Giovanni was always destined for a religious life and received a good education at his father’s court, where one of his tutors was the philosopher Pico della Mirandolo. Giovanni went on to study theology and canon law at the University of Pisa.

In 1492 he became a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals, but after his father died later that year, he returned to Florence to live with his older brother, Piero.

He was exiled from Florence in 1494 with the rest of his family, accused of betraying the Florentine republic, and spent the next six years travelling throughout northern Europe.

On his return to Italy in 1500 he settled in Rome and on the death of his brother, Piero, he became the head of the Medici family. Giovanni took part in the conclaves in 1503 that elected first Pope Pius III and then Pope Julius II.

Giovanni was named papal legate to Bologna and Romagna in 1511 and supervised the restoring of Medici control over Florence the following year. Although his younger brother, Giuliano, was in charge of the Florentine republic in name, it was really his older brother, Giovanni, the Cardinal, who ruled.

Giovanni was elected Pope on March 11, 1513 and took the title of Leo X.

He was ordained a priest on March 15 and consecrated Bishop of Rome before being crowned Pope.

Having spent his youth at the court of Lorenzo dè Medici, Leo X personified Renaissance ideals. He was lavish with both the church’s money and his own. Under his patronage, Rome became the cultural centre of Europe once again.

St Peter's Basilica in Rome, as seen from the roof of  Castel Sant'Angelo
St Peter's Basilica in Rome, as seen from the roof of
Castel Sant'Angelo
Work was speeded up on the construction of the new St Peter’s Basilica, which had been initiated by Pope Julius II. The holdings of the Vatican Library were increased and the arts flourished during his papacy.

As ruler of the Papal States and head of the Medici family who ruled the Florentine republic, Pope Leo X gave offices and benefits to his family to strengthen still further his position.

In 1517, after an attempt had been made on his life, Leo X named 31 new Cardinals. A former Cardinal was strangled in prison and several other imprisoned and executed after being implicated in the attempted assassination.

The Pope also had to contend with the power of France from the north and Spain to the south in the struggle to control Italy.

To raise additional money for the reconstruction of St Peter’s Basilica, Leo X reaffirmed granting papal indulgences for the remission of sins to those who contributed.

Martin Luther, whom Leo X believed was a heretic
Martin Luther, whom Leo X believed was a heretic
This was challenged by Martin Luther, who circulated his Ninety-Five Theses attacking the practice. Leo X issued a papal bull charging Luther with 41 instances of deviation from the teaching and practice of the church and ordered him to recant within 60 days or be excommunicated. Luther defied the Pope and was excommunicated by him on 3 January 1521.

Leo X believed Luther was a heretic whose teaching would leave some of the faithful astray, but that true religion would triumph.

Leo X died in Rome in December 1521 leaving behind political turmoil in Italy and religious turmoil in northern Europe. He did not take seriously the demand for church reforms that would later grow into the Protestant Reformation.

Travel tip:

The stunning Renaissance Basilica of St Peter’s in Rome was completed and consecrated in 1626, helped by the funding acquired by Pope Leo X. Believed to be the largest church in the world, Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano was built to replace the original fourth century Basilica that had been constructed on what was believed to be the burial site of St Peter. Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini were among the many artistic geniuses who contributed to the design of the church, which is considered to be a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. Located within Vatican City, the Basilica is approached along Via della Conciliazione and through the vast space of St Peter’s Square. It is believed that St Peter, one of the disciples of Jesus, was executed in Rome on October13, 64 AD during the reign of the Emperor Nero. He was buried close to the place of his martyrdom. The old St Peter’s Basilica was constructed over the burial site 300 years later. Archaeological research under the present day Basilica was carried out during the last century and Pope Pius XII announced the discovery of St Peter’s tomb in 1950.

The Sistine Hall of the Vatican Library
The Sistine Hall of the Vatican Library
Travel tip:

The Vatican Library, inside the Vatican Palace, was built up by Pope Leo X during his papacy. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world but was formally established in 1475, the year Leo X was born. Today it is a research library for history, law, philosophy, science and theology and can be used by anyone who can document their qualifications and research needs. The Vatican Library contains a defence of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church against Martin Luther, supposedly written, or at least signed by, Henry VIII, King of England. He added a couple of lines to the text in his own hand before presenting the book to Pope Leo X.

More reading:

How Pope Julius II came to commission Michelangelo

The consecration of St Peter's Basilica

Bernini and the fountains of Rome

Also on this day:

1912: The birth of film producer Carlo Ponti


2 November 2015

Bartolomeo Colleoni - soldier

Death of an ‘honourable’ Italian military leader

Bergamo soldier Bartolomeo Colleoni, who became known for using his wealth to benefit people, died on this day in 1475.

Colleoni spent most of his life in the pay of the republic of Venice defending the city of Bergamo against invaders.

Statue of Colleoni in Venice
But he is remembered as one of the most decent condottieri of his era, carrying out charitable works and agricultural improvements in Bergamo and the surrounding area when he was not involved in military campaigns.

Condottieri were the leaders of troops, who worked for the powerful ruling factions, often for high payments. 

Bergamo’s Bartolomeo Colleoni was unusual because he remained steadfast to one employer, the republic of Venice, for most of his career.

During a period of peace between Venice and Milan he worked briefly for Milan but the rulers never fully trusted him and eventually he was arrested and imprisoned. On his release, he returned to work for Venice and subsequently stayed faithful to them.

Towards the end of his life he lived with his family at his castle in Malpaga, to the south of Bergamo and turned his attention to designing a building to house his own tomb. 

This has given Bergamo’s upper town its most ornate and celebrated building, the Cappella Colleoni (Colleoni Chapel).

Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo
Bartolomeo Colleoni left money to Venice in his will with a request that a statue of himself be erected in Piazza San Marco after his death. As there was a rule that no monuments were allowed in the Piazza, the statue, made by Andrea del Verrocchio, was eventually placed opposite the Scuola di San Marco in Campo Santi Giovanni e Paolo.

Travel tip:

Visit Bergamo to see one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Italy.  
Cappella Colleoni was designed by architect Antonio Amadeo to harmonise with the adjacent Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, using pink and white marble to match the colours of the doorway of the basilica. Inside the chapel there is an elaborate two tier sarcophagus surmounted by a golden statue of Colleoni on horseback. The military leader’s body was placed in the lower sarcophagus, according to his instructions, where it still lies today. Above his tomb there are frescoes by Giambattista Tiepolo.

Travel tip:

November 2 is All Souls Day, or the Day of the Dead, in Italy, when people visit the graves of their loved ones. Many areas observe their own rituals and have special foods, such as the slightly macabre ossi dei morti (bones of the dead), which are traditional biscuits eaten on All Souls Day in the Veneto region.