Showing posts with label Pope Julius III. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pope Julius III. Show all posts

2 February 2019

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina - composer

Prolific writer had huge influence on the development of religious music

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was once sacked by St Peter's for being married
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was once
sacked by St Peter's for being married
The composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, who was the most famous representative of the 16th century Roman school of musical composition and whose work is often described as the culmination of Renaissance polyphony, died on this day in 1594 in Rome.

Probably in his 70th year when he died, he had composed hundreds of pieces, including 104 masses, more than 300 motets, at least 72 hymns and some 140 or more madrigals.

He served twice as maestro di cappella - musical director - of the Cappella Giulia (Julian Chapel), the choir at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, a highly prestigious if not well paid position.

Appointed for the first time in 1551, he might have stayed there for the rest of his working life had a new pope, Paul IV, not introduced much stricter discipline compared with his predecessor, Julius III. A decree set down by Paul IV in 1555 forbade married men to serve in the papal choir, as a result of which Palestrina and two colleagues were dismissed.

Palestrina subsequently directed the choir at the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano for five years before quitting abruptly in frustration at the limited ability of his singers, compared with St Peter’s.

An engraving from 1544 shows Palestrina presenting Pope Julius III with a mass dedicated to him
An engraving from 1544 shows Palestrina presenting
Pope Julius III with a mass dedicated to him
After a period of unemployment, when he and his family had to live in modest circumstances, he took a position at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where he stayed for seven years before, at the invitation of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, he took charge of the music at the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, a popular summer resort near Rome. He also worked as music master for a newly-formed Seminarium Romanum (Roman Seminary), where his sons Rodolfo and Angelo became students.

By this time, his fame was spreading, but he turned down offers to go to Vienna to become musical director at the court of the emperor Maximilian II, and from the Duke of Mantua, Guglielmo Gonzaga, on the grounds that he preferred not to leave Rome, although his financial demands were considered too high also.

With the death in 1571 of Giovanni Animuccia, who had been musical director at the Vatican since Palestrina left, there was a chance for him to to return to his old post as musical director of the Julian Choir. Offered a much bigger salary, he accepted the opportunity to return and, when Santa Maria Maggiore attempted to rehire him, St. Peter’s again raised his salary.

Palestrina had been born in a house in Via Cecconi in the town of Palestrina, about 35km (22 miles) east of Rome. Commonly known as Gianetto, he became an altar boy and sang in the choir of his local church. By 1537, at around the age of 12, records suggest the was a chorister at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, where he was taught elementary composition.

The first page of Palestrina's Pope Marcellus Mass, published in 1565
The first page of Palestrina's Pope Marcellus
Mass, published in 1565
It is thought his music was influenced by the northern European style of polyphony, dominant in Italy at the time thanks to two composers from the Netherlands, Guillaume Dufay and Josquin des Prez. Until Palestrina, Italy had not produced anyone of comparable skill in polyphony, a style of composition which consists of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody, as opposed to a musical texture with just one voice, monophony.

At about 20 years old, Palestrina took his first job an organist of the Cathedral of St. Agapito, the principal church in his home town. In 1547, he married Lucrezia Gori, whose father had just died and left her some money as well as a house and a vineyard.

They had three sons, Rodolfo, Angelo and Iginio, and lived a relatively contented life until the series of epidemics that swept through central Italy in the late 1570s sadly took the lives of his wife and their two elder sons. Pelestrina himself became seriously ill and when he recovered, still grieving, he announced his intention to become a priest.

This all changed, however, when he met Virginia Dormoli, the widow of a wealthy merchant, whom he married in 1581. He took over the running of her late husband’s fur and leather business, which had a monopoly to supply ermine trim to the papal court. This gave him financial security for the first time in his life and he invested in property, drawing a further income from the rent on four houses.

A statue erected to commemorate the life of Palestrina in his home town
A statue erected to commemorate the life
of Palestrina in his home town
Despite the now considerable demands on his time, Palestrina continued to compose prolifically, perhaps more so, and maintained a remarkably high standard in both his sacred and secular works.

The Palestrina Style - the smooth style of 16th century polyphony - is usually taught as ‘Renaissance polyphony’ in college counterpoint classes of today.  It is characterised by the strict guidelines that Palestrina followed, namely that the flow of music should be ‘dynamic, not rigid or static’; that the melody should contain few leaps between notes and any leaps be immediately countered by opposite stepwise motion; and that dissonances (lack of harmony) are either passing note or off the beat and, if on the beat, immediately resolved.

His 105 masses embrace many different styles, and the number of voices used ranges from four to eight. Among his most important were his Pope Marcellus Mass, Accepit Jesus calicem, “L’Homme armé, Tu es Petrus and his Ave Maria. 

Palestina died in Rome on February 2, 1594 after suffering with pleurisy. His funeral was held at St. Peter's, and he was buried beneath the floor of the basilica, although his tomb was later covered by new construction and attempts to locate the site have so far been unsuccessful.

Detail from the Nile Mosaic in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Palestrina, near Rome
Detail from the Nile Mosaic in the Museo Archeologico
Nazionale di Palestrina, near Rome
Travel tip:

Palestrina is a pretty town of narrow, flower-bedecked streets and is full of history. In Etruscan times, then known as Praeneste, it was home to a spectacular terraced temple, the Santuario della Fortuna Primigenia, which covered much of what is now the centre of the town. It has long since been built over but there is a model in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Palestrina, the town’s hilltop museum, which also contains many exhibits of Etruscan remains, among them the Nile Mosaic, which once decorated the heart of the temple, depicting the course of the Nile through the Egyptian landscape, complete with attendant lions and crocodiles, until it reaches the sea. Outside the museum, within its grounds, there are some exposed sections of the original temple.

The Fontana dell'Ovato is one of the profusion of fountains in the gardens of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli
The Fontana dell'Ovato is one of the profusion of fountains
in the gardens of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli
Travel tip:

The Villa d'Este is a 16th-century villa in Tivoli, about 32km (19 miles) east of Rome, famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance gardens, often referred to simply as the Tivoli Gardens, and for its profusion of fountains, more than 50 in total. A former Benedictine convent, the villa and gardens were designed by the Mannerist architect Pirro Ligorio for Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, who had confiscated it as his residence. It is now an Italian state museum, and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

More reading:

Ruggiero Giovannelli, a composer of religious music thought to have been Palestrina's pupil

How Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci became an authority on Palestrina's work

Carlo Maderno, designer of the great facade of St Peter's in Rome

Also on this day:

1723: The death of anatomist Antonio Maria Valsalva

1891: The birth of former prime minister and president Antonio Segni

1925: The birth of Olympic showjumper Raimondo D’Inzeo

(Picture credits: Statue by Sergio d'Afflitto; Mosaic by Camilia.boban; Fountain by Dnalor.01)


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


4 August 2016

Pope Urban VII

Pope for just 12 days but introduced world's first smoking ban

Pope Urban VII banned not only smoking but chewing tobacco or inhaling snuff
Pope Urban VII banned not only smoking
but chewing tobacco and snuff 
Pope Urban VII was born Giovanni Battista Castagna on this day in 1521 in Rome.

Although his 12-day papacy was the shortest in history, he is remembered as being the first person in the world to declare a ban on smoking.

He was against the use of tobacco generally, threatening to excommunicate anyone who ‘took tobacco in the porchway of, or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe, or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose’.

The ban is thought to have been upheld for the most part until 1724, when Pope Benedict XIII, himself a smoker, repealed it.

Castagna was the son of a nobleman of Genovese origin and studied in universities all over Italy. He obtained a doctorate in civil law and canon law from the University of Bologna.

He served as a constitutional lawyer to Pope Julius III and was then ordained a priest.

He took part in the Council of Trent and then served as an apostolic nuncio in Spain for four years.

Castagna was also Governor of Bologna, apostolic nuncio to Venice and then Papal Legate to Flanders and Cologne.

The courtyard of the Archiginnasio, part of Bologna's historic university
The courtyard of the Archiginnasio, part of
Bologna's historic university
He is remembered for his charity to the poor, for subsidising public works throughout the papal states and for being against nepotism.

Pope Gregory XIII appointed him Cardinal-Priest of San Marcello in 1583.

After the death of Pope Sixtus V, he was elected Pope on 15 September 1590 and chose the pontifical name of Urban VII.

But his papacy ended after just 12 days when he died of malaria on 27 September 1590 in Rome. He was 69 years old.

He was buried in the Vatican but his remains were later transferred to the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome.

Travel tip:

Bologna University, where Castagna studied Law, was founded in 1088 and is the oldest in the world. The university’s oldest surviving building in the centre of the city, the Archiginnasio, is now a library and is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 7 pm, and on Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm. It is just a short walk from Piazza Maggiore and the Basilica di San Petronio.

The tomb of Saint Catherine of Siena can be seen inside the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome
The tomb of Saint Catherine of Siena can be seen inside
the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome
Travel tip:

Pope Urban VII is one of several popes buried in the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which is in Piazza Minerva, close to the Pantheon in Rome. The Basilica is the only surviving Gothic Church structure left in Rome and has the original arched vaulting inside. A sarcophagus containing the remains of Saint Catherine of Siena can be seen behind the high altar.

(Photo of tomb of Catherine of Siena by Medol CC BY-SA 4.0)