The last series of articles appearing in this magazine under the above caption were on the papacy. This article is a continuation of that series. We were occupied with the Renaissance Popes, 1431-1521. Before we proceed it is well to get our bearings.
There were in all eight renaissance popes. Since they were renaissance popes it is necessary that we be clear on that movement known in history as the Renaissance. As was said, the Renaissance—the word means new birth—was a revival of the pagan learning, wisdom and art of the Graeco-Roman world. It had its beginning in Italy shortly after the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. The fall of this city caused a great migration of Greek scholars into Italy. These fugitives brought with them the pagan culture of the East and disseminated it among the Italian secular and spiritual princes and the wealthy classes. From Italy the new learning spread to the utmost bounds of Europe and eventually to the New World (the United States of America). Our civilization is the Christianized paganism of the Graeco-Roman world. Thus in its broadest sense, it was the working of that natural energy that brought into being our modern civilization with its new and pagan conception of religion and science and with its manifold inventions and discoveries.
As was said, of this movement the Reformation was neither a phase nor a product. The two movements differed in principle and in aim. The subjective principle of the Reformation was the life of regeneration, the faith and love of God’s believing people. Its objective principle was the Scriptures. And its aim was the emancipation of the scriptures from the reign of tradition and dogma and the subjection of human reason to the reign of the Scriptures. The Reformation loved the Bible. To the Bible it went back in its original languages. The Renaissance, on the other hand, went back to the ancient classics and revived the spirit of Greek and Roman paganism. Its objective principle was these classics, the pagan learning and wisdom contained therein and in which it gloried. Its subjective principle was unbelief, hatred of God and His word, and positively, the love of the world and the things thereof—the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. True, in Germany the Renaissance, too, inveiged against popes and councils as the ultimate authority in matters of faith. But it was moved by hatred of all authority, whether expressed in the degrees of councils, in the pronouncements of the popes, or in the doctrines of the Scriptures. Thus its aim was to emancipate the mind of man from the reign not merely of tradition and the dogma of the church but of the Scriptures as well. If the priests had subordinated the Bible to tradition and the dogma of the church, the Renaissance submitted it to individual and private judgment. Humanism (Renaissance) therefore was sceptical, rationalistic.
As was said, the ten pontiffs who occupied the papal throne during the years 1431-1517 gladly received the new learning and were deeply influenced by it. All were worldly men who gave little thought to the spiritual interests of the Christian church. They were patrons of letters, artists, and great builders who adorned Rome and filled it with treasures of art, and whose principal ambition was to increase the estates of the church and to maintain themselves as independent rulers in their estates over against the lay pontentates of Italy, who, too, were always striving to extend their possessions. And they had a big heart, did these popes, for their own nephews and other relatives, and bestowed upon them great favors in total disregard of their intellectual and moral disqualifications and age. The Vatican in this period was always crowded with office-seeking kin of the popes. And some of these popes could count among those seeking emoluments of office their own illegitimate children. They acknowledged them without shame and could easily marry them off to the sons and daughters of the most aristocratic families in Italy. Banqueting and indecent entertainment was the order of the day in their palaces, and among their invited guests were even women of ill-repute. The popes of this period were great spenders. For the cost of maintenance of their household was enormous. When their resources were exhausted, they would borrow from banking houses with the things of the Vatican put in pawn.
In fine, the gayeties, scandals and crimes of the Renaissance popes make this period one of the most depraved in the history of the popes. So we wrote. The lives of three of the renaissance popes has already been reviewed. We therefore pass on to Paul II, the dates of whose pontificate are 1464—1471. His real name was Pietro Barbo. His home city was Venice, where he was born in 1418. As a young man, he started in life as a merchantman; but soon thereafter, acting upon the advice of his eldest brother, he gave up his business and devoted himself to the church. His prospect of rapid promotion was excellent, as his uncle was pope Eugenius IV. The pope successively appointed him arch-deacon of Bolongue, bishop of Gervia, bishop of Venice, papal pronotary and cardinal Then followed his election to the papal chair. The cardinals that chose him had agreed amongst themselves to demand that the new pope prosecute the crusade against the Turks, call a general assembly within three years, limit the number of cardinals to 24, appoint to that body not more than one of his relatives, and none who had not attained the age of 30. But Paul, as pope, refused to be dictated to, on the ground of the theory that no one had the right to command the pope, he being the supreme judicial power of Christendom. Accordingly, he called no council, appointed three of his nephews cardinals and ignored the Turks.
Paul was an energetic Pope. He brought the whole of life of Rome under his actual jurisdiction, even putting ceilings on the prices to be paid for clothing, banquets at weddings and funerals, and dowries.
King Podiebrad of Bohemia offered to crusade against the Turks on the condition that Paul recognize him as Byzantine emperor. The pope not only rejected the offer, but deposed the king and ordered Mathias of Hungary to rule in his stead. This doing was in strict accordance with the theory of papal supremacv.
In 1468, Frederick III visited Rome. In the basilica of St. Peter’s holy communion was served. Frederick was seated at the pope’s feet.
Paul seems to have despised learning in the Roman schools. But he took a great deal of pleasure in collecting precious stones, coins, vases and other curios. In his palace were found after his decease, 54 chests of silver filled with pearls that he had collected. But this was not his only diversion. Gregarovius states that he filled his house with concubines. Rome had its carnival week. Paul delighted in its gayeties. From St. Mark’s he watched the crowd make merry. Much to the delight of the merry-makers he provided a feast in the public square and threw down among the people handfuls of coins. He was extravagant in his dress; and his custom was to paint his face, when he appeared in public. He was immoderate in the use of food. He is said to have died as a result of gorging himself with two large melons. Though his eyes stood out with fatness, and though he possessed more than heart could wish, he was a bored man. Asked why he was not contended, he replied that a little wormwood can pollute a whole hive of honey. He attended to official business only under compulsion. He did his sleeping in the daytime and worked nights. His legates had to wait sometimes even till three in the morning before they could get a hearing.
SIXTUS IV. (1471-1484)
The real name of this pope was Francesco Rovers. Being the son of a fisherman, he was born in lowest obscurity near Savona, 1414. He studied theology at Pedua. Obtaining his doctor’s degree, he spent several years in teaching, when he was appointed cardinal by Paul II. As pope, Sixtus’ chief concern was his 16 nephews and grand-nephews. All that was in his power to do, he did, to establish them in positions of opulence and honor. Five of them he appointed cardinals, two of them prefects of Rome. His favorite nephew was Julian Rovere, later elected pope under the name Julian II. He loaded this relative, a man of rare ability, with benefices. He was arch-bishop of Avignon and then of Bologue, bishop of Lausanne, Constance, Viviers, Istia and Lelletri, and besides the head of several abbeys. Another nephew, Riario, was similarly favored. His income amounted to 2,500,000 francs. He had several mistresses, all elegantly dressed. The slippers worn by one of them were embroidered with pearls.
Sixtus was a bloody pope. He fanned the feud between rival families in Rome; and nearly succeeded in blotting out the name of one of them by assassinations and judicial murder.
His sixteen nephews several of whom were worthless men, caused Sixtus no end of trouble as disturbers of the peace of Italy.
Sixtus also gave some attention to the doctrine of the church. He issued two bulls bearing on the doctrine of the immaculate conception. In all matters of ritual and outward religion, none was more punctilious than he, despite the fact that the diarist of Rome, Infessura, calls the days of his death the day on which God liberated Christendom from the hand of an impious and iniquitous ruler, who had before him no fear of God nor love of the Christian world nor any charity whatsoever, but was actuated by avarice, the love of vain show and pomp, most cruel, and given to sodomy.