Vol. 6, Chapter VI. The Last Popes of the Middle Ages. 1447-1521

48. Literature and General Survey

Works on the Entire Chapter. — Bullarium, ed. by Tomasetti, 5 vols., Turin, 1859 sq. — Mansi: Councils, XXXI., XXXII. — Muratori: Rerum ital. scriptores. Gives Lives of the popes. — Stefano Infessura: Diario della città di Roma, ed. by O. Tommasini, Rome, 1890. Extends to 1494, and is the journal of an eye-witness. Also in Muratori. — Joh. Burchard: Diarium sive rerum urbanarum commentarii, 1483-1506, ed. by L. Thuasne, 3 vols., Paris, 1883-1885. Also in Muratori. — B. Platina, b. 1421 in Cremona, d. as superintendent of the Vatican libr., 1481: Lives of the Popes to the Death of Paul II., 1st Lat. ed., Venice, 1479, Engl. trans. by W. Benham in Anc. and Mod. Libr. of Theol. No date. — Sigismondo Dei Conti da Foligno: Le storie de suoi tempi 1475-1510, 2 vols., Rome, 1883. Lat. and Ital. texts in parallel columns. — Pastor: Ungedruckte Akten zur Gesch. der Paepste, vol. I., 1376-1464, Freiburg, 1904. — Ranke: Hist. of the Popes. — A. von Reumont: Gesch. d. Stadt Rom., vol. III., Berlin, 1870. — *Mandell Creighton, bp. of London: Hist. of the Papacy during the Period of the Reformation, II. 235-IV., London, 1887. — *Gregorovius: Hist. of the City of Rome, Engl. trans., VII., VIII. — *L. Pastor, R. Cath. Prof. at Innsbruck: Gesch. der Paepste im Zeitalter der Renaissance, 4 vols., Freiburg, 1886-1906, 4th ed., 1901-1906, Engl. trans. F. I. Ambrosius, etc., 8 vols., 1908. — Wattenbach: Gesch. des roem. Papstthums, 2d ed., Berlin, 1876, pp. 284-300. — Hefele-Hergenroether: Conciliengeschichte, VIII. Hergenroether’s continuation of Hefele’s work falls far below the previous vols. by Hefele’s own hand as rev. by Knoepfler. — The Ch. Histt. of Hergenroether-Kirsch, Hefele, Funk, Karl Müller. — H. Thurston: The Holy Year of Jubilee. An Account of the Hist. and Ceremonial of the Rom. Jubilee, London, 1900. — Pertinent artt. in Wetzer-Welte and Herzog. The Histt. of the Renaissance of Burckhardt and Symonds. — For fuller lit., see the extensive lists prefixed to Pastor’s first three vols. and for a judicious estimate of the contemporary writers, see Creighton at the close of his vols.


The works of Creighton, Gregorovius and Pastor are very full. It is doubtful whether any period of history has been treated so thoroughly and satisfactorily by three contemporary historians. Pastor and Gregorovius have used new documents discovered by themselves in the archives of Mantua, Milan, Modena, Florence, the Vatican, etc. Pastor’s notes are vols. of erudite investigation. Creighton is judicial but inclined to be too moderate in his estimate of the vices of the popes, and in details not always reliable. Gregorovius’ narration is searching and brilliant. He is unsparing in his reprobation of the dissoluteness of Roman society and backs his statements with authorities. Pastor’s masterly and graphic treatment is the most extensive work on the period. Although written with ultramontane prepossessions, it is often unsparing when it deals with the corruption of popes and cardinals, especially Alexander VI., who has never been set forth in darker colors since the 16th century than on its pages.

§ 49. Nicholas V. — Lives by Platina and in Muratori, especially Manetti. — Infessura: pp. 46-59. — Gibbon: Hist. of Rome, ch. LXVIII. For the Fall of Constantinople. — Gregorovius: VII. 101-160. — Creighton: II. 273-365. — Pastor: I. 351-774. — Geo. Findlay: Hist. of Greece to 1864, 7 vols., Oxford, 1877, vols. IV., V. — Edw. Pears: The Destruction of the German Empire and the Story of the Capture of Constantinople by the Turks, London, 1903, pp. 476.

§ 50. Pius II. — Opera omnia, Basel, 1551, 1571, 1589. — Opera inedita, by I. Cugnoni, Rome, 1883. — His Commentaries, Pii pontif. max. commentarii rerum memorabilium quae temporibus suis contigerunt, with the continuation of Cardinal Ammanati, Frankfurt, 1614. Last ed. Rome, 1894. — Epistolae, Cologne, 1478, and often. Also in opera, Basel, 1551. A. Weiss: Aeneas Sylvius als Papst Pius II. Rede mit 149 bisher ungedruckten Briefen, Graz, 1897. — Eine Rede d. Enea Silvio vor d. C. zu Basel, ed. J. Haller in Quellen u. Forschungen aus ital. Archiven, etc., Rome, 1900, III. 82-102. — Pastor: II. 714-747 gives a number of Pius’ letters before unpubl. — Orationes polit. et eccles. by Mansi, 3 vols., Lucae, 1755-1759. — Historia Frid. III. Best ed. by Kollar, Vienna, 1762, Germ. trans. by Ilgen, 2 vols., in Geschichtschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit., Leipzig, 1889 sq. — Addresses at the Congress of Mantua and the bulls Execrabilis and In minoribus in Mansi: Concil., XXXII., 191-267. — For full list of edd. of Pius’ Works, see Potthast, I. 19-25. — Platina: Lives of the Popes. — Antonius Campanus: Vita Pii II, in Muratori, Scripp., III. 2, pp. 969-992. — G. Voigt: Enea Silvio de’ Piccolomini als Papst Pius II. und sein Zeitalter, 3 vols., Berlin, 1856-1863. — K. Hase: Aen. Syl. Piccolomini, in Rosenvorlesungen, pp. 56-88, Leipzig, 1880. — A. Brockhaus: Gregor von Heimburg, Leipzig, 1861. — K. Menzel: Diether von Isenberg, als Bischof von Mainz, 1459-1463, Erlangen, 1868. — Gregorovius: VII. 160-218. — Burckhardt. — Creighton: II. 365-500. — Pastor: II. 1-293. Art. Pius II. by Benrath in Herzog, XV. 422-435.

§ 51. Paul II. — Lives by Platina, Gaspar Veronensis, and M. Canensius of Viterbo, both in Muratori, new ed., 1904, III., XVI., p. 3 sqq., with Preface, pp. i-xlvi. — A. Patritius: Descriptio adventus Friderici III. ad Paulum II., Muratori, XXIII. 205-215. — Ammanati’s Continuation of Pius lI.’s Commentaries, Frankfurt ed., 1614. Gaspar Veronensis gives a panegyric of the cardinals and Paul’s relatives, and stops before really taking up Paul’s biography. Platina, from personal pique, disparaged Paul II. Canensius’ Life is in answer to Platina, and the most important biography. — Gregorovius: VII. — Creighton: III. — Pastor: II.

§§ 52, 53. Sixtus IV., Innocent VIII. — Infessura, pp. 75-283. — Burchard, in Thuasne’s ed., vol. I. — J. Gherardi da Volterra: Diario Romano, 1479-1484, in Muratori, Scripp., XXIII. 3, also the ed. of 1904. — Platina in Muratori, III., p. 1053, etc. (accepted by Pastor as genuine and with some question by Creighton). — Sigismondo dei Conti da Foligno: vol. I. Infessura is severe on Sixtus IV. and Innocent VIII. Volterra, who received an office from Sixtus, does not pronounce a formal judgment. Sigismondo, who was advanced by Sixtus, is partial to him. — A. Thuasne: Djem, Sultan, fils de Mohammed II. d’après les documents originaux en grande partie inédits, Paris, 1892. — Gregorovius: VII. 241-340. — Pastor: II. 451-III. 284. — Creighton: III. 56-156. — W. Roscoe: Life of Lorenzo the Magnificent, 2 vols., Liverpool, 1795, 6th ed., London, 1825, etc.

§ 54. Alexander VI. — Bulls in Bullarium Rom. — The Regesta of Alex., filling 113 vols., in the Vatican, Nos. 772-884. After being hidden from view for three centuries, they were opened, 1888, by Leo XIII. to the inspection and use of Pastor. — See Pastor’s Preface in his Gesch. der Paepste, Infessura. Stops at Feb. 26, 1494. — Burchard: vols. II., III. — Sigismondo de’ Conti: Le storie, etc. — Gordon: Life of Alex. VI., London, 1728. — Abbé Ollivier: Le pape Alex. VI. et les Borgia, Paris, 1870. — V. Nemec: Papst Alex. VI., eine Rechtfertigung, Klagenfurt, 1879. Both attempts to rescue this pope from infamy. — Leonetti: Papa Aless. VI., 3 vols., Bologna, 1880. — M. Brosch: Alex. VI. u. seine Soehne, Vienna, 1889. — C. von Hoefler: Don Rodrigo de Borgia und seine Soehne, Don Pedro Luis u. Don Juan, Vienna, 1889. — Hoefler: D. Katastrophe des herzoeglichen Hauses des Borgias von Gandia, Vienna, 1892. — Schubertsoldem: D. Borgias u. ihre Zeit, 1907. — Reumont: Gesch. der Stadt Rom. Also art. Alex. VI. in Wetzer-Welte, I. 483-491. — H. F. Delaborde: L’expédition de Chas. VIII. en Italie, Paris, 1888. — Ranke: Hist. of the Popes. — Roscoe: Life of Lorenzo. — Gregorovius: Hist. of City of Rome, vol. VII. Also Lucrezia Borgia, 3d ed., Stuttgart, 1875. Engl. trans. by J. L. Garner, 2 vols., New York, 1903. — Creighton: III. — Pastor: III. — Hergenroether-Kirsch: III. 982-988. — * P. Villari: Machiavelli and his times, Engl. trans., 4 vols., London, 1878-1883. — Burckhardt and Symonds on the Renaissance. — E. G. Bourne: Demarcation Line Of Alex. Vi. In Essays In Hist. Criticism. — Lord Acton: The Borgias and their Latest Historian, in North Brit. Rev., 1871, pp. 351-367.

§ 55. Julius II. Bullarium IV. — Burchard: Diarium to May, 1506. — Sigismondo: vol. II. — Paris de Grassis, master of ceremonies at the Vatican, 1504 sqq.: Diarium from May 12, 1504, ed. by L. Frati, Bologna, 1886, and Döllinger in Beitaege zur pol. Kirchl. u. Culturgesch. d. letzen 6 Jahrh., 3 vols., Vienna, 1863-1882, III. 363-433. — A. Giustinian, Venetian ambassador: Dispacci, Despatches, 1502-1505, ed. by Villari, 3 vols., Florence, 1876, and by Rawdon Browning in Calendar of State Papers, London, 1864 sq. — Fr. Vettori: Sommario delta storia d’Italia 1511-1527, ed. by Reumont in Arch. Stor. Itat., Append. B., pp. 261-387. — Dusmenil: Hist. de Jules II., Paris, 1873. — * M. Brosch: Papst Julius II. und die Gruendung des Kirchenstaats, Gotha, 1878. — P. Lehmann: D. pisaner Konzit vom Jahre, 1511, Breslau, 1874. — Hefele-Hergenroether: VIII. 392-592. — Benrath: Art. Julius II., in Herzog, IX. 621-625. — Villari: Machiavelli. — Ranke: I. 36-59. — Reumont: III., Pt. 2, pp. 1-49. Gregorovius: VIII. — Creighton: IV. 54-176. — Pastor: III.

§ 56. Leo X. — Regesta to Oct. 16, 1515, ed. by Hergenroether, 8 vols., Rome, 1884-1891. — Mansi: XXXII. 649-1001. — Paris de Grassis, as above, and ed. by Armellini: Il diario de Leone X., Rome, 1884. Vettori: Sommario. — M. Sanuto, Venetian ambassador: Diarii, I.-XV., Venice, 1879 sqq. — *Paulus Jovius, b. 1483, acquainted with Leo: De Vita Leonis, Florence, 1549. The only biog. till Fabroni’s Life, 1797. — * L. Landucci: Diario Fiorentino 1450-1516, continued to 1542, ed. by Badia, Florence, 1883. — *W. Roscoe: Life and Pontificate of Leo X., 4 vols., Liverpool, 1805, 6th ed. rev. by his son, London, 1853. The book took high rank, and its value continues. Apologetic for Leo, whom the author considers the greatest pope of modern times. Put on the Index by Leo XII., d. 1829. A Germ. trans. by Glaser and Henke, with valuable notes, 3 vols., Leipzig, 1806-1808. Ital. trans. by Count L. Bossi, Milan, 1816 sq. — E. Muntz: Raphael, His Life, Work, and Times, Engl. trans., W. Armstrong, London, 1896. — E. Armstrong: Lor. de’ Medici, New York, 1896. — H. M. Vaughan: The Medici Popes (Leo X. and Clement VII.), London, 1908. Hefele-Hergenroether: VIII. 592-855. — Reumont: III. Pt. 2, pp. 49-146. Villari: Machiavelli. — Creighton: IV. — Gregorovius: VIII. — Pastor: IV. — Koestlin: Life of Luther, I. 204-525. — *A. Schulte: Die Fugger in Rom. 1495-1523, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1904. — Burckhardt. — Symonds.

Popes. — Nicolas V., 1447-1455; Calixtus III., 1455-1458; Pius II., 1458-1464; Paul II., 1464-1471; Sixtus IV., 1471-1484; Innocent VIII., 1484-1492; Alexander VI., 1492-1503; Pius III., 1503; Julius II., 1503-1513; Leo X., 1513-1521.

The period of the Reformatory councils, closing with the Basel-Ferrara synod, was followed by a period notable in the history of the papacy, the period of the Renaissance popes. These pontiffs of the last years of the Middle Ages were men famous alike for their intellectual endowments, the prostitution of their office to personal aggrandizement and pleasure and the lustre they gave to Rome by their patronage of letters and the fine arts. The decree of the Council of Constance, asserting the supreme authority of ecumenical councils, treated as a dead letter by Eugenius IV., was definitely set aside by Pius II. in a bull forbidding appeals from papal decisions and affirming finality for the pope’s authority. For 70 years no general assembly of the Church was called.

The ten pontiffs who sat on the pontifical throne, 1450-1517, represented in their origin the extremes of fortune, from the occupation of the fisherman, as in the case of Sixtus IV., to the refinement of the most splendid aristocracy of the age, as in the case of Leo X. of the family of the Medici. In proportion as they embellished Rome and the Vatican with the treasures of art, did they seem to withhold themselves from that sincere religious devotion which would naturally be regarded as a prime characteristic of one claiming to be the chief pastor of the Christian Church on earth. No great principle of administration occupied their minds. No conspicuous movement of pious activity received their sanction, unless the proposed crusade to reconquer Constantinople be accounted such, but into that purpose papal ambition entered more freely than devotion to the interests of religion.

This period was the flourishing age of nepotism in the Vatican. The bestowment of papal favors by the pontiffs upon their nephews and other relatives dates as a recognized practice from Boniface VIII. In vain did papal conclaves, following the decree of Constance, adopt protocols, making the age of 30 the lowest limit for appointment to the sacred college, and putting a check on papal favoritism. Ignoring the instincts of modesty and the impulse of religion, the popes bestowed the red hat upon their young nephews and grandnephews and upon the sons of princes, in spite of their utter disqualification both on the ground of intelligence and of morals. The Vatican was beset by relatives of the pontiffs, hungry for the honors and the emoluments of office. Here are some of those who were made cardinals before they were 30: Calixtus III. appointed his nephews, Juan and Rodrigo Borgia (Alexander VI.), the latter 25, and the little son of the king of Portugal; Pius II., his nephew at 23, and Francis Gonzaga at 17; Sixtus IV., John of Aragon at 14, his nephews, Peter and Julian Rovere, at 25 and 28, and his grandnephew, Rafaelle Riario, at 17; Innocent VIII., John Sclafenatus at 23, Giovanni de’ Medici at 13; Alexander VI., in 1493, Hippolito of Este at 15, whom Sixtus had made archbishop of Strigonia at 8, his son, Caesar Borgia, at 18, Alexander Farnese (Paul III.), brother of the pope’s mistress, at 25, and Frederick Casimir, son of the king of Poland, at 19; Leo X., in 1513, his nephew, Innocent Cibo, at 21, and his cousin, the illegitimate Julius de’ Medici, afterwards Clement VII., and in 1517 three more nephews, one of them the bastard son of his brother, also Alfonzo of Portugal at 7, and John of Loraine, son of the duke of Sicily, at 20. This is an imperfect list. Bishoprics, abbacies and other ecclesiastical appointments were heaped upon the papal children, nephews and other favorites. The cases in which the red hat was conferred for piety or learning were rare, while the houses of Mantua, Ferrara and Modena, the Medici of Florence, the Sforza of Milan, the Colonna and the Orsini had easy access to the Apostolic camera.

The cardinals vied with kings in wealth and luxury, and their palaces were enriched with the most gorgeous furnishings and precious plate, and filled with servants. They set an example of profligacy which they carried into the Vatican itself. The illegitimate offspring of pontiffs were acknowledged without a blush, and the sons and daughters of the highest houses in Italy, France and Spain were sought in marriage for them by their indulgent fathers. The Vatican was given up to nuptial and other entertainments, even women of ill-repute being invited to banquets and obscene comedies performed in its chambers.

The prodigal expenditures of the papal household were maintained in part by the great sums, running into tens of thousands of ducats, which rich men were willing to pay for the cardinalate. When the funds of the Vatican ran low, loans were secured from the Fuggers and other banking houses and the sacred things of the Vatican put in pawn, even to the tiara itself. The amounts required by Alexander VI. for marriage dowries for his children, and by Leo X. for nephews, were enormous.

Popes, like Sixtus IV. and Alexander VI., had no scruple about involving Italy in internecine wars in order to compass the papal schemes either in the enlargement of papal domain or the enrichment of papal sons and nephews. Julius II. was a warrior and went to the battle-field in armor. No sovereign of his age was more unscrupulous in resorting to double dealing in his diplomacy than was Leo X. To reach the objects of its ambition, the holy see was ready even to form alliances with the sultan. The popes, so Döllinger says, from Paul II. to Leo X., did the most it was possible to do to cover the papacy with shame and disgrace and to involve Italy in the horrors of endless wars. The Judas-like betrayal of Christ in the highest seat of Christendom, the gayeties, scandals and crimes of popes as they pass before the reader in the diaries of Infessura, Burchard and de Grassis and the despatches of the ambassadors of Venice, Mantua and other Italian states, and as repeated by Creighton, Pastor and Gregorovius, make this period one of the most dramatic in human annals. The personal element furnished scene after scene of consuming interest. It seems to the student as if history were approaching some great climax.

Three events of permanent importance for the general history of mankind also occurred in this age, the overthrow of the Byzantine empire, 1453, the discovery of the Western world, 1492, and the invention of printing. It closed with a general council, the Fifth Lateran, which adjourned only a few months before the Reformer in the North shook the papal fabric to its base and opened the door of the modern age.


49. Nicolas V. 1447-1455

Nicolas V., 1447-1455, the successor of Bugenius IV., was ruled by the spirit of the new literary culture, the Renaissance, and was the first Maecenas in a line of popes like-minded. Following his example, his successors were for a century among the foremost patrons of art and letters in Europe. What Gregory VII. was to the system of the papal theocracy, that Nicolas was to the artistic revival in Rome. Under his rule, the eternal city witnessed the substantial beginnings of that transformation, in which it passed from a spectacle of ruins and desertion to a capital adorned with works of art and architectural construction. He himself repaired and beautified the Vatican and St. Peter’s, laid the foundation of the Vatican library and called scholars and artists to his court.

Thomas Parentucelli, born 1397, the son of a physician of Sarzana, owed nothing of his distinction to the position of his family. His father was poor, and the son was little of stature, with disproportionately short legs. What he lacked, however, in bodily parts, he made up in intellectual endowments, tact and courtesies of manner. His education at Bologna being completed, his ecclesiastical preferment was rapid. In 1444, he was made archbishop of Bologna and, on his return from Germany as papal legate, 1446, he was honored with the red hat. Four months later he was elevated to the papal throne, and according to Aeneas Sylvius, whose words about the eminent men of his day always have a diplomatic flavor, Thomas was so popular that there was no one who did not approve his election.

To Nicolas was given the notable distinction of witnessing the complete reunion of Western Christendom. By the abdication of Felix V., whom he treated with discreet and liberal generosity, and by Germany’s abandonment of its attitude of neutrality, he could look back upon papal schism and divided obediences as matters of the past.

The Jubilee Year, celebrated in 1450, was adapted to bind the European nations closely to Rome, and to stir up anew the fires of devotion which had languished during the ecclesiastical disputes of nearly a century. So vast were the throngs of pilgrims that the contemporary, Platina, felt justified in asserting that such multitudes had never been seen in the holy city before. According to Aeneas, 40,000 went daily from church to church. The handkerchief of St. Veronica, — lo sudario, — bearing the outline of the Lord’s face, was exhibited every Sabbath, and the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul every Saturday. The large sums of money which the pilgrims left, Nicolas knew well how to use in carrying out his plans for beautifying the churches and streets of the city.

The calamity, which occurred on the bridge of St. Angelo, and cast a temporary gloom over the festivities of the holy year, is noticed by all the contemporary writers. The mule belonging to Peter Barbus, cardinal of St. Mark’s, was crushed to death, so dense were the crowds, and in the excitement two hundred persons or more were trodden down or drowned by being pushed or throwing themselves into the Tiber. To prevent a repetition of the disaster, the pope had several buildings obstructing the passage to the bridge pulled down.

In the administration of the properties of the holy see, Nicolas was discreet and successful. He confirmed the papal rule over the State of the Church, regained Bolsena and the castle of Spoleto, and secured the submission of Bologna, to which he sent Bessarion as papal legate. The conspiracy of Stephen Porcaro, who emulated the ambitions of Rienzo, was put down in 1453 and left the pope undisputed master of Rome. In his selection of cardinals he was wise, Nicolas of Cusa being included in the number. The appointment of his younger brother, Philip Calandrini, to the sacred college, aroused no unfavorable criticism.

Nicolas’ reign witnessed, in 1452, the last coronation in Rome of a German emperor, Frederick III. This monarch, who found in his councillor, Aeneas Sylvius, an enthusiastic biographer, but who, by the testimony of others, was weak and destitute of martial spirit and generous qualities, was the first of the Hapsburgs to receive the crown in the holy city, and held the imperial office longer than any other of the emperors before or after him. With his coronation the emperor combined the celebration of his nuptials to Leonora of Portugal.

Frederick’s journey to Italy and his sojourn in Rome offered to the pen of Aeneas a rare opportunity for graphic description, of which he was a consummate master. The meeting with the future empress, the welcome extended to his majesty, the festivities of the marriage and the coronation, the trappings of the soldiery, the blowing of the horns, the elegance of the vestments worn by the emperor and his visit to the artistic wonders of St. Peter’s, — these and other scenes the shrewd and facile Aeneas depicted. The Portuguese princess, whose journey from Lisbon occupied 104 days, disembarked at Leghorn, February, 1452, where she was met by Frederick, attended by a brilliant company of knights. After joining in gay entertainments at Siena, lasting four days, the party proceeded to Rome. Leonora, who was only sixteen, was praised by those who saw her for her rare beauty and charms of person. She was to become the mother of Maximilian and the ancestress of Charles V.

On reaching the gates of the papal capital, Frederick was met by the cardinals, who offered him the felicitations of the head of Christendom, but also demanded from him the oath of allegiance, which was reluctantly promised. The ceremonies, which followed the emperor’s arrival, were such as to flatter his pride and at the same time to confirm the papal tenure of power in the city. Frederick was received by Nicolas on the steps of St. Peter’s, seated in an ivory chair, and surrounded by his cardinals, standing. The imperial visitor knelt and kissed the pontiff’s foot. On March 16, Nicolas crowned him with the iron crown of Lombardy and united the imperial pair in marriage. Leonora then went to her own palace, and Frederick to the Vatican as its guest. The reason for his lodging near the pope was that Nicolas might have opportunity for frequent communication with him or, as rumor went, to prevent the Romans approaching him under cover of darkness with petitions for the restoration of their liberties. Three days later, March 19, the crown of the empire was placed upon Frederick’s head. With his consort he then received the elements from the pope’s hand. The following week Frederick proceeded to Naples.

Scarcely in any pontificate has so notable and long-forecasted an event occurred as the fall of Constantinople into the hands of the Turks, which took place May 29, 1453. The last of the Constantines perished in the siege, fighting bravely at the gate of St. Romanos. The church of Justinian, St. Sophia, was turned into a mosque, and a cross, surmounted with a janissary’s cap, was carried through the streets, while the soldiers shouted, “This is the Christian’s God.” This historic catastrophe would have been regarded in Western Europe as appalling, if it had not been expected. The steady advance of the Turks and their unspeakable atrocities had kept the Greek empire in alarm for centuries. Three hundred years before, Latin Christendom had been taught to expect defeats at the hands of the Mohammedans in the taking of Edessa, 1145, and the fatal battle of Hattin and the loss of Jerusalem, 1187.

In answer to the appeals of the Greeks, Nicolas despatched Isidore as legate to Constantinople with a guard of 200 troops, but, as a condition of helping the Eastern emperor, he insisted that the Ferrara articles of union be ratified in Constantinople. In a long communication, dated Oct. 11, 1451, the Roman pontiff declared that schisms had always been punished more severely than other evils. Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who attempted to divide the people of God, received a more bitter punishment than those who introduced idolatry. There could not be two heads to an empire or the Church. There is no salvation outside of the one Church. He was lost in the flood who was not housed in Noah’s ark. Whatever opinion it may have entertained of these claims, the Byzantine court was in too imminent danger to reject the papal condition, and in December, 1452, Isidore, surrounded by 300 priests, announced, in the church of St. Sophia, the union of the Greek and Latin communions. But even now the Greek people violently resented the union, and the most powerful man of the empire, Lucas Notaras, announced his preference for the turban to the tiara. The aid offered by Nicolas was at best small. The last week of April, 1453, ten papal galleys set sail with some ships from Naples, Venice and Genoa, but they were too late to render any assistance.

The termination of the venerable and once imposing fabric on the Bosphorus by the Asiatic invader was the only fate possible for an empire whose rulers, boasting themselves the successors of Constantine, Theodosius and Justinian, Christian in name and most Christian by the standard of orthodox professions, had heaped their palaces full of pagan luxury and excess. The government, planted in the most imperial spot on the earth, had forfeited the right to exist by an insipid and nerveless reliance upon the traditions of the past. No elements of revival manifested themselves from within. Religious formulas had been substituted for devotion. Much as the Christian student may regret the loss of this last bulwark of Christianity in the East, he will be inclined to find in the disaster the judgment realized with which the seven churches of the Apocalypse were threatened which were not worthy. The problem which was forced upon Europe by the arrival of the Grand Turk, as contemporaries called Mohammed II., still awaits solution from wise diplomacy or force of arms or through the slow and silent movement of modern ideas of government and popular rights.

The disaster which overtook the Eastern empire, Nicolas V. felt would be regarded by after generations as a blot upon his pontificate, and others, like Aeneas Sylvius, shared this view.

He issued a bull summoning the Christian nations to a crusade for the recovery of Constantinople, and stigmatized Mohammed II. as the dragon described in the Book of Revelation. Absolution was offered to those who would spend six months in the holy enterprise or maintain a representative for that length of time. Christendom was called upon to contribute a tenth. The cardinals were enjoined to do the same, and all the papal revenues accruing from larger and smaller benefices, from bishoprics, archbishoprics and convents, were promised for the undertaking.

Feeble was the response which Europe gave. The time of crusading enthusiasm was passed. The Turk was daring and to be dreaded. An assembly called by Frederick III., at Regensburg in the Spring of 1454, at which the emperor himself did not put in an appearance, listened to an eloquent appeal by Aeneas, but adjourned the subject to the diet to meet in Frankfurt in October. Again the emperor was not present, and the diet did nothing. Down to the era of the Reformation the crusade against the Turk remained one of the chief official concerns of the papacy.

If Nicolas died disappointed over his failure to influence the princes to undertake a campaign against the Turks, his fame abides as the intelligent and genial patron of letters and the arts. In this rôle he laid after generations under obligation to him as Innocent III., by his crusading armies, did not. He lies buried in St. Peter’s at the side of his predecessor, Eugenius IV.

The next pontiff, the Spaniard, Calixtus III., 1455-1458, had two chief concerns, the dislodgment of the Turks from Constantinople and the advancement of the fortunes of the Borgia family, to which he belonged. Made cardinal by Eugenius IV., he was 77 years old when he was elected pope. From his day, the Borgias played a prominent part in Rome, their career culminating in the ambitions and scandals of Rodrigo Borgia, for 30 years cardinal and then pope under the name of Alexander VI.

Calixtus opened his pontificate by vowing “to Almighty God and the Holy Trinity, by wars, maledictions, interdicts, excommunications and in all other ways to punish the Turks.” Legates were despatched to kindle the zeal of princes throughout Europe. Papal jewels were sold, and gold and silver clasps were torn from the books of the Vatican and turned into money. At a given hour daily the bells were rung in Rome that all might give themselves to prayer for the sacred war. But to the indifference of most of the princes was added active resistance on the part of France. Venice, always looking out for her own interests, made a treaty with the Turks. Frederick III. was incompetent. The weak fleet the pope was able to muster sailed forth from Ostia under Cardinal Serampo to empty victories. The gallant Hungarian, Hunyady, brought some hope by his brilliant feat in relieving Belgrade, July 14, 1456, but the rejoicing was reduced by the news of the gallant leader’s death. Scanderbeg, the Albanian, who a year later was appointed papal captain-general, was indeed a brave hero, but, unsupported by Western Europe, he was next to powerless.

Calixtus’ unblushing nepotism surpassed anything of the kind which had been known in the papal household before. Catalan adventurers pressed into Rome and stormed their papal fellow-countrymen with demands for office. Upon the three sons of two of his sisters, Juan of Milan, son of Catherine Borgia, and Pedro Luis and Rodrigo, sons of Isabella, he heaped favor after favor. Adopted by their uncle, Pedro and Rodrigo were the objects of his sleepless solicitude. Gregorovius has compared the members of the Borgia family to the Roman Claudii. By the endowment of nature they were vigorous and handsome, and by nature and practice, sensual, ambitious, and high-handed, — their coat of arms a bull. Under protest from the curia, Rodrigo and Juan of Milan were made cardinals, 1457, both the young men still in their twenties.

Their unsavory habits were already a byword in Rome. Rodrigo was soon promoted over the heads of the other members of the sacred college to the place of vice-chancellor, the most lucrative position within the papal gift. At the same time, the little son — figliolo — of the king of Portugal, as Infessura calls him, was given the red hat.

With astounding rapidity Pedro Luis, who remained a layman, was advanced to the highest positions in the state, and made governor of St. Angelo and duke of Spoleto, and put in possession of Terni, Narni, Todi and other papal fiefs. It was supposed that it was the fond uncle’s intention, at the death of Alfonso of Naples, to invest this nephew with the Neapolitan crown by setting aside Alfonso’s illegitimate son, Don Ferrante.

Calixtus’ death was the signal for the flight of the Spanish lobbyists, whose houses were looted by the indignant Romans. Discerning the coming storm, Pedro made the best bargain he could by selling S. Angelo to the cardinals for 20,000 ducats, and then took a hasty departure.

Like Honorius III., Calixtus might have died of a broken heart over his failure to arouse Europe to the effort of a crusade, if it had not been for this consuming concern for the fortunes and schemes of his relatives. From this time on, for more than half a century, the gift of dignities and revenues under papal control for personal considerations and to unworthy persons for money was an outstanding feature in the history of the popes.


50. Aeneas Sylvius de’ Piccolomini, Pius II

The next pontiff, Pius II., has a place among the successful men of history. Lacking high enthusiasms and lofty aims, he was constantly seeking his own interests and, through diplomatic shrewdness, came to be the most conspicuous figure of his time. He was ruled by expediency rather than principle. He never swam against the stream. When he found himself on the losing side, he was prompt in changing to the other.

Aeneas Sylvius de’ Piccolomini was born in 1405 at Corsignano, a village located on a bold spur of the hills near Siena. He was one of 18 children, and his family, which had been banished from Siena, was poor but of noble rank. At 18, the son began studying in the neighboring city, where he heard Bernardino preach. Later he learned Greek in Florence. It was a great opportunity when Cardinal Capranica took this young man with him as his secretary to Basel, 1431. Gregorovius has remarked that it was the golden age of secretaries, most of the Humanists serving in that capacity. Later, Aeneas went into the service of the bishop of Novaro, whom he accompanied to Rome. The bishop was imprisoned for the part he had taken in a conspiracy against Eugenius IV. The secretary escaped a like treatment by flight. He then served Cardinal Albergati, with whom he travelled to France. He also visited England and Scotland.

Returning to Basel, Aeneas became one of the conspicuous personages in the council, was a member, and often acted as chairman of one of the four committees, the committee on faith, and was sent again and again on embassies to Strassburg, Frankfurt, Trent and other cities. The council also appointed him its chief abbreviator. In 1440 he decided in favor of the rump-synod, which continued to meet in Basel, and espoused the cause of Felix V., who made him his secretary. The same year he wrote the tract on general councils. Finding the cause of the anti-pope waning, he secured a place under Frederick III., and succeeded to the full in ingratiating himself in that monarch’s favor. His Latin epigrams and verses won for him the appointment of poet-laureate, and his diplomatic cleverness and versatility the highest place in the royal council. At first he joined with Schlick, the chancellor, in holding Frederick to a neutral attitude between Eugenius and the anti-pope, but then, turning apostate to the cause of neutrality, gracefully and unreservedly gave in his submission to the Roman pontiff. While on an embassy to Rome, 1445, he excused himself before Eugenius for his errors at Basel on the plea of lack of experience. He at once became useful to the pope, and a year later received the appointment of papal secretary. By his persuasion, Frederick transferred his obedience to Eugenius, which Aeneas was able to announce in person to the pope a few days before his death. From Nicolas V. he received the sees of Trieste, 1447, and Siena, 1450, and in 1456 promotion to the college of cardinals.

At the time of his election as pope, Aeneas was 53 years old. He had risen by tact and an accurate knowledge of men and European affairs. He was a thorough man of the world, and capable of grasping a situation in a glance. He had been profligate, and his love affairs were many. A son was born to him in Scotland, and another, by an Englishwoman, in Strassburg. In a letter to his father, asking him to adopt the second child, he described, without concealment and apparently without shame, the measures he took to seduce the mother. He spoke of wantonness as an old vice. He himself was no eunuch nor without passion. He could not claim to be wiser than Solomon nor holier than David. Aeneas also used his pen in writing tales of love adventures. His History of Frederick III. contains prurient details that would not be tolerated in a respectable author to-day. He was even ready to instruct youth in methods of self-indulgence, and wrote to Sigismund, the young duke of the Tyrol, neither to neglect literature nor to deny himself the blandishments of Venus. This advice was recalled to his face by the canonist George von Heimburg at the Congress of Mantua. The famous remark belongs to Aeneas that the celibacy of the clergy was at one time with good reason made subject of positive legislation, but the time had come when there was better reason for allowing priests to marry. He himself did not join the clerical order till 1446, when he was consecrated subdeacon. Before Pius’ election, the conclave bound the coming pope to prosecute the war against the Turk, to observe the rules of the Council of Constance about the sacred college and to consult its members before making new appointments to bishoprics and the greater abbeys. Nominations of cardinals were to be made to the camera, and their ratification to depend upon a majority of its votes. Each cardinal whose income did not amount to 4,000 florins was to receive 100 florins a month till the sum of 4,000 was reached. This solemn compact formed a precedent which the cardinals for more than half a century followed.

Aeneas’ constitution was already shattered. He was a great sufferer from the stone, the gout and a cough, and spent many months of his pontificate at Viterbo and other baths. His rule was not distinguished by any enduring measures. He conducted himself well, had the respect of the Romans, received the praise of contemporary biographers, and did all he could to further the measures for the expulsion of the Turks from Europe. He appointed the son of his sister, Laodamia, cardinal at the age of 23, and in 1461 he bestowed the same dignity on Francis Gonzaga, a youth of only 17. These appointments seem to have awakened no resentment.

To advance the interest of the crusade against the Turks, Pius called a congress of princes to meet in Mantua, 1460. On his way thither, accompanied by Bessarion, Borgia and other cardinals, he visited his birthplace, Corsignana, and raised it to a bishopric, changing its name to Pienza. He also began the construction of a palace and cathedral which still endure. Siena he honored by conferring the Golden Rose on its signiory, and promoting the city to the dignity of a metropolitan see. He also enriched it with one of John the Baptist’s arms. Florence arranged for the pope’s welcome brilliant amusements, — theatrical plays, contests of wild beasts, races between lions and horses, and dances, — worldly rather than religious spectacles, as Pastor remarks.

The princes were slow in arriving in Mantua, and the attendance was not such as to justify the opening of the congress till Sept. 26. Envoys from Thomas Palaeologus of the Morea, brother of the last Byzantine emperor, from Lesbos, Cyprus, Rhodes and other parts of the East were on hand to pour out their laments. In his opening address, lasting three hours, Pius called upon the princes to emulate Stephen, Peter, Andrew, Sebastian, St. Lawrence and other martyrs in readiness to lay down their lives in the holy war. The aggression of the Turks had robbed Christendom of some of its fairest seats, — Antioch, where the followers of Christ for the first time received the name Christians, Solomon’s temple, where Christ so often preached, Bethlehem, where he was born, the Jordan, in which he was baptized, Tabor, on which he was transfigured, Calvary, where he was crucified. If they wanted to retain their own possessions, their wives, their children, their liberty, the very faith in which they were baptized, they must believe in war and carry on war. Joshua continued to have victory over his enemies till the sun went down; Gideon, with 300, scattered the Midianites; Jephthah, with a small army, put to flight the swarms of the Ammonites; Samson had brought the proud Philistines to shame; Godfrey, with a handful of men, had destroyed an innumerable number of the enemy and slaughtered the Turks like cattle. Passionately the papal orator exclaimed, O! that Godfrey were once more present, and Baldwin and Eustache and Bohemund and Tancred, and the other mighty men who broke through the ranks of the Turks and regained Jerusalem by their arms.

The assembly was stirred to a great heat, but, so a contemporary says, the ardor soon cooled. Cardinal Bessarion followed Pius with an address which also lasted three hours. Of eloquence there was enough, but the crusading age was over. The conquerors of Jerusalem had been asleep for nearly 400 years. Splendid orations could not revive that famous outburst of enthusiasm which followed Urban’s address at Clermont. In this case the element of romance was wanting which the conquest of the Holy Sepulchre had furnished. The prowess of the conquering Turks was a hard fact.

During the Congress of Mantua the controversy broke out between the German lawyer, Gregor of Heimburg, and Pius. They had met before at Basel. Heimburg, representing the duke of the Tyrol, who had imprisoned Nicolas of Cusa spoke against the proposed crusade. He openly insulted the pope by keeping on his hat in his presence, an indignity he jokingly explained as a precaution against the catarrh. From the sentence of excommunication, pronounced against his ducal master, he appealed to a general council, August 13, 1460. He himself was punished with excommunication, and Pius called upon the city of Nürnberg to expel him as the child of the devil and born of the artifice of lies. Heimburg became a wanderer until the removal of the ban, 1472. He was the strongest literary advocate in Germany of the Basel decrees and the superiority of councils, and has been called a predecessor of Luther and precursor of the Reformation. Diether, archbishop of Mainz, another advocate of the conciliar system, who entered into compacts with the German princes to uphold the Basel decrees and to work for a general council on German soil, was deposed, 1461, as Hermann, archbishop of Cologne, was deposed a hundred years later for undertaking measures of reform in his diocese.

Pius left Mantua the last of January, 1461, stopping on the return journey a second time at his beloved Siena, and canonizing its distinguished daughter, Catherine. Here Rodrigo Borgia’s gayeties were so notorious as to call forth papal rebuke. The cardinal gave banquets to which women were invited without their husbands. In a severe letter to the future supreme pontiff, Pius spoke of the dancing at the entertainments as being performed, so he understood, with “all licentiousness.”

The ease with which Pius, when it was to his interest, renounced theories which he once advocated is shown in two bulls. The first, the famous bull, Execrabilis, declared it an accursed and unheard-of abuse to make appeal to a council from the decisions of the Roman pontiff, Christ’s vicar, to whom it was given to feed his sheep and to bind and loose on earth and in heaven. To rid the Church of this pestiferous venom, — pestiferum virus, — it announced the papal purpose to damn such appeals and to lay upon the appellants a curse from which there could be no absolution except by the Roman pontiff himself and in the article of death. Thus the solemn principle which had bloomed so promisingly in the fair days of the councils of Constance and Basel, and for which Gerson and D’Ailly had so zealously contended, was set aside by one stroke of the pen. Thenceforward, the decree announced, papal decisions were to be treated as final.

Three years later, April 26, 1463, the theory of the supremacy of general councils was set aside in still more precise language. In an elaborate letter addressed to the rector and scholars of the University of Cologne, Pius pronounced for the monarchical form of government in the church — monarchicum regimen — as being of divine origin, and the one given to Peter. As storks follow one leader, and as the bees have one king, so the militant church has in the vicar of Christ one who is moderator and arbiter of all. He receives his authority directly from Christ without mediation. He is the prince — proesul — of all the bishops, the heir of the Apostles, of the line of Abel and Melchisedek. As for the Council Of Constance, Pius expressed his regard for its decrees so far as they were approved by his predecessors, but the definitions of general councils, he affirmed, are subject to the sanction of the supreme pontiff, Peter’s successor. With reference to his former utterances at Basel, he expressly revoked anything he had said in conflict with the positions taken in the bull, and ascribed those statements to immaturity of mind, the imprudence of youth and the circumstances of his early training. Quis non errat mortalis — what mortal does not make mistakes, he exclaimed. Reject Aeneas and follow Pius — Aeneam rejicite, Pium recipite — he said. The first was a Gentile name given by parents at the birth of their son; the second, the name he had adopted on his elevation to the Apostolic see.

It would not be ingenuous to deny to Pius II., in making retractation, the virtue of sincerity. A strain of deep feeling runs through its long paragraphs which read like the last testament of a man speaking from the heart. Inspired by the dignity of his office, the pope wanted to be in accord with the long line of his predecessors, some of whom he mentioned by name, from Peter and Clement to the Innocents and Boniface. In issuing the decree of papal infallibility four centuries later, Pius IX. did not excel his predecessor in the art of composition; but he had this advantage over him that his announcement was stamped with the previous ratification of a general council. The two documents of the two popes of the name Pius reach the summit of papal assumption and consigned to burial the theories of the final authority of general councils and the infallibility of their decrees.

Scarcely could any two things be thought of more incongruous than Pius II.’s culture and the glorious reception he gave in 1462 to the reputed head of the Apostle Andrew. This highly prized treasure was brought to Italy by Thomas Palaeologus, who, in recognition of his pious benevolence toward the holy see, was given the Golden Rose, a palace in Rome and an annual allowance of 6,000 ducats. The relic was received with ostentatious signs of devotion. Bessarion and two other members of the sacred college received it at Narni and conveyed it to Rome. The pope, accompanied by the remaining cardinals and the Roman clergy, went out to the Ponte Molle to give it welcome. After falling prostrate before the Apostle’s skull, Pius delivered an appropriate address in which he congratulated the dumb fragment upon coming safely out of the hands of the Turks to find at last, as a fugitive, a place beside the remains of its brother Apostles. The address being concluded, the procession reformed and, with Pius borne in the Golden Chair, conducted the skull to its last resting-place. The streets were decked in holiday attire, and no one showed greater zeal in draping his palace than Rodrigo Borgia. The skull was deposited in St. Peter’s, after, as Platina says, “the sepulchres of some of the popes and cardinals, which took up too much room, had been removed.” The ceremonies were closed by Bessarion in an address in which he expressed the conviction that St. Andrew would join with the other Apostles as a protector of Rome and in inducing the princes to combine for the expulsion of the Turks.

In his closing days, Pius II. continued to be occupied with the crusade. He had written a memorable letter to Mohammed II. urging him to follow his mother’s religion and turn Christian, and assuring him that, as Clovis and Charlemagne had been renowned Christian sovereigns, so he might become Christian emperor over the Bosphorus, Greece and Western Asia. No reply is extant. In 1458, the year before the Mantuan congress assembled, the crescent had been planted on the Acropolis of Athens. All Southern Greece suffered the indignity and horrors of Turkish oppression. Servia fell into the hands of the invaders, 1459, and Bosnia followed, 1462.

Pius’ bull of 1463, summoning to a crusade, was put aside by the princes, but the pontiff, although he was afflicted with serious bodily infirmities, the stone and the gout, was determined to set an example in the right direction. Like Moses, he wanted, at least, to watch from some promontory or ship the battle against the enemies of the cross. Financial aid was furnished by the discovery of the alum mines of Tolfa, near Civita Vecchia, in 1462, the revenue from which passed into the papal treasury and was specially devoted by the conclave of 1464 to the crusade. But it availed little. Pius proceeded to Ancona on a litter, stopping on the way at Loreto to dedicate a golden cup to the Virgin. Philip of Burgundy, upon whom he had placed chief reliance, failed to appear. From Frederick III. nothing was to be expected. Venice and Hungary alone promised substantial help. The supreme pontiff lodged on the promontory in the bishop’s palace. But only two vessels lay at anchor in the harbor, ready for the expedition. To these were added in a few days 14 galleys sent by the doge. Pius saw them as they appeared in sight. The display of further heroism was denied him by his death two days later. A comparison has been drawn by the historian between the pope, with his eye fixed upon the East, and another, a born navigator, who perhaps was even then turning his eyes towards the West, and before many years was to set sail in equally frail vessels to make his momentous discovery.

On his death-bed, Pius had an argument whether extreme unction, which had been administered to him at Basel during an outbreak of the plague, might be administered a second time. Among his last words, spoken to Cardinal Ammanati, whom he had adopted, were, “pray for me, my son, for I am a sinner. Bid my brethren continue this holy expedition.” The body was carried to Rome and laid away in St. Peter’s.

The disappointment of this restless and remarkable man, in the closing undertaking of his busy career, cannot fail to awaken human sympathy. Pius, whose aims and methods had been the most practical, was carried away at last by a romantic idea, without having the ability to marshal the forces for its realization. He misjudged the times. His purpose was the purpose of a man whose career had taught him never to tolerate the thought of failure. In forming a general estimate, we cannot withhold the judgment that, if he had made culture and literary effort prominent in the Vatican, his pontificate would have stood out in the history of the papacy with singular lustre. It will always seem strange that he did not surround himself with literati, as did Nicolas V., and that his interest in the improvement of Rome showed itself only in a few minor constructions. His biographer, Campanus, declares that he incurred great odium by his neglect of the Humanists, and Filelfo, his former teacher of Greek, launched against his memory a biting philippic for this neglect. The great literary pope proved to be but a poor patron. Platina’s praise must not be forgotten, when he says, “The pope’s delight, when he had leisure, was in writing and reading, because he valued books more than precious stones, for in them there were plenty of gems.” What he delighted in as a pastime himself, he seems not to have been concerned to use his high position to promote in others. He was satisfied with the diplomatic mission of the papacy and deceived by the ignis fatuus of a crusade to deliver Constantinople.

Platina describes Pius at the opening of his pontificate as short, gray-haired and wrinkled of face. He rose at daybreak, and was temperate at table. His industry was noteworthy. His manner made him accessible to all, and he struck the Romans of his age as a man without hypocrisy. Looked at as a man of culture, Aeneas was grammarian, geographer, historian, novelist and orator. Everywhere he was the keen observer of men and events. The plan of his cosmography was laid out on a large scale, but was left unfinished. His Commentaries, extending from his birth to the time of his death, are a racy example of autobiographic literature. His strong hold upon the ecclesiastics who surrounded him can only be explained by his unassumed intellectual superiority and a certain moral ingenuousness. He is one of the most interesting figures of his century.


51. Paul II. 1464-1471

The next occupant of the papal throne possessed none of the intellectual attractiveness of his predecessor, and displayed no interest in promoting the war against the Turks. He was as difficult to reach as Pius had been accessible, and was slow in attending to official business. The night he turned into day, holding his audiences after dark, and legates were often obliged to wait far into the night or even as late as three in the morning before getting a hearing.

Pietro Barbo, the son of a sister of Eugenius IV., was born in Venice, 1418. He was about to set sail for the East on a mercantile project, when the news reached Venice of his uncle’s election to the papacy. Following his elder brother’s advice, he gave up the quest of worldly gain and devoted himself to the Church. Eugenius’ favor assured him rapid promotion, and he was successively appointed archdeacon of Bologna, bishop of Cervia, bishop of Vicenza, papal pronotary and cardinal. On being elected to the papal chair, the Venetian chose the name of Formosus and then Mark, but, at the advice of the conclave, both were given up, as the former seemed to carry with it a reference to the pontiff’s fine presence, and the latter was the battle-cry of Venice, and might give political offence. So he took the name, Paul.

Before entering upon the election, the conclave again adopted a pact which required the prosecution of the crusade and the assembling of a general council within three years. The number of cardinals was not to exceed 24, the age of appointment being not less than 30 years, and the introduction of more than one of the pope’s relatives to that body was forbidden.

This solemn agreement, Paul proceeded at once summarily to set aside. The cardinals were obliged to attach their names to another document, whose contents the pope kept concealed by holding his hand over the paper as they wrote. The veteran Carvajal was the only member of the curia who refused to sign. From the standpoint of papal absolutism, Paul was fully justified. What right has any conclave to dictate to the supreme pontiff of Christendom, the successor of St. Peter! The pact was treason to the high papal theory, and meant nothing less than the substitution of an oligarchy for the papal monarchy. Paul called no council, not even a congress, to discuss the crusade against the Turks, and appointed three of his nephews cardinals, Marco Barbo, his brother’s son, and Battista Zeno and Giovanni Michïel, sons of two sisters. His ordinances for the city included sumptuary regulations, limiting the prices to be paid for wearing apparel, banquets and entertainments at weddings and funerals, and restricting the dowries of daughters to 800 gold florins.

A noteworthy occurrence of Paul’s pontificate was the storm raised in Rome, 1466, by his dismissal of the 70 abbreviators, the number to which Pius II. had limited the members of that body. This was one of those incidents which give variety to the history of the papal court and help to make it, upon the whole, the most interesting of all histories. The scribes of the papal household were roughly divided into two classes, the secretaries and the abbreviators. The business of the former was to take charge of the papal correspondence of a more private nature, while the latter prepared briefs of bulls and other more solemn public documents. The dismissal of the abbreviators got permanent notoriety by the complaints of one of their number, Platina, and the sufferings he was called upon to endure. This invaluable biographer of the popes states that the dispossessed officials, on the plea that their appointment had been for life, besieged the Vatican 20 nights before getting a hearing. Then Platina, as their spokesman, threatened to appeal to the princes of Europe to have a general council called and see that justice was done. The pope’s curt answer was that he would rescind or ratify the acts of his predecessors as he pleased.

The unfortunate abbreviator, who was more of a scholar than a politician, was thrown into prison and held there during the four months of Winter without fire and bound in chains. Unhappily for him, he was imprisoned a second time, accused of conspiracy and heretical doctrine. In these charges the Roman Academy was also involved, an institution which cultivated Greek thought and was charged with having engaged in a propaganda of Paganism. There was some ground for the charge, for its leader, Pomponius Laeto, who combined the care of his vineyard with ramblings through the old Roman ruins and the perusal of the ancient classics, had deblaterated against the clergy. This antiquary was also thrown into prison. Platina relates how he and a number of others were put to the torture, while Vienesius, his Holiness’ vice-chancellor, looked on for several days as the ordeal was proceeding, “sitting like another Minos upon a tapestried seat as if he had been at a wedding, a man in holy orders whom the canons of the Church forbade to put torture upon laymen, lest death should follow, as it sometimes does.” On his release he received a promise from Paul of reappointment to office, but waited in vain till the accession of Sixtus IV., who put him in charge of the Vatican library.

Paul pursued an energetic policy against Podiebrad and the Utraquists of Bohemia and, after ordering all the compacts with the king ignored, deposed him and called upon Matthias of Hungary to take his throne. Paul had rejected Podiebrad’s offer to dispossess the Turk on condition of being recognized as Byzantine emperor.

In 1468, Frederick III. repeated his visit to Rome, accompanied by 600 knights, but the occasion aroused none of the high expectation of the former visit, when the emperor brought with him the Portuguese infanta. There was no glittering pageant, no august papal reception. On receiving the communion in the basilica of St. Peter’s, he received from the pontiff’s hand the bread, but not the “holy blood,” which, as the contemporary relates, Paul reserved to himself as an object-lesson against the Bohemians, though it was customary on such occasions to give both the elements. The successor of Charlemagne and Barbarossa was then given a seat at the pope’s side, which was no higher than the pope’s feet. Patritius, who describes the scene, remarks that, while the respect paid to the papal dignity had increased, the imperium of the Roman empire had fallen into such decadence that nothing remained of it but its name. Without manifesting any reluctance, the Hapsburg held the pope’s stirrup.

Paul was not without artistic tastes, although he condemned the study of the classics in the Roman schools, and was pronounced by Platina a great enemy and despiser of learning. He was an ardent collector of precious stones, coins, vases and other curios, and took delight in showing his jewels to Frederick III. Sixtus IV. is said to have found 54 silver chests filled with pearls collected by this pontiff, estimated to be worth 300,000 ducats. The two tiaras, made at his order, contained gems said to have been worth a like amount. At a later time, Cardinal Barbo found in a secret drawer of one of Paul’s chests sapphires valued at 12,000 ducats. Platina was probably repeating only a common rumor, when he reports that in the daytime Paul slept and at night kept awake, looking over his jewels.

To this diversion the pontiff added sensual pleasures and public amusements. He humored the popular taste by restoring heathen elements to the carnival, figures of Bacchus and the fauna, Diana and her nymphs. In the long list of the gayeties of carnival week are mentioned races for young men, for old men and for Jews, as well as races between horses, donkeys and buffaloes. Paul looked down from St. Mark’s and delighted the crowds by furnishing a feast in the square below and throwing down amongst them handfuls of coins. In things of this kind, says Infessura, the pope had his delight. He was elaborate in his vestments and, when he appeared in public, was accustomed to paint his face.

The pope’s death was ascribed to his indiscretion in eating two large melons. Asked by a cardinal why, in spite of the honors of the papacy, he was not contented, Paul replied that a little wormwood can pollute a whole hive of honey. The words belong in the same category as the words spoken 300 years before by the English pope, Adrian, when he announced the failure of the highest office in Christendom to satisfy all the ambitions of man.