Renaissance in Italy, Volume 1 (of 7)
by John Addington Symonds
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[1] Musing beneath the Sibyls and before the Judgment of Michael Angelo, it is difficult not to picture to the fancy the arraignment of the Popes who built and beautified that chapel, when the Christ, whose blood they sold, should appear with His menacing right arm uplifted, and the prophets should thunder their denunciations: 'Howl, ye shepherds, and cry; and wallow yourselves in the ashes, ye principal of the flock, for the days of your slaughter and your dispersions are accomplished.'

[2] The same incongruity appears also in Innocent VIII., whose bull against witchcraft (1484) systematized the persecution directed against unfortunate old women and idiots. Sprenger, in the Malleus Maleficarum, mentions that in the first year after its publication forty-one witches were burned in the district of Como, while crowds of suspected women took refuge in the province of the Archduke Sigismond. Cantu's Storia della Diocesi di Como (Le Monnier, 2 vols.) may be consulted for the persecution of witches in Valtellina and Val Camonica. Cp. Folengo's Maccaronea for the prevalence of witchcraft in those districts.

After Sixtus IV. came Innocent VIII. His secular name was Giambattista Cibo. The sacred College, terrified by the experience of Sixtus into thinking that another Pope, so reckless in his creation of scandalous Cardinals, might ruin Christendom, laid the most solemn obligations on the Pope elect. Cibo took oaths on every relic, by every saint, to every member of the conclave, that he would maintain a certain order of appointment and a purity of election in the Church. No Cardinal under the age of thirty, not more than one of the Pope's own blood, none without the rank of Doctor of Theology or Law, were to be elected, and so forth. But as soon as the tiara was on his head, he renounced them all as inconsistent with the rights and liberties of S. Peter's Chair. Engagements made by the man might always be broken by the Pope. Of Innocent's Pontificate little need be said. He was the first Pope publicly to acknowledge his seven children, and to call them sons and daughters.[1] Avarice, venality, sloth, and the ascendency of base favorites made his reign loathsome without the blaze and splendor of the scandals of his fiery predecessor. In corruption he advanced a step even beyond Sixtus, by establishing a Bank at Rome for the sale of pardons.[2] Each sin had its price, which might be paid at the convenience of the criminal: 150 ducats of the tax were poured into the Papal coffers; the surplus fell to Franceschetto, the Pope's son. This insignificant princeling, for whom the county of Anguillara was purchased, showed no ability or ambition for aught but getting and spending money. He was small of stature and tame-spirited: yet the destinies of an important house of Europe depended on him; for his father married him to Maddalena, the daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici, in 1487. This led to Giovanni de' Medici receiving a Cardinal's hat at the age of thirteen, and thus the Medicean interest in Rome was founded; in the course of a few years the Medici gave two Popes to the Holy See, and by their ecclesiastical influence riveted the chains of Florence fast.[3] The traffic which Innocent and Franceschetto carried on in theft and murder filled the Campagna with brigands and assassins.[4] Travelers and pilgrims and ambassadors were stripped and murdered on their way to Rome; and in the city itself more than two hundred people were publicly assassinated with impunity during the last months of the Pope's life. He was gradually dozing off into his last long sleep, and Franceschetto was planning how to carry off his ducats. While the Holy Father still hovered between life and death, a Jewish doctor proposed to reinvigorate him by the transfusion of young blood into his torpid veins. Three boys throbbing with the elixir of early youth were sacrificed in vain. Each boy, says Infessura, received one ducat. He adds, not without grim humor: 'Et paulo post mortui sunt; Judaeus quidem aufugit, et Papa non sanatus est.' The epitaph of this poor old Pope reads like a rather clever but blasphemous witticism: 'Ego autem in Innocentia mea ingressus sum.'

[1] 'Primus pontificum filios filiasque palam ostentavit, primus eorum apertas fecit nuptias, primus domesticos hymenaeos celebravit.' Egidius of Viterbo, quoted by Greg. Stadt Rom, vol. vii. p. 274, note.

[2] Infessura says he heard the Vice-chancellor, when asked why criminals were allowed to pay instead of being punished, answer: 'God wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should pay and live.' Dominico di Viterbo, Apostolic Scribe, forged bulls by which the Pope granted indulgences for the commission of the worst scandals. His father tried to buy him off for 5,000 ducats. Innocent replied that, as his honor was concerned, he must have 6,000. The poor father could not scrape so much money together; so the bargain fell through, and Dominico was executed. A Roman who had killed two of his own daughters bought his pardon for 800 ducats.

[3] Guicciardini, i. 1., points out that Lorenzo, having the Pope for his ally, was able to create that balance of power in Italy which it was his chief political merit to have maintained until his death.

[4] It is only by reading the pages of Infessura's Diary (Eccardus vol. ii. pp. 2003-2005) that any notion of the mixed debauchery and violence of Rome at this time can be formed.

Meanwhile the Cardinals had not been idle. The tedious leisure of Innocent's long lethargy was employed by them in active simony. Simony, it may be said in passing, gave the great Italian families a direct interest in the election of the richest and most paying candidate. It served the turn of a man like Ascanio Sforza to fatten the golden goose that laid such eggs, before he killed it—in other words, to take the bribes of Innocent and Alexander, while deferring for a future time his own election. All the Cardinals, with the exception of Roderigo Borgia,[1] were the creatures of Sixtus or of Innocent. Having bought their hats with gold, they were now disposed to sell their votes to the highest bidder. The Borgia was the richest, strongest, wisest, and most worldly of them all. He ascertained exactly what the price of each suffrage would be, and laid his plans accordingly. The Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, brother of the Duke of Milan, would accept the lucrative post of Vice-Chancellor. The Cardinal Orsini would be satisfied with the Borgia Palaces at Rome and the Castles of Monticello and Saviano. The Cardinal Colonna had a mind for the Abbey of Subbiaco with its fortresses. The Cardinal of S. Angelo preferred the comfortable Bishopric of Porto with its palace stocked with choice wines. The Cardinal of Parma would take Nepi. The Cardinal of Genoa was bribable with the Church of S. Maria in Via Lata. Less influential members of the Conclave sold themselves for gold; to meet their demands the Borgia sent Ascanio Sforza four mules laden with coin in open day, requesting him to distribute it in proper portions to the voters. The fiery Giuliano della Rovere remained implacable and obdurate. In the Borgia his vehement temperament perceived a fit antagonist. The armor which he donned in their first encounters he never doffed, but waged fierce war with the whole brood of Borgias at Ostia, at the French Court, in Romagna, wherever and whenever he found opportunity.[2] He and five other Cardinals—among them his cousin Raphael Riario—refused to sell their votes. But Roderigo Borgia, having corrupted the rest of the college, assumed the mantle of S. Peter in 1492, with the ever-memorable title of Alexander VI.

[1] Roderigo was the son of Isabella Borgia, niece of Pope Calixtus III., by her marriage with Joffre Lenzuoli. He took the name of Borgia, when he came to Rome to be made Cardinal, and to share in his uncle's greatness.

[2] The marriage of his nephew Nicolo della Rovere to Laura, the daughter of Alexander VI. by Giulia Bella, in 1505, long after the Borgia family had lost its hold on Italy, is a curious and unexplained incident.

Rome rejoiced. The Holy City attired herself in festival array, exhibiting on every flag and balcony the Bull of the house of Borgia, and crying like the Egyptians when they found Apis:—

Vive diu Bos! Vive diu Bos! Borgia vive! Vivit Alexander: Roma beata manet.

In truth there was nothing to convince the Romans of the coming woe, or to raise suspicion that a Pope had been elected who would deserve the execration of succeeding centuries. In Roderigo Borgia the people only saw, as yet, a man accomplished at all points, of handsome person, royal carriage, majestic presence, affable address. He was a brilliant orator, a passionate lover, a demigod of court pageantry and ecclesiastic parade—qualities which, though they do not suit our notions of a churchman, imposed upon the taste of the Renaissance. As he rode in triumph toward the Lateran, voices were loud in his praise. 'He sits upon a snow-white horse,' writes one of the humanists of the century,[1] 'with serene forehead, with commanding dignity. As he distributes his blessing to the crowd, all eyes are fixed upon him, and all hearts rejoice. How admirable is the mild composure of his mien! how noble his countenance! his glance how free! His stature and carriage, his beauty and the full health of his body, how they enhance the reverence which he inspires!' Another panegyrist[2] describes his 'broad forehead, kingly brow, free countenance full of majesty,' adding that 'the heroic beauty of his whole body' was given him by nature in order that he might 'adorn the seat of the Apostles with his divine form in the place of God.' How little in the early days of his Pontificate the Borgia resembled that Alexander with whom the legend of his subsequent life has familiarized our fancy, may be gathered from the following account:[3] 'He is handsome, of a most glad countenance and joyous aspect, gifted with honeyed and choice eloquence; the beautiful women on whom his eyes are cast he lures to love him, and moves them in a wondrous way, more powerfully than the magnet influences iron.' These, we must remember, are the testimonies of men of letters, imbued with the Pagan sentiments of the fifteenth century, and rejoicing in the advent of a Pope who would, they hoped, make Rome the capital of luxury and license. Therefore they require to be received with caution. Yet there is no reason to suppose that the majority of the Italians regarded the elevation of the Borgia with peculiar horror. As a Cardinal he had given proof of his ability, but shown no signs of force or cruelty or fraud. Nor were his morals worse than those of his colleagues. If he was the father of several children, so was Giuliano della Rovere, and so had been Pope Innocent before him. This mattered but little in an age when the Primate of Christendom had come to be regarded as a secular potentate, less fortunate than other princes inasmuch as his rule was not hereditary, but more fortunate in so far as he could wield the thunders and dispense the privileges of the Church. A few men of discernment knew what had been done, and shuddered. 'The king of Naples,' says Guicciardini, 'though he dissembled his grief, told the queen, his wife, with tears—tears which he was wont to check even at the death of his own sons—that a Pope had been made who would prove most pestilent to the whole Christian commonwealth.' The young Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, again, showed his discernment of the situation by whispering in the Conclave to his kinsman Cibo: 'We are in the wolf's jaws; he will gulp us down, unless we make our flight good.' Besides, there was in Italy a widely spread repugnance to the Spanish intruders—Marrani, or renegade Moors, as they were properly called—who crowded the Vatican and threatened to possess the land of their adoption like conquerors. 'Ten Papacies would not suffice to satiate the greed of all this kindred,' wrote Giannandrea Boccaccio to the Duke of Ferrara in 1492: and events proved that these apprehensions were justified; for during the Pontificate of Alexander eighteen Spanish Cardinals were created, five of whom belonged to the house of the Borgias.

[1] See Michael Fernus, quoted by Greg. Lucrezia Borgia, p. 45.

[2] Jason Mainus, quoted by Greg, Stadt Rom. p. 314, note.

[3] Gasp. Ver., quoted by Greg. Stadt Rom. p. 208, note.

It is certain, however, that the profound horror with which the name of Alexander VI. strikes a modern ear was not felt among the Italians at the time of his election. The sentiment of hatred with which he was afterwards regarded arose partly from the crimes by which his Pontificate was rendered infamous, partly from the fear which his son Cesare inspired, and partly from the mysteries of his private life, which revolted even the corrupt conscience of the sixteenth century. This sentiment of hatred had grown to universal execration at the date of his death. In course of time, when the attention of the Northern nations had been directed to the iniquities of Rome, and when the glaring discrepancy between Alexander's pretension as a Pope and his conduct as a man had been apprehended, it inspired a legend which, like all legends, distorts the facts which it reflects.

Alexander was, in truth, a man eminently fitted to close an old age and to inaugurate a new, to demonstrate the paradoxical situation of the Popes by the inexorable logic of his practical impiety, and to fuse two conflicting world-forces in the cynicism of supreme corruption. The Emperors of the Julian house had exhibited the extreme of sensual insolence in their autocracy. What they desired of strange and sweet and terrible in the forbidden fruits of lust, they had enjoyed. The Popes of the Middle Ages—Hildebrand and Boniface—had displayed the extreme of spiritual insolence in their theocracy. What they desired of tyrannous and forceful in the exercise of an usurped despotism over souls, they had enjoyed. The Borgia combined both impulses toward the illimitable. To describe him as the Genius of Evil, whose sensualities, as unrestrained as Nero's, were relieved against the background of flame and smoke which Christianity had raised for fleshly sins, is justifiable. His spiritual tyranny, that arrogated Jus, by right of which he claimed the hemisphere revealed by Christopher Columbus, and imposed upon the press of Europe the censure of the Church of Rome, was rendered ten times monstrous by the glare reflected on it from the unquenched furnace of a godless life. The universal conscience of Christianity is revolted by those unnamable delights, orgies of blood and festivals of lust, which were enjoyed in the plenitude of his green and vigorous old age by this versatile diplomatist and subtle priest, who controlled the councils of kings, and who chanted the sacramental service for a listening world on Easter Day in Rome. Rome has never been small or weak or mediocre. And now in the Pontificate of Alexander 'that memorable scene' presented to the nations of the modern world a pageant of Antichrist and Antiphysis—the negation of the Gospel and of nature; a glaring spectacle of discord between humanity as it aspires to be at its best, and humanity as it is at its worst; a tragi-comedy composed by some infernal Aristophanes, in which the servant of servants, the anointed of the Lord, the lieutenant upon earth of Christ, played the chief part. It may be objected that this is the language not of history but of the legend. I reply that there are occasions when the legend has caught the spirit of the truth.

Alexander was a stronger and a firmer man than his immediate predecessors. 'He combined,' says Guicciardini, 'craft with singular sagacity, a sound judgment with extraordinary powers of persuasion; and to all the grave affairs of life he applied ability and pains beyond belief.'[1] His first care was to reduce Rome to order. The old factions of Colonna and Orsini, which Sixtus had scotched, but which had raised their heads again during the dotage of Innocent, were destroyed in his Pontificate. In this way, as Machiavelli observed,[2] he laid the real basis for the temporal power of the Papacy. Alexander, indeed, as a sovereign, achieved for the Papal See what Louis XI. had done for the throne of France, and made Rome on its small scale follow the type of the large European monarchies. The faithlessness and perjuries of the Pope, 'who never did aught else but deceive, nor ever thought of anything but this, and always found occasion for his frauds,'[3] when combined with his logical intellect and persuasive eloquence, made him a redoubtable antagonist. All considerations of religion and morality were subordinated by him with strict impartiality to policy: and his policy he restrained to two objects—the advancement of his family, and the consolidation of the temporal power. These were narrow aims for the ambition of a potentate who with one stroke of his pen pretended to confer the new-found world on Spain. Yet they taxed his whole strength, and drove him to the perpetration of enormous crimes.

[1] It is but fair to Guicciardini to complete his sentence in a note: 'These good qualities were far surpassed by his vices; private habits of the utmost obscenity, no shame nor sense of truth, no fidelity to his engagements, no religious sentiment; insatiable avarice, unbridled ambition, cruelty beyond the cruelty of barbarous races, burning desire to elevate his sons by any means: of these there were many, and among them—in order that he might not lack vicious instruments for effecting his vicious schemes—one not less detestable in any way than his father.' St. d'It. vol. i. p. 9. I shall translate and put into the appendix Guicciardini's character of Alexander from the Storia di Firenze.

[2] In the sentences which close the 11th chapter of the Prince.

[3] Mach. Prince, ch. xvii. In the Satires of Ariosto (Satire i. 208-27) there is a brilliant and singularly outspoken passage on the nepotism of the Popes and its ruinous results for Italy.

Former Pontiffs had raised money by the sale of benefices and indulgences: this, of course, Alexander also practiced—to such an extent, indeed, that an epigram gained currency: 'Alexander sells the keys, the altars, Christ. Well, he bought them; so he has a right to sell them.' But he went further and took lessons from Tiberius. Having sold the scarlet to the highest bidder, he used to feed his prelate with rich benefices. When he had fattened him sufficiently, he poisoned him, laid hands upon his hoards, and recommenced the game. Paolo Capello, the Venetian Ambassador, wrote in the year 1500: 'Every night they find in Rome four or five murdered men, Bishops and Prelates and so forth.' Panvinius mentions three Cardinals who were known to have been poisoned by the Pope; and to their names may be added those of the Cardinals of Capua and of Verona.[1] To be a prince of the Church was dangerous in those days; and if the Borgia had not at last poisoned himself by mistake, he must in the long-run have had to pay people to accept so perilous a privilege. His traffic in Church dignities was carried on upon a grand scale: twelve Cardinals' hats, for example, were put to auction in a single day in 1500.[2] This was when he wished to pack the Conclave with votes in favor of the cession of Romagna to Cesare Borgia, as well as to replenish his exhausted coffers. Forty-three Cardinals were created by him in eleven promotions: each of these was worth on an average 10,000 florins; while the price paid by Francesco Soderini amounted to 20,000 and that paid by Domenico Grimani reached the sum of 30,000.

[1] See the authorities in Burckhardt, pp. 93, 94.

[2] Guicc. St. d'It. vol. iii. p. 15.

Former Popes had preached crusades against the Turk, languidly or energetically according as the coasts of Italy were threatened. Alexander frequently invited Bajazet to enter Europe and relieve him of the princes who opposed his intrigues in the favor of his children. The fraternal feeling which subsisted between the Pope and the Sultan was to some extent dependent on the fate of Prince Djem, a brother of Bajazet and son of the conqueror of Constantinople, who had fled for protection to the Christian powers, and whom the Pope kept prisoner, receiving 40,000 ducats yearly from the Porte for his jail fee. Innocent VIII. had been the first to snare this lucrative guest in 1489. The Lance of Longinus was sent him as a token of the Sultan's gratitude, and Innocent, who built an altar for the relique, caused his own tomb to be raised close by. His effigy in bronze by Pollajuolo still carries in its hand this blood-gift from the infidel to the High Priest of Christendom.

Djem meanwhile remained in Rome, and held his Moslem Court side by side with the Pontiff in the Vatican. Dispatches are extant in which Alexander and Bajazet exchange terms of the warmest friendship, the Turk imploring his Greatness—so he addressed the Pope—to put an end to the unlucky Djem, and promising as the price of this assassination a sum of 300,000 ducats and the tunic worn by Christ, presumably that very seamless coat over which the soldiers of Calvary had cast their dice.[1] The money and the relique arrived in Italy and were intercepted by the partisans of Giuliano della Rovere. Alexander, before the bargain with the Sultan had been concluded by the murder of Djem, was forced to hand him over to the French king. But the unlucky Turk carried in his constitution the slow poison of the Borgias, and died in Charles's camp between Rome and Naples. Whatever crimes may be condoned in Alexander, it is difficult to extenuate this traffic with the Turks. By his appeal from the powers of Europe to the Sultan, at a time when the peril to the Western world was still most serious, he stands attained for high treason against Christendom, of which he professed to be the chief; against civilization, which the Church pretended to protect; against Christ, whose vicar he presumed to style himself.

[1] See the letters in the 'Preuves et Observations,' printed at the end of the Memoires de Comines.

Like Sixtus, Alexander combined this deadness to the spirit and the interests of Christianity with zeal for dogma. He never flinched in formal orthodoxy, and the measures which he took for riveting the chains of superstition on the people were calculated with the military firmness of a Napoleon. It was he who established the censure of the press, by which printers were obliged, under pain of excommunication, to submit the books they issued to the control of the Archbishops and their delegates. The Brief of June 1, 1501, which contains this order, may be reasonably said to have retarded civilization, at least in Italy and Spain.

Carnal sensuality was the besetting vice of this Pope throughout his life.[1] This, together with his almost insane weakness for his children, whereby he became a slave to the terrible Cesare, caused all the crimes which he committed. At the same time, though sensual, Alexander was not gluttonous. Boccaccio, the Ferrarese Ambassador, remarks: 'The Pope eats only of one dish. It is, therefore, disagreeable to have to dine with him.' In this respect he may be favorably contrasted with the Roman prelates of the age of Leo. His relations to Vannozza Catanei, the titular wife first of Giorgio de Croce, and then of Carlo Canale, and to Giulia Farnese,[2] surnamed La Bella, the titular wife of Orsino Orsini, were open and acknowledged. These two sultanas ruled him during the greater portion of his career, conniving meanwhile at the harem, which, after truly Oriental fashion, he maintained in the Vatican. An incident which happened during the French invasion of 1494 brings the domestic circumstances of a Pope of the Renaissance vividly before us. Monseigneur d'Allegre caught the ladies Giulia and Girolama Farnese, together with the lady Adriana de Mila, who was employed as their duenna, near Capodimonte, on November 29, and carried them to Montefiascone. The sum fixed for their ransom was 3,000 ducats. This the Pope paid, and on December 1 they were released. Alexander met them outside Rome, attired like a layman in a black jerkin trimmed with gold brocade, and fastened round his waist by a Spanish girdle, from which hung his dagger. Lodovico Sforza, when he heard what had happened, remarked that it was weak to release these ladies, who were 'the very eyes and heart' of his Holiness, for so small a ransom—if 50,000 ducats had been demanded, they would have been paid. This and a few similar jokes, uttered at the Pope's expense, make us understand to what extent the Italians were accustomed to regard their high priest as a secular prince. Even the pageant of Alexander seated in S. Peter's, with his daughter Lucrezia on one side of his throne and his daughter-in-law Sancia upon the other, moved no moral indignation; nor were the Romans astonished when Lucrezia was appointed Governor of Spoleto, and plenipotentiary Regent of the Vatican in her father's absence. These scandals, however, created a very different impression in the north, and prepared the way for the Reformation.

[1] Guicciardini (St. Fior. cap. 27) writes: 'Fu lussoriosissimo nell' uno e nell' altro sesso, tenendo publicamente femine e garzoni, ma piu ancora nelle femine.' A notion of the public disorders connected with his dissolute life may be gained from this passage in Sanuto's Diary (Gregorovius, Lucrezia Borgia, p. 88): 'Da Roma per le lettere del orator nostro se intese et etiam de private persone cossa assai abominevole in le chiesa di Dio, che al papa erra nato un fiolo di una dona romana maritata, ch' el padre l' havea rufianata, e di questa il marito invito il suocero a la vigna e lo uccise tagliandoli el capo, ponendo quello sopra uno legno con letere che diceva questo e il capo de mio suocero che a rufianato sua fiola al papa, et che inteso questo il papa fece metter el dito in exilio di Roma con taglia. Questa nova venne per letere particular; etiam si godea con la sua spagnola menatali per suo fiol duca di Gandia novamente li venuto.'

[2] Her brother Alexander, afterwards Paul III., owed his promotion to the purple to this liaison, which was, therefore, the origin of the greatness of the Farnesi. The tomb of Paul III. in the Tribune of S. Peter's has three notable family portraits—the Pope himself in bronze; his sister Giulia, naked in marble, as Justice; and their old mother, Giovanna Gaetani, the bawd, as Prudence.

The nepotism of Sixtus was like water to the strong wine of Alexander's paternal ambition. The passion of paternity, exaggerated beyond the bounds of natural affection, and scandalous in a Roman Pontiff, was the main motive of the Borgia's action. Of his children by Vannozza, he caused the eldest son to be created Duke of Gandia; the youngest he married to Donna Sancia, a daughter of Alfonso of Aragon, by whom the boy was honored with the Dukedom of Squillace. Cesare, the second of this family, was appointed Bishop of Valentia, and Cardinal. The Dukedoms of Camerino and Nepi were given to another John, whom Alexander first declared to be his grandson through Cesare, and afterwards acknowledged as his son. This John may possibly have been Lucrezia's child. The Dukedom of Sermoneta, wrenched for a moment from the hands of the Gaetani family, who still own it, was conferred upon Lucrezia's son, Roderigo. Lucrezia, the only daughter of Alexander by Vannozza, took three husbands in succession, after having been formally betrothed to two Spanish nobles, Don Cherubino Juan de Centelles, and Don Gasparo da Procida, son of the Count of Aversa. These contracts, made before her father became Pope, were annulled as not magnificent enough for the Pontiff's daughter. In 1492 she was married to Giovanni Sforza, Lord of Pesaro. But in 1497 the pretensions of the Borgias had outgrown this alliance, and their public policy was inclining to relations with the Southern Courts of Italy. Accordingly she was divorced and given to Alfonso, Prince of Biseglia, a natural son of the King of Naples. When this man's father lost his crown, the Borgias, not caring to be connected with an ex-royal family, caused Alfonso to be stabbed on the steps of S. Peter's in 1501; and while he lingered between life and death, they had him strangled in his sick-bed, by Michellozzo, Cesare's assassin in chief. Finally Lucrezia was wedded to Alfonso, crown-prince of Ferrara, in 1502.[1] The proud heir of the Este dynasty was forced by policy, against his inclination, to take to his board and bed a Pope's bastard, twice divorced, once severed from her husband by murder, and soiled, whether justly or not, by atrocious rumors, to which her father's and her brother's conduct gave but too much color. She proved a model princess after all, and died at last in childbirth, after having been praised by Ariosto as a second Lucrece, brighter for her virtues than the star of regal Rome.

[1] Her dowry was 300,000 ducats, besides wedding presents, and certain important immunities and privileges granted to Ferrara by the Pope.

History has at last done justice to the memory of this woman, whose long yellow hair was so beautiful, and whose character was so colorless. The legend which made her a poison-brewing Maenad has been proved a lie—but only at the expense of the whole society in which she lived. The simple northern folk, familiar with the tales of Chriemhild, Brynhild, and Gudrun, who helped to forge this legend, could not understand that a woman should be irresponsible for all the crimes and scandals perpetrated in her name. Yet it seems now clear enough that not hers, but her father's and her brother's, were the atrocities which made her married life in Rome a byword. She sat and smiled through all the tempests which tossed her to and fro, until she found at last a fair port in the Duchy of Ferrara. Nursed in the corruption of Papal Rome, which Lorenzo de' Medici described to his son Giovanni as 'a sink of all the vices,' consorting habitually with her father's concubines, and conscious that her own mother had been married for show to two successive husbands, it is not possible that Lucrezia ruled her conduct at any time with propriety. It is even probable that the darkest tales about her are true. The Lord of Pesaro, we must remember, told his kinsman, the Duke of Milan, that the assigned reasons for his divorce were false, and that the fact was what can scarcely be recorded.[1] Still, there is no ground for supposing that, in the matter of her first husband's divorce and the second's murder, she was more than a passive agent in the hands of Alexander and Cesare. The pleasure-loving, careless woman of the Renaissance is very different from the Medea of Victor Hugo's romance; and what remains most revolting to the modern conscience in her conduct is complacent acquiescence in scenes of debauchery devised for her amusement.[2] Instead of viewing her with dread as a potent and malignant witch, we have to regard her with contempt as a feeble woman, soiled with sensual foulness from the cradle. It is also due to truth to remember that at Ferrara she won the esteem of a husband who had married her unwillingly, attached the whole state to her by her sweetness of temper, and received the panegyrics of the two Strozzi, Bembo, Ariosto, Aldo Manuzio, and many other men of note. Foreigners who saw her surrounded by her brilliant Court exclaimed, like the French biographer of Bayard: 'J'ose bien dire que, de son temps, ni beau coup avant, il ne s'est point trouve de plus triomphante princesse; car elle etait belle, bonne douce, et courtoise a toutes gens.'

[1] The whole question of Lucrezia's guilt has been ably investigated by Gregorovius (Lucrezia Borgia, pp. 101, 159-64). Charity suggests that the dreadful tradition of her relation to her father and brothers is founded less upon fact than upon the scandals current after her divorce. What Giovanni Sforza said was this: 'anzi haverla conosciuta infinite volte, ma chel Papa non gelha tolta per altro se non per usare con lei.' This confession of the injured husband went the round of all the Courts of Italy, was repeated by Malipiero and Paolo Capello, formed the substance of the satires of Sannazaro and Pontano, crept into the chronicle of Matarazzo, and survived in the histories of Machiavelli and Guicciardini. There was nothing in his words to astonish men who were cognizant of the acts of Gianpaolo Baglioni and Sigismondo Malatesta; while the frantic passion of Alexander for his children, closely allied as this feeling was in him to excessive sensuality, gave them confirmation. Were they, however, true; or were they a malevolent lie? That is the real point at issue. Psychological speculation will help but little here. It is true that Lucrezia in after-life showed all the signs of a clear conscience. But so also did Alexander, whose buoyancy of spirits lasted till the very day of his death. Yet he was stained with crimes foul enough to darken the conscience of any man, at any period of life, and in any position.

[2] See Burchard, ed. Leibnitz, pp. 77 and 78.

Yet even at Ferrara tragedies which might remind her of the Vatican continued to surround her path. Alfonso, rude in manners and devoted to gun-foundry, interfered but little with the life she led among the wits and scholars who surrounded her. One day, however, in 1508, the poet Ercole Strozzi, who had sung her praises, was found dead, wrapped in his mantle, and pierced with two-and-twenty wounds. No judicial inquiry into this murder was made. Rumor credited both Alfonso and Lucrezia with the deed—Alfonso, because he might be jealous of his wife—Lucrezia, because her poet had recently married Barbara Torelli. Two years earlier another dark crime at Ferrara brought the name of Borgia before the public. One of Lucrezia's ladies, Angela Borgia, was courted by both Giulio d' Este and the Cardinal Ippolito. The girl praised the eyes of Giulio in the hearing of the Cardinal, who forthwith hired assassins to mutilate his brother's face. Giulio escaped from their hands with the loss of one of his eyes, and sought justice from the Duke against the Cardinal in vain. Thereupon he vowed to be revenged on both Ippolito and Alfonso. His plot was to murder them, and to place Ferdinand of Este on the throne. The treason was discovered; the conspirators appeared before Alfonso: he rushed upon Ferdinand, and with his dagger stabbed him in the face. Both Giulio and Ferdinand were thrown into the dungeons of the palace at Ferrara, where they languished for years, while the Duke and Lucrezia enjoyed themselves in its spacious halls and su ny loggie among their courtiers. Ferdinand died in prison, aged sixty-three, in 1540. Giulio was released in 1559 and died, aged eighty-three, in 1561. These facts deserve to be recorded in connection with Lucrezia's married life at Ferrara, lest we should pay too much attention to the flatteries of Ariosto. At the same time her history as Duchess consists, for the most part, in the record of the birth of children. Like her mother Vannozza, she gave herself, in the decline of life, to works of charity and mercy. After this fashion the bright and baleful dames of the Renaissance saved their souls.

But to return to the domestic history of Alexander. The murder of the Duke of Gandia brings the whole Borgia family upon the scene. It is related with great circumstantiality and with surprising sangfroid by Burchard, the Pope's Master of the Ceremonies. The Duke with his brother Cesare, then Cardinal Valentino, supped one night at the house of their mother Vannozza. On their way home the Duke said that he should visit a lady of their acquaintance. He parted from Cesare and was never seen again alive. When the news of his disappearance spread abroad, a boatman of the Tiber deposed to having watched the body of a man thrown into the river on the night of the Duke's death, the 14th of June; he had not thought it worth while to report this fact, for he had seen 'a hundred bodies in his day thrown into the water at the said spot, and no questions asked about them afterwards.' The Pope had the Tiber dragged for some hours, while the wits of Rome made epigrams upon this true successor of S. Peter, this new fisher of men. At last the body of the Duke of Gandia was hauled up: nine wounds, one in the throat, the others in the head and legs and trunk, were found upon the corpse. From the evidence accumulated on the subject of the murder it appeared that Cesare had planned it; whether, as some have supposed, out of a jealousy of his brother too dreadful to describe, or, as is more probable, because he wished to take the first place in the Borgia family, we do not know exactly. The Pontiff in his rage and grief was like a wild beast driven to bay. He shut himself up in a private room, refused food, and howled with so terrible a voice that it was heard in the streets beyond his palace. When he rose up from this agony, remorse seemed to have struck him. He assembled a Conclave of the Cardinals, wept before them, rent his robes, confessed his sins, and instituted a commission for the reform of the abuses he had sanctioned in the Church. But the storm of anguish spent its strength at last. A visit from Vannozza, the mother of his children, wrought a sudden change from fury to reconcilement. What passed between them is not known for certain; Vannozza is supposed, however, to have pointed out, what was indisputably true, that Cesare was more fitted to support the dignity of the family by his abilities than had been the weak and amiable Duke of Gandia. The miserable father rose from the earth, dried his eyes, took food, put from him his remorse, and forgot together with his grief for Absalom the reforms which he had promised for the Church.

Henceforth he devoted himself with sustained energy to building up the fortunes of Cesare, whom he released from all ecclesiastical obligations, and to whose service he seemed bound by some mysterious power. Nor did he even resent the savageness and cruelty which this young hell-cat vented in his presence on the persons of his favorites. At one time Cesare stabbed Perotto, the Pope's minion, with his own hand, when the youth had taken refuge in Alexander's arms: the blood spirted out upon the priestly mantle, and the young man died there.[1] At another time he employed the same diabolical temper for the delectation of his father. He turned out some prisoners sentenced to death in a court-yard of the palace, arrayed himself in fantastic clothes, and amused the papal party by shooting the unlucky criminals. They ran round and round the court crouching and doubling to avoid his arrows. He showed his skill by hitting each where he thought fit. The Pope and Lucrezia looked on applaudingly. Other scenes, not of bloodshed, but of groveling sensuality, devised for the entertainment of his father and his sister, though described by the dry pen of Burchard, can scarcely be transferred to these pages.

[1] The account is given by Capello, the Venetian envoy.

The history of Cesare's attempt to found a principality belongs properly to another chapter.[1] But the assistance rendered by his father is essential to the biography of Alexander. The vision of an Italian sovereignty which Charles of Anjou, Gian Galeazzo Visconti, and Galeazzo Maria Sforza had successively entertained, now fascinated the imagination of the Borgias. Having resolved to make Cesare a prince, Alexander allied himself with Louis XII. of France, promising to annul his first marriage and to sanction his nuptials with Ann of Brittany, if he would undertake the advancement of his son. This bribe induced Louis to create Cesare Duke of Valence and to confer on him the hand of Charlotte of Navarre. He also entered Italy and with his arms enabled Cesare to subdue Romagna. The system adopted by Alexander and his son in their conquests was a simple one. They took the capitals and murdered the princes. Thus Cesare strangled the Varani at Camerino in 1502, and the Vitelli and Orsini at Sinigaglia in the same year: by his means the Marcscotti had been massacred wholesale in Bologna; Pesaro, Rimini, and Forli had been treated in like manner; and after the capture of Faenpza in 1501, the two young Manfredi had been sent to Rome; where they were exposed to the worst insults, drowned or strangled.[2] A system of equal simplicity kept their policy alive in foreign Courts. The Bishop of Cette in France was poisoned for hinting at a secret of Cesare's (1498); the Cardinal d'Amboise was bribed to maintain the credit of the Borgias with Louis XII.; the offer of a red hat to Briconnet saved Alexander from a general council in 1494. The historical interest of Alexander's method consists of its deliberate adaptation of all the means in his power to one end—the elevation of his family. His spiritual authority, the wealth of the Church, the honors of the Holy College, the arts of an assassin, the diplomacy of a despot, were all devoted systematically and openly to the purpose in view. Whatever could be done to weaken Italy by foreign invasions and internal discords, so as to render it a prey for his poisonous son, he attempted. When Louis XII. made his infamous alliance with Ferdinand the Catholic for the spoliation of the house of Aragon in Naples, the Pope gladly gave it his sanction. The two kings quarreled over their prey: then Alexander fomented their discord in order that Cesare might have an opportunity of carrying on his operations in Tuscany unchecked. Patriotism in his breast, whether the patriotism of a born Spaniard or the patriotism of an Italian potentate, was as dead as Christianity. To make profit for the house of Borgia by fraud, sacrilege, and the dismemberment of nations, was the Papal policy.

[1] See Chapter VI.

[2] Their father, Galeotto Manfredi, had been murdered in 1488 by their mother, Francesca Bentivogli. Of Astorre's death Guicciardini writes: 'Astorre, che era minore di diciotto anni e di forma eccellente ... condotto a Roma, saziata prima (secondo che si disse) la libidine di qualcuno, fu occultamente insieme con un suo fratello naturale privato della vita.' Nardi (Storie Florentine, lib. iv. 13) credits Cesare with the violation and murder of the boy. How far, we may ask, were these dark crimes of violence actuated by astrological superstition? This question is raised by Burckhardt (p. 363) apropos of Sigismondo Malatesta's assault upon his son, and Pier Luigi Farnese's violation of the Bishop of Fano. To a temperament like Alexander's, however, mere lust enhanced by cruelty, and seasoned with the joy of insult to an enemy, was a sufficient motive for the commission of monstrous crime.

It is wearisome to continue to the end the catalogue of his misdoings. We are relieved when at last the final crash arrives. The two Borgias, so runs the legend of their downfall, invited themselves to dine with the Cardinal Adriano of Corneto in a vineyard of the Vatican belonging to their host. Thither by the hands of Alexander's butler they previously conveyed some poisoned wine. By mistake, or by the contrivance of the Cardinal, who may have bribed this trusted agent, they drank the death-cup mingled for their victim. Nearly all contemporary Italian annalists, including Guicciardini, Paolo Giovio, and Sanudo, gave currency to this version of the tragedy, which became the common property of historians, novelists, and moralists.[1] Yet Burchard who was on the spot, recorded in his diary that both father and son were attacked by a malignant fever; and Giustiniani wrote to his masters in Venice that the Pope's physician ascribed his illness to apoplexy.[2] The season was remarkably unhealthy, and deaths from fever had been frequent. A circular letter to the German Princes, written probably by the Cardinal of Gurk, and dated August 31, 1503, distinctly mentioned fever as the cause of the Pope's sudden decease, ex hoc seculo horrenda febrium incensione absorptum.[3] Machiavelli, again, who conversed with Cesare Borgia about this turning-point in his career, gave no hint of poison, but spoke only of son and father being simultaneously prostrated by disease.

[1] The story is related by Cinthio in his Ecatommithi, December 9, November 10.

[2] The various accounts of Alexander's death have been epitomized by Gregorovius (Stadt Rom, vol. vii.), and have been discussed by Villari in his edition of the Giustiniani Dispatches, 2 vols. Florence, Le Monnier. Gregorovius thinks the question still open. Villari decides in favor of fever against poison.

[3] Reprinted by R. Garnett in Athenaeum, Jan. 16, 1875.

At this distance of time, and without further details of evidence, we are unable to decide whether Alexander's death was natural, or whether the singularly circumstantial and commonly accepted story of the poisoned wine contained the truth. On the one side, in favor of the hypothesis of fever, we have Burchard's testimony, which does not, however, exactly agree with Giustiniani's, who reported apoplexy to the Venetian senate as the cause of death, and whose report, even at Venice, was rejected by Sanudo for the hypothesis of poison. On the other side, we have the consent of all contemporary historians, with the single and, it must be allowed, remarkable exception of Machiavelli. Paolo Giovio goes even so far as to assert that the Cardinal Corneto told him he had narrowly escaped from the effects of antidotes taken in his extreme terror to counteract the possibility of poison.

Whatever may have been the proximate cause of his sickness, Alexander died, a black and swollen mass, hideous to contemplate, after a sharp struggle with the venom he had absorbed.[1] 'All Rome,' says Guicciardini, 'ran with indescribable gladness to view the corpse. Men could not satiate their eyes with feeding on the carcass of a serpent who, by his unbounded ambition and pestiferous perfidy, by every demonstration of horrible cruelty, monstrous lust, and unheard-of avarice, selling without distinction things sacred and profane, had filled the world with venom.' Cesare languished for some days on a sick bed; but in the end, by the aid of a powerful constitution, he recovered, to find his claws cut and his plans in irretrievable confusion. 'The state of the Duke of Valence,' says Filippo Nerli,[2] 'vanished even as smoke in air, or foam upon the water.'

[1] 'Morto chel fu, il corpo comincio a bollire, e la bocca a spumare come faria uno caldaro al focho, assi persevero mentre che fu sopra terra; divenne anchor ultra modo grosso in tanto che in lui non apparea forma di corpo humano, ne dala larghezza ala lunghezza del corpo suo era differenzia alcuna' (letter of Marquis of Mantua).

[2] Commentari, lib, v.

The moral sense of the Italians expressed itself after Alexander's death in the legend of a devil, who had carried off his soul. Burchard, Giustiniani, Sanudo, and others mention this incident with apparent belief. But a letter from the Marquis of Mantua to his wife, dated September 22, 1503, gives the fullest particulars: 'In his sickness the Pope talked in such a way that those who did not know what was in his mind thought him wandering, though he spoke with great feeling, and his words were: I will come; it is but right; wait yet a little while. Those who were privy to his secret thought, explained that, after the death of Innocent, while the Conclave was sitting, he bargained with the devil for the Papacy at the price of his soul; and among the agreements was this, that he should hold the See twelve years, which he did, with the addition of four days; and some attest they saw seven devils in the room at the moment that he breathed his last.' Mere old wives' tales; yet they mark the point to which the credit of the Borgia had fallen, even in Italy, since the hour when the humanists had praised his godlike carriage and heroic mien upon the day of his election.

Thus, overreaching themselves, ended this pair of villains—the most notable adventurers who ever played their part upon the stage of the great world. The fruit of so many crimes and such persistent effort was reaped by their enemy, Giuliano della Rovere, for whose benefit the nobles of the Roman state and the despots of Romagna had been extirpated.[1] Alexander had proved the old order of Catholicity to be untenable. The Reformation was imperiously demanded. His very vices spurred the spirit of humanity to freedom. Before a saintly Pontiff the new age might still have trembled in superstitious reverence. The Borgia to all logical intellects rendered the pretensions of a Pope to sway the souls of men ridiculous. This is an excuse for dwelling so long upon the spectacle of his enormities. Better than any other series of facts, they illustrate, not only the corruption of society, and the separation between morality and religion in Italy, but also the absurdity of that Church policy which in the age of the Renaissance confined the action of the head of Christendom to the narrow interests of a brood of parvenus and bastards.

[1] Cesare, it must be remembered, had ostensibly reduced the cities of Lombardy, Romagna, and the March, as Gonfalonier of the Church.

Of Pius III., who reigned for a few days after Alexander, no account need be taken. Giuliano della Rovere was made Pope in 1503. Whatever opinion may be formed of him considered as the high-priest of the Christian faith, there can be no doubt that Julius II. was one of the greatest figures of the Renaissance, and that his name, instead of that of Leo X., should by right be given to the golden age of letters and of arts in Rome. He stamped the century with the impress of a powerful personality. It is to him we owe the most splendid of Michael Angelo's and Raphael's masterpieces. The Basilica of S. Peter's, that materialized idea, which remains to symbolize the transition from the Church of the Middle Ages to the modern semi-secular supremacy of Papal Rome, was his thought. No nepotism, no loathsome sensuality, no flagrant violation of ecclesiastical justice, stain his pontificate. His one purpose was to secure and extend the temporal authority of the Popes; and this he achieved by curbing the ambition of the Venetians, who threatened to absorb Romagna, by reducing Perugia and Bologna to the Papal sway, by annexing Parma and Piacenza, and by entering on the heritage bequeathed to him by Cesare Borgia. At his death he transmitted to his successors the largest and most solid sovereignty in Italy. But restless, turbid, never happy unless fighting, Julius drowned the peninsula in blood. He has been called a patriot, because from time to time he raised the cry of driving the barbarians from Italy: it must, however, be remembered that it was he, while still Cardinal di San Pietro in Vincoli, who finally moved Charles VIII. from Lyons; it was he who stirred up the League of Cambray against Venice, and who invited the Swiss mercenaries into Lombardy; in each case adding the weight of the Papal authority to the forces which were enslaving his country. Julius, again, has been variously represented as the saviour of the Papacy, and as the curse of Italy.[1] He was emphatically both. In those days of national anarchy it was perhaps impossible for Julius to magnify the Church except at the expense of the nation, and to achieve the purpose of his life without inflicting the scourge of foreign war upon his countrymen. The powers of Europe had outgrown the Papal discipline. Italian questions were being decided in the cabinets of Louis, Maximilian, and Ferdinand. Instead of controlling the arbiters of Italy, a Pope could only play off one against another.

[1] 'Fatale instrumento e allora e prima e poi de' mali d'Italia,' says Guicciardini, Storia d'Italia, vol. i. p. 84. 'Der Retter des Papstthums,' says Burckhardt, p. 95.

Leo X. succeeded Julius in 1513, to the great relief of the Romans, wearied with the continual warfare of the old Pontifice terribile. In the gorgeous pageant of his triumphal procession to the Lateran, the streets were decked with arches, emblems, and inscriptions. Among these may be noticed the couplet emblazoned by the banker Agostino Chigi before his palace:

Olim habuit Cypris sua tempora; tempora Mavors Olim habuit; sua nunc tempora Pallas habet.

'Venus ruled here with Alexander; Mars with Julius; now Pallas enters on her reign with Leo.' To this epigram the goldsmith Antonio di San Marco answered with one pithy line:

Mars fuit; est Pallas; Cypria semper ero:

'Mars reigned; Pallas reigns; Venus' own I shall always be.'

This first Pope of the house of Medici enjoyed at Rome the fame of his father Lorenzo the Magnificent at Florence. Extolled as an Augustus in his lifetime, he has given his name to what is called the golden age of Italian culture. As a man, he was well qualified to represent the neo-pagan freedom of the Renaissance. Saturated with the spirit of his period, he had no sympathy with religious earnestness, no conception of moral elevation, no aim beyond a superficial polish of the understanding and the taste. Good Latinity seemed to him of more importance than true doctrine: Jupiter sounded better in a sermon than Jehovah; the immortality of the soul was an open topic for debate. At the same time he was extravagantly munificent to men of culture, and hearty in his zeal for the diffusion of liberal knowledge. But what was reasonable in the man was ridiculous in the pontiff. There remained an irreconcilable incongruity between his profession of the Primacy of Christianity and his easy epicurean philosophy.

Leo, like all the Medici after the first Cosimo, was a bad financier. His reckless expenditure contributed in no small measure to the corruption of Rome and to the ruin of the Latin Church, while it won the praises of the literary world. Julius, who had exercised rigid economy, left 700,000 ducats in the coffers of S. Angelo. The very jewels of Leo's tiara were pledged to pay his debts, when he died suddenly in 1521. During the heyday of his splendor he spent 8,000 ducats monthly on presents to his favorites and on his play-debts. His table, which was open to all the poets, singers, scholars, and buffoons of Rome, cost half the revenues of Romagna and the March. He founded the knightly Order of S. Peter to replenish his treasury, and turned the conspiracy of the Cardinal Petrucci against his life to such good account—extorting from the Cardinal Riario a fine of 5,000 ducats, and from the Cardinals Soderini and Hadrian the sum of 125,000—that Von Hutten was almost justified in treating the whole of that dark business as a mere financial speculation. The creation of thirty-nine Cardinals in 1517 brought him in above 500,000 ducats. Yet, in spite of these expedients for getting gold, the bankers of Rome were half ruined when he died. The Bini had lent him 200,000 ducats; the Gaddi, 32,000; the Ricasoli, 10,000; the Cardinal Salviati claimed a debt of 80,000; the Cardinals Santi Quattro and Armellini, each 150,000.[1] These figures are only interesting when we remember that the mountains of gold which they denote were squandered in aesthetic sensuality.

When the Pope was made, he said to Giuliano (Duke of Nemours): 'Let us enjoy the Papacy since God has given it us—godiamoci il Papato, poiche Dio ce l' ha dato.[2]' It was in this spirit that Leo administered the Holy See. The keynote which he struck dominated the whole society of Rome. At Agostine Chigi's banquets, prelates of the Church and Apostolic secretaries sat side by side with beautiful Imperias and smooth-cheeked singing-boys; fishes from Byzantium and ragouts of parrots' tongues were served on golden platters, which the guests threw from the open windows into the Tiber. Masques and balls, comedies and carnival processions filled the streets and squares and palaces of the Eternal City with a mimicry of pagan festivals, while art went hand in hand with luxury. It seemed as though Bacchus and Pallas and Priapus would be reinstated in their old realm, and yet Rome had not ceased to call herself Christian. The hoarse rhetoric of friars in the Coliseum, and the drone of pifferari from the Ara Coeli, mingled with the Latin declamations of the Capitol and the twang of lute-strings in the Vatican. Meanwhile, amid crowds of Cardinals in hunting-dress, dances of half-naked girls, and masques of Carnival Bacchantes, moved pilgrims from the North with wide, astonished, woeful eyes—disciples of Luther, in whose soul, as in a scabbard, lay sheathed the sword of the Spirit, ready to flash forth and smite.

[1] See Gregorovius, Stadt Rom, book xiv. ch. 3.

[2] 'Relazione di Marino Giorgi,' March 17, 1517. Alberi, series ii. vol. iii. p. 51.

A more complete conception may be formed of Leo by comparing him with Julius. Julius disturbed the peace of Italy with a view to establishing the temporal power of his see. Leo returned to the old nepotism of the previous Popes, and fomented discord for the sake of the Medici. It was at one time his project to secure the kingdom of Naples for his brother Giuliano, and a Milanese sovereignty for his nephew Lorenzo. On the latter he succeeded in conferring the Duchy of Urbino, to the prejudice of its rightful owners.[1] With Florence in their hands and the Papacy under their control, the Medici might have swayed all Italy. Such plans, however, in the days of Francis I. and Charles V. had become impracticable; nor had any of the Medicean family stuff to undertake more than the subjugation of their native city. Julius was violent in temper, but observant of his promises. Leo was suave and slippery. He lured Gianpaolo Baglioni to Rome by a safe-conduct, and then had him imprisoned and beheaded in the Castle of S. Angelo. Julius delighted in war and was never happier than when the cannons roared around him at Mirandola. Leo vexed the soul of his master of the ceremonies because he would ride out a-hunting in topboots. Julius designed S. Peter's and comprehended Michael Angelo. Leo had the wit to patronize the poets, artists and historians who added luster to his Court; but he brought no new great man of genius to the front. The portraits of the two Popes, both from the hand of Raphael, are exceedingly characteristic. Julius, bent and emaciated, has the nervous glance of a passionate and energetic temperament; though the brand is hoar with ashes and more than half burned out, it glows and can inflame a conflagration. Leo, heavy jawed, dull-eyed, with thick lips and a brawny jowl, betrays the coarser fiber of a sensualist.

[1] He would have given it to Giuliano, but Giuliano was an honest man and remembered what he owed to the della Rovere family. See the 'Relazione' of Marino Giorgi (Rel. Ven. ser. ii. vol. iii. p. 51).

It has often been remarked that both Julius and Leo raised money by the sale of indulgences with a view to the building of S. Peter's, thus aggravating one of the chief scandals which provoked the Reformation. In that age of maladjusted impulses the desire to execute a great work of art, combined with the cynical resolve to turn the superstitions of the people to account, forced rebellion to a head. Leo was unconscious of the magnitude of Luther's movement. If he thought at all seriously of the phenomenon, it stirred his wonder. Nor did he feel the necessity of reformation in the Church of Italy. The rich and many-sided life of Rome and the diplomatic interests of Italian despotism absorbed his whole attention. It was but a small matter what barbarians thought or did.

The sudden death of Leo threw the Holy College into great perplexity. To choose the new Pope without reference to political interests was impossible; and these were divided between Charles V. and Francis I. After twelve days spent by the Cardinals in conclave, the result of their innumerable schemes and counter-schemes was the election of the Cardinal of Tortosa. No one knew him; and his elevation to the Papacy, due to the influence of Charles, was almost as great a surprise to the electors as to the Romans. In their rage and horror at having chosen this barbarian, the College began to talk about the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, seeking the most improbable of all excuses for the mistake to which intrigue had driven them. 'The courtiers of the Vatican and chief officers of the Church,' says an eyewitness, 'wept and screamed and cursed and gave themselves up to despair.' Along the blank walls of the city was scrawled: 'Rome to let.' Sonnets fell in showers, accusing the cardinals of having delivered over 'the fair Vatican to a German's fury.'[1] Adrian VI. came to Rome for the first time as Pope.[2] He knew no Italian, and talked Latin with an accent unfamiliar to southern ears. His studies had been confined to scholastic philosophy and theology. With courts he had no commerce; and he was so ignorant of the state a Pope should keep in Rome, that he wrote beforehand requesting that a modest house and garden might be hired for his abode. When he saw the Vatican, he exclaimed that here the successors, not of Peter, but of Constantine should dwell. Leo kept one hundred grooms for the service of his stable; Adrian retained but four. Two Flemish valets sufficed for his personal attendance, and to these he gave each evening one ducat for the expenses of the next day's living. A Flemish serving woman cooked his food, made his bed and washed his linen. Rome, with its splendid immorality, its classic art and pagan culture, made the same impression on him that it made on Luther. When his courtiers pointed to the Laocoon as the most illustrious monument of ancient sculpture, he turned away with horror, murmuring: 'Idols of the Pagans!' The Belvedere, which was fast becoming the first statue-gallery in Europe, he walled up and never entered. At the same time he set himself with earnest purpose, so far as his tied hands and limited ability would go, to reform the more patent abuses of the Church. Leo had raised about three million ducats by the sale of offices, which represented an income of 348,000 ducats to the purchasers, and provided places for 2,550 persons. By a stroke of his pen Adrian canceled these contracts and threw upon the world a crowd of angry and defrauded officials. It was but poor justice to remind them that their bargain with his predecessor had been illegal. Such attempts, however, at a reformation of ecclesiastical society were as ineffectual as pin-pricks in the cure of a fever which demands blood-letting. The real corruption of Rome, deeply seated in high places, remained untouched. Luther meanwhile had carried all before him in the North, and accurate observers in Rome itself dreaded some awful catastrophe for the guilty city. 'This state is set upon the razor-edge of peril; God grant we have not soon to take flight to Avignon or to the ends of the ocean. I see the downfall of this spiritual monarchy at hand. Unless God help, it is all over with us.'[3] Adrian met the emergency, and took up arms against the sea of troubles by expressing his horror of simony, sensuality, thievery and so forth. The result was that he was simply laughed at. Pasquin made so merry with his name that Adrian vowed he would throw the statue into the Tiber; whereupon the Duke of Sessa wittily replied: 'Throw him to the bottom, and, like a frog, he'll go on croaking.' Berni, again, wrote one of his cleverest Capitoli upon the dunce who could not comprehend his age; and when he died, his doctor's door was ornamented with this inscription: Liberatori patriae Senatus Populusque Romanus.

[1] See Greg. Stadt Rom, vol. viii. pp. 382, 383. The details about Adriano are chiefly taken from the Relazioni of the Venetian embassadors, series ii. vol. iii. pp. 75-120.

[2] His father's name was Florus or Flerentius, of the Flemish family, it is supposed, of Dedel. Berni calls him a carpet-maker. Other accounts represent him as a ship's carpenter. The Pope's baptismal name was Adrian.

[3] See the passage quoted from the Lettere de Principi, Rome, March 17, 1523, by Burckhardt, p. 99, note.

Great was the rejoicing when another Medici was made Pope in 1523. People hoped that the merry days of Leo would return. But things had gone too far toward dissolution. Clement VII. failed to give satisfaction to the courtiers whom his more genial cousin had delighted: even the scholars and the poets grumbled.[1] His rule was weak and vacillating, so that the Colonna faction raised its head again and drove him to the Castle of S. Angelo. The political horizon of Italy grew darker and more sullen daily, as before some dreadful storm. Over Rome itself impended ruin—

as when God Will o'er some high-viced city hang his poison In the sick air.[2]

At last the crash came. Clement by a series of treaties, treacheries, and tergiversations had deprived himself of every friend and exasperated every foe. Italy was so worn out with warfare, so accustomed to the anarchy of aimless revolutions and to the trampling to and fro of stranger squadrons on her shores, that the news of a Lutheran troop, levied with the express object of pillaging Rome, and reinforced with Spanish ruffians and the scum of every nation, scarcely roused her apathy. The so-called army of Frundsberg—a horde of robbers held together by the hope of plunder—marched without difficulty to the gates of Rome. So low had the honor of Italian princes fallen that the Duke of Ferrara, by direct aid given, and the Duke of Urbino, by counter-force withheld, opened the passes of the Po and of the Apennines to these marauders. They lost their general in Lombardy. The Constable Bourbon, who succeeded him, died in the assault of the city. Then Rome for nine months was abandoned to the lust, rapacity, and cruelty of some 30,000 brigands without a leader. It was then discovered to what lengths of insult, violence, and bestiality the brutal barbarism of Germans and the avarice of Spaniards could be carried. Clement, beleaguered in the Castle of S. Angelo, saw day and night the smoke ascend from desolated palaces and desecrated temples, heard the wailing of women and the groans of tortured men mingle with the jests of Lutheran drunkards and the curses of Castilian bandits. Roaming its galleries and leaning from its windows he exclaimed with Job:[3] 'Quare de vulva eduxisti me? qui utinam consumptus essem, ne oculus me videret.' What the Romans, emasculated by luxury and priest rule, what the Cardinals and prelates, lapped in sensuality and sloth, were made to suffer during this long agony, can scarcely be described. It is too horrible. When at last the barbarians, sated with blood, surfeited with lechery, glutted with gold, and decimated by pestilence, withdrew, Rome raised her head a widow. From the shame and torment of that sack she never recovered, never became again the gay licentious lovely capital of arts and letters, the glittering gilded Rome of Leo. But the kings of the earth took pity on her desolation. The treaty of Amiens (August 18, 1527), concluded between Francis I. and Henry VIII. against Charles V., in whose name this insult had been offered to the Holy City of Christendom, together with Charles's own tardy willingness to make amends, restored the Papacy to the respect of Europe.

[1] See, for instance, Berni's sonnets. In one of these, Berni very powerfully describes the vacillation and irresolution of Clement's state-policy.

[2] See Varchi's picture of the state of Rome, St. Fior. ii.

[3] So Luigi Guicciardini in his account of the sack of Rome relates.

It is well known that at this crisis the Emperor seriously thought of putting an end to the State of the Church. His councilors advised him to restore the Pope to his original rank of Bishop, and to make Rome again the seat of Empire.[1] But to have done this would have been impossible under the political conditions of the sixteenth century, and in the face of Christendom still Catholic. His deliberations, therefore, cost Rome the miseries of the sack; but they were speedily superseded by the determination to strengthen the Papal by means of the Imperial authority in Italy. Florence was given as a make-peace offering to the contemptible Medici; and it remains the worst shame of Clement that he used the dregs of the army that had sacked Rome for the enslavement of his mother-city.

[1] See the authorities in Greg. Stadt Rom, vol. viii. pp. 569, 575.

Internally, the Papal State had learned by its misfortunes the necessity of a reform. Sadoleto, writing in the September of that memorable year to Clement, reminds him that the sufferings of Rome have satisfied the wrath of God, and that the way was now open for an amelioration of manners and laws.[1] No force of arms could prevent the Holy City from returning to a better life, and proving that the Christian priesthood was not a mere mockery and sham.[2] In truth the Counter-Reformation may be said to date historically from 1527.

[1] It was universally recognized in Italy that the sack of Rome was a punishment inflicted by Providence upon the godless city. Without quoting great authorities like Sadoleto or the Bishop of Fossombrone, one of whose letters gives a really awful picture of Roman profligacy (Opere di M.G. Guidiccioni, Barbera, vol. i. p. 193), we find abundant testimony to this persuasion regarding the intolerible vice of Rome, even in men devoid of moral conscience. Aretino (La Cortegiana, end of Act i. Sc. xxiii.) writes: 'Io mic redeva che il castigo, che l' ha dato Cristo per mano degli Spagnuoli, l'avesse fatta migliore, et e piu scellerata che mai.' Bandello (Novelle, Parte ii. xxxvii.) alluding to the sack, remarks in a parenthesis, 'benche i peccati di quella citta meritassero esser castigati.' After adducing two such witnesses, it would weaken the case to cite Trissino or Vettori, both of whom expressed themselves with force upon the iniquities of Papal Rome.

[2] Compare Lettere de' Princ. ii. 77; Cardinal Cajetanus, and other testimonies quoted by Greg. Stadt Rom, vol. viii. pp. 568, 578.



Corruption of the Church—Degradation and Division of Italy—Opinions of Machiavelli, Guicciardini, and King Ferdinand of Naples—Incapacity of the Italians for thorough Reformation—The Worldliness and Culture of the Renaissance—Witness of Italian Authors against the Papal Court and the Convents—Superstitious Respect for Relics—Separation between Religion and Morality—Mixture of Contempt and Reverence for the Popes—Gianpaolo Baglioni—Religious Sentiments of the Tyrannicides—Pietro Paolo Boscoli—Tenacity of Religions—The direct Interest of the Italians in Rome—Reverence for the Sacraments of the Church—Opinions pronounced by Englishmen on Italian Immorality—Bad Faith and Sensuality—The Element of the Fancy in Italian Vice—The Italians not Cruel, or Brutal, or Intemperate by Nature—Domestic Murders—Sense of Honor in Italy—Onore and Onesta—General Refinement—Good Qualities of the People—Religious Revivalism.

The corruption of the Papal Court involved a corresponding moral weakness throughout Italy. This makes the history of the Popes of the Renaissance important precisely in those details which formed the subject of the preceding chapter. Morality and religion suffered an almost complete separation in the fifteenth century. The chiefs of the Church with cynical effrontery violated every tradition of Christ and the Apostles, so that the example of Rome was in some sense the justification of fraud, violence, lust, filthy living, and ungodliness to the whole nation.

The contradiction between the spiritual pretensions of the Popes and their actual worldliness was not so glaring to the men of the Renaissance, accustomed by long habit to the spectacle of this anomaly, as it is to us. Nor would it be scientific to imagine that any Italian in that age judged by moral standards similar to ours. AEsthetic propriety rather than strict conceptions of duty ruled the conduct even of the best, and it is wonderful to observe with what artless simplicity the worst sinners believed they might make peace in time of need with heaven. Yet there were not wanting profound thinkers who traced the national decay of the Italians to the corruption of the Church. Among these Machiavelli stands foremost. In a celebrated passage of the Discorsi,[1] after treating the whole subject of the connection between good government and religion, he breaks forth into this fiery criticism of the Papacy: 'Had the religion of Christianity been preserved according to the ordinances of its founder, the states and commonwealths of Christendom would have been far more united and far happier than they are. Nor is it possible to form a better estimate of its decay than by observing that, in proportion as we approach nearer to the Roman Church, the head of this religion, we find less piety prevail among the nations. Considering the primitive constitution of that Church, and noting how diverse are its present customs, we are forced to judge that without doubt either ruin or a scourge is now impending over it. And since some men are of opinion that the welfare of Italy depends upon the Church, I wish to put forth such arguments as occur to my mind to the contrary; and of these I will adduce two, which, as I think, are irrefutable. The first is this: that owing to the evil ensample of the Papal Court, Italy has lost all piety and all religion: whence follow infinite troubles and disorders; for as religion implies all good, so its absence implies the contrary. Consequently, to the Church and priests of Rome we Italians owe this obligation first—that we have become void of religion and corrupt. But we also owe them another, even greater, which is the cause of our ruin. I mean that the Church has maintained and still maintains Italy divided. Of a truth no province ever was united and prosperous, unless it were reduced beneath the sway of one republic or one monarch, as is the case with France and Spain. And the reason why Italy is not in this condition, but has neither commonwealth nor monarch for her head, is none other than the Church: for the Church, established in our midst and exercising a temporal authority, has never had the force or vigor to extend its sway over the whole country and to become the ruling power in Italy. Nor on the other hand has it been so feeble as not to be able, when afraid of losing its temporalities, to call in a foreign potentate, as a counterpoise in its defense against those powers which threatened to become supreme. Of the truth of this, past history furnishes many instances; as when, by the help of Charlemagne, the Popes expelled the Lombards; and when in our own days they humbled Venice by the aid of France, and afterwards drove out the French by calling in the Swiss. So then the Church, being on the one hand too weak to grasp the whole of Italy, and at the same time too jealous to allow another power to do so, has prevented our union beneath one head, and has kept us under scattered lords and princes. These have caused so much discord and debility that Italy has become the prey not only of powerful barbarians, but also of every assailant. And this we owe solely and entirely to the Church. In order to learn by experience the truth of what I say, one ought to be able to send the Roman Court, armed with like authority to that it wields in Italy, to take up its abode among the Swiss, who at the present moment are the only nation living, as regards religion and military discipline, according to the antique fashion; he would then see that the evil habits of that Court would in no long space of time create more disorders than any other misfortune that could arise there in any period whatever.' In this scientific and deliberate opinion pronounced by the profoundest thinker of the sixteenth century, the Papacy is accused of having caused both the moral depravation and the political disunion of Italy. The second of these points, which belongs to the general history of the Italian nation, might be illustrated abundantly: but one other sentence from the pen of Machiavelli exposes the ruinous and selfish policy of the Church more forcibly than could be done by copious examples:[2] 'In this way the Pontiffs at one time by love of their religion, at other times for the furtherance of their ambitious schemes, have never ceased to sow the seeds of disturbance and to call foreigners into Italy, spreading wars, making and unmaking princes, and preventing stronger potentates from holding the province they were too feeble to rule.'

[1] Lib. i. cap. 12.

[2] Ist. Fior. lib. i.

Guicciardini, commenting upon the Discorsi of Machiavelli, begins his gloss upon the passage I have just translated, with these emphatic words:[1] 'It would be impossible to speak so ill of the Roman Court but that more abuse would not be merited, seeing it is an infamy, an example of all the shames and scandals of the world.' He then proceeds to argue, like Machiavelli, that the greatness of the Church prevented Italy from becoming a nation under one head, showing, however, at the same time that the Italians had derived much benefit from their division into separate states.[2] To the concurrent testimony of these great philosophic writers may be added the evidence of a practical statesman, Ferdinand, king of Naples, who in 1493 wrote as follows:[3] 'From year to year up to this time we have seen the Popes seeking to hurt and hurting their neighbors, without having to act on the defensive or receiving any injury. Of this we are ourselves the witness, by reason of things they have done and attempted against us through their inborn ambition; and of the many misfortunes which have happened of late in Italy it is clear that the Popes are authors.' It is not so much however with the political as with the moral aspect of the Church that we are at present concerned: and on the latter point Guicciardini may once more be confronted with his illustrious contemporary. In his aphorisms he says:[4] 'No man hates the ambition, avarice, and effeminacy of the priests more than I do; for these vices, odious in themselves, are most unseemly in men who make a profession of living in special dependence on the Deity. Besides, they are so contradictory that they cannot be combined except in a very extraordinary subject. My position under several Popes has compelled me to desire their aggrandizement for the sake of my own profit.[5] Otherwise, I should have loved Martin Luther like myself—not that I might break loose from the laws which Christianity, as it is usually interpreted and comprehended, imposes on us, but that I might see that horde of villains reduced within due limits, and forced to live either without vices or without power.'

[1] Guicc. Op. Ined. vol. i. p. 27.

[2] In another place (Op. Ined. vol. i. p. 104) Guicciardini describes the rule of priests as founded on violence of two sorts; 'perche ci sforzano con le armi temporali e con le spirituali.' It may be well to collect the chief passages in Machiavelli and Guicciardini, besides those already quoted, which criticise the Papacy in relation to Italian politics. The most famous is at the end of the fourth book of the Istoria d' Italia (Edn. Rosini, vol. ii. pp. 218-30). Next may be placed the sketch of Papal History in Machiavelli's Istorie Fiorentine (lib. i. cap. 9-25). The eleventh chapter of the Principe gives a short sketch of the growth of the temporal power, so framed as to be acceptable to the Medici, but steeped in the most acid irony. See, in particular, the sentence 'Costoro solo hanno stati e non li difendono, hanno sudditi e non li governano,' etc.

[3] See the dispatch quoted by Gregorovius, Stadt Rom, vol. vii. p. 7, note.

[4] Op. Ined. Ricordi No. 28. Compare Ariosto, Satire i. 208-27.

[5] Guicciardini had been secretary and vicegerent of the Medicean Popes. See back, p. 206.

These utterances are all the more remarkable because they do not proceed from the deep sense of holiness which animated reformers like Savonarola. Machiavelli was not zealous for the doctrines of Christianity so much as for the decencies of an established religion. In one passage of the Discorsi he even pronounces his opinion that the Christian faith compared with the creeds of antiquity, had enfeebled national spirit.[1] Privately, moreover, he was himself stained with the moral corruption which he publicly condemned. Guicciardini, again, in the passage before us, openly avows his egotism. Keen-sighted as they were in theory, these politicians suffered in their own lives from that gangrene which had penetrated the upper classes of Italy to the marrow. Their patriotism and their desire for righteousness were not strong enough to make them relinquish the pleasure and the profit they derived from the existing state of things. Nor had they the energy or the opportunity to institute a thorough revolution. Italy, as Machiavelli pointed out in another passage of the Discorsi, had become too prematurely decrepit for reinvigorating changes;[2] and the splendid appeal with which the Principe is closed must even to its author have sounded like a flourish of rhetorical trumpets.

[1] Discorsi, ii. 2, iii. 1. These chapters breathe the bitterest contempt for Christianity, the most undisguised hatred for its historical development, the intensest rancor against Catholic ecclesiastics.

[2] Discorsi, i. 55.

Moreover, it seemed impossible for an Italian to rise above the conception of a merely formal reformation, or to reach that higher principle of life which consists in the enunciation of a new religious truth. The whole argument in the Discorsi which precedes the chapter I have quoted, treats religion not in its essence as pure Christianity, but as a state engine for the maintenance of public order and national well-being.[1] That Milton and Cromwell may have so regarded religion is true: but they had, besides, a personal sense of the necessity of righteousness, the fear of God, at the root of their political convictions. While Machiavelli and Guicciardini wished to deprive the Popes of temporal sovereignty, in order that the worst scandals of their Court might be suppressed, and that the peace of Italy might be secured, Savonarola desired to purge the Church of sin, but to retain its hierarchy and its dogmas inviolate. Neither the politicians nor the prophet had discerned, what Luther and the nations of the North saw clearly, that a fresh element of spiritual vitality was necessary for the regeneration of society; or in other words, that good government presupposes living religion, and not that religion should be used as an engine for the consolidation of empire over the people.[2]

[1] Mach. Disc. i. 12, after exposing the shams on which, as he believed, the religious institutions of Numa rested, asserts that, however much governors may be persuaded of the falseness of religions, it is their duty to maintain them: 'e debbono ... come che le giudicassero false, favorirle e accrescerle.'

[2] Yet read the curious passage (Disc. iii. 1) in which Machiavelli discusses the regeneration of religion by a return to its vital principle, and shows how S. Francis and S. Dominic had done this in the thirteenth century. It was precisely what Luther was designing while Machiavelli was writing.

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