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Pope Julius II (Italian: Papa Giulio II; Latin: Iulius II) (5 December 1443 – 21 February 1513), born Giuliano della Rovere, was head of the Roman Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1503 to 1513. Nicknamed the Warrior Pope or the Fearsome Pope, he chose his papal name not in honor of Pope Julius I but in emulation of Julius Caesar.[4] One of the most powerful and influential popes, Julius II was a central figure of the High Renaissance and left a significant mark in world history.[5]

Julius II centralized the Papal States and created the Swiss Guards. He was a great patron of the arts, and commissioned the Raphael Rooms and Michelangelo's paintings in the Sistine Chapel. Julius II ratified the Treaty of Tordesillas between Castile and Portugal, establishing the first bishoprics in the Americas and beginning the catholicization of Latin America. In 1508, he decreed that the Imperial election was sufficient to use the title of Holy Roman Emperor in absence of Papal coronation. Julius II opposed the conciliarist movement promoted by foreign monarchs, and affirmed ultramontanism at the Fifth Lateran Council.[6] In Italy, he crushed the Borgias and proved a bulwark against Venetian expansionism. Pope Julius II commissioned the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica and practised the selling of indulgences: Martin Luther's visit to Rome occurred during the pontificate of Julius II.

Julius II became Pope in the context of the Italian wars, shortly after France occupied the Duchy of Milan and Spanish troops arrived in the Kingdom of Naples. With France taking over the North of Italy after defeating Venice at the Battle of Agnadello and Ferdinand of Spain becoming King of Naples, Julius II planned to "free Italy from the barbarians" and orchestrated the recapture of the peninsula.[7] After Ferdinand of Aragon recognized the Kingdom of Naples as a Papal fief with a cardinal as viceroy, Julius II personally led the Papal armed forces at the Battle of Mirandola and forced the French of Louis XII out of Italy by forming an anti-French "Holy League" with several European states.[8]

Julius II planned to call for a crusade against the Ottoman Empire in order to retake Constantinople.[9] His death caused the collapse of the Holy League, and Italy returned to the French-Spanish status quo ante bellum with the treaty of Brussels (1516). Nevertheless, the Papal States remained independent and centralized as a result of his policies, continued by Leo X. Julius II was described as the ideal Prince by Machiavelli. In his Julius Excluded from Heaven, the scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam described a Pope Julius II in the after-life planning to capture the Paradise. [10]

Early life

Giuliano della Rovere Albisola, was born near Savona in the Republic of Genoa. He was of a noble but impoverished family, the son of Raffaelo della Rovere.[1][10] and Theodora Manerola, a lady of Greek ancestry.[11] He had three brothers; Bartolomeo, a Franciscan friar who then became Bishop of Ferrara (1474–1494);[12] Leonardo; and Giovanni, Prefect of the City of Rome (1475–1501)[13] and Prince of Sorea and Senigallia. He also had a sister, Lucina (later the mother of Cardinal Sisto Gara della Rovere).[14] Giuliano was educated by his uncle, Fr. Francesco della Rovere, O.F.M. among the Franciscans, who took him under his special charge. He was later sent by this same uncle (who by that time had become Minister General of the Franciscans (1464–1469)), to the Franciscan friary in Perugia, where he could study the sciences at the University.[15][16]

Della Rovere, as a young man, showed traits of being rough, coarse and given to bad language. During the late 1490s he became more closely acquainted with Cardinal Medici and his nephew (both relatives), and the two dynasties became uneasy allies in the context of papal politics. Both houses desired an end to the occupation of Italian lands by the armies of France. He seemed less enthused by theology; rather Paul Strathern argues his imagined heroes were military leaders such as Frederic Colonna.[17]


After his uncle was elected Pope Sixtus IV on 10 August 1471,[18] Giuliano was appointed Bishop of Carpentras in the Comtat Venaissin on 16 October 1471.[19] In an act of literal nepotism he was immediately raised to the cardinalate on 16 December 1471, and assigned the same titular church as that formerly held by his uncle, San Pietro in Vincoli.[20] Guilty of serial simony and pluralism he held several powerful offices at once: in addition to the archbishopric of Avignon he held no fewer than eight bishoprics, including Lausanne from 1472, and Coutances (1476–1477).[21] [22] [23]

In 1474, Giuliano led an army to Todi, Spoleto, and Città di Castello as papal legate. He returned to Rome in May, in the company of Duke Federigo of Urbino, who promised his daughter in marriage to Giuliano's brother Giovanni, who was subsequently named Lord of Senigallia and of Mondovì.[24] On 22 December 1475, Pope Sixtus IV created the new Archdiocese of Avignon, assigning to it as suffragan dioceses the Sees of Vaison, Cavaillon, and Carpentras. He appointed Giuliano as the first archbishop. Giuliano held the archdiocese until his later election to the papacy. In 1476 the office of Legate was added, and he left Rome for France in February. On 22 August 1476 he founded the Collegium de Ruvere in Avignon. He returned to Rome on 4 October 1476.[25]

In 1479, Cardinal Giuliano served his one-year term as Chamberlain of the College of Cardinals. In this office he was responsible for collecting all the revenues owed to the cardinals as a group (from ad limina visits, for example) and for the proper disbursements of appropriate shares to cardinals who were in service in the Roman Curia.[26]

Giuliano was again named Papal Legate to France on 28 April 1480, and left Rome on June 9. As Legate, his mission was threefold: to make peace between King Louis XI and the Emperor Maximilian of Austria; to raise funds for a war against the Ottoman Turks; and to negotiate the release of Cardinal Jean Balue and Bishop Guillaume d'Harancourt (who by then had been imprisoned by Louis for eleven years on charges of treason). He reached Paris in September, and finally, on 20 December 1480, Louis gave orders that Balue be handed over to the Archpriest of Loudun, who had been commissioned by the Legate to receive him in the name of the Pope.[27] He returned to Rome on 3 February 1482.[28] Shortly thereafter the sum of 300,000 ecus of gold was received from the French in subsidy of the war.[29]

On 31 January 1483 Cardinal della Rovere was promoted suburbicarian Bishop of Ostia, in succession to Cardinal Guillaume d'Estouteville who had died on January 22.[30] It was the privilege of the Bishop of Ostia to consecrate an elected pope a bishop, if he were not already a bishop. This actually occurred in the case of Pius III (Francesco Todeschini-Piccolomini), who was ordained a priest on 30 September 1503 and consecrated a bishop on 1 October 1503 by Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere.[31]

Around this time, in 1483, an illegitimate daughter was born, Felice della Rovere.[32][33]

On 3 November 1483, Cardinal della Rovere was named Bishop of Bologna and Papal Legate, succeeding Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga, who had died on 21 October. He held the diocese until 1502.[34] On 28 December 1484, Giuliano participated in the investiture of his brother Giovanni as Captain-General of the Papal Armies by Pope Innocent VIII.[35]

By 1484 Giuliano was living in the new palazzo which he had constructed next to the Basilica of the Twelve Apostles, which he had also restored. Pope Sixtus IV paid a formal visit to the newly restored building on 1 May 1482, and it may be that Giuliano was already in residence then.[36]

Sixtus IV died on 12 August 1484 and was succeeded by Innocent VIII. After the ceremonies of the election of Pope Innocent were completed, the cardinals were dismissed to their own homes, but Cardinal della Rovere accompanied the new Pope to the Vatican Palace, and was the only one to remain with him. Ludwig Pastor quotes the Florentine ambassador as remarking, "[Pope Innocent] gives the impression of a man who is guided rather by the advice of others than by his own lights." The ambassador of Ferrara stated, "While with his uncle [Della Rovere] had not the slightest influence, he now obtains whatever he likes from the new Pope."[37] Della Rovere was one of the five cardinals named to the committee to make the arrangements for the Coronation.[38]

In 1485 Pope Innocent and Cardinal della Rovere (as the Pope's new principal advisor), decided to involve themselves in the political affairs of the Kingdom of Naples, in what was called the Conspiracy of the Barons.[39] On Palm Sunday, 20 March, Cardinal della Rovere, concealing his activities from his principal rival, Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI), rode out of Rome and took ship at Ostia, intending to head for Genoa and Avignon to prepare to wage war between the Church and the King of Naples, Ferdinand I (Ferrante).[40] On 28 June the Pope sent back to Naples the token gift of a palfrey which symbolized the King of Naples' submission, and demanded the full feudal submission of the Kingdom of Naples to the Roman Church according to long-standing tradition. In a second attempt to overthrow the Aragonese monarchy, the Prince of Salerno Antonello II dei Sanseverino, on the advice of Antonello Petrucci and Francesco Coppola, gathered together several feudal families belonging to the Guelph faction and supporting the Angevin claim to Naples. Antonello de Sanseverino was the brother-in-law of Cardinal della Rovere's brother Giovanni, who was a noble of Naples because of his fief of Sora. The principal complaints of the barons were the heavy taxation imposed by Ferdinand to finance his war against the Saracens, who had occupied Bari in 1480; and the vigorous efforts of Ferrante to centralize the administrative apparatus of the kingdom, moving it away from a feudal to a bureaucratic system. The barons seized L'Aquila, and appealed to the Pope for assistance as their feudal overlord. Genoa and Venice supported the Papacy, while Florence and Milan opted for Naples. In Rome the Orsini allied themselves with Ferrante's son Alfonso, and therefore the Colonna supported the Pope in the street fighting that ensued.[41] Ferrante reacted by seizing the fiefs of the barons, and, when the two parties met to negotiate a settlement, Ferrante had them arrested, and eventually executed. The prestige of the della Rovere family was seriously damaged, and in an attempt to exculpate himself Pope Innocent began to withdraw his support for them. Peace was restored in 1487, but Innocent VIII's papacy was discredited.[42]

On 23 March 1486, the pope sent Giuliano as Papal Legate to the Court of King Charles VIII of France to ask for help. A French entourage arrived in Rome on 31 May, but immediately relations broke down with the Pro-Spanish Cardinal Rodrigo. But Ferrante's army decided the pope's humiliation, Innocent backed down and on 10 August signed a treaty. Innocent looked for new allies and settled on the Republic of Florence.

On 2 March 1487, Giuliano was appointed legate in the March of Ancona and to the Republic of Venice. He encouraged trade with the sizeable Turkish community at these ports. But urgent reports arrived from the King of Hungary that the Ottoman Sultan was threatening Italy. He returned on 8 April 1488, and again took up his residence in the Palazzo Colonna next to the Basilica of the XII Apostles.[43]

In the Conclave of 1492, following the death of Innocent VIII, Cardinal della Rovere was supported for election by both King Charles VIII of France and by Charles' enemy King Ferrante of Naples. It was reported that France had deposited 200,000 ducats into a bank account to promote della Rovere's candidature, while the Republic of Genoa had deposited 100,000 ducats to the same end. Della Rovere, however, had enemies, both because of the influence he had exercised over Pope Sixtus IV, and because of his French sympathies. His rivals included Cardinal Ardicio della Porta and Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, both patronised by the Milanese.[44] Kellogg, Baynes & Smith, continue, a "rivalry had, however, gradually grown up between [della Rovere] and [then-Cardinal] Rodrigo Borgia, and on the death of Innocent VIII in 1492 Borgia by means of a secret agreement and simony with Ascanio Sforza succeeded in being elected by a large majority, under the name of Pope Alexander VI." Della Rovere, jealous and angry, hated Borgia for being elected over him.[45]

On 31 August 1492 the new Pope, Alexander VI, held a consistory in which he named six cardinal legates, one of whom was Giuliano della Rovere, who was appointed Legate in Avignon.[46] Cardinal Giuliano was increasingly alarmed by the powerful position assumed by Cardinal Ascanio Sforza and the Milanese faction in the Court of Alexander VI, and after Christmas Day in December 1492 chose to withdraw to his fortress in the town and diocese of Ostia, at the mouth of the Tiber River.[47] In that same month, Federico of Altamura, the second son of King Ferdinando (Ferrante) of Naples was in Rome to pay homage to the new pope, and he reported back to his father that Alexander and Cardinal Sforza were working on establishing new alliances, which would upset Ferrante's security arrangements. Ferrante therefore decided to use Della Rovere as the center of an anti-Sforza party at the papal court, a prospect made easier since Ferrante had prudently repaired his relations with Cardinal Giuliano after the War of the Barons. He also warned King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain that Alexander was intriguing with the French, which brought an immediate visit of a Spanish ambassador to the Pope. In June Federico of Altamura was back in Rome, and held conversations with Della Rovere, assuring him of Neapolitan protection. On 24 July 1493, Cardinal della Rovere returned to Rome (despite the warnings of Virginius Orsini) and dined with the Pope.[48]

Della Rovere at once determined to take refuge from Borgia's wrath at Ostia. On 23 April 1494, the Cardinal took ship, having placed his fortress at Ostia in the hands of his brother Giovanni della Rovere, and travelled to Genoa and then to Avignon. He was summoned by King Charles VIII to Lyons, where the two met on 1 June 1494.[49] He joined Charles VIII of France who undertook to take Italy back from the Borgias by military force.[11] The King entered Rome with his army on 31 December 1495, with Giuliano della Rovere riding on one side and Cardinal Ascanio Sforza riding on the other. The King made several demands of Pope Alexander, one of which was that the Castel S. Angelo be turned over to French forces.[50] This Pope Alexander refused to do, claiming that Cardinal della Rovere would occupy it and become master of Rome.[51] Charles soon conquered Naples, making his triumphal entry on 22 February 1495, but he was forced to remove most of his army. As he was returning to the north, his army was defeated at the Battle of Foronovo on 5 July 1495, and his Italian adventure came to an end. The last remnants of the French invasion were gone by November 1496.[52] Ostia, however, remained in French hands until March 1497, making difficulties in the provisioning of the city of Rome.[53]

Back in Lyon in 1496, Charles VIII and Giuliano della Rovere were planning another war. Giuliano was travelling back and forth from Lyon to Avignon, raising troops. It was being reported in France by June 1496, moreover, that King Charles intended to have a papal election in France and to have Cardinal della Rovere elected pope.[54]

In March 1497 Pope Alexander deprived Cardinal della Rovere of his benefices as an enemy of the Apostolic See, and Giovanni della Rovere of the Prefecture of Rome. His action against the Cardinal was done not only without the consent of the cardinals in consistory, but in fact over their vigorous objections.[55] By June, however, the Pope was in negotiations with the Cardinal for a reconciliation and return to Rome.[56] His benefices were restored to him after an apparent reconciliation with the Pope in August 1498.[57]

King Charles VIII of France, the last of the senior branch of the House of Valois, died on 7 April 1498 of a self-inflicted blow to the head. When Cesare Borgia passed through southern France in October 1498 on his way to meet King Louis XII for his investiture as Duke of Valentinois, he stopped in Avignon and was magnificently entertained by Cardinal della Rovere.[58] They then moved on to meet the King at Chinon, where Cesare Borgia fulfilled one of the terms of the treaty between Louis and Alexander by producing the red hat of a cardinal, which had been promised for the Archbishop of Rouen, Georges d'Amboise. It was Cardinal della Rovere, the Papal Legate, who placed the hat on Amboise's head.[59] Della Rovere, who was trying to repair his relations with the House of Borgia, was also involved in another clause of the treaty, the marriage between Cesare Borgia and Carlotta, the daughter of the King of Naples, who had been brought up at the French Court. Della Rovere was in favor of the marriage, but, according to Pope Alexander, King Louis XII was not, and, most especially, Carlotta was stubbornly refusing her consent. Alexander's plan of securing a royal throne for his son fell through, and he was very angry.[60]

The marriage produced a complete volta facie in Pope Alexander. He became an open partisan of the French and Venice, and accepted their goal, the destruction of the Sforza hold on Milan. On 14 July, Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, della Rovere's sworn enemy, fled Rome with all his property and friends.[61] Meanwhile, the French army crossed the Alps and captured Alessandria in the Piedmont. On 1 September 1499 Lodovico Il Moro fled Milan, and on 6 September the city surrendered to the French. Cardinal Giuliano was in the King's entourage when he entered Milan on 6 October.[62]

Pope Alexander then turned his attention, stimulated by the Venetians, to the threat of the Osmanli Turks. In the autumn of 1499 he called for a crusade, and sought aid and money from all Christendom. The rulers of Europe paid little attention, but to show his sincerity Alexander imposed a tithe on all the residents of the Papal States and a tithe on the clergy of the entire world. A list of cardinals and their incomes, drawn up for the occasion, shows that Cardinal della Rovere was the second-richest cardinal, with an annual income of 20,000 ducats.[63]

Another break in relations between Pope Alexander and Cardinal Giuliano came at the end of 1501 or the beginning of 1502, when Giuliano was transferred from the Bishopric of Bologna to the diocese of Vercelli.[64]

On 21 June 1502, Pope Alexander sent his secretary, Francesco Troche (Trochia), and Cardinal Amanieu d'Albret (brother-in-law of Cesare Borgia) to Savona to seize Cardinal della Rovere by stealth and bring him back to Rome as quickly as possible and turn him over to the Pope. The kidnapping party returned to Rome on 12 July, without having accomplished its mission.[65] On 20 July 1502, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Ferrari died in his rooms at the Vatican Palace; he had been poisoned, and his property was claimed by the Borgia.[66] On 3 January 1503, Cardinal Orsini was arrested and sent to the Castel S. Angelo; on 22 February he died there, poisoned on orders of Alexander VI.[67]


A veteran of the Sacred College, della Rovere had won influence for the election of Pope Pius III with the help of Florentine Ambassador to Naples, Lorenzo de' Medici. In spite of a violent temper della Rovere succeeded by dexterous diplomacy in winning the support of Cesare Borgia, whom he won over by his promise of money and continued papal backing for Borgia policies in the Romagna.[68] This election was, in Ludwig von Pastor's view, certainly achieved by means of bribery with money, but also with promises. "Giuliano, whom the popular voice seemed to indicate as the only possible pope, was as unscrupulous as any of his colleagues in the means which he employed. Where promises and persuasions were unavailing, he did not hesitate to have recourse to bribery."[69] Indeed, his election on 1 November 1503 took only a few hours, and the only two votes he did not receive were his own and the one of Georges d'Amboise, his most vigorous opponent and the favourite of the French monarchy.[70] In the end, as in all papal elections, the vote is made unanimous after the leading candidate has achieved the required number of votes for election.

A Renaissance Pope

Giuliano Della Rovere thenceforth took the name of his fourth century predecessor, Julius I, and was pope for nine years, from 1503 to 1513. From the beginning, Julius II set out to defeat the various powers that challenged his temporal authority; in a series of complicated stratagems he first succeeded in rendering it impossible for the Borgias to retain their power over the Papal States. Indeed, on the day of his election, he declared:

Others indicate that his decision was taken on 26 November 1507, not in 1503.[72] The Borgia Apartments were turned to other uses. The Sala dei Papi was redecorated by two pupils of Raphael by order of Pope Leo X.[73] The rooms were used to accommodate the Emperor Charles V on his visit to the Vatican after the Sack of Rome, and subsequently they became the residence of the Cardinal-nephew and then the Secretary of State.[74]

Julius used his influence to reconcile two powerful Roman families, the Orsini and Colonna. Decrees were made in the interests of the Roman nobility, in whose shoes the new pope now stepped. Being thus secure in Rome and the surrounding country, he set himself the task to expel the Republic of Venice from Faenza, Rimini, and the other towns and fortresses of Italy which it occupied after the death of Pope Alexander.[11][75] In 1504, finding it impossible to succeed with the Doge of Venice by remonstrance, he brought about a union of the conflicting interests of France and the Holy Roman Empire, and sacrificed temporarily to some extent the independence of Italy to conclude with them an offensive and defensive alliance against Venice.[76][77] The combination was, however, at first little more than nominal, and was not immediately effective in compelling the Venetians to deliver up more than a few unimportant places in the Romagna.[11] With a campaign in 1506, he personally led an army to Perugia and Bologna, freeing the two papal cities from their despots, Giampolo Baglioni and Giovanni II Bentivoglio.[11]

In December 1503, Julius issued a dispensation allowing the future Henry VIII of England to marry Catherine of Aragon; Catherine had previously been briefly married to Henry's older brother Prince Arthur, who had died, but Henry later argued that she had remained a virgin for the five months of the marriage. Some twenty years later, when Henry was attempting to wed Anne Boleyn (since his son by Catherine of Aragon survived only a few days, and two of her sons were stillborn, and therefore he had no male heir), he sought to have his marriage annulled, claiming that the dispensation of Pope Julius should never have been issued. The retractation of the dispensation was refused by Pope Clement VII.[78]

The Bull entitled Ea quae pro bono pacis issued on 24 January 1506, confirmed papal approval of the mare clausum policy being pursued by Spain and Portugal amid their explorations, and approved the changes of the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas to previous papal bulls. In the same year, the Pope founded the Swiss Guard to provide a constant corps of soldiers to protect the Vatican City. As part of the Renaissance programme of reestablishing the glory of antiquity for the Christian capital, Rome, Julius II took considerable effort to present himself as a sort of emperor-pope, capable of leading a Latin-Christian empire. On Palm Sunday, 1507, "Julius II entered Rome . . . both as a second Julius Caesar, heir to the majesty of Rome's imperial glory, and in the likeness of Christ, whose vicar the pope was, and who in that capacity governed the universal Roman Church."[80] Julius, who modelled himself after his namesake Caesar, would personally lead his army across the Italian peninsula under the imperial war-cry, "Drive out the barbarians." Yet, despite the imperial rhetoric, the campaigns were highly localised.[81] Perugia voluntarily surrendered in March 1507 to direct control, as it had always been within the Papal States; it was in these endeavors he had enlisted French mercenaries.[82] Urbino's magnificent court palace was infiltrated by French soldiers in the pay of the Duke of Gonzaga; the Montefeltro Conspiracy against his loyal cousins earned the occupying armies the Pope's undying hatred.[83] Julius relied upon Guidobaldo's help to raise his nephew and heir Francesco Maria della Rovere; the intricate web of nepotism helped secure the Italian Papacy.[84] Moreover, the Pope's interest in Urbino was widely known in the French court.[85] Julius left a spy at the Urbino Palace, possibly Galeotto Franciotti della Rovere, Cardinal San Pietro, to watch the Mantua stables in total secret; the secular progress of the Papal Curia was growing in authority and significance. In Rome, the Pope watched from his private chapel to see how his court behaved. This was age of Renaissance conspiracy.[86]

In addition to an active military policy, the new pope personally led troops into battle on at least two occasions, the first to expel Giovanni Bentivoglio from Bologna (17 August 1506 – 23 March 1507), which was achieved successfully with the assistance of the Duchy of Urbino. The second was an attempt to recover Ferrara for the Papal States (1 September 1510 – 29 June 1512).[87] In 1508, Julius was fortuitously able to form the League of Cambrai with Louis XII, King of France, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (proclaimed without coronation as Emperor by Pope Julius II at Trent in 1508) and Ferdinand II, King of Aragon.[88] The League fought against the Republic of Venice.[2] Among other things, Julius wanted possession of Venetian Romagna; Emperor Maximilian I wanted Friuli and Veneto; Louis XII wanted Cremona; and Ferdinand II desired the Apulian ports.[75][89] This war was a conflict in what was collectively known as the "Italian Wars". In the spring of 1509, the Republic of Venice was placed under an interdict by Julius,[90] In May 1509 Julius sent troops to fight against the Venetians who had occupied parts of the Romagna winning back the Papal States in a decisive battle near Cremona.[11] During the War of the Holy League alliances kept changing: in 1510 Venice and France switched places, and by 1513, Venice had joined France.[91] The achievements of the League soon outstripped the primary intention of Julius. In one single battle, the Battle of Agnadello on 14 May 1509, the dominion of Venice in Italy was practically lost to His Holiness. Yet neither the King of France nor the Holy Roman Emperor were satisfied with merely effecting the purposes of the Pope, the latter found it necessary to enter into an arrangement with the Venetians to defend himself from those who immediately before had been his allies.[92] The Venetians, on making humble submission, were absolved at the beginning of 1510, and shortly afterward France was placed under papal interdict.[93]

Attempts to cause a rupture between France and England proved unsuccessful; on the other hand, at a synod convened by Louis at Tours in September 1510, the French bishops withdrew from papal obedience, and resolved, with the Emperor's co-operation, to seek dethronement of the pope. With some courage Julius marched his army to Bologna and then against the French to Mirandola.[11] In November 1511, a council met at Pisa, called by rebel cardinals with support from the French king and the Empire, they demanded the deposition of Charles II at Pisa.[94] Despite being seriously he refused to shave showing utter contempt for the hated French occupation. "per vendicarsi et diceva...anco fuora scazato el re Ludovico Franza d'Italia."[95]

Whereupon Julius entered into another Holy League of 1511: in alliance with Ferdinand II of Aragon and the Venetians he conspired against the Gallican liberties. In short time, both Henry VIII, King of England (1509–47), and Maximilian I also joined the Holy League of 1511 against France. Ferdinand of Spain now recognized Naples as a papal fief, invested in 1511, and therefore Julius II now regarded France as the main foreign power in the Italian peninsula hostile to Papal interests. Louis XII defeated the alliance at Battle of Ravenna on 11 April 1512. When a desperate battle felled over 20,000 men in a bloodbath the Pope commanded his protege, a newly-released young Cardinal Medici to re-take Florence with a Spanish army. The rescue of the city on 1 September 1512 saved Rome from another invasion, ousting Soderini, and returning the dynastic rule of the Medici. Julius had seemingly restored fortuna or control by exercising his manly vertu, just as Machiavelli wrote. This re-asserted strong relations between Florence and Rome; a lasting legacy of Julius II. Yet Machiavelli and his methods would not outlast Julius' Papacy.[96] Julius hired Swiss mercenaries to fight against the French in Milan in May 1512.[76][97]

When Swiss mercenaries came to the Pope's aid, the French army withdrew across the Alps into Savoy in 1512. The papacy gained control of Parma and Piacenza in central Italy. With the French out of Italy and Spain recognizing Naples as a papal fief with a cardinal as viceroy, a Congress was held in Mantua by Julius II to declare the liberation of the peninsula. Nevertheless, altough Julius had centralized and expanded the Papal States, he was far from realizing his dream of an independent Italian kingdom. In fact, some years after his death, the treaties of Noyon and Brussels in 1516 will divide again Italy between French and Spanish influence.

In May 1512 a general or ecumenical council, the Fifth Council of the Lateran, was held in Rome. According to an oath taken on his election to observe the Electoral Capitulations of the Conclave of October 1513,[98] Julius had sworn to summon a general council, but it had been delayed, he affirmed, because of the occupation of Italy by his enemies.[99] The real stimulus came from a false council which took place in 1511, called the Conciliabulum Pisanum, inspired by Louis XII and Maximilian I as a tactic to weaken Julius, and which threatened Julius II with deposition.[100] Julius' reply was the issuing of the bull Non sini gravi of 18 July 1511, which fixed the date of 19 April 1512 for the opening of his own council.[101] The Council actually convened on 3 May, and Paris de Grassis reports that the crowd at the basilica was estimated at 50,000.[102] It held its first working session on 10 May.[103] In the third plenary session, on 3 December 1512, Julius attended, though he was ill; but he wanted to witness and receive the formal adhesion of the Emperor Maximilian to the Lateran Council and his repudiation of the Conciliabulum Pisanum. This was one of Julius' great triumphs. The Pope was again in attendance at the fourth session on 10 December, this time to hear the accrediting of the Venetian Ambassador as the Serene Republic's representative at the Council; he then had the letter of King Louis XI (of 27 November 1461), in which he announced the revocation of the Pragmatic Sanction, read out to the assembly, and demanded that all persons who accepted the Pragmatic Sanction appear before the Council within sixty days to justify their conduct. This was directed against King Louis XII.[104]

The fifth session was held on 16 February, but Pope Julius was too ill to attend. Cardinal Raffaele Riario, the Dean of the College of Cardinals and Bishop of Ostia, presided. The Bishop of Como, Scaramuccia Trivulzio, then read from the pulpit a bull of Pope Julius, Si summus rerum, dated that very day and containing within its text the complete bull of 14 January 1505, Cum tam divino. The bull was submitted to the Council fathers for their consideration and ratification. Julius wanted to remind everyone of his legislation on papal conclaves, in particular against Simony, and to fix his regulations firmly in canon law so that they could not be dispensed or ignored. Julius was fully aware that his death was imminent, and though he had been a witness to a good deal of Simony at papal conclaves and had been a practitioner himself, he was determined to stamp out the abuse.[105] The reading of the bull Cum tam divino became a regular feature of the first day of every conclave.


On the Vigil of Pentecost in May 1512, Pope Julius, aware that he was seriously ill and that his health was failing, despite comments on the part of some cardinals about how well he looked, remarked to Paris de Grassis, "They are flattering me; I know better; my strength diminishes from day to day and I cannot live much longer. Therefore I beg you not to expect me at Vespers or at Mass from henceforth."[106] Nonetheless he continued his restless activities, including Masses, visits to churches, and audiences. On 24 June, in the morning Paris found the Pope debilem et semifebricantem.[107] On Christmas Eve, Julius ordered Paris to summon the College of Cardinals and the Sacristan of the Apostolic Palace, quia erat sic infirmus, quod non speraret posse diu supravivere.[108] From then until 6 January he was confined to bed, and most of the time with a fever; he had lost his appetite, but the doctors were unable to diagnose his languor. On 4 February he had an extensive conversation with Paris concerning the arrangements for his funeral.

Pope Julius was reported to be seriously ill in a dispatch received in Venice on 10 February 1513.[109] He received Holy Communion and was granted the plenary indulgence on the morning of 19 February, according to the Venetian Ambassador. On the 20th, according to Paris de Grassis, he received Holy Communion from the hands of Cardinal Raffaele Riario, the Camerlengo. He died of a fever in the night of 20–21 February 1513.[110]

In the evening of 21 February, Paris de Grassis conducted the funeral of Julius II, even though the Canons of the Vatican Basilica and the beneficiati refused to cooperate. The body was placed for a time at the Altar of Saint Andrew in the Basilica, and was then carried by the Imperial Ambassador, the papal Datary, and two of Paris' assistants to the altar of the Chapel of Pope Sixtus, where the Vicar of the Vatican Basilica performed the final absolution. At the third hour of the evening the body was laid in a sepulcher between the altar and the wall of the tribune.[111]

Despite the fact that the so-called "Tomb of Julius" by Michelangelo is in San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome, Julius is in fact buried in the Vatican.[112] Michelangelo's tomb was not completed until 1545 and represents a much abbreviated version of the planned original, which was initially intended for the new St. Peter's Basilica. His remains lay alongside his uncle, Pope Sixtus IV, but were later desecrated during the Sack of Rome in 1527. Today both men lie in St. Peter's Basilica in the floor in front of the monument to Pope Clement X. A simple marble tombstone marks the site. Julius II was succeeded by Pope Leo X.


In 1484 Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere had begun negotiations to persuade Marquis Francesco Gonzaga of Mantua to allow Andrea Mantegna to come to Rome, which finally bore fruit in 1488; Mantegna was given the commission to decorate the chapel of the Belvedere for Pope Innocent VIII, on which he spent two years.[113]

Beyond Julius II's political and military achievements, he enjoys a title to honor in his patronage of art, architecture, and literature.[114] He did much to improve and beautify the city.

Early in his papacy, Julius decided to revive the plan for replacing the dilapidated Constantinian basilica of St. Peter's. The idea was not his, but originally that of Nicholas V, who had commissioned designs from Bernardo Rossellino. Other more pressing problems distracted the attention of Nicholas and subsequent popes, but Julius was not the sort of person to be distracted once he had settled on an idea, in this case, for the greatest building on earth, for the glory of Saint Peter and himself. In the competition for a building plan, the design of Rossellino was immediately rejected as being out of date. A second design was submitted by Giuliano da Sangallo, an old friend of Julius, who had worked on several projects for him before, including the palazzo at S. Pietro in Vincoli, and who had left Rome with Julius when he fled the wrath of Alexander VI in 1495. Through Cardinal della Rovere, Sangallo had presented Charles VIII a plan for a palace, and in 1496 he had made a tour of the architectural monuments of Provence,[115] returning to his native Florence in 1497.[116] His proposals for S. Peter's, however, were not accepted despite what he believed to be a promise, and he retired in anger to Florence.[117]

On 18 April 1506 Pope Julius II laid the foundation stone of the new St. Peter's Basilica for the successful architect, Donato Bramante. However, he also began the demolition of the old St. Peter's Basilica, which had stood for more than 1,100 years. He was a friend and patron of Bramante and Raphael, and a patron of Michelangelo. Several of Michelangelo's greatest works (including the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) were commissioned by Julius.

Long before he became Pope, Julius had a violent temper. He often treated subordinates and people who worked for him very badly. His manner was gruff and coarse, just as his peasant-like sense of humour. Others suggest that Julius had little sense of humor. Ludwig von Pastor wrote, "Paris de Grassis, his Master of Ceremonies, who has handed on to us so many characteristic features of his master's life, says that he hardly ever jested. He was generally absorbed in deep and silent thought...."[118]

To most historians Julius was manly and virile, an energetic man of action, whose courage saved the Papacy.[119] There was a sense that war caused him serious illness, exhaustion and fatigue, that most popes could not have withstood. To many Julius II has been described as the best in an era of exceptionally bad popes: Alexander VI was evil and despotic, exposing the future Julius II to a number of assassination attempts that required tremendous fortitude.

Julius II is usually depicted with a beard, after his appearance in the celebrated portrait by Raphael, the artist whom he first met in 1509. However, the pope only wore his beard from 27 June 1511 to March 1512, as a sign of mourning at the loss of the city of Bologna by the Papal States. He was nevertheless the first pope since antiquity to grow facial hair, a practice otherwise forbidden by canon law since the 13th century. The pope's hirsute chin may have raised severe, even vulgar criticism, as at one Bologna banquet held on 1510 at which papal legate Marco Cornaro was present. In overturning the ban on beards Pope Julius challenged Gregorian conventional wisdom in dangerous times. Julius shaved his beard again before his death, and his immediate successors were clean-shaven; nonetheless Pope Clement VII sported a beard when mourning the sack of Rome. Thenceforward, all popes were bearded until the death of Pope Innocent XII in 1700.

The frescoes on the ceiling of Stanza d'Eliodoro in the stanze of Raphael depict the traumatic events in 1510-11, when the Papacy regained its freedom. Although Raphael's original was lost, it was thought to relate closely to the personal iconography of Stanza della Segnatura, commissioned by Pope Julius himself. The Lateran Council that formed the Holy League marked a high point in his personal success. Saved by an allegory to the Expulsion of Helidorus, the French gone, Julius collapsed once again in late 1512, very seriously ill once more.

Julius was not the first pope to have fathered children before being elevated to high office, and is believed to have had a daughter born to Lucrezia Normanni in 1483 - after he had been made a cardinal.[3] Felice della Rovere survived into adulthood.[120] Shortly after Felice was born, Julius arranged for Lucrezia to marry Bernardino de Cupis, Chamberlain to Julius's cousin, Cardinal Girolamo Basso della Rovere.[121]

Despite producing an illegitimate daughter (and having at least one mistress), it was suggested that Julius may have had homosexual lovers - although there is little evidence that the pope was ever sexually active. His confrontational style inevitably created enemies and sodomy was the "common currency of insult and innuendo".[122] Such accusations were made to discredit him, but perhaps in so doing his accusers were attacking a perceived weakness. The Venetians, who were implacably opposed to the pope's new military policy, were among the most vociferous opponents; notable among them was diarist Girolamo Priuli,[123] and the historian Marino Sanudo.[124] Erasmus also impropriated sexual misconduct in his 1514 dialogues "Julius Excluded from Heaven"; a theme picked up in the denunciation made at the conciliabulum of Pisa.[125] Criticism was furthermore made of the sinister influence exerted by his advisor, Francesco Alidosi, whom Julius had made a cardinal in 1505. However, it is likely that the closeness was down to the fact that he simply knew how to handle him well.[122] This sexual reputation survived Julius, and the accusation continued to be made without reservation by Protestant opponents in their polemics against "papism" and Catholic decadence.[126] The French writer Philippe de Mornay (1549-1623) accused all Italians of being sodomites, but added specifically: "This horror is ascribed to good Julius."[127]

  • Julius features prominently in The Prince of Niccolò Machiavelli, both as an enemy of leading protagonist Cesare Borgia, and as an example of an ecclesiastical prince who consolidates authority and wisely follows Fortuna.
  • Barbara Tuchman, in her book The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, offers a narrative of Julius II's career.[128] Her overall assessment of Julius is strongly negative, and she attributes the Protestant Reformation to his and other Renaissance popes' abuses.[128]
  • In the film The Agony and the Ecstasy about the life of Michelangelo, Julius is portrayed as a soldier-pope (though without facial hair) by Rex Harrison. The film is a dramatization based upon the book of the same name by Irving Stone.
  • Della Rovere was portrayed by Alfred Burke in the 1981 BBC series The Borgias, by Colm Feore In Neil Jordan's 2011 series The Borgias, and by Dejan Čukić in Tom Fontana's 2011 series, Borgia.
  • On 30 November 2003, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, then Secretary of State of the Holy See, presided in a Eucharistic concelebration commemorating the fifth centenary of the election of Pope Julius II in the Cathedral Basilica of Savona. In his sermon[129] he explained that Pope John Paul II, to pay homage to his great Predecessor, had sent him (Sodano) as his Legate. Admitting that it is difficult to understand the methods of government of that time, Solano stressed that the work of the Bishop of Rome should be seen in its proper context. Praising Julius for entrusting the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in its present form to the genius of Bramante in 1505, he said it is certain that Julius liked to think big and wanted the Church of Rome to shine before the world with a visible beauty too. The Cardinal stated 'How can we fail to think of him when we contemplate the grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica?' and 'How can we forget that it was he who created in 1506 the Swiss Guard Corps, with the characteristic uniform that we still admire today?' The Cardinal called Pope Julius II 'a Pope who strove to serve the Church and to sacrifice himself for her until the Lord called him at the age of 72.'

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