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Rome's development and the 15th century Renaissance
Martin V takes three years on the journey south to Rome, moving cautiously between warring principalities and armies of condottieri. This is the Italy in which, unscrupulous men are beginning to establish courts of glittering brilliance. The pope newly crowned at Constance looked as a tentative figure among such dangers, but over the following decades, the papacy adjusts to the realities of Renaissance Italy. By the beginning of the next century, unscrupulous popes have made Rome the most brilliant court of all. The pope who begins the transformation of Rome, in the mid-15th century, has none of the offensive characteristics associated with the pontiffs of half a century later. He is Nicholas V, a scholarly man who founds the Vatican library, employing hundreds of scholars and copyists to provide the basis of a great collection of manuscripts.
The familiar image of a Renaissance pope begins a little later, with the election of Sixtus IV in 1471. His patronage of the arts is evident in the Sistine chapel and the Sistine choir, both named after him. Nevertheless, his lavish patronage goes hand in hand with a very worldly conduct of the Vatican's affairs.
Sixtus, a Franciscan friar from a poor family in the region of Genoa, brings the papal practice of favoritism to new heights. While greatly enriching his nephews (seven of whom he makes cardinals), he also uses them as his agents in the power politics of rival Italian states. Women were introduced to Cardinals and other officers of the papal office for various types of favors. These Cardinals and Bishops were more married than any ordinary person was. However, in temporal terms they were supposed to be unmarried. Many abortions were made by then medical men and in that, one of his nephews was involved resulting in murder of one doctor of the Medici in the cathedral at Florence during High Mass. Many girls were killed when they threatened to give in confession their relations with these Cardinals. Their dead bodies and along with that many dead bodies of aborted fetus were thrown in the dungeons under the Palace of Vatican. Corrupt maids were bringing innocent small girls to the Palace for the pleasure of these Cardinals; they would generally never go back to their houses! They would probably end up in those dungeons. Another nephew learns this trade so well with Sixtus that he easily outdoes his uncle, both in politics and patronage, when he is elected to the papacy as Julius II. During this period Papal order had reached the other end of immorality, all the same these unscrupulous men continued to talk of Jesus and his righteousness in the Church while giving their usual sermons on Sundays.
Between the pontificate of Sixtus IV and of Julius II comes the most notorious of the Renaissance popes, Alexander VI. He manipulates Italian politics not with the help of nephews but through his son, Cesare Borgia.
Alexander's successor Julius II is even more a man of his time. He is a Pope who rides out in person to direct military campaigns, but he also commissions work from Raphael and Michelangelo. The frescoes of the Vatican and the Sistine chapel created among the abuses, which prompt the Reformation.
Erasmus is in Italy in 1506 when Julius II scores his first military success with the capture of Bologna. Erasmus is so shocked that he writes a play satirizing this militant pope. Entitled "Julius Exclusus", and published anonymously, it depicts a furious Julius, after death, arriving in armor at the gates of heaven and finding them locked against him. The barbed comments of St Peter as the gatekeeper of heaven, in conversation with the excluded pope Julius II, reflects hostility to the Renaissance papacy that would soon find violent expression in the Reformation. Erasmus became known for those comments.
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