Pope Julius II

Dafato Team | May 20, 2023

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Pope Gregory II (Albisola Superiore, 5 December 1443 - Rome, 21 February 1513) was the 216th Pope of Rome from 1503 until his death.

Gyula II is one of the most famous of the reigning church leaders of the Renaissance. His name brings to mind many of Rome's masterpieces, as the eternal city became the undisputed capital of Renaissance architecture and painting. Bramante, Michelangelo and Raphael all visited the court of St. George. In addition to the magnificent frescoes and buildings that still survive, the Pope left a significant mark in the chronicles. During his ten-year pontificate, the highest office in the Church was occupied by a man who achieved his goals with cool chivalry and masterly politics, but who did not shy away from any means when it came to power. Gyula was first a general, then a statesman and politician, and only thirdly a man of the Church. In fact, his pontificate was built on the same goals as the Borgias wanted to achieve. But he used more sophisticated means to pave the way for himself (perhaps learning from the negative perception of the Borgias' actions). Even Machiavelli, who considered Cesare Borgia a role model, acknowledged the Pope's successes. During his pontificate he achieved the greatest expansion in the history of the Papal States, mainly at the expense of the Venetian Republic and the decline of French influence. This work was largely built on the work of Alexander VI, who he so hated, in strengthening the papal throne. He is credited with the founding of the Swiss Guard, and convened the Fifth Lateran Council, which was to be the last opportunity for reform and change at the papal court before the Reformation.

At the beginning of his life and career

He was born Giuliano della Rovere in Albisola, near Savona. His father Raffaelo was once a distinguished nobleman of the Genoese Republic. The family's history was unhappy; the noble property and estate were lost. The impoverished nobleman married a daughter of Greek origin, Theodora Manerola. She gave birth to Giuliano's child. His uncle, Francesco della Rovere, later Pope Sixtus IV, took a great interest in his nephew and was determined to restore the della Rovere family's faded reputation and nobility. The easiest way of acquiring wealth at the time was a career in the church. Francesco therefore entered the Franciscan order and soon took his nephew with him to study and develop among the monks. When Giuliano arrived in Perugia, Francesco personally supervised his studies and education. Although the sources are not clear, it is likely that Giuliano never entered the monastic order. The main reason for this was that, while he was still studying, he did not want to enter the Franciscan order at his uncle's suggestion.

When his uncle was allowed to take the papal throne in 1471, he no longer needed the monastic vows. From then on, Giuliano's ecclesiastical career really took off. Almost immediately after the papal coronation, he was appointed bishop of Carpentras in France, and on 15 December he was consecrated cardinal of the church of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome by Sixtus X. He was only twenty-eight when he entered the College of Cardinals, but during his uncle's pontificate he did not take on any major diplomatic duties or play a major role in the life of the College. In fact, among the increasingly openly secular cardinals and popes, he was remembered in the chronicles as a saintly man. However, Giuliano was not really a fan of ecclesiastical matters. He was fascinated by the science of politics and diplomacy, but was most fascinated by the science of war. Away from the intrigues of the college, he often indulged these passions, and felt himself increasingly powerful to put them into practice.

He quickly distinguished himself among the cardinals with his sharp oratory, brilliant politics and persuasive diplomacy. He commanded respect and influence in the papal curia, so it is hardly surprising that he held twelve episcopal titles in all. The first was Carpentras, which he held until 1472. He then became the head of Lausanne (1472-76), followed by Catania (1473-74), Coutances (1476-77), Mende (1478-83), Viviers (1477-1479), Sabina (1479-83), Bologna (1483-1502), Ostia (1483-1503), Lodève (1488-89), Savona (1499-1502) and Vercelli (1502-03). In addition, in 1474 he was made Archbishop of Avignon, a post he held until his papal consecration. In addition to his secular priestly titles, Giuliano was also abbot of Grottaferrata and Nonantola, among other places. These titles and dignities show that Cardinal della Rovere certainly had an enormous income. But Giuliano's wealth was not spent on unbridled debauchery and senseless luxury, but rather on the arts. He had several palaces and fortresses built in the areas under his control. The chronicles of the time all agree that Giuliano was the most restrained of the cardinals. But this only meant that he was not the scandal of the Roman revels like most cardinals of the time. Giuliano had three daughters before his consecration, the best known of whom was Felice della Rovere. Giuliano married the beautiful daughter to Giovanni Giordano Orsini as pope in 1506.

Influence in the mansion

During his uncle's pontificate, he had several opportunities to put his military and political talents to good use.In June 1474 Giuliano was sent by Sixtus to Umbria to restore papal power by force of arms. At the head of the papal army, Giuliano captured Todi and Spoleto, and further successes were aided by his success in winning the support of Federigo, Duke of Urbino. In February 1476, he travelled to France as the Pope's envoy to settle the relations surrounding the Archbishopric of Avignon and, unspokenly, to represent the Church against the Emperor at the Synod of Lyon, convened by King Louis XI of France. He next went again as legate to France and the Netherlands in 1480. This time his journey had three purposes. Firstly, he had to make peace between France and the German-Roman Emperor Nicholas I over the possession of Burgundy, representing the Pope himself. He could then stay at the court of the French king to broker French support for the Crusade against the Turks. Finally, he had to persuade Louis XI to release Cardinal Balue, imprisoned for treason. Giuliano accomplished this difficult task in two years and returned to Rome in 1482 with Cardinal Balue. It was at this time that the war between Venice and the papal power over Ferrara broke out. Giuliano felt at home in every moment of the war. This time, however, he tried to show his political side. Among other things, he was responsible for the peace of 1482. In 1484, he defended the Colonna family, who were attacked by a relative, Girolamo Riario, because of their estates. This would become significant later, as the Colonna family was one of the most ancient and influential families in Rome.

Giuliano's real power within the College of Cardinals became apparent when his uncle Sixtus IV died in 1484. At the conclave, it soon became clear to Giuliano that his own accession to the throne was almost impossible. He therefore tried with all his might to steer the debate in the direction of a head of the Church on the papal throne whom he could move as a puppet. With great flair, he succeeded in getting Cardinal Cibò, who as Pope Ince VIII had in fact managed the affairs of the Apostolic See under the influence of Cardinal Giuliano, elected to the throne. He was also partly responsible for the fact that during Ince's pontificate the otherwise peaceful head of the Church declared war on Naples. The war lasted for two years after Ince's death, further proof of Giuliano's powerful contribution.

In 1492 Ince died and Giuliano ran again for the papal throne. But at the conclave he met a serious opponent, namely Rodrigo Borgia, later to become Alexander VI. Cardinal Borgia respected nothing and fought tooth and nail for the papal tiara, which he won. The Borgias had long been sworn enemies of the della Rovere family, so it was no wonder that Giuliano retired to Ostia at the end of 1492, feeling unsafe within the walls of the mansion. In July 1493, at the Pope's instigation, the two families finally made what could be called an eternal peace, but Giuliano, distrusting the Pope, immediately embarked on a boat and fled via Genoa to the court of the French King Charles VIII, who, to the Cardinal's roar, decided to cross the Alps with his army and take Italy under his rule. Giuliano wanted to dethrone Alexander VI, who he believed had illegitimately acquired the supreme ecclesiastical dignity. However, the Pope used his own methods to win the French monarch over to his side. Under the terms of a peace treaty between the two, Alexander pardoned Giuliano, whose property, possessions and life would be spared. The Cardinal had little faith in the security guaranteed by the peace and went to France again. In 1497, the reconciliation between the two families was again brought to a head when, thanks to the influence of Cardinal della Rovere, a suitable wife was found for Cesare Borgia. Despite all the boastful promises and friendly handshakes, during his pontificate Alexander Giuliano preferred to live in France or in northern Italy.

When Pope Borgia died in 1503, Cardinal Giuliano was finally able to return to Rome with a calm heart to fight again for the papacy at the conclave. But the supporters of Alexander VI had gained enough strength to prevent the influential della Rovere from seizing the tiara. They were too weak, however, to elect a head of the church from among their own people. They therefore agreed on an intermediate solution and elected the ailing and elderly Cardinal Piccolomini as head of the Church, who took the imperial name of Pope Pius III. In just twenty-six days of his reign, Giuliano Pius grew incredibly strong. He succeeded in pushing aside Cesare Borgia, and also sought to disadvantage those who voted against him. So when the conclave met, Cardinal Giuliano never had a better chance of being elected to the papal throne.

After the death of Pius Pius, the College of Cardinals faced the fastest election in history. The single-minded Cardinal della Rovere had already bribed everyone well in advance and, with only three dissenting votes, he was elected to the papal throne on 1 November 1503 after only a few hours of deliberation, and Giuliano took the imperial name of Giuliano II. He laid down four points before the conclave began its work, and before the election all the cardinals had to sign their acceptance, so that if he was to stand as head of the Church at the end of the conclave he would keep them. The first of these was the resumption of the war against the Turks, followed by a promise to restore ecclesiastical discipline and reform, for which he had to convene a universal synod within two years. The third clause confirmed the rights of the College of Cardinals. It stipulated that the Pope could not go to war with other nations without the support of two-thirds of the College, and that the appointment of new cardinals had to be approved by the College. Finally, the new head of the church must decide on the venue of the universal synod with the support of two-thirds of the cardinals. These conditions would have made even a more flexible head of the Church sick to her stomach, let alone the ambitious Gyula. The Pope, who was later to be known by his dreaded first name, was primarily concerned with consolidating his temporal power. That is why he immediately ignored the terms of the conclave.

The lion of Venice

Gyula also moved quickly into the Vatican palaces after the quick initiation ceremonies. No wonder he soon felt at home in the palace and in the offices of the head of the Church, since he had spent his time within the palace walls, except that he was now in charge of everything. Gyula had been waiting for this moment for a long time, and so he crossed the threshold of the Vatican palace with plans and concepts ready to go. As soon as he was formally crowned and consecrated, he immediately set about his empire-building pontificate. Gyula made no secret of his intentions: he wanted to follow in the ways of the Borgias, but with the support of his own family and through more subtle political and diplomatic means.

He had to put his immediate environment in order. Rome had in fact been the scene of noble skirmishes since the death of Alexander VI. First and foremost, Giuliano had deprived the Borgias of their power, so that Cesare Borgia, who had previously held absolute power over the whole of Italy, was forced northwards into the province of Romagna. On the other hand, the Pope managed to unite the two largest noble families in the city, whose power had been severely eroded by the Borgia Pope. The Colonna and the Orsini were again given privileges and estates, and united their forces alongside Gyula. In this way, the head of the church had the eternal city and its surroundings in his pocket. His relatives and the two powerful noble families kept order in the city.

While the new pope was trying to consolidate his power in Rome, the Venetian Republic was trying to do the same in northern Italy. With Cesare Borgia clearly out of favour with the Papal States, the Venetians sought to punish Cesare in the name of the Pope. In effect, this meant that Borgia, who had lost his influence, slowly incorporated Borgia's Romagna estates into their own republic. Cesare was, moreover, still recovering from the mysterious illness which he and his father had contracted and died of. Once Gyula had succeeded in establishing peace and security in his seat, he immediately entered into diplomatic relations with the Venetian Doge, thanking him for his cooperation and reclaiming the territories he had lost. But the merchant city remained silent, so Gyula asked Cesare Borgia to hand over all his possessions in Romagna. When the Prince refused, he was arrested and imprisoned by order of the Pope. Papal diplomacy then sought allies, and in 1504 succeeded in rallying King Louis XII of France and the German-Roman Emperor Michael I to the Vatican's cause. After this, in 1505 Venice made peace with Giulia, promising to return all the church estates, but nothing happened beyond the transfer of a few insignificant territories.

Gyula had to put aside the conflict with the republic for a while, because in 1506, taking advantage of the change of rulers, two towns under ecclesiastical rule wanted to become independent. In Perugia, Giampolo Baglioni, the sole ruler of the city, wanted to make the city and its surroundings independent under his own rule. In Bologna, Giovanni Bentivoglio II wanted the same. On 26 August, the belligerent head of the Church personally took command of his army and was the first to march on Perugia, which surrendered without a fight on 13 September. Gyula excommunicated both Bentivoglio and the city on 7 October, and after a brief siege he successfully marched on Bologna on 10 November. He did not leave the city until 22 February 1507. On 21 January 1506, before the rebellions of Perugia and Bologna were crushed, Giulio created his personal bodyguard, recruited mostly from Swiss territories, and named it the Swiss Guard.

After this glorious detour, Gyula began to work again on the occupation of Venice. The republic continued to retain the two important cities of Romagna, Rimini and Faenza. In addition, the Doge himself appointed the bishops of Romagna and subjected the clergy to the Venetian secular court. The Pope re-established contact with the French and German rulers and on 23 March 1509 joined the League of Cambrai, which had been formed to oppose the land conquests of the Republic of St Mark. Knowing full well that the interests of both powers were harmed by the advance of Venice, it was easy to conclude the alliance. On 27 April, the Pope placed the entire republic under an ecclesiastical curse and led his army into Romagna. The Venetian forces were no match for the combined forces of the League and suffered a decisive defeat at Agnadello on 14 May 1509.

After the defeat, the Doge was willing to sit down at the negotiating table with the Pope. Philip II unexpectedly withdrew from the League of Cambrai and lifted the ecclesiastical curse on the republic on 24 February 1510. The Pope was allowed to dictate the terms of the peace treaty and set the conditions for ending the war in the following five points:

Enemies and allies in the north

Gyula's political ambitions in the war against the Venetians had already collapsed. The Pope wanted to bring all of Italy under his power, but he wanted to do so by relying on Italian unity. But Venice could only be defeated with the help of the Emperor and, more importantly, the French. It was for this reason that the victorious campaign gave Louis XII considerable influence in the north of Italy. It was for this very reason that King George aligned his foreign policy against France. He unexpectedly left the League of Cambrai. This was resented not only by the French but also by the German-Roman emperor. In 1510, Gyula looked for allies for his later campaign. Only Switzerland and Venice were available for the war. In any case, George removed Prince Alfonso from the throne of Ferrara, who, although a vassal of the Pope, was drawn towards the French. Louis XII then summoned the French clergy to Tours in September, where the bishops refused to obey Rome and sanctioned Louis' ideas. At the synod, the French monarch agreed that the Pope had no right to wage war against independent princes, but that if he did, the temporal power had the right to invade the Papal States.

Gyula put France under a papal curse and then led his army into northern Italy. The war started particularly badly for the head of the Church. He fell seriously ill in Bologna, and it was only thanks to the Venetians that he did not fall into French captivity. On 20 January 1511, a largely recovered Giuliano took the town of Mirandola, but the French invaded Bologna on 23 May and restored the Bentivogli family to power. Louis contacted several Italian popes and managed to persuade them to call a synod in Pisa on 1 September with the clear aim of putting Gyula aside. The synod again threatened to split the church, mainly because Nicholas I had also supported the synod. In addition, Gyula's illness had recurred at this time, and the Pope was bedridden, enduring the barrage of tirades from the synod. Everyone believed that the head of the Church was on the point of death, which is why the Emperor Nicholas raised the idea of uniting the tiara and the imperial crown. So, after the death of George, the Emperor himself would have set out to claim the throne of St Peter.

Gyula recovered from his illness, however, and on 4 October he began serious political manoeuvring. He revived the Holy League. Venice and Ferdinand II's Spain became members of the alliance against the French possessions in Italy. On 17 November, King Henry VIII of England joined the League, and soon the Emperor and the Swiss cantons did likewise. By the end of 1511, the war had reached its climax. The allied armies suffered huge defeats at the hands of the French, in which General Gaston de Foix, Duke of Nemours, had a great deal to do. But the tide of the war quickly turned when Prince Gaston was mortally wounded in the decisive battle fought near Ravenna on 11 April 1512, where the Holy League finally prevailed. The French troops retreated behind the Alps, lost Milan and left only Genoa in the hands of Louis XII in Italy. Giulio reentered Bologna and annexed Parma, Reggio and Piacenza to the Papal States. In Florence, the Medici were able to regain power with the help of the Pope.

The leader of the church

None of the chronicles denies that George II was primarily a military and political pope. However, he did not forget that he was the head of the Catholic Church. During his ten-year pontificate, he carried out a number of ecclesiastical reforms of outstanding importance, although he failed to bring about the truly urgent internal transformation and ideological reform. Gyula's ecclesiastical measures were very much linked to his political orientation. He transformed the internal administrative system of the church state. He was the head of the most extensive Papal State in history, with all its financial and power structures excellently organised. This can be inferred from the fact that, in addition to costly wars and outstanding patronage of the arts, he left 700,000 gold pieces to his successor after his death! A great contribution to his success was made by the establishment of papal diplomacy, the effective system of which is linked to Gyula and which spread throughout Europe. The offices of nuncios (nunzii apostolici) were established, who maintained a permanent papal representation in each country. They were not only lay ambassadors, but ecclesiastical visitators who could take decisions on matters of church government on behalf of the Pope. The first nuncio to the German-Roman Empire was appointed after the death of Paul in 1514.

As head of the church, he often celebrated mass in St Peter's Basilica himself, and issued several strict bulls abolishing simony. He played a major role in the establishment of colonial dioceses in the newly discovered continent of America. On 7 September 1511, he condemned Piero de Lucca's writings on the Incarnation and branded them heretical.

Gyula's most important ecclesiastical act was the convening of the Fifth Lateran Universal Council. The Renaissance church leaders, who ruled by means of absolutism, were repulsed by universal councils, which they saw as a limitation on their power. Yet, despite the military defeat of the French, the Pisan Council, which accused the Pope of failing to carry out the reforms promised at the conclave, did not dissolve. The reforms had inflamed a large part of the clergy, and the Pope thought it better to carry them out under his own control.

On 3 May 1512, the Synod met in the Basilica of St John Lateran. Only fifteen cardinals, all from Italy and Spain, arrived on the opening day of the meeting. Also present were the Latin Patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch, ten archbishops, fifty-six bishops, several abbots and the Spanish, Venetian and Florentine ambassadors. Above all, he called the Pisa synod, which had moved to Milan after the French defeat, illegitimate. But Gyula's synod was hostile to many European powers. The most important of these was the Emperor Nicholas I, who refused to attend the synod because of the Pope's xenophobic statements. George made it clear to the Emperor that he would not support any German expansionist plans in Italy, and in 1508 he refused to crown Nicholas as Emperor. By the end of 1512, however, German politicians realised that another schism would cause a much greater disruption to their aims, and Nicholas supported the synod. At the same time, King Ulászló II of Hungary also supported the Lateran Council, and on 26 January 1513, the Archbishop-Cardinal Tamás Bakócz of Esztergom, who had been elevated to the cardinalate by Gyula, entered Rome with his entourage. The synod during Gyula's time was mostly political, and the Pope did not really hide his aim to dissolve and make impossible the Pisan counter-synod. The Lateran Council V was not to be completed until the pontificate of his successor, Leo X.

A patron of the arts

Gyula's papacy is one of the most outstanding of the Renaissance monarchs. This can be said not only because he was not only a church leader on the throne of St. Peter, but also because he was the absolute ruler of the church state, a secular ruler. The Pope at this time wanted to assert his political intentions, sought to unite the whole of Italy under his rule, and above all wanted to raise papal power to unprecedented heights. To this end, he used art as a tool. His rich treasury enabled him to be the greatest patron of the masters of his time. It is debatable, however, whether the Pope really took pleasure in excellent works of art. According to most chroniclers, Gyula was attracted to the stark beauty of art as a way of demonstrating his own power and luxury.

Whatever it was, there is no doubt that it was under Gyula that the dazzling treasure trove of Renaissance Rome was built. Raffaello, Donato Bramante and Michelangelo all worked extensively at Gyula's request. Bramante was commissioned to redesign and rebuild the Vatican, as Gyula wanted to create a new, more luxurious ecclesiastical centre in the heart of the Eternal City. On 18 April 1506, the Pope himself laid the foundation stone of St Peter's Basilica, which can still be seen today. As well as demolishing the old basilica, Bramante had to create the unity of the Vatican's inner sanctum, the basilica and the papal palace. The basilica was built for decades afterwards, and Michelangelo, after Bramante, took part in the construction of the great church. He also commissioned Raphael to decorate the interiors of the papal apartments, also known as the Stanzas. He also designed the loggias of the court of St Damasus, and the Via Giulia and the Via della Lungara were also created under his influence.

But the greatest masterpieces of Gyula's patronage of art are linked to the works of Michelangelo. The Italian polymath undertook the repainting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco. Michelangelo painted his world-famous works on the ceiling, which had previously been decorated with stars. Gyula also commissioned him to create his monumental mausoleum. His tomb is one of the most famous monuments in Rome. The statue of Moses is in the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, but it is a misconception that the witty Michelangelo is really the Pope's resting place. In fact, the monument was completed in 1545, long after the Pope's death, and much simplified from the original plans. St. George was laid to rest in St. Peter's Basilica, but when Rome was sacked in 1527, German mercenaries smashed the Pope's tomb. So today we must look for the remains of Pope Gregory in the basilica floor. A simple marble plaque in front of the tomb of Pope Clement X warns us of this fact.


  1. Pope Julius II
  2. II. Gyula pápa
  3. ^ The brother of Francesco della Rovere, later Pope Sixtus IV[12]
  4. ^ Also known as the "War of the League of Cambrai"
  5. ^ Until the 20th century, a Cardinal did not have to be in major Holy Orders (Bishop, Priest, Deacon – which involved the vow of celibacy), unless he hoped to vote in a papal conclave. Even then, he could be dispensed.
  6. ^ a b Concordano con questa data: (EN) Salvador Miranda, Della Rovere, Giuliano, su fiu.edu – The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, Florida International University.; John N.D. Kelly, Gran Dizionario Illustrato dei Papi, p. 620; Claudio Rendina, I papi, p. 608 (anno). Il portale (EN) Catholic Hierarcy propone invece come anno di nascita il 1453. Nel libro Julius II. The Warrior Pope del 1996, Christine Shaw ha proposto infine come data di nascita il 15 dicembre 1445
  7. ^ Pompeo Litta, Famiglie celebri d'Italia. della Rovere di Savona, Milano, 1834.
  8. ^ Caroline P. Murphy, The Pope's Daughter: The Extraordinary Life of Felice della Rovere, Oxford University Press, New York, 2005.
  9. ^ a b Pellegrini, p. 116.
  10. Enciclopedia Católica, «Papa Julio II.»
  11. http://cardinals.fiu.edu/bios1471.htm#Dellarovere
  12. Martínez Frías, José María (2017). El cielo de Salamanca: La bóveda de la antigua biblioteca universitaria. Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca. p. 98. ISBN 978-84-9012-772-8.
  13. 1 2 BeWeB
  14. Cronin, Vincent. The flowering of the Renaissance (неопр.). — Dutton, 1969. — С. 33.
  15. Paul F. Grendler, ed., Encyclopedia of the Renaissance: Galen-Lyon (Renaissance Society of America, 1999), p. 361

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