Pope Leo X
Reigned 1513-1521, b. at Florence, December 11, 1475; d. at Rome, December 1, 1521
Leo X, POPS (GIOVANNI DE’ MEDICI), b. at Florence, December 11, 1475; d. at Rome, December 1, 1521, was the second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent (1469-1492) and Clarice Orsini, and from his earliest youth was destined for the Church. He received tonsure in1482 and in 1483 was made Abbot of Font Douce in the French Diocese of Saintes and appointed Apostolic prothonotary by Sixtus IV. All the benefices which the Medici could obtain were at his disposal; he consequently became possessed of the rich Abbey of Passignano in 1484 and in 1486 of Monte Cassino. Owing to the constant pressure brought to bear by Lorenzo and his envoys, Innocent VIII in 1489, created the thirteen year old child a cardinal, on condition that he should dispense with the insignia and the privileges of his office for three years. Meanwhile his education was completed by the most distinguished Humanists and scholars, Angelo Poliziano, Marsilio Ficino and Bernardo Dovizi (later Cardinal Bibbiena). From 1489 to 1491 Giovanni de’ Medici studied theology and canon law, at Pisa, under Filippo Decio and Bartolomeo Sozzini. On March 9, 1492, at Fiesole, he was invested with the insignia of a cardinal and on March 22 entered Rome. The next day the pope received him in consistory with the customary ceremonies. The Romans found the youthful cardinal more mature than his age might warrant them to expect. His father sent him an impressive letter of advice marked by good sense and knowledge of human nature, besides bearing witness to the high and virtuous sentiments to which the elder Lorenzo returned towards the end of his life. In this letter he enjoins upon his son certain rules of conduct, and admonishes him to be honorable, virtuous, and exemplary, the more so as the College of Cardinals at that time was deficient in these good qualities.
In the very next month Lorenzo’s death recalled the cardinal to Florence. He returned once more to Rome for the papal election, which resulted, very much against his approval, in the elevation of the unworthy Alexander VI, after which Giovanni remained in Florence from August, 1492, until the expulsion of the Medici in 1494, when he fled from his native city in the habit of a Franciscan monk. After several fruitless attempts to restore the supremacy of his family, he went on a long journey through Germany, Holland, and France, from which he returned to Rome in 1500. There, in keeping with the habits of his family, he led the life of a literary and artistic amateur. Patronage, liberality, and poor financial administration frequently reduced him even then to distressing straits; indeed, he remained a bad manager to the last. But though his manner of life was quite worldly he excelled in dignity, propriety, and irreproachable conduct most of the cardinals. Towards the end of the pontificate of Julius II (1503-1513), fortune once more smiled on Giovanni de’ Medici. In August, 1511, the pope was dangerously ill and the Medici cardinal already aspired to the succession. In October, 1511, he became legate in Bologna and Romagna, and cherished the hope that his family would again rule in Florence. The Florentines had taken the “part of the schismatic Pisans (see Junius II) for which reason the pope supported the Medici. Meanwhile the cardinal suffered another reverse. The army, Spanish and papal, with which he was sojourning, was defeated in 1512 at Ravenna by the French and he was taken prisoner. But it was a Pyrrhic victory, for the French soon lost all their possessions in Italy, and the cardinal, who was to have been taken to France, succeeded in making his escape. The supremacy of the Medici in Florence was reestablished in September, 1512, and this unexpected change in the fortunes of his family was only the prelude to higher honors.
Julius II died on February 21, 1513, and on March 11 Giovanni de’ Medici, then but thirty-eight years old, was elected pope. In the first scrutiny he received only one vote. His adherents, the younger cardinals, held back his candidacy until the proper moment. The election met with approval even In France, although here and there a natural misgiving was felt as to whether the youthful pope would prove equal to his burden. In many quarters high hopes were placed in him by politicians who relied on his pliancy, by scholars and artists of whom he was already a patron, and by theologians who looked for energetic church reforms under a pacific ruler. Unfortunately he realized the hopes only of the artists, literati, and worldlings who looked upon the papal court as a center of amusement.
Leo’s personal appearance has been perpetuated for us in Raphael‘s celebrated picture at the Pitti Gallery in Florence which represents him with Cardinals Medici and Rossi. He was not a handsome man. His fat, shiny, effeminate countenance with weak eyes protrudes in the picture from under a close-fitting cap. The unwieldy body is supported by thin legs. His movements were sluggish and during ecclesiastical functions his corpulence made him constantly wipe the perspiration from his face and hands, to the distress of the bystanders. But when he laughed or spoke the unpleasant impression vanished. He had an agreeable voice, knew how to express himself with elegance and vivacity, and his manner was easy and gracious. “Let us enjoy the papacy since God has given it to us”, he is said to have remarked after his election. The Venetian ambassador who related this of him was not unbiased, nor was he in Rome at the time, nevertheless the phrase illustrates fairly the pope’s pleasure-loving nature and the lack of seriousness that characterized him. He paid no attention to the dangers threatening the papacy, and gave himself up unrestrainedly to amusements, that were provided in lavish abundance. He was possessed by an insatiable love of pleasure, that distinctive trait of his family. Music, the theatre, art, and poetry appealed to him as to any pampered worldling. Though temperate himself, he loved to give banquets and expensive entertainments, accompanied by revelry and carousing; and notwithstanding his indolence he had a strong passion for the chase, which he conducted every year on the largest scale. From his youth he was an enthusiastic lover of music and attracted to his court the most distinguished musicians. At table he enjoyed hearing improvisations, and though it is hard to believe, in view of his dignity and his artistic tastes, the fact remains that he enjoyed also the flat and absurd jokes of buffoons. Their loose speech and incredible appetites delighted him. In ridicule and caricature he was himself a master. Pageantry, dear to the pleasure-seeking Romans, bullfights, and the like, were not neglected. Every year he amused himself during the carnival with masques, music, theatrical performances, dances, and races. Even during the troubled years of 1520 and 1521 he kept up this frivolous life. In 1520 he took part in unusually brilliant festivities. Theatrical representations, with agreeable music and graceful dancing, were his favorite diversions. The papal palace became a theatre and the pope did not hesitate to attend such improper plays as the immoral “Calendra” by Bibbiena and Ariosto’s indecent “Suppositi” His contemporaries all praised and admired Leo’s unfailing good temper, which he never entirely lost even in adversity and trouble. Himself cheerful, he wished to see others cheerful. He was good-natured and liberal and never refused a favor either to his relatives and fellow Florentines, who flooded Rome and seized upon all official positions, or to the numerous other petitioners, artists and poets. His generosity was boundless, nor was his pleasure in giving a pose or desire for vainglory; it came from the heart. He never was ostentatious and attached no importance to ceremonial. He was lavish in works of charity; convents, hospitals, discharged soldiers, poor students, pilgrims, exiles, cripples, the blind, the sick, the unfortunate of every description were generously remembered, and more than 6000 ducats were annually distributed in alms.
Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that the large treasure left by Julius II was entirely dissipated in two years. In the spring of 1515 the exchequer was empty and Leo never after recovered from his financial embarrassment. Various doubtful and reprehensible methods were resorted to for raising money. He created new offices and dignities, and the most exalted places were put up for sale. Jubilees and indulgences were degraded almost entirely into financial transactions, yet without avail, as the treasury was ruined. The pope’s income amounted to between 500,000 and 600,000 ducats. The papal household alone, which Julius II had maintained on 48,000 ducats, now cost double that sum. In all, Leo spent about four and a half million ducats during his pontificate and left a debt amounting to 400,000 ducats. On his unexpected death his creditors faced financial ruin. A lampoon proclaimed that “Leo X had consumed three pontificates; the treasure of Julius II, the revenues of his own reign, and those of his successor.” It is proper, however, to pay full credit to the good qualities of Leo. He was highly cultivated, susceptible to all that was beautiful, a polished orator and a clever writer, possessed of good memory and judgment, in manner dignified and majestic. It was generally acknowledged, even by those who were unfriendly towards him, that he was unfeignedly religious and strictly fulfilled his spiritual duties. He heard Mass and read his Breviary daily and fasted three times a week. His piety cannot truly be described as deep or spiritual, but that does not justify the continued repetition of his alleged remark: “How much we and our family have profited by the legend of Christ, is sufficiently evident to all ages.” John Bale, the apostate English Carmelite, the first to give currency to these words in the time of Queen Elizabeth, was not even a contemporary of Leo. Among the many sayings of Leo X that have come down to us, there is not one of a sceptical nature. In his private life he preserved as pope the irreproachable reputation that he had borne when a cardinal. His character shows a remarkable mingling of good and bad traits.
The fame of Leo X is due to his promotion of literature, science, and art. Under him Rome became more than ever the center of the literary world. “From all parts”, wrote Cardinal Riario in 1515 to Erasmus at Rotterdam, “men of letters are hurrying to the Eternal City, their common country, their support, and their patroness.” Poets were especially numerous in Rome and few princes have been so lauded in verse as Leo X. He lavished gifts, favors, positions, titles, not only on real poets and scholars, but often on poetasters and commonplace jesters. He esteemed particularly the papal secretaries Bembo and Sadoleto, both celebrated poets and prose writers. Bembo charmed everyone by his polish and wit. His classic, Ciceronian letters exhibit a remarkably varied intercourse with almost all the celebrities of his day. Among other things, he prepared a critical edition of Dante’s works and was a zealous collector of manuscripts, books, and works of art. His conduct was not in accord with his position as papal notary, count palatine, and incumbent of numerous benefices, for he was worldly and self-indulgent. Sadoleto was quite another man. He led a pure and spotless life, was a model priest, united in himself the different phases of ancient and modern culture and was an ardent enthusiast for antiquity. In elegance and polish he was in no way inferior to Bembo. Among the Latin poets of Medicean Rome we may briefly mention Vida, who composed a poem of great merit, the “Christiade” and was extolled by his contemporaries as the Christian Virgil; Sannazaro, author of an epic poem on the birth of Christ which is a model of style; the Carmelite Spagnolo Mantovano with his “Calendar of Feasts”; Ferreri, who in the most naive way recast the hymns in the Breviary with heathen terms, images, and allusions. The total number of these poets exceeds one hundred; and a lampoon of 1521 says they were more numerous than the stars in heaven. Most of them have fallen into well-deserved oblivion.
This is equally true of the contemporary Italian poetry—more prolific than notable. Among the Italian poets Trissino wrote a tragedy, “Sophonisba”, and an epic “L’Italia liberata dai Gothi”, but had no real success with either in spite of earnest purpose and beauty of language. Rucellai, a relative of the pope, whose clever and sympathetic didactic poem on bees met with great approval from his contemporaries, owed his reputation chiefly to an inferior work, the tragedy of “Rosmonda”. The celebrated improvisatore, Tebaldeo wrote in both Latin and Italian. Towards Ariosto the pope was remarkably harsh. Archaeology received great encouragement. One of its most distinguished representatives was Manetti. In 1521 the first collection of Roman topographical inscriptions appeared and introduced a new era. Important progress was due to the works of the learned antiquary, Fulvio. Fulvio, Calvo, Castiglione, and Raphael had planned an archaeological survey of ancient Rome with accompanying text. Raphael‘s early death abruptly interrupted the work which was carried on by Fulvio and Calvo. The Greek language also found favor and encouragement; Aldus Manutius, the Venetian publisher, whose excellent and correct editions of Greek classics became so popular, was one of Leo’s protégés. Andreas Johannes Lascaris and Musurus were summoned from Greece to Rome and founded a Greek college, the “Medicean Academy”. Moreover the pope encouraged the collection of manuscripts and books. He recovered his family library which had been sold by the Florentines in 1494 to the monks of San Marco, had it brought to Rome, and enforced the regulations of Sixtus IV for the Vatican Library. The most distinguished of his librarians was Inghirami, less indeed through any learned works than for his gift of eloquence. He was called the Cicero of his age and played an important role at court. In 1516 he was succeeded by the Bolognese Humanist Beroaldo. Leo tried, as Nicholas V had formerly done, to increase the treasures of the Vatican Library, and with this object sent emissaries in all directions, even to Scandinavia and the Orient, to discover literary treasures and either obtain them, or borrow them for the purpose of making copies. The results, however, were unimportant. The Roman university, which had entered on decay, was reformed, but did not long flourish. On the whole, Leo, as a literary Maecenas, has been overrated by his biographer Giovio and later panegyrists. Relatively little was accomplished, partly on account of the constant lack of money and partly because of the thoughtlessness and haste which the pope often showed in distributing his favors. He was in reality only a dilettante. Yet he gave an important stimulus to scientific and literary life, and was a potent factor in the cultural development of the West.
More important results ensued from his promotion of art, though he was unquestionably inferior in taste and judgment to his predecessor Julius II. Leo encouraged painting beyond all other branches of art; preeminent in this class stand the immortal productions of Raphael. In 1508 he had come to Rome, summoned by Julius II, and remained there until his death in 1520. The protection extended to this master genius is Leo’s most enduring claim on posterity. Raphael‘s achievements, already numerous and import ant, took on more dignity and grandeur under Leo. He painted, sketched, and engraved from antique works of art, modeled in clay, made designs for palaces, directed the work of others by order of the pope, gave advice and assistance alike to supervisors and workmen. “Everything pertaining to art the pope turns over to Raphael“, wrote an ambassador in 1518. This is not, of course, the place to treat Raphael‘s prodigious activity. We limit ourselves to brief mention of a few of his works. He finished the decoration of the Vatican halls or “Stanze” begun under Julius II, and in the third hall cleverly referred to Leo X by introducing scenes from the pontificates of Leo III and Leo IV. A more important commission was given him to paint the cartoons for the tapestries of the Sistine Chapel, the highest of Raphael‘s achievements, the most magnificent of them being “St. Peter’s miraculous draught of fishes” and “St. Paul preaching in Athens”. A third famous enterprise was the decoration of the Vatican Loggia done by Raphael‘s pupils under his direction, and mostly from his designs. The most exquisite of his paintings are the wonderful Sistine Madonna and the “Transfiguration“. Sculpture showed a marked decline under Leo X. Michelangelo offered his services and worked from 1516 to 1520 on a marble facade for the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, but did not finish it. On the other hand the pope gave especial attention and encouragement to the minor arts, e.g. decorative carving, and furthered the industrial arts. The greatest and most difficult task of Leo was in the field of architecture and was inherited from his predecessor, viz., the continuation of the new St. Peter’s. Bramante remained its chief architect until his death in 1514. Raphael succeeded him, but in his six years of office little was done, much to his regret, through lack of means.
We may now turn to the political and religious events of Leo’s pontificate. Here the bright splendor that diffuses itself over his literary and artistic patronage, is soon changed to deepest gloom. His well-known peaceable inclinations made the political situation a disagreeable heritage, and he tried to maintain tranquility by exhortations, to which, however, no one listened. France desired to wreak vengeance for the defeat of 1512 and to reconquer Milan. Venice entered into an alliance with her, whereupon Emperor Maximilian, Spain, and England in 1513 concluded a Holy League against France. The pope wished at first to remain neutral but such a course would have isolated him, so he decided to be faithful to the policy of his predecessors and sought accordingly to oppose the designs of France, but in doing so, to avoid severity. In 1513 the French were decisively routed at Novara and were forced to effect a reconciliation with Rome. The schismatic cardinals (see Pope Julius II) submitted and were pardoned, and France then took part in the Lateran Council which Leo had continued.
But success was soon clouded by uncertainty. France endeavored to form an alliance with Spain and to obtain Milan and Genoa by a matrimonial alliance. Leo feared for the independence of the Papal States and for the so-called freedom of Italy. He negotiated on all sides without committing himself, and in 1514 succeeded in bringing about an Anglo-French alliance. The fear of Spain now gave way to the bugbear of French supremacy and the pope began negotiating in a deceitful and disloyal manner with France and her enemies simultaneously. Before he had decided to bind himself in one way or the other, Louis XII died and the young and ardent Francis I succeeded him. Once more Leo sought delay. He supported the League against France, but until the last moment hoped for an arrangement with Francis. But the latter shortly after his descent upon Italy, won the great victory of Marignana, 13-September 14, 1515, and the pope now made up his mind to throw himself into the arms of the Most Christian King and beg for mercy. He was obliged to alter his policy completely and to abandon to the French king Parma and Piacenza, which had been reunited with Milan. An interview with King Francis at Bologna resulted in the French Concordat (1516), that brought with it such important consequences for the Church. The Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438), deeply inimical to the papacy, was revoked, but the pope paid a high price for this concession, when he granted to the king the right of nomination to all the sees, abbeys, and priories of France. Through this and other concessions, e.g. that pertaining to ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the royal influence over the French Church was assured. Great discontent resulted in France among the clergy and in the parliaments. The abolition of the Pragmatic Sanction, drawn up in compliance with the decrees of the Council of Basle, affected the adherents of the conciliar system of church government. The abolition of free ecclesiastical elections affected grievously the interests of many and opposition to the Concordat was maintained for centuries. The advantage to the Church and the pope of such a great sacrifice was that France, hitherto schismatical in attitude, now stood firmly bound to the Holy See, which thus turned aside the danger of complete estrangement. However, the way in which the French crown abused its control over the Church led at a later period to great evils.
Meanwhile the Lateran Council, continued by Leo after his elevation to the papacy, was nearing its close, having issued numerous and very timely decrees, e.g. against the false philosophical teachings of the Paduan professor, Pietro Pomponazzi, who denied the immortality of the soul. The encroachments of pagan Humanism on the spiritual life were met by the simultaneous rise of a new order of philosophical and theological studies. In the ninth session was promulgated a Bull that treated exhaustively of reforms in the Curia and the Church. Abbeys and benefices were henceforth to be bestowed only on persons of merit and according to canon law. Provisions of benefices and consistorial proceedings were regulated; ecclesiastical depositions and transfers made more difficult; commendatory benefices were forbidden; and unions and reservations of benefices, also dispensations for obtaining them, were restricted. Measures were also taken for reforming the curial administration and the lives of cardinals, clerics, and the faithful. The religious instruction of children was declared a duty. Blasphemers and incontinent, negligent, or simoniac ecclesiastics were to be severely punished. Church revenues were no longer to be turned to secular uses. The immunities of the clergy must be respected, and all kinds of superstition abolished. The eleventh session dealt with the cure of souls, particularly with preaching. These measures, unhappily, were not thoroughly enforced, and therefore the much-needed genuine reform was not realized. Towards the close of the council (1517) the noble and highly cultured layman, Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, delivered a remarkable speech on the necessity of a reform of morals; his account of the moral condition of the clergy is saddening, and reveals the many and great difficulties that stood in the way of a genuine reform. He concluded with the warning that if Leo X left such offenses longer unpunished and refused to apply healing remedies to these wounds of the Church, it was to be feared that God Himself would cut off the rotten limbs and destroy them with fire and sword. That very year this prophetic warning was verified. The salutary reforms of the Lateran Council found no practical acceptance. Pluralism, commendatory benefices, and the granting of ecclesiastical dignities to children remained customary. Leo himself did not scruple to set aside repeatedly the decrees of the council. The Roman Curia, then much despised and against which so many inveighed with violence, remained as worldly as ever. The pope was either unwilling or not in a position to regulate the unworthy and immoral conduct of many of the Roman courtiers. The political situation absorbed his attention and was largely responsible for the premature close of the council.
In March, 1516, Emperor Maximilian crossed the Alps to make war on the French and Venetians. The pope followed his usual course of shifting and dissimulation. At first, when events seemed favorable for the French, he supported Francis. But his former double-dealing had left Francis in such ill-humor that he now adhered to an antipapal policy, whereupon Leo adopted an unfriendly attitude towards the king. Their relations were further strained apropos of the Duchy of Urbino. During the French invasion the Duke of Urbino had withheld the assistance which he was in duty bound to render the pope, who now exiled him and gave the title to his nephew, Lorenzo de’ Medici. The French king was highly displeased with the papal policy, and when Francis I and Maximilian formed the alliance of Cambrai in 1517 and agreed on a partition of Upper and Central Italy, Pope Leo found himself in a disagreeable position. In part by reason of his constant vacillation he had drifted into a dangerous isolation, added to which the Duke of Urbino reconquered his duchy; to crown all other calamities came a conspiracy of cardinals against the pope’s life. The ringleader, Cardinal Petrucci, was a young worldly ecclesiastic who thought only of money and pleasure. He and the other cardinals who had brought about Leo’s election, made afterwards such numerous and insistent demands that the pope could not yield to them. Other causes for discontent were found in the unfortunate war with Urbino and in the abolition of the election capitulations and the excessive privileges of the cardinals. Petrucci bore personal ill-will towards the “ungrateful pope”, who had removed his brother from the government of Siena. He tried to have the pope poisoned by a physician, but suspicion was aroused and the plot was betrayed through a letter. The investigation implicated Cardinals Sauli, Riario, Soderini and Castellesi; they had been guilty at least of listening to Petrucci, and perhaps had desired his success, though their full complicity was not actually proved. Petrucci was executed and the others punished by fines; Riario paid the enormous sum of 150,000 ducats.
The affair throws a lurid light on the degree of corruption in the highest ecclesiastical circles. Unconcerned by the scandal he was giving, Leo took advantage of the proceeding to create thirty-one new cardinals, thereby obtaining an entirely submissive college and also money to carry on the unlucky war with Urbino. Not a few of these cardinals were chosen on account of the large sums they advanced. But this wholesale appointment also brought several virtuous and distinguished men into the Sacred College, and it was further important because it definitively established the superiority of the pope over the cardinals. The war with Urbino, encouraged by Francis I and Maximilian for the purpose of increasing Leo’s difficulties, was finally brought to a close, after having cost enormous sums and emptied the papal treasury, Lorenzo de’ Medici remained in possession of the duchy (1517). Faithful to the ancient tradition of the Holy See, from the very beginning of his reign, Leo zealously advocated a crusade against the Turks, and at the close of the war with Urbino took up the cause with renewed determination. In November, 1517, he submitted an exhaustive memorial to all the princes of Europe, and endeavored to unite them in a common effort, but in vain. The replies of the powers proved widely dissimilar. They were suspicious of one another and each sought naturally to realize various secondary purposes of its own. Leo answered a threatening letter from the sultan by active exertions. Religious processions were held, a truce of five years was proclaimed throughout Christendom and the Crusade was preached (1518). The pope showed real earnestness, but his great plan miscarried through lack of cooperation on the part of the powers. Moreover, Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor of England, thwarted the pope’s peaceful efforts and thus dealt a grievous blow to the international prestige of the papacy. When the Crusade was preached in Germany, it found a large section of the people strongly predisposed against the Curia, and furnished them with an occasion to express their views in plain terms. It was believed that the Curia merely sought to obtain more money. One of the numerous spiteful pamphlets issued declared that the real Turks were in Italy and that these demons could only be pacified by streams of gold. The good cause was gradually merged with an important political question, the succession to the imperial throne. Maximilian sought the election for his grandson, Charles of Spain. A rival appeared in the person of Francis I, and both he and Charles vied with each other in seeking to win the pope’s favor by repeated assurances of their willingness to move against the Turks. The event of the election relegated the crusade to the background. In 1519 the pope realized that there was no longer any prospect of carrying out his design.
Leo’s attitude towards the imperial succession was influenced primarily by his anxiety concerning the power and independence of the Holy See and the so-called freedom of Italy. Neither candidate was acceptable to him, Charles, if possible, less than Francis, owing to the preponderance of power that must result from his accession. The pope would have preferred a German electoral prince, that of Saxony or later, the Elector of Brandenburg He “sailed”, as usual, “with two compasses”, held both rivals at bay by a double game played with matchless skill, and even succeeded in concluding simultaneously an alliance with both. The deceitfulness and insincerity of his political dealings cannot be entirely excused, either by the difficult position in which he was placed or by the example of his secular contemporaries. Maximilian‘s death (January, 1519) ended the pope’s irresolution. First he tried to defeat both candidates by raising up a German elector. Then he worked zealously for Francis I in the endeavor to secure his firm friendship in case Charles became emperor, an event which grew daily more likely. Only at the last moment when the election of Charles was certain and unavoidable did Leo come over to his side; after the election he watched in great anxiety the attitude the new emperor might assume.
The most important occurrence of Leo’s pontificate and that of gravest consequence to the Church was the Reformation, which began in 1517. We cannot enter into a minute account of this movement, the remote cause of which lay in the religious, political, and social conditions of Germany. It is certain, however, that the seeds of discontent amid which Luther threw his firebrand had been germinating for centuries. The immediate cause was bound up with the odious greed for money displayed by the Roman Curia, and shows how far short all efforts at reform had hitherto fallen. Albert of Brandenburg, already Archbishop of Magdeburg, received in addition the Archbishopric of Mainz and the Bishopric of Halberstadt, but in return was obliged to collect 10,000 ducats, which he was taxed over and above the usual confirmation fees. To indemnify him, and to make it possible to discharge these obligations Rome permitted him to have preached in his territory the plenary indulgence promised all those who contributed to the new St. Peter’s; he was allowed to keep one half the returns, a transaction which brought dishonor on all concerned in it. Added to this, abuses occurred during the preaching of the Indulgence. The money contributions, a mere accessory, were frequently the chief object, and the “Indulgences for the Dead” became a vehicle of inadmissible teachings. That Leo X, in the most serious of all the crises which threatened the Church, should fail to prove the proper guide for her, is clear enough from what has been related above. He recognized neither the gravity of the situation nor the underlying causes of the revolt. Vigorous measures of reform might have proved an efficacious antidote, but the pope was deeply entangled in political affairs and allowed the imperial election to overshadow the revolt of Luther; moreover, he gave himself up unrestrainedly to his pleasures and failed to grasp fully the duties of his high office.
The pope’s last political efforts were directed to expanding the States of the Church, establishing thereby a dominating power in Central Italy by means of the acquisition of Ferrara. In 1519 he concluded a treaty, with Francis I against Emperor Charles V. But the selfishness and encroachments of the French and the struggle against the Lutheran movement, induced him soon to unite with Charles, after he had again resorted to his double-faced method of treating with both rivals. In 1521 pope and emperor signed a defensive alliance for the purpose of driving the French out of Italy. After some difficulty, the allies occupied Milan and Lombardy. Amid the rejoicings over these successes, the pope died suddenly of a malignant malaria. His enemies are wrongly accused of having poisoned him. The magnificent pope was given a simple funeral and not until the reign of Paul III was a monument erected to his memory in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. It is cold, prosaic, and quite unworthy of such a connoisseur as Leo.
The only possible verdict on the pontificate of Leo X is that it was unfortunate for the Church. Sigismondo Tizio, whose devotion to the Holy See is undoubted, writes truthfully: “In the general opinion it was injurious to the Church that her Head should delight in plays, music, the chase and nonsense, instead of paying serious attention to the needs of his flock and mourning over their misfortunes”. Von Reumont says pertinently—”Leo X is in great measure to blame for the fact that faith in the integrity and merit of the papacy, in its moral and regenerating powers, and even in its good intentions, should have sunk so low that men could declare extinct the old true spirit of the Church.”