Pope Sixtus IV bigraphy, stories - Pope

Pope Sixtus IV : biography

21 July 1414 - 12 August 1484

Pope Sixtus IV ( ; 21 July 1414 – 12 August 1484), born Francesco della Rovere, was the head of the Catholic Church from 9 August 1471 to his death in 1484. His accomplishments as Pope included the establishment of the Sistine Chapel; the group of artists that he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpiece of the city's new artistic age, the Vatican Archives. Sixtus also furthered the agenda of the Spanish Inquisition and annulled the decrees of the Council of Constance. He was famed for his nepotism and was personally involved in the infamous Pazzi Conspiracy.Lauro Martines, April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 150–196.

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Biography

Early career

Francesco was born to a family of modest means from Liguria, Italy, the son of Leonardo della Rovere and Luchina Monleoni. He was born in Celle Ligure, a town near Savona.

As a young man he joined the Franciscan Order, an unlikely choice for a political career, and his intellectual qualities were revealed while he was studying philosophy and theology at the University of Pavia. He went on to lecture at many eminent Italian universities.

In 1464, Francesco della Rovere was elected Minister General of the Franciscan order at the age of 50. In 1467, he was appointed Cardinal of San Pietro in Vincoli by Pope Paul II. Before his papal election, Cardinal della Rovere was renowned for his unworldliness and had even written learned treatises entitled On the Blood of Christ and On the Power of God.Martines, April Blood, p. 159 His pious reputation was one of the deciding factors that prompted the College of Cardinals to elect him pope upon the unexpected death of Paul II at the age of fifty-four.Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, New York: HarpersSanFrancisco, 1997, p.264-5.

Papal election

Upon election to pope he adopted the name Sixtus – a name that had not been used since the 5th century. One of his first acts was to declare a renewed crusade against the Ottoman Turks in Smyrna. Fund-raising for the crusade was more successful than the half-hearted attempts to storm Smyrna, with little to show in return. Some fruitless attempts were made towards unification with the Greek Church. For the remainder of his pontificate, Sixtus turned to temporal issues and dynastic considerations. Sixtus continued a dispute with King Louis XI of France, who upheld the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438), according to which papal decrees needed royal assent before they could be promulgated in France. This was a cornerstone of the privileges claimed for the Gallican Church, and could never be shifted as long as Louis XI maneuvered to replace King Ferdinand I of Naples with a French prince. Louis was thus in conflict with the papacy and Sixtus (as a princely strategist himself) could not permit it.

Nepotism

left Like a number of Popes, Sixtus IV adhered to the system of nepotism. In the fresco by Melozzo da Forlì he is accompanied by his Della Rovere and Riario nephews, not all of whom were made cardinals: the protonotary apostolic Pietro Riario (on his right), the future Pope Julius II standing before him, and Girolamo Riario and Giovanni della Rovere behind the kneeling Platina, author of the first humanist history of the Popes. His nephew Pietro Riario also benefited from his nepotism. Pietro became one of the richest men in Rome and was entrusted with Sixtus IV's foreign policy. However, Pietro died prematurely in 1474, and his role passed to Giuliano della Rovere.

The secular fortunes of the Della Rovere began when Sixtus invested his nephew Giovanni with the lordship of Senigallia and arranged his marriage to the daughter of Federico III da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino; from this union came a line of Della Rovere dukes of Urbino that lasted until the line expired in 1631.On his premature death (1501), Giovanni entrusted his son Francesco Maria to Federico's successor Guidobaldo (Duke of Urbino 1482–1508) who, without an heir, devised the duchy on the boy. Six of the thirty-four cardinals that he created were his nephews.McBrien, Lives of the Popes, p. 265.

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