Amazing articles on just about every subject...

World's Famous Foreign Statesmen:
 Pope Gregory Vii

 Louis Xi


 Pope Leo X

 Charles V

 The Prince Of Orange


 Peter The Great

 Lord Beaconsfield


 Read More Articles About: World's Famous Foreign Statesmen

Pope Leo X

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Leo X (Giovanni de' Medici), the youngest of three sons of Lorenzo de' Medici, called the Magnificent, was born at Florence December I I, 1475. He was from the first destined for the service of the Church. At the age of thirteen he was created a cardinal by Innocent VIII, but with the understanding that he should not be publicly recognized as such for three years. Upon the expiration of that time he was formally admitted into the sacred college, in his seventeenth year, and took up his residence at Rome.

Giovanni inherited his father's love of literature and art, and his education was shaped accordingly. Theology was made subordinate to the far more congenial study of the Latin classics, under the tuition of Politian and Bibbiena. Nor was his education alone worldly. His views on the subject of religion were tinged with the Skepticism so prevalent among men of culture at this time that it was considered a characteristic of good society. "One no longer passes for a man of cultivation," says Father Bandino, "unless he puts forth heterodox opinions regarding the Christian faith." And such opinions were held by the future Pontiff, though Luther probably did him a wrong when he declared that Leo denied the immortality of the soul; he was only in doubt upon this point.

Within a few months after he had taken up his residence at Rome, his prospects were clouded by the nearly simultaneous death of his father and of the Pope, a double event which closed a period of peace in Italy, due to Lorenzo's prudent policy, and led to domestic strife, followed shortly by a French invasion, of which one consequence was the expulsion of the Medici from Florence. Giovanni left Rome, and found refuge in Bologna. After an absence of two or three years, a part of which time was spent in travel, he returned to Rome. Alexander VI, the enemy of his house, was now on the Papal throne, and to avoid arousing his jealousy Giovanni kept in prudent retirement and devoted him-self to literary pursuits.

The accession of Julius II to the Papal throne, in 1503, was followed by a renewal of military operations in Italy. By the League of Cambray Julius combined the three powers France, Spain, and Germany against the Venetian States; and subsequently when Venice had offered a prolonged and successful resistance, Julius saw it to his interest to break up the unnatural combination. He made a separate treaty with the Venetians, and attempted with the aid of the Spaniards and of Swiss mercenaries to drive the French out of Italy. The battle of Ravenna was fought, at which the French, commanded for Louis XII by Gaston de Foix, were victorious. Cardinal Giovanni had been appointed by Julius commander of the Swiss Mercenaries, and took part in this battle. He was captured and was taken a prisoner to Milan. The French met with subsequent disasters, which compelled them to cross the Alps. Cardinal Giovanni effected his escape, and with a body of Spanish troops marched upon Florence and restored there the authority of the Medici. Shortly after the occurrence of these events Julius died. The College of Cardinals convened to elect his successor. Giovanni, though severely ill, hastened to Rome to demand his place among them and to promote his own pretensions to the vacant See. What influence he brought to bear upon his colleagues has never been known; but the fact remains that, though then but thirty-seven years of age, he received their unanimous suffrages and was elected the successor of Julius, March II, 1513. He chose the name Leo X.

The consecration of Leo was performed with a magnificence worthy of a Medici. He delayed the ceremony until the 11th of April, the anniversary of the battle of Ravenna. On the day appointed for the ceremony, clothed in garments studded with diamonds and rubies, his head covered with a tiara glittering with precious stones, he came to the church of the Lateran, followed by an escort so numerous and brilliant that, according to an historian of the time, no King or Emperor had ever displayed so much magnificence in his triumphal procession. The Roman clergy, the magistracy, the nobility, the different orders of the monks, black, gray, and white, the different trades, the chiefs of the soldiery, clothed in glittering armor, formed an immense cortége. Young maidens and children, clothed in white, cast palms and flowers before the Pontiff along the route. He himself was mounted on an Arab courser, the same he had ridden at the battle of Ravenna. Around him were the members of the sacred college and his relations, among whom Julian, the head of the house of Medici, in full armor, was distinguished. After the celebration of the Pontifical mass, the new Pope bestowed his blessing on the people, and retraced the road to the Vatican, where a sumptuous feast awaited him and his attendants, the cost of which was computed at more than a hundred thousand crowns.

Such was the imposing inauguration of a reign which was to become famous in history for unexampled splendor, refinement and intellectual luxury. The new Pope banished from the Vatican the coarseness which had disfigured the courts of his immediate predecessors; he gathered about him all the artists and authors of Italy, and his court soon became the most brilliant in Europe. But it was a court of splendid irreligion a school of materialism and philosophical Atheism, and the Pontiff himself was its presiding genius.

Leo's first thought was for the aggrandizement of his family. He placed his brother Piero at the head of the Government of Tuscany, reserving for his other brother, Julian, the crown of Naples, which he had determined to wrest from Spain on the first opportunity. He turned his attention next to the political situation in which he found himself.

The game which Leo had to play was a complicated one. Italy, broken up into numerous independent States, which it was impossible to combine for common defense, was the coveted prize of both the King of France and the Emperor of Germany. Naples, held by Ferdinand of Spain, was claimed by Louis XII of France by right of inheritance; and Milan was also claimed by Louis on the same ground. Maximilian coveted Venice, and was ready to sweep down upon Italy on the first good opportunity. How to play these powers against one another, and not only to pre-serve intact the Papal States in the north of Italy, but, if possible, to add to their number, was the problem which confronted Leo.

The first move in this game of politics was made by Louis XII, who sent an army into Italy, under the command of La Tremouille, to recover Milan. Tremouille was badly defeated at Novara, by the Swiss mercenaries in the pay of Leo, and was driven back into France. Almost at the same time Anjou was invaded by the English, Navarre by the Spaniards, Burgundy by a second army of Swiss and the provinces bordering on the Rhine by Maximilian.

In this extremity Louis was compelled to throw himself on the clemency of Leo. He sent Ambassadors to Rome, to sue humbly, not merely for peace, but for pardon; for one of the means which had been adopted by Louis in his contest with Leo's predecessor had been the calling of a council of churchmen at Pisa, to serve as a foil to that of the Lateran. Louis now, through his Ambassadors, disowned the council of Pisa, declared his detestation of the decisions made in that assembly of Schismatics, undertook to deliver them up to Leo, and, in addition, signed an adherence to the council of the Lateran, and pledged himself in future not to give aid to the enemies of the Holy See. Upon these humiliating terms Leo granted peace to the French King. Later the offending fathers of Pisa appeared before Leo to ask, in their turn, for pardon; and after having acknowledged their error, they were reprimanded and punished with degradation to the rank of simple priests.

A moment of calm ensued, of which the Pontiff availed himself to continue the labors of the Lateran General Council, which had long been in session. Among the numerous decrees issued by this council from time to time, two only are of sufficient interest to require special notice here. The first is a decree establishing monti de piete, banks from which the poor might obtain small loans of money at reasonable rates of interest, upon the deposit of articles of value. The decree was directed professedly against the usury practiced by the pawnbrokers; but inasmuch as one-half of the interest charged went into the treasury of the church, it may fairly be regarded as an indirect taxation of the poor. It may be said in passing that the three balls, which now form the sign of the pawnbroker, are the arms of the Medici. The second of the decrees referred to was aimed at the freedom of the press. It provided that the works of authors should be submitted to censors, and that no book should be printed which had not first received the approbation of the Pope or his Vicars, under pain of excommunication.

In the midst of these political and church affairs Leo was engaged in a congenial work of embellishing Rome with works of art and particularly in rebuilding the church of St. Peter's. This work had been begun during the pontificate of his predecessor. It was one of the direct results of the introduction of the Pagan art of Greece into Italy, and its rejuvenation there. "The two factions then dividing the jealous and contentious world of art," says Ranke, "united in urging Julius II to demolish the ancient basilica of St. Peter's, though every part of it was hallowed, every portion crowded with monuments that had received the veneration of ages, and to erect a temple, planned after those of antiquity, on its site. Michael Angelo desired a fitting receptacle for that monument to the Pope which he proposed to complete on a vast scale, and with that lofty grandeur which he has exhibited in his Moses. Yet more pressing was Bramante. It was his ambition to have space for the execution of that bold project, long before conceived, of raising high in air, on colossal pillars, an exact copy of the Pantheon, in all the majesty of its proportions. Many cardinals remonstrated, and it would seem that there was a general opposition to the plan; so much of personal affection attaches itself to every old church, how much more then to this, the chief sanctuary of Christendom ! But Julius was not accustomed to regard contradiction; without further consideration he caused one-half of the old church to be demolished, and himself laid the foundation-stone of the new one." The work was entrusted to Bramante, and was begun from his design. But it was pushed forward with such haste that after the death of Bramante it was found necessary to demolish a large part of his work on account of its weakness. Those who re-undertook this gigantic work, San Gallo Peruzzi and Raphael, preserved only the arches which supported the tower of the dome, and, destroying the rest, recommenced the edifice from a new design. So much opposition had arisen against the prosecution of this expensive undertaking that the cardinals assembled to chose a successor to Julian, bound themselves by a solemn oath that whosoever of them should be chosen Pope should not continue the work on St. Peter's. Had Leo kept this pledge he might have avoided much of the trouble in which he became involved, for a large part of the money which he raised by the obnoxious sale of indulgences was spent upon this edifice.

In the summer of 1515 the French again invaded Italy in greater force than any with which they had before crossed the Alps, to reconquer Milan. Francis I, in all the ardor of his chivalrous youth, was their leader. To oppose them Leo had only his Swiss mercenaries. The two armies met at Marignano. On the first day the combat was maintained on both sides with equal fury. On the next it was renewed, and the Swiss, after having performed prodigies of valor, were finally defeated. This victory rendered Francis master of the Milanese. The Duke Sforza was obliged to yield it to the conqueror, and obtained in exchange a residence in France. Italy was struck with terror; Genoa hastened to submit; the Pope sent an embassy to compliment the young King on his success. What was to be done? Francis might easily make himself master of all Italy. Contrary to the advice of his cardinals, Leo betook him-self to Bologna, there to have a conference with the victorious King. The conference of the two potentates was a grand and gala affair, conducted with all the courtesies imaginable. Francis came to the place of meeting accompanied by an escort of 6,000 musqueteers and 1,200 men-at-arms. The Pontiff had arrived before him and waited for him. On his entry into Bologna he was received by twenty-four cardinals all clothed in their red capes; then he was conducted to the sound of music to the pontifical palace. Leo received the young conqueror with studious politeness and overwhelmed him with compliments. "That which most captivated Francis," says one of the chroniclers of this most courteous interview, "was the graceful manner in which his holiness performed the mass. The monarch could not cease from his admiration during the performance of the sacred office, and wished so much himself to serve as train bearer, that they could scarcely prevent him from so doing."

What else could be expected than harmony and mutual concession when two young men Francis was then aged twenty-one opened a conference in so agreeable a manner? They seem to have had no great difficulty in coming to an agreement. Leo consented to restore to Milan the duchies of Parma and Placentia, which had recently been acquired for the holy See by Julius II, and in return he required that Francis should abandon his ally the Duke of Urbino, whose estates added to Florence would constitute a sovereignty extending from the Tuscan Sea to the gulf of Venice. Lastly he drew from the weak Monarch an agreement to abolish the Pragmatic Sanction* under the secret condition that the Pope would aid him in conquering the Kingdom of Naples, after the death of Ferdinand of Spain. Such were the conditions of the famous Concordat of Bologna.

The securing of the abolition of the pragmatic sanction was a signal triumph for the diplomacy of Leo, and it cost nothing but a promise which, it is safe to say, the pontiff had no intention of ever keeping; for he had already determined on securing the crown of Naples for his own family. In France this concession of a privilege which had come to be considered among the dearest prerogatives of the clergy gave Francis no end of trouble; and it aroused, too, against the Pope a feeling of resentment which lost for him the sympathy and aid of the Gallican Church in the great struggle, which was already looming up, with Luther and Zwingli.

Leo carried out his plan for seizing the duchy of Urbino, an act for which he has been most severely censured. This princely house had offered refuge and hospitality to his own family when driven into exilé. But it has been urged in his defense that the Duke of Urbino had forfeited all claim upon his gratitude by deserting him at a critical moment. The enterprise proved a difficult one, for the Duke was secretly supported by the French and Leo was obliged, in effecting the conquest, to have recourse to artifice worthy of a Borgia. His success drew with it a long train of evils. A conspiracy is said to have been formed against his life. The treason was discovered. Cardinal Petrucci, one of the leading conspirators, was entrapped into his power and was assassinated, as he entered the Vatican. Others who were implicated, and who came to him to treat for the terms of their pardon, trusting to his promise of immunity, were seized, thrown into prison, and there poisoned or in other manner desposed of. Not one of his victims was spared. It was now that Leo, suspicious of his cardinals, resorted to the extraordinary measure of creating thirty-one new cardinals in a single day.

In 1519 the political situation was very materially affected by the appearance of a new actor upon the scene. In that year Maximilian died and his grandson and heir, Charles V, was elected to the vacant imperial throne. As heir of Ferdinand the Catholic, who died in 1516, Charles had already become the King of Spain and Naples, while through his mother he had inherited the Netherlands, Between Charles and Francis there was certain to be war, and, inasmuch as there existed an old imperial claim to the possession of Milan, it was equally certain that the war would be brought into Italy. Between these two hostile powers Leo had now to make his choice. To understand why he did not long hesitate to break with Francis and to unite his fortunes with that of the Emperor, it will be necessary to take an account of certain occurrences, very annoying to the pontiff, which were at this time taking place in Germany.

To meet the enormous expenses occasioned by his military operations and his general extravagance, Leo was obliged to tax to the utmost his ingenuity in raising money. One of the expedients to which he resorted was the imposition of tithes, on the pretext of a crusade against the Turks. But this extraordinary tax met with the most violent opposition. The nuncio sent to Spain to collect it was summarily driven from the country by Cardinal Ximenes, the Regent of the Kingdom. Other agents, sent through the different countries, returned empty handed.

This scheme for collecting money having thus signally failed, Leo next resorted to an expedient which was calculated to be more popular, since it appealed directly to the personal interest of every individual. He revived a practice instituted by the infamous Alexander VI the sale of indulgences, or the permission to commit sin. The system was organized on a vast scale. In every province he appointed farmers general, who kept their offices in churches or monasteries, and sold indulgences for the living and the dead; and in order that no village nor hamlet should escape his rapacity, he sent legions of mendicant monks, who traversed town and country armed with bulls, to levy contributions on the inhabitants. The following is the tenor of one of these remarkable forms of absolution, delivered by Arcembold, one of the farmer generals in Saxony :

"As our the Lord Jesus Christ absolves you by the merits of His passion, I, by His authority and that of the blessed apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, and that of our most holy father, absolve you from all ecclesiastical censures under which you may have fallen, from all sins, delinquencies, or excesses which you may have committed, or shall commit hereafter, how great soever they may be, and I make you a partaker in all the spiritual merits acquired by the Church militant or its members. I restore you to the holy sacraments, to the unity of the faithful, to purity and innocence as an infant newly born, who comes to receive baptism, so that the gate of hell shall be shut against you and that of paradise opened to you on your death."

It was charged, though perhaps maliciously, against John Tetzel, another vender of indulgences, who operated also in Saxony, that he went so minutely into the cynical details of the sins of which he could remit the penalties that his circular might well be regarded as obscene literature. It is not surprising that this scandalous financial measure of the Pope stirred profoundly the feelings of the more thoughtful. A universal cry of indignation was raised against the holy See. Bold men cried out to the people, "Draw away from the dominion of the Popes, those shameless thieves who have made the temple of Christ a cave of robbers."

Among the reformers who then arose, one became remarkable from the boldness of his denunciations, the vigor of his mind, the profundity of his thoughts, and his obstinate perseverance in the strife. He placed himself at the head of the religious movement, and widened the schism which was about to dispute the Empire of the world with the Papacy. This reformer was Martin Luther.

This indefatigable enemy of the Pope was born at Eisleben, in Saxony, November io, 1483. His father, a slate-cutter by trade, belonged to a family of free peasants. In his boyhood Martin displayed so much avidity for learning that his father resolved to make of him a lawyer. Having studied, first, in a Franciscan school at Magdeburg, and afterward at Eisenach, Luther took a bachelor's degree at Erfurt, at the age of nine-teen. At Erfurt the preaching of the town's pastor, Weisemann, and in particular his frequent exhortations to study the Scriptures, made a profound impression upon him. A dangerous illness, the death of a dear friend, and other circumstances, wrought so powerfully upon him in his pious mood, that he resolved to give up all his worldly prospects and to become a monk, and in June, 1505, he entered an Augustinian Monastery.

From this monastery Luther was sent to Witten-berg, to study theology. Here his talents caused him to be chosen a professor.

In 1510 Luther was deputed to look after the affairs of his order at the court of Julius IL "I was a witness," he says in one of his works, "of so many scandalous acts, that on the day of my departure I resolved to labor during my life for the overthrow of the Papacy, and the reform of abuses which had been introduced into religion by avaricious priests or depraved pontiffs."

Such was the temper of the man who, from the pulpit of Wittenberg, now raised a stentorian voice against Tetzel and his indulgences. He wrote anxiously to the Princes and Bishops to refuse the pardon-sellers a pas-sage through their lands, and finally unable to repress longer his indignation, he wrote out ninety-five propositions, or theses denouncing indulgences, and nailed the paper to the door of the Castle Church. This was done on the eve of All-Saints day, October 31, 1517, and this day stands marked in history as the birthday of the Reformation.

Leo, informed of these outrageous proceedings, summoned Luther to appear before him at Rome; but the elector of Saxony took him under his protection, and the matter was finally so adjusted that Luther was cited to appear for interrogation before the Pope's legate at Augsburg. The Pope was obliged to proceed with extreme caution, for it was clear that the people of Germany were in entire sympathy with Luther; his legate was told to be conciliatory. But in spite of this instruction, the proceedings at Augsburg were con-ducted in so harsh a manner, that Luther, conceiving himself to be in danger, left the town by stealth and returned to Wittenberg. Here he found the elector, in great anxiety over the receipt of an imperious letter from the cardinal legate at Augsburg. Luther offered to leave Saxony and retire into France, but the elector insisted upon his remaining in Germany. A new correspondence was opened with the Pope, the result of which was an arrangement that Luther should discuss the charges against him privately with another representative of the Pope. The new legate seems at this inter-view to have given up Tetzel and the indulgences, and to have agreed with much of Luther's theology; but he insisted that he had not been respectful to the Pope. The result of the interview was that Luther consented to write an apologetic and explanatory letter to the Pope; and it was further agreed that Luther should discontinue preaching or writing on controverted matters, so long as he himself was not attacked.

But a disturbing element arose to break this pact of harmony. Ulrich Zwingli, a curate of Zurich, emboldened by the example of Luther, preached in Switzerland on monastic vows, the saints, the ecclesiastical hierachy, the pontifical despotism, the sacraments, and especially that of penance. To meet and counteract the effects of this alarming and new defection, the Pope promulgated a decree of council, in which was reaffirmed the principal of Papal supremacy, and in particular the power of the Pope to remit the guilt and penalty of sins. Thus was the debated point again raised. At about the same time John Eck, in Germany, published thirteen theses against Luther, and challenged a friend and colleague of Luther, to a public disputation. Luther, considering that the terms of his compact with the Pope had been violated, now began again to let loose the thunder of his voice. He no longer confined himself to the narrow question of indulgences. He overhauled the entire history of the Church; brought to light all its irregularities; denied its authority over conscience, and ended by denouncing the Pope as anti-Christ.

It was just at the time when Luther was fulminating from his chair at Wittenberg these new and alarming doctrines, and was winning the applause of all Germany, that Charles V was elected Emperor. What were Charles' private views on the subject of this heated controversy, is a question of small importance. His attitude toward Luther would be determined entirely by political considerations. This circumstance was probably chief among those which determined Leo to seek an alliance with him rather than with Francis. With Charles with him, he might hope to quell the spirit of insubordination which had risen in Germany; but should he elect Francis, Charles could then employ Luther against him, as a most effective weapon, and Germany would be lost to the Church. In addition to this weighty reason there was another by no means inconsiderable. Leo was desirous of recovering Parma and Placentia, which he had been forced to yield to Francis. Charles readily consented to their restoration and further agreed that Milan should be left in the hands of an Italian Prince.

Having made this secret arrangement with the Emperor, Leo now sent to him a request to deliver Luther into his hands. Charles replied that in the existing state of feeling in Germany, such a course was impracticable, but that he would convene a diet at Worms, at which Luther should be put on trial. The diet was opened by Charles in January, 1521; but Luther was not called before it until the following April. Luther came to the diet under a safe-conduct granted by the Emperor, fully expecting a condemnation. Upon entering the judgment hall, he found his collected writings spread upon a table. Being asked by the Pope's nuncio, who presided at the trial, whether he would recant the doctrines set forth in them, he requested time for consideration, which was granted him. When he appeared before the diet on the following day, he had divided his writings into three classes, which he said must be considered separately. Those which he had written about faith and morals he could not retract, because even his enemies found in these nothing to condemn; those in which he had condemned the Papacy and Popish doings, he would not retract; those in which he had attacked private per-sons with perhaps more vehemence than was right though he could not retract these, he was ready to listen to any one who pointed out errors. Further interrogation followed; but before any action could be taken, the Emperor broke up the session of the diet. On the following day he sent for Luther and held with him a private interview, after which he permitted him to return under his safe-conduct to Wittenberg. So the trial before the diet at Worms came to naught. Luther, protected by the elector of Saxony, in concealment in the castle of Wartzburg, for some time disappeared from the world's view.

The Emperor, though he had extended a protecting hand to Luther, and was perhaps by no means desirous of seeing him fall into the power of the Pope, still found it politic for the purpose of stifling the complaints which the clergy on all sides were making against him, to issue a decree, in which he defined his position. He declared that he held Martin Luther as a heretic, and commanded him to be regarded as such by all his subjects, under the most severe penalties. He prohibited the printing, transcribing, or reading of any of his books or the abridgments published in various languages; and finally he formally prohibited the printing of any book on religious subjects, without its having been first submitted to the censor of the Pope. In this way Charles set himself right with Leo. Although Luther himself had escaped, the Pope had temporarily a victory by his outlawry.

Meanwhile, the combined forces of the Pope and the Emperor were successful in Italy. Milan was taken from Francis. Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, a cousin of the Pope, was himself on the field and entered the city with the conquering army. It was generally believed that Leo intended to confer upon this relative the duchy. Parma and Placentia were recovered, the French were compelled to withdraw, and Leo now saw executed the first part of the political scheme which he had in mind in forming his alliance with the Emperor.

The star of Leo seemed to be in the ascendant. The cloud which had gathered in Germany had been swept away; the disturber of the peace of the Church there, though not punished, was yet an outlaw and had hidden himself from sight. There was a prospect that the erring brethren in Germany would return penitent to the bosom of their mother, the Church. It is doubtful if Leo, engrossed with his political schemes, realized how mighty was the revolt which had been raised against him and which he was to bequeath to his successors. The news of the victory of Milan came to add to his elation. The message was brought to him in the evening, to his villa of Malliana. Abandoning himself to the engrossing thoughts which naturally arose from the happy termination of so important an enterprise, he imprudently paced to and fro until a late hour at night, before an open window, through which came a malarial air from the marshes. The next day he returned to Rome, some-what exhausted, but still in high spirits. The rejoicings there celebrated were not yet concluded, when he was taken ill and retired to his chamber. His illness had continued for a week without exciting serious apprehension, when suddenly his symptoms became alarming, and so swiftly did the end approach that he expired with-out having received the sacrament. There were suspicions of poison, but the circumstances have not been thought fully to have justified them. Leo died December 1, 1521, at the age of forty-four years, after having occupied the holy See eight years, eight months, and twenty days.

Leo X has been the subject of unstinted praise and of unmeasured censure, according to the point of view from which his life and character have been regarded. It is not necessary here to attempt to strike a balance between his good and his bad qualities. Of his failings, considered from a worldly point of view, his reckless extravagance was the most unfortunate. Its consequence in leading him to resort to the obnoxious sale of indulgences to replenish his treasury, has already been presented. At home it cost him the love of his people. The Roman populace could not forgive him for having spent so much money, and yet leaving so great debts.

They pursued his body to the grave with insults and reproaches. "Thou hast crept in like a fox," they ex-claimed, "like a lion hast thou ruled us, and like a dog thou hast died." After times, however, have designated a century and a great epoch by his name.

Men have questioned his title to this honor; and, indeed, it must not be forgotten that, while he was a generous patron of art and letters and deserving of all praise for recognizing and fostering merit wherever found, the real luster of the "Age of Leo" was shed upon it by the great masters Michael Angelo, Raphael, Ariosto whose transcendent genius required no patron and would have wrought the same had no Leo ever existed. As has been well remarked by Ranke, Leo X was peculiarly favored by circumstances. His character had been formed in the midst of those elements that fashioned the world of his day, and he had liberality of mind and susceptibility of feeling that fitted him for the furtherance of its progress and the enjoyment of its advantages. If he found pleasure in the efforts of those who were but imitators of the Latin, still more would the works of his contemporaries delight him. It was in his presence that the first tragedy was performed, and (despite the objections liable to be found in a play imitating Plautus) the first comedy also that was produced in the Italian language; there is, indeed, scarcely one that was not first seen by him. Ariosto was among the friends of his youth. Machiavelli composed more than one of his works expressly for him. His halls, galleries, and chapels were filled by Raphael, with the rich ideal of human beauty, and with the purest expression of life in its most varied forms. He was a passionate lover of music, a more scientific practice of which was then becoming diffused throughout Italy. The sounds of music were daily heard floating through the palace, Leo himself humming the airs that were performed. This may all be considered a sort of intellectual sensuality, but it is at least the only one which does not degrade the man. Leo X was full of kindness and ready sympathies. Rarely did he refuse a request, and when compelled to do so, evinced his reluctance by the gentlest expressions. He was fond of rural sports, and particularly of hunting and fishing. His favorite haunt in summer was his villa of Malliana, whither he was accompanied by the improvisatori and other men of light and agreeable talents capable of making every hour pass pleasantly. Toward winter he returned with his company to Rome, which was now in great prosperity, the number of its inhabitants having increased fully one-third within a few years. Here the mechanic found employment, the artist honor, and safety was assured to all. Never had the court been more animated, more graceful, more intellectual. In matters of festivities, whether spiritual or temporal, no cost was spared, nor was any expenditure found too lavish when the question was of amusements, theaters, presents, or marks of favor. But, as has been intimated already, this splendid court was characterized by a lack of religious sentiment and conviction quite out of harmony with the character of its presiding spirit as the head of the Christian Church. Philosophers disputed here as to whether the reasonable soul were really immaterial and immortal, but one single spirit only and common to mankind, or whether it were absolutely mortal; and Leo, far from discountenancing these discussions, took a part and a lively interest in them. A knowledge of these practices of Leo, and of his heterodox opinions on the subject of Christianity for there was no secret about the matter could not fail to add to the horror created in the minds of the sincerely pious by his claim to the power to remit the penalties of sin, and seemed to justify the name of anti-Christ, with which he was branded by the great German reformer.

Home | More Articles | Email: