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  (Clement VII) de' Medici, Giulio di Giuliano
NameGiulio di Giuliano (Clement VII) de' Medici
Florence, , Italy
Born May 26, 1478
DiedSeptember 25, 1534 (56 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedThomas Walker
Dec 01, 2005 01:20pm
InfoClement VII, né Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici (May 26, 1478 – September 25, 1534) was pope from 1523 to 1534. He was an illegitimate son of Giuliano de' Medici, who was assassinated in the Pazzi Conspiracy; he was thus the nephew of Lorenzo de' Medici and cousin of Pope Leo X. Upon the latter's accession to the Papacy, Giulio became his principal minister and confidant, especially in the maintenance of the Medici interest at Florence. At Leo's death, Cardinal Medici, though unable to gain the Papacy for himself or his ally Alessandro Farnese (both candidates of Emperor Charles V), took a leading part in determining the unexpected election of the short-lived Pope Adrian VI, whom he succeeded in the next conclave (November 19, 1523).

He brought to the Papal throne a high reputation for political ability, and possessed in fact all the accomplishments of a wily diplomatist. However, he was considered worldy and indifferent to what went on around him, including the ongoing Protestant reformation.

At his accession Clement sent Nicholas of Schomberg, archbishop of Capua to the kings of France, Spain and England, in order to brought to a peace the war then raging Europe. But his attempt failed. The Francis I's conquest of Milan in 1524 prompted Clement to quit the Imperial-Spanish side and to ally himself with other Italian princes and France in the January of 1525. This treaty granted the definitive acquisition of Parma and Piacenza for the Papal States, the rule of Medici over Florence and the free passage of the French troops to Naples. This policy in itself was sound and patriotic, but Clement's zeal soon cooled; by his want of foresight and unseasonable economy he laid himself open to an attack from the turbulent Roman barons, which obliged him to invoke the mediation of the Emperor. One month later, however, Francis was crushed and emprisoned in the Battle of Pavia, and Clement veered back to his former engagements with Charles, signing an alliance with the viceroy of Naples.

But he was to change again side when Francis was freed after the Peace of Madrid (January 1526): the Pope enetered in the League of Cognac together with France, Venice and Francesco Sforza of Milan. Clement issued an invective against Charles, who in reply defined him a "wolf" instead of a "shepherd", menacing the summoning of a council about the Lutheran question. The Clement's waveing politics caused also the rise of the Imperial party inside the Curia: Cardinal Pompeo Colonna's soldiers pillaged the Vatican and gained control of the whole Rome in his name. The humiliated Clement promised therefore to bring again the Papal States on the Imperial side. But soon after Colonna left the siege and went to Naples he didn't mantain his promises, dismissing the Cardinal from his charge. From this point on Clement could only follow the fate of the French party to end.

Soon he found himself alone in Italy too, as the duke of Ferrara had sided with the Imperial army, permitting to the hord of Landsknechts led by Charles, Duke of Bourbon, and Georg von Frundsberg, to reach Rome without harm.

Charles of Bourbon died during the long siege, and his troops, unpaid and left without a guide, felt free to ravage Rome from May 6, 1527. The innumerable series of murders, rapes and vandalisms that followed ended forever the splendours of the Renaissance Rome. Clement, who had displayed no more resolution in his military than in his political conduct, was shortly afterwards (June 5) obliged to surrender himself together with the castle of Sant'Angelo, where he had taken refuge. Here he was kept as a prisoner for six months. After having bought some Imperial officers, he could escape disguised as a pedlar and took shelter in Orvieto, and then in Viterbo. He come back in Rome, depopulated and devastated, only in the October of 1528.

Meanwhile, in Florence, Republican enemies of the Medici took advantage of the chaos to again expel the Pope's family from the city.

In the June of the following year the warring parts signed the Peace of Barcellona. The Papal States regained some cities and Charles V agreed to restore the Medici to power in Florence. In 1530, after an eleven-month siege, the Tuscan city capitulated, and Clement VII installed his illegitimate son Alessandro as Duke. Subsequently the Pope followed a policy of subservience to the Emperor, endeavouring on the one hand to induce him to act with severity against the Lutherans in Germany, and on the other to elude his demands for a general council.

One momentous consequence of this dependence on Charles was the breach with England occasioned by Clement's refusal in 1533, justifiable in point of principle, but dictated by no higher motive than his fear of offending the Emperor, to sanction Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Clement used various stalling tactics and delays. He paid spies to steal Henry VIII's love letters to his fiancée, Anne Boleyn, to prove that they were lovers. However, no evidence could be uncovered and even Clement had to grudgingly admit that all impartial evidence from England suggested that Anne Boleyn was strong-willed but morally upright. It was only when rumours began to suggest that Anne had secret Lutheran sympathies that the Pope turned totally against her. Clement's procrastination on the issue ultimately resulted in the establishment of the independent Church of England.

Towards the end of his reign Clement once more gave indications of a leaning towards a French alliance, which was prevented by his death in September 1534. His death was caused by eating the death cap mushroom, the most poisonous mushroom known; he was buried in Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

As a man he possessed few virtues and few vices; as a pontiff he did nothing to disgrace the Church and nothing to restore its lustre; his adroitness and dexterity as a statesman were counterbalanced by his suspicion and irresolution; his administration offers proof that at times of historical crises, mediocrity in character is more disastrous than in talent. As for arts, Clement VII is remembered to have ordered Michelangelo the painting of his Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, just some days before his death.



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