Pope Sixtus IV

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POPE SIXTUS IV
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POPE SIXTUS IV STATS
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Name: Francesco della Rovere
Born: 21 July 1414
Home town: Savona
Died: 12 August 1484
Position: Held Papacy from 9 August 1471 until 12 August 1484
House of: Rovere
Nickname:
Personality type: An astute theologian.
Hobbies:
Strength(s): Strict in his personal life but ruthlessly determined and unscrupulous. He drew to Rome the greatest painters and sculptors, improved church music and founded the Sistine choir, established the Vatican Archives.
Weakness(es): Nepotism
Quirks:



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POPE SIXTUS IV BIO
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Born at Celle, near Savona, of impoverished parents on 21 July 1414, Francesco della Rovere was educated by the Franciscans, and joined the order early, and after studying at Bologna and Padua, lectured at several universities. A sought after preacher, he was also an astute theologian who wrote treatise on issues dividing the Franciscans and the Dominicans. After serving as provincial of Liguria, he was elected general of his order on 19 May 1464; on 18 September 1467 he was promoted cardinal of San Pietro in Vincoli on the recommendation of the Greek John Bessarion, who admired his scholarship. In the indecision following Paul II's sudden death he emerged as the unexpected favourite of the conclave. His election was assisted by the Duke of Milan, who strongly backed it, and the preferments promised by his nephew Pietro Riario
, who acted as his attendant, to leading cardinals. Strict in his personal life but ruthlessly determined and unscrupulous about means, he inaugurated a line of pontiffs who systematically secularised the papacy.

Initially he was enthusiastic for a crusade against the Turks and spent lavishly on equipping a fleet, but in spite of his appeals the European power hung back, and his fleet only achieved modest successes in the Aegean, taking part, e.g. in landings at Smyrna (Izmir) in 1472. He proclaimed another crusade in 1481, when Otranto on the Italian mainland fell to the Turks (11 August 1480), but its recovery in September 1482 owed more to the sudden death of Sultan Mehmet II (3 May) than to the papal galleys. His relations were strained with Louis XI of France (1461-83), who firmly upheld the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438) and whose ordinance (8 January 1475) requiring royal approval for the publication of papal decrees in France he denounced. He continued (1474 and 1476) Paul II's negotiations with Ivan III of Russia (1462 - 1505) for the reunion of the Russian church with Rome, and also for Russian support against the Turks, but to no avail. A loyal Franciscan, he greatly increased the privileges of the mendicant orders, approved (1476) the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with its own mass and office, and canonised (1482) the theologian Bonaventura (d1274). On 1 November 1478, at the request of the Catholic kings (including Ferdinand II of Aragon), he set up the Spanish Inquisition, in 1482 - 1483 sought to check its abuses, and in 1483 confirmed Tomas de Torquemada (1420 - 1498) as grand inquisitor. In 1478 he annulled the decrees of the Council of Constance (1414 - 1417).

To Sixtus, however, the routine business of the Holy See took second place to the aggrandisement of the papal state and of his own family. Soon after his election, flouting his election oath, he made two youthful nephews, Pietro Riario and Giuliana della Rovere (later Julius II), cardinals, loading them with lucrative preferments. A swarm of other relatives were enriched and advanced on a completely unprecedented scale. When Pietro succumbed to his dissipations in 1474, his place of sinister influence was taken by his brother Girolamo, now a Count and married to Caterina Sforza a daughter of Duke Galeazzo Sforza of Milan (1447 - 1476). Men of demonic energy, he and Giuliano involved the pope, often feigning to protest, in the disputes and turmoils of Italian politics. The most disreputable affair into which Girolamo dragged Sixtus was the Pazzi conspiracy of 1478, in which the murder of Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici was planned and of which the pope, even if he did not give his consent to the bloodshed, was fully cognizant. Lorenza escaped wounded, but Giuliano was killed. As a consequence Sixtus entered into a fruitless and inglorious was with Florence (1478 - 1480), and then, at the prompting of Girolamo, incited the Venetians to attack Ferrara; in 1483 he changed sides and turned against Venice, imposing spiritual penalties on it. The peace of Bagnolo of 1484 did not bring the territorial gains in Romagna he and his nephews were hoping for, instead dangerous risings in Rome and Latium. What with his costly military and building operations as well as the demands of is greedy relatives, papal expenditure increased enormously during his reign, and in spite of creating new, highly dubious sources of revenue and exploiting the granting of indulgences he left a huge deficit to his successor. The widespread disquiet at the abuses of the papal court found an outlet in March 1482 when a reform minded archbishop, the Croatian Andrea Zamometic, in earlier days Sixtus's friend, made an abortive attempt to reconvene the Council of Basel (1431 - 1449) and have him suspended until it had passed judgement on him. Sixtus responded in 1483 with a renewed ban on appeals to general councils. His death next year was said to have been hastened by vexation at having peace forced on him by the princes and cities of Italy.

Most of the thirty four cardinals he created (six of them nephews) were men of little worth. A more attractive aspect of his chosen role as a Renaissance prince was is munificence as a founder and restorer of useful institutions and as a patron of letters and art. He transformed Rome from a medieval into a Renaissance city, opening up new streets and widening and paving old ones, building the Ponte Sisco, erecting churches - Santa Maria della Pace, the Sistine Chapel with its walls painted by Umbrian masters (Pietro Perugino, Botticelli ) - and restoring the Ospedale di Santa Spirito. He drew to Rome the greatest painters and sculptors, improved church music and founded the Sistine choir, established the Vatican Archives, and was the second founder of the Vatican Library. His tomb, in the Vatican Grottoes, is a masterpiece in bronze by Antonio del Pollaiuolo.


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CONTEMPORARY VOICES
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POPE SIXTUS IV QUOTES
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POPE SIXTUS IV TRIVIA
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  • The Gregorian calendar used by most parts of the world today is not very old. In 1472 Sixtus IV asked an astronomer to reform the Julian calendar, which had been used since 46 BC and was 11 minutes 15 seconds too long every year. By the 15th century the true vernal equinox was 9 days before 21 March.
  • Although Sixtus IV has been accused of having had male lovers, there appears to be little to substantiate such claims other than the diary records of Stefano Infessura He was accused of awarding benefices and bishoprics in return for sexual favours, and nominated a number of young men as cardinals, some of whom were celebrated for their looks.


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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND MATERIALS
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BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS WEBSITES & MEDIA
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Popes by JND Kelly
  • The Popes by John Julius Norwich
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