Leo X.

was a pontiff whose history is so connected with that of literature and the reformation, that more notice | of him becomes necessary than we usually allot to his brethren, although scarce any abridgment of his life will be thought satisfactory, after the very luminous and interesting work of Mr. Roscoe. Leo was born at Florence in December 1475, the second son of Lorenzo de Medici, the Magnificent, and was christened John. Being originally destined by his father for the church, he was prorooted before he knew what it meant, received the tonsure at the age of seven years, two rich abbacies, and before he ceased to he a boy, received other preferments to the number of twenty-nine, and thus early imbibed a taste for aggrandizement which never left him. Upon the accession of Innocent VIII. to the pontificate, John, then thirteen years of age only, was nominated to the dignity of cardinal. Having now secured his promotion, his father began to think of his education, and when he was nominated to the cardinalate, it was made a condition that he should spend three years at the university of Pisa, in professional studies, before he was invested formally with the purple. In 145>2 this solemn act took place, and he immediately went to reside at Rome as one of the sacred college. His father soon after died, and was succeeded in his honours in the Florentine republic by his eldest son Peter. The young cardinal’s opposition to the election of pope Alexander VI. rendered it expedient for him to withdraw to Florence, and at the invasion of Italy by Charles VIII. he and the whole family were obliged to take refuge in Bologna. About 1500 he again fixed his residence at Rome, where he resided during the remainder of Alexander’s pontificate, and likewise in the early part of that of Julius II. cultivating polite literature, and the pleasures of elegant society, and indulging his taste for the fine arts, for music, and the chase, to which latter amusement he was much addicted. In 1505 he began to take an active part in public affairs, and was appointed by Julius to the government of Perugia. By his firm adherence to the interest of the pope, the cardinal acquired the most unlimited confidence of his holiness, and was entrusted with the supreme direction of the papal army in the Holj League against the French in 1511, with the title of legate of Bologna. At the bloody battle of Ravenna, in 1512, he was made prisoner, and wos conveyed to Milan, but afterwards effected his escape. About this time he contributed to the restoration of his family at Florence, by overthrowing the popular “constitution of that republic, | and there he remained until the death of Julius II. in 1513, when he was elected pope in his stead, in the thirty-eighth year of his age. He assumed the name of Leo X. and ascended the throne with greater manifestations of goodwill, both from Italians and foreigners, than most of his predecessors had enjoyed. One of his first acts was to interpose in favour of some conspirators against the house of Medici, at Florence, and he treated with great kindness the family of Sodorini, which had long been at the head of the opposite party in that republic. He exhibited his taste for literature by the appointment of two of the most elegant scholars of the age, Bembo and Sadoleti, to the ffice of papal secretaries. With regard to foreign politics, he pursued the system of his predecessor, in attempting to free Italy from the dominion of foreign powers: and in order to counteract the antipapal council of Pisa, which was assembled at Lyons, he renewed the meetings of the council of Lateran, which Julius II. had begun, and he had the good fortune to terminate a division which threatened a schism in the church. Lewis XII. who had incurred ecclesiastical censure, made a formal submission, and received absolution. Having secured external tranquillity, Leo did not delay to consult the interests of literature by an ample patronage of learned studies. He restored to its former splendour the Roman gymnasium or university, which he effected by new grants of its revenues and privileges, and by filling its professorships with eminent men invited from all quarters. The study of the Greek language was a very particular object of his encouragement. Under the direction of Lascaris a college of noble Grecian youths was founded at Rome for the purpose of editing Greek authors; and a Greek press was established in that city. Public notice was circulated throughout Europe, that all persons who possessed Mss. of ancient authors would be liberally rewarded on bringing or sending them to the pope. Leo founded the first professorship in Italy of the Syriac and Chaldaic languages in the university of Bologna. With regard to the politics of the times, the pope had two leading objects in view, viz. the maintenance of that balance of power which might protect Italy from the over-bearing influence of any foreign potentate; and the aggrandizement of the house of Medici. When Francis I. succeeded to the throne of France, it was soon apparent that there would necessarily be a new war in the north of Italy.’ Leo attempted to remain neuter, winch. | being found to be impracticable, he joined the emperor, the Swiss, and other sovereigns against the French king and the state of Venice. The rapid successes of the French arms soon brought him to hesitate, and after the Swiss army had been defeated, the pope thought it expedient to abandon his allies, and form an union with the king of France. These two sovereigns, in the close of 1515, had an interview at Bologna, when the famous Pragmatic Sanction was abolished, and a concordat established in it stead. The death of Leo’s brother left his nephew Lorenzo the principal object of that passion for aggrandizing his family, which this pontiff felt full as strongly as any one of his predecessors, and to gratify which he scrupled no acts of injustice and tyranny. In 1516 he issued a monitory against the duke of Urbino, and upon his non-appearance, an excommunication, and then seized his whole territory, with which, together with the ducal title, he invested his nephew. In the same year a general pacification took place, though all the efforts of the pope were made to prevent it. In 1517 the expelled duke of Urbino collected an army, and, by rapid movements, completely regained his capital and dominions. Leo, excessively chagrined at this event, would gladly have engaged a crusade of all Christian princes against him. By an application, which nothing could justify, of the treasures of the church, he raised a considerable army, under the command of his nephew, and compelled the duke to resign his dominion, upon what were called honourable terms. The violation of the safe conduct, granted by Lorenzo to the duke’s secretary, who was seized at Rome, and put to torture, in order to oblige him to reveal his master’s secrets, imprints on the memory of Leo X. an indelible stain. In the same year his life was endangered by a conspiracy formed against him, in which the chief actor was cardinal Petrucci. The plan failed, and the cardinal, being decoyed to Rome, from whence he had escaped, was put to dt-ath; and his agents, as many as were discovered, were executed with horrid tortures. The conduct of Leo on this occasion was little honourable to his fortitude or clemency, and it was believed that several persons suffered as guilty who were wholly innocent of the crimes laid to their charge. To secure himself for the future, the pope, by a great stretch of his high authority, created in one day thirty-one nevr cardinals, many of them his relations and friends, who had not even risen in the.church to the dignity of. the episcopal | office; but many persons also, who, from their talents and virtues, were well worthy of his choice. He bestowed upon them rich benefices and preferments, as well in the remote parts of Christendom, as in Italy, and thus formed a numerous and splendid court attached to his person, and adding to the pomp and grandeur of the capital. During the pontificate of Leo X. the reformation under Luther took its rise, humanly speaking, from the following circumstances. The unbounded profusion of this pope had rendered it necessary to devise means for replenishing his exhausted treasury; and one of those which occurred was the sale of indulgences, which were sold in Germany with such ridiculous parade of their efficacy, as to rouse the spirit of Luther, who warmly protested against this abuse in his discourses, and in a letter addressed to the elector of Mentz. He likewise published a set of propositions, in which he called in question the authority of the pope to remit sins, and made some very severe strictures on this method of raising money. His remonstrances produced considerable effect, and several of his cloth undertook to refute him. Leo probably regarded theological quarrels with contempt, and from his pontifical throne looked down upon the efforts of a German doctor with scorn; even when his interference was deemed necessary, he was inclined to lenient measures. At length, at the express desire of the emperor Maximilian, he summoned Luther to appear before the court of Rome. Permission was, however, granted for the cardinal of Gaeta to hear his defence at Augsburg. Nothing satisfactory was determined, and the pope, in 1518, published a bull, asserting his authority to grant indulgences, which would avail both the living, and the dead in purgatory. Upon this, the reformer appealed to a general council, and thus open war was declared, in which the abettors of Luther appeared with a strength little calculated upon by the court of Rome. The sentiments of the Christian world were not at all favourable to that court.” The scandal,“says the biographer,” incurred by the infamy of Alexander VI., and the violence of Julius II., was not much alleviated in the reign of a pontiff who was characterized by an inordinate love of pomp and pleasure, and whose classical taste even caused him to be regarded by many as more of a heathen than a Christian."

The warlike disposition of Selim. the reigning Turkish | emperor, excited great alarms in Europe, and gave occasion to Leo to attempt a revival of the ancient crusades, by means of an alliance between all Christian princes; he probably hoped, by this show of zeal for the Christian cause, that he should recover some of his lost credit as head of the church. He had, likewise, another object in view, viz. that of recruiting his finances, by the contributions which his emissaries levied upon the devotees in different countries. By the death of Maximilian in 1519, a competition for the imperial crown between Charles V. and Francis 1. took place. Leo was decidedly against the claims of both the rival candidates, and attempted to raise a competitor in one of the German princes, but he was unable to resist the fortune of Charles. At this period he incurred a very severe domestic misfortune in the death of his nephew Lorenzo, who left an infant daughter, afterwards the celebrated Catherine de Medicis, the queen and regent of France. The death of Lorenzo led to the immediate annexation of the duchy of Urbino, with its dependencies, to the Roman see, and to the appointment of Julius, Leo’s cousin, to the supreme direction of the state of Florence. The issue of his contest with Luther will occur hereafter in our account of that reformer. It may here, however, be noticed that Leo conferred on Henry VIII. of England, the title of “Defender of the Faith,” for his appearance on the side of the church as a controversial writer. The tranquil state of Italy, at this period, allowed the pope to indulge his taste for magnificence in shows and spectacles. His private hours were chiefly devoted to indolence, or to amusements, frequently of a kind little suited to the dignity of his high station. He was not, however, so much absorbed in them as to neglect the aggrandizement of his family and see. Several cities and districts in the vicinity of the papal territories, and to which the church had claims, had been seized by powerful citizens, or military adventurers; some of these the pope summoned to his court to answer for their conduct; which not being able to do, he caused them to be put to death. Having next set his heart on the possession of the territory of Ferrara, he had recourse to treachery, and is thought to have even meditated the assassination of the duke, but his plot being discovered by the treachery of one whom he had bribed, he was disappointed in his plans. Another of his designs was the expulsion of the French from Italy,* and he had | made some progress in this when he was seized with an illness which put an end to his life in a few days. He died Dec. 1, 1521, in the forty-sixth year of his age.

From the preceding circumstances, gleaned from Mr. Roscoe’s elaborate account of Leo, a judgment may be formed of his character, in which, although some things may have been exaggerated by the enemies of the Romish church, enough remains uncontested to prove that he had many of the worst vices, and, when it became necessary to his aggrandizement, practised the worst crimes of his predecessors. His biographer, by embodying the history of literature and the arts in the life of Leo, one of the most pleasing and truly valuable parts of the work, has, we think, failed, in attributing much of their advancement to Leo. And indeed it has been too much a fashion to speak of the “age of Leo” as of a glorious period which his patronage created. Too much stress, perhaps, is frequently laid on patronage; and we ought to hesitate in declaring how much it has produced, when we consider how much in all ages has been produced without it. But Leo’s patronage was not general, for it excluded Ariosto and Erasmus, two of the greatest men of the age; nor was it judicious in selection, for he bestowed it on such worthless characters as Aretin and Niso, not to speak of a number of less known characters, whose merit rises no higher than that of being able to write amorous Italian sonnets, and panegyrical Latin verses. With respect to the arts, it has been justly remarked, that when he ascended the throne they were at their meridian. He found greater talents than he employed, and greater works commenced than he completed. Leonard Da Vinci, Michael Angelo, and Raffaello, performed their greatest works before the accession of Leo X.; Bramante, the architect of St. Peter’s, died in the second year of his pontificate; and Da Vinci and Michael Angelo shared none of his favours. It is from his attachment to Raflfaello that he derives his strongest claims as a patron of art; yet a part of his conduct to this great artist makes us question whether Leo had a refined taste. Raffaello made thirteen cartoons of religious subjects to complete the decoration of the hall of Constantine, and had sent them into Flanders, to be returned in worsted copies, without any care to preserve the originals, nor any inquiry made concerning them after the subjects were manufactured into tapestry. By accident, seven of these are | yet to be seen in this country, and may enable us to estimate the taste of the pontiff who could so easily forget them. Yet Leo must not be deprived of the merit that justly belongs to him. He drew together the learned men of his time, and formed eminent schools, and he did much in promoting the art of printing, then of incalculable importance to literature. In these respects, and upon account of the share he had in precipitating the reformation, his short pontificate of eight years and eight months must be allowed to form one of the most interesting periods in papal history, and worthy of the illustration it has received. 1


Roscoe’s Life. Abridgement in Reei’s Cyclopædia. Duppa’s Life of Michael Angelo, p. 60 et seqq.