Nicholas V.

pope, and the only pontiff of that name much deserving of notice, was originally named Thomas of Sarzana, and was born in 1398. He was the son of Barth. dei Parentucelli, a professor of arts and medicine in Pisa. His mother, Andreola, was a native of Sarzana, a small town on the borders of Tuscany, and the republic of Genoa, whence he derived his surname. In his seventh year his father died, and his mother marrying again, a man who had no affection for her offspring, his younger days were embittered by domestic neglect and harshness. He. obtained a friend, however, in cardinal Nicholas Albergati, who took him under his protection, and supplied him with whatever was necessary for pursuing his studies at the university of Bologna. At the age of twenty-four he enrolled himself in the priesthood, but continued to live in the family of his patron until the death of the latter, when his learning and virtues procured him another friend in the cardinal Gerard Andriani. By his means he was introduced to. the court of Eugenius IV. and employed in all the disputes between the Latins and Greeks at the councils ef Ferrara and Florence, for his admirable management of which he was rewarded in 1445 by the bishopric of Bologna. In 1446 he was promoted to the purple, and in March 1447 he was elevated to the papal throne, on which occasion he assumed the name of Nicholas V. The temporalties of the holy see being in a lamentable state of disorder, he had uncommon difficulties to struggle with, which, however, he encountered by a wise and temperate conduct. It was first his object to restore the finances, and to cultivate the arts of peace, which furnished him with the means of gratifying his passion for the encouragement of learning. Fostered by his patronage, the scholars of Italy no longer had reason to complain that they were doomed to obscurity and contempt. Nicholas invited to his court all those who were distinguished by their proficiency in ancient literature; and whilst he afforded them full scope for the exertion of their talents, he requited their labours by liberal remunerations. Poggio was one of those who experienced his kindest patronage.

In 1453 Nicholas received intelligence of the capture of Constantinople by Mahomet II. which some historians mention as the greatest affliction that befel the pope; but Gibbon, speaking on the subject, says, “Some states were too weak, and others too remote; by some the danger was | considered as imaginary, by others as inevitable: the western princes were involved in their endless and domestic quarrels; and the Roman pontiff was exasperated by the falsehood or obstinacy of the Greeks. Instead of employing in their favour the arms and treasures of Italy, Nicholas V, had foretold their approaching ruin, and his honour seemed engaged in the accomplishment of his prophecy. Perhaps he was softened by the last extremity of their distress, but his compassion was tardy: his efforts were faint and unavailing; and Constantinople had fallen before the squadrons of Genoa and Venice could sail from their harbours.” From this time he spent the remainder of his pontificate in endeavours to allay the civil wars and commotions which took place in Italy, to reconcile the Christian princes who were then at war with one another, and to unite them in one league against the enemies of the Christian church. But all his efforts being unsuccessful, the disappointment is said to have hastened his death, which happened March 24, 1455. “The fame of Nicholas V.” says Gibbon, who seems to have formed a just estimate, of the character of this pontiff, " has not been adequate to his merits. From a plebeian origin, he raised himself by his virtue and learning; the character of the man prevailed over the interest of the pope; and he sharpened those weapons which were soon pointed against the Roman church. He had been the friend of the most eminent scholars of the age; he became their patron; and ‘such was the humility of his manners, that the change was scarcely discernible either to them or to himself. If he pressed the acceptance of a liberal gift, it was not as the measure of desert, but as the proof of benevolence; and when modest merit declined his bounty, ’ accept it,‘ he would say, with a consciousness of his own worth, ’ you will not always have a Nicholas among you.‘ The influence of the holy see pervaded Christendom; and he exerted that influence in the search, not of benefices, but of books. From the ruins of the Byzantine libraries, from the’darkcst monasteries of Germany and Britain, he collected the dusty manuscripts of the writers of antiquity; and wherever the original could not be removed, a faithful copy was transcribed, and transmitted for use. The Vatican, the old repository for bulls and legends, for superstition and forgery, was daily replenished with more precious furniture; and such was the industry of Nicholas, that in a | reign of eight years he formed a library of 5000 volumes. To his munificence the Latin world was indebted for the versions of Xenophon, Diodorus, Polybius, Thucydides, Herodotus, and Appian; of Strabo’s Geography; of the Iliad; of the most valuable works of Plato and Aristotle; of Ptolemy and Theophrastus, and of the fathers of the Greek church. 1


Bower’s Hist, of the Popes.—Tiraboschi.—Gibbon’s Hist.—Shepherd’s Life of Poggio, p. 381, 409, 462.—Life by Georgi, Rome, 1742, 4to.