Julius II (Pope) (Giuliano Della Rovere; 1443–1513; Reigned 1503–1513)

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JULIUS II (POPE) (Giuliano della Rovere; 14431513; reigned 15031513)

JULIUS II (POPE) (Giuliano della Rovere; 14431513; reigned 15031513), Italian pope. Born at Albissola near Savona in 1443, Giuliano was a vigorous man, suited to a life of action, not contemplation, and destined for an ecclesiastical career under the aegis of his uncle, Francesco della Rovere, who became a cardinal in 1467. Like him, Giuliano was a Franciscan; he studied at a Franciscan friary in Perugia.

The election of his uncle to the papal throne as Sixtus IV (reigned 14711484) was swiftly followed in December 1471 by his own promotion to cardinal. Important benefices were bestowed on him, including the see of Avignon, as well as the major curial office of Grand Penitentiary. He welcomed the opportunities for action, including participation in military campaigns, offered by legations to Umbria in 1474 and to France in 14801482. His wealth, energy, increasing experience, and taste for politics made him one of the most powerful figures in the College of Cardinals; he was an influential adviser to Pope Innocent VIII (reigned 14841492) and a leader of the opposition to the Borgia pope, Alexander VI (reigned 14921503). Justifiably fearing arrest, he went into exile in France in 1494, and, after accompanying King Charles VIII of France (ruled 14831498) on his campaign to conquer the kingdom of Naples in 1494 to 1495, he did not return to Rome during Alexander's lifetime. He was elected pope on 31 October 1503, taking the title Julius II.

His choice of title has been seen as a desire to identify himself and the papacy with the imperial traditions of ancient Rome, an ambition that is often associated with his artistic commissions as pope. Although there is no direct evidence for this link, Julius II was undoubtedly one of the most important cultural patrons of Renaissance Italy. Among the major artists who worked for him were Michelangelo Buonarroti (14751564), from whom he commissioned the Sistine Chapel ceiling and his own tomb, Raphael Sanzio (14831520), who decorated Julius's apartments in the Vatican and painted his portrait, and Donato Bramante (14441514), whose projects for the pope included the Vatican courtyard and the new St. Peter's, which replaced the crumbling old basilica.

His most consistent political aim as pope was to bring the Papal States more firmly under the control of the papacy; he took personal command of some of the military operations that these aims involved. His efforts to prevent the Venetians from extending their influence in the northern Papal States brought him to participate in the League of Cambrai of 1509, and the subsequent war against Venice in 15091510. Having achieved his aims, he made peace with Venice and turned his attention to reducing the power in Italy of his former ally, Louis XII of France (ruled 14981515); he was a member of the coalition that drove the French out of the duchy of Milan in 1512.

Julius's initiatives in Italian politics and his personal participation in military campaigns shaped his reputation, both among his contemporaries and posthumously. He has been criticized by some patriotic Italians for his part in the war against Venice and lauded by others for his reputed determination to expel the "barbarians" from Italy. In practice, he was prepared to ally himself with the "barbarians" of France, Spain, and Germany when it suited his purposes, but he did not want them to form independent links with his own subjects. His penchant for military life was seen as unfitting for a pope, although his resolution and physical courage were admired by some. The image of Julius leading an army to the gates of heaven to demand entrance and being turned away by St. Peter, in the c. 1513 satirical dialogue Julius Exclusus 'Julius Excluded from Heaven' attributed to Desiderius Erasmus (1466?1536), has had an enduring influence.

Julius himself regarded the recovery of the territory of the church and the defense of the independence of the Papal States, by war if need be, as prime duties of the pope. Although his outbursts of rage and heavy drinking attracted ridicule, he was conscious of the dignity of his office and careful to fulfill his religious duties. Nevertheless, his behavior gave Louis XII and the Emperor Maximilian I (ruled 14931519) an opportunity to seek his deposition from the papacy. They used dissident cardinals to call a general council of the church that opened in Pisa in 1511; this attracted little support. The summons by Julius of the Fifth Lateran Council may have been a riposte to this, but once it assembled in 1512, he insisted that it should give serious consideration to the reform of the church. Julius died during the night of 20 February 1513.

See also Cambrai, League of (1508) ; Charles VIII (France) ; Louis XII (France) ; Michelangelo Buonarroti ; Papacy and Papal States ; Raphael.


Primary Source

Sowards, J. Kelley, ed. The Julius Exclusus of Erasmus. Bloomington, Ind., 1968.

Secondary Sources

Partridge, Loren, and Randolph Starn. A Renaissance Likeness: Art and Culture in Raphael's "Julius II." Berkeley, 1980.

Shaw, Christine. Julius II: The Warrior Pope. Oxford, 1993.

Christine Shaw

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Julius II (Pope) (Giuliano Della Rovere; 1443–1513; Reigned 1503–1513)

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