Nicholas V (1397–1455)
Nicholas V (1397–1455)
Pope from 1447 until 1455 who resolved the long-standing conflict between the conciliar movement and the Papacy and whose efforts to restore classical Rome made him in the view of many historians the first “Renaissance pope.” Born as Tommaso Parentucelli, in Sarzana, a town near Genoa, he was the son of a physician and a talented scholar and linguist. He traveled to Florence, where he was hired as a tutor to the city's aristocratic families. After studying theology at the University of Bologna, he traveled throughout northern Europe as a scholar and book collector.
Nicholas was appointed as the bishop of Bologna in 1444. He was sent by Pope Eugene IV to the Holy Roman Empire in order to resolve the dispute between the pope and the emperor. His skillful diplomacy was rewarded with an appointment as cardinal and in 1446, as the successor to Eugene IV.
As pope, Nicholas's mission was to undo the work of the Council of Basel, whose delegates were asserting the primacy of church councils. He signed an important treaty known as the Concordat of Vienna with Frederick III, the king of Germany, who agreed that the council's decisions would have no effect in his lands. Nicholas made great efforts to resolve simony and other corrupt practices that were throwing the church into ill repute. Nicholas ended the long schism in the western church by convincing the last antipope, Felix V, to give up his claim to the Papacy in 1449. Nicholas crowned Frederick III as the Holy Roman Emperor in 1452, the last pope to carry out this service. In the same year, he wrote a papal decree, Dum Diversas, that allowed the king of Portugal to take non-Christians as slaves, thus giving the papal stamp of approval to the growing African slave trade.
Nicholas began the revival of culture and learning in the city of Rome. He re-built and repaired the city and aspired to make it a monument to the power and prestige of the popes. Rome's walls were fortified, its streets paved, its sewers and water systems repaired, and its ancient system of Roman aqueducts returned to service. He sponsored the work of scholars and copyists in bringing the works of ancient writers to light after centuries of neglect. Nicholas also established the Vatican Library, the largest repository of books in Europe.
See Also: Council of Basel; Fall of Constantinople; Papacy; slavery