Paul III (Pope) (Alessandro Farnese; 1468–1549; Reigned 1534–1549)

views updated May 23 2018

PAUL III (POPE) (Alessandro Farnese; 14681549; reigned 15341549)

PAUL III (POPE) (Alessandro Farnese; 14681549; reigned 15341549), Italian ecclesiastic. Born 29 February 1468 at Canino in Latium of noble parents and in comfortable circumstances, Paul was educated in Rome by humanists Pompeo Leto and Giovanni Battista Pio and studied at the University of Pisa and at the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent. In 1493 Pope Alexander VI (reigned 14921503) elected him cardinal-deacon. He was ordained a priest in 1519, before which time he had four illegitimate children. He held bishoprics in Parma and Ostia, was made dean of the Sacred College by Leo X (reigned 15131521), and was elected pope on 13 October 1534. He died on 10 November 1549.

Paul's complex personality and decisions as pope typified a prince of the High Renaissance. Reflecting his sense of self-importance, his pontificate was given to the wholesale aggrandizement of his family: family members received key ecclesiastical positions, benefices, and lands. His pontificate also occurred when the Roman Church instituted new measures to check Lutheranism in Italy and northern Europe. A shrewd administrator who selected many men of talent (among them, cardinals Gasparo Contarini, Reginald Pole, and Giovanni Morone), Paul grasped the urgency for ecclesiastical reform, especially after the devastating sack of Rome (1527). Early on, he set up a reform commission to identify abuses in the church "in head and members" (1537); its private memorandum (Concilium de Emendanda Ecclesia) fell into the hands of Protestants and caused embarrassment, but it identified key abuses the Council of Trent would later address (such as episcopal absence and plurality of benefices). Frustrated after sending legates to Regensburg (Ratisbon) in 1541 to debate with Lutherans on theological questions such as transubstantiation, free will, and justification, he took more direct action. In 1542, he established the Roman Inquisition to check the spread of Lutheranism in Italy. Foremost in his mind was a general council of the church to clarify doctrine and correct abuses; after numerous delays, the council opened at Trent (15451563); Paul saw completed the council's first session (15451546).

Unyielding on papal authority, he gained a reputation early as an effective diplomat and negotiator for Julius II (reigned 15031513), Leo X, and Clement VII (reigned 15231534), distinguishing himself as a person acceptable to all political factions. As pope, he maintained frank and at times tense relations with Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (ruled 15191558), but supported him in his military efforts to defeat the Protestant princes, even allying with him in 1546 against the Protestant Schmalkaldic League. He kept up cordial ties with Francis I (ruled 15151547), king of France, throughout the latter's perpetual antagonism with the emperor. Paul succeeded in bringing both parties to a truce long enough to open the Council of Trent. He urged a crusade against the Turks and chastised Henry VIII of England (ruled 15091547), though he grew frustrated after repeated efforts to resolve Henry's break with Rome.

In 1540 Paul confirmed the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). He supported the work of new religious orders such as the Barnabites, Capuchins, Theatines, Ursulines, and Somaschi. He also urged relations with the Armenian and Maronite churches, supported missionary work in Africa and the Americas, and forbade enslaving the American Indians.

Paul III, a liberal patron of education and the arts, gave generously to both these causes by rebuilding the University of Rome, bringing in scholars (such as Romolo Amaseo, teacher of rhetoric), donating books and manuscripts to the Vatican Library, and commissioning urban renewal, buildings, and artistic works, most notably the Palazzo Farnese on the Via Giulia, the renovation of the Campidoglio, the Castel Sant'Angelo, and the frescoes of the Sala Regia and the Capella Paolina. He commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Last Judgment for the Sistine Chapel, and appointed him to carry on as architect of the new Saint Peter's Basilica after the death of Antonio da Sangallo.

See also Inquisition, Roman ; Papacy and Papal States ; Rome, Sack of ; Trent, Council of .


Hudon, William V. "Paul III (153449)." In The Great Popes through History: An Encyclopedia, edited by Frank J. Coppa. Vol. 1, pp. 307314. Westport, Conn., 2002.

Pastor, Ludwig von. The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages. Vols. XIXII. St. Louis, 1929.

Frederick J. McGinness

Paul III (1468–1549)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Paul III (14681549)

Pope of the Catholic Church from 1534 until his death in 1549. Born Alessandro Farnese in Canino, in the Latium region surrounding Rome, he was the scion of a wealthy family who was educated in Rome by humanist scholars and in Florence, where he was tutored at the court of Lorenzo de' Medici. He entered the service of the church but remained a devoted scholar of the classics and a friend to many of Europe's leading artists, writers, university professors, and collectors. In 1493, he was appointed a cardinal by Pope Alexander VI. He was ordained as a priest in 1519, but in the meantime had fathered four children, whose careers he was determined to advance through his position in the church. He became dean of the College of Cardinals and in 1534, after the death of Clement VII, was elected to the Papacy.

Paul III came to office at a time when the Catholic hierarchy was dealing with a spreading Protestant Reformation in northern Europe. To deal with the demands for reform of a church that many saw as corrupt and worldly, he appointed capable ministers and assembled a committee of nine church leaders to make recommendations for reform. One of his first important acts in office was to convene a general council at Mantua, but when German Protestants refused to attend, the pope canceled the council and waited nearly ten years to finally assemble the Council of Trent. He sent representatives to debate with Protestants in Regensburg, Germany, with the intention of reconciling Protestant and Catholic branches of the Christian faith, with the eventual goal of bringing Protestants back under papal authority within the traditional church. To this end, he founded the Congregation of the Holy Office, also known as the Roman Inquisition, in order to try cases of heresy. During his tenure, the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, was established in order to teach Catholic doctrine to students, carry out the Catholic Reformation in Europe, and enforce the church's missionary activities in the new colonies of Asia and the Americas. (For one, Paul decreed that Native Americans should not be taken as slaves.) Taking more direct action, Paul allied the Papacy with Emperor Charles V in his campaigns to smash the Schmalkaldic League of Protestant German princes.

Determined to return Rome to its role as a leading city of the arts and scholarship, Paul hired Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the giant fresco known as The Last Judgment on a wall of the Sistine Chapel. Paul ordered the renovation of ancient monuments in Rome, such as the Castel Sant' Angelo and the Roman monuments of the Capitoline Hill. He was also responsible for the building of the massive Palazzo Farnese in central Rome, a magnificent Renaissance palace that currently houses the embassy of France. Like other Renaissance popes, however, Paul saw the Papacy as an opportunity to enrich and empower his close relatives, who received appointments in the church, land, and other property.

See Also: Paul IV; Reformation, Catholic; Reformation, Protestant

Paul III

views updated May 21 2018

Paul III

Paul III (1468-1549) was pope from 1534 to 1549. He was a man of keen intelligence, intense energy, and dogged tenacity. His pontificate was somewhat equivocal, stamped at once with a lingering Renaissance mentality and the strong new impulse toward religious renewal.

Alessandro Farnese, who became Paul III, was born on Feb. 29, 1468, in Canino into one of the more powerful Renaissance families of northern Italy. After his education in Rome and in Florence at the court of Lorenzo de' Medici, he entered the service of the Church. Created a cardinal in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI, he continued his warm friendships with artists, scholars, and humanists. He was ordained in 1519. In the conclaves of 1521 and 1523 he was almost elected to the papacy. This office he received on Oct. 13, 1534.

During his 15 years as pope, Paul III created a new atmosphere about the papacy. He raised to the College of Cardinals most exemplary men, such as Marcello Cervini (who became Marcellus II), Reginald Pole, Giampietro Carafa (later Paul IV), and Gasparo Contarini. In 1526 Paul inaugurated the incisive review of the central problem of reform in the Church known as the Consilium de emandanda ecclesia. In 1542 he founded the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition, or the Holy Office, as the final court of appeal in trials of heresy. He encouraged many new religious communities and gave papal approbation of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1540 and of the Ursulines in 1544.

Paul's greatest encouragement to the Catholic reform was the opening of an ecumenical council which he tried to inaugurate as early as 1537 at Mantua. Because of immense difficulties, arising in large measure from the international rivalry between the Holy Roman emperor Charles V and the French king Francis I, he succeeded only in December 1545 in getting the council under way at Trent. Further difficulties followed, and Paul transferred the council to Bologna in February 1548 and finally suspended it in September 1549.

Retaining his early enthusiasm for art and scholarship, Paul was ambitious to give Rome the primacy in these fields. He restored the Roman University, which had been utterly destroyed in the sack of Rome (1527), and energetically tried to staff it with outstanding scholars. He arranged for new catalogs in the Vatican Library and for the preservation of damaged manuscripts. He commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel and to reconstruct St. Peter's and the Capitol.

Paul marred his reign by the concern, so typical of the Renaissance, for the advancement of his family. He installed Pierluigi Farnese, one of the four natural children he had fathered before he became pope, as the Duke of Parma and Piacenza. After Paul became pope, he made two of his grandsons cardinals. Paul died on Nov. 10, 1549.

Further Reading

A good modern comprehensive study of Paul III is in Ludwig Pastor, History of the Popes, vols. 11 and 12, translated by Ralph F. Kerr (1912), which contains a full bibliography and list of sources. For background consult Alan P. Dolan, Catholicism: An Historical Survey (1968), and Karl H. Dannenfeldt, The Church of the Renaissance and Reformation (1970). □

Paul III

views updated May 23 2018

Paul III (1468–1549). Pope, 1534–49. He received a humanist education and was made cardinal deacon by pope Alexander VI in 1493 (his nickname was ‘cardinal petticoat’, because his sister was the pope's mistress). He was not ordained priest until 1519, but he nevertheless held benefices and bishoprics. As bishop of Parma (1509), he put the reforms of the Fifth Lateran Council into effect, and began to reform his own life. Elected pope unanimously, he became ‘a renaissance pope’, encouraging artists and architects. He also undertook reform of the Church (he is sometimes called ‘the first pope of Catholic reform’) to meet the threat of Protestantism. He supported Charles V in his campaign to destroy the alliance of Protestants known as the Schmalkaldic League, and he excommunicated Henry VIII in 1538.

Paul III

views updated May 29 2018

Paul III (1468–1549) Pope (1534–49), b. Alessandro Farnese. As pope, he largely initiated the Counter-Reformation. Paul sponsored reform, established the Jesuits (1540) and summoned the Council of Trent (1545). He commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.