Clement VII, Pope
CLEMENT VII, POPE
Pontificate: Nov. 19, 1523, to Sept. 25, 1534; b. Giulio de'Medici, Florence, May 26, 1478; d. Rome. He was the illegitimate son of Giuliano de'Medici and Antonia del Cittadino, member of the Gorini family. Giulio, born a month after the Pazzi conspiracy, in which his father was slain, was raised by his grandfather, Lorenzo de' Medici (the Magnificent), Florentine merchant prince and statesman. After Lorenzo's death (1492) Giulio remained with the family. During the period of Medici exile (1494–1512) he visited several European cities with his cousins Giuliano and Giovanni, and then took up residence in Rome.
Ecclesiastical Offices. On May 9, 1513, Giulio was appointed archbishop of Florence by his cousin Giovanni, who had become leo x two months before. Because of the impediment of illegitimacy, he was granted a dispensation super defectu natalium. On September 22 of that same year he was raised to the cardinalate, after a document was published stipulating that his parents had been betrothed per sponsalia de praesenti and declaring him legitimate. He was appointed vice chancellor, March 9, 1517, and was chiefly responsible for determining the political policies of the Pope. He was active at the later session of the Fifth Lateran Council (1512–17) and was the first to apply the new decrees in his own diocese of Florence. In 1515 he was present at the meeting of Leo X and charles v at Bologna. At the death of Leo X (1521) he came to Rome, and while a strong candidate for the papal throne, he lost the election to adrian vi.
Troubled Pontificate. In a conclave that lasted six weeks (Oct. 8 to Nov. 19, 1523) Giulio was chosen to
succeed Adrian VI. He faced the problems of curtailing the progress of the Protestant revolt, the political rivalries of Francis I, King of France, and the young Emperor Charles V, the question of the annulment of the marriage of henry viii, King of England, and the need of general Church reform.
Lutheran Movement. Shortly after his accession, Clement sent Lorenzo campeggio as papal legate to the Diet of Nuremberg (1524) to assure the emperor that he supported the Edict of Worms (1521). He conferred with Charles V on means of conciliating the Lutherans but opposed calling a general council of the Church, which the emperor favored. Clement met the emperor twice at Bologna for discussion, but could not agree on the means of solving the Lutheran question.
Hapsburg-Valois Rivalry. The contest between Francis I and Charles V to dominate Europe included the control of Italy. Clement attempted to maintain a status quo that would prevent the success of either one. He supported the imperialist cause that ended in the Battle of Pavia, February 24, 1525, where the Spanish commanders, the Constable de Bourbon and the Marquis de Pescara, defeated the French and took Francis I as a prisoner to Madrid. In the Treaty of Madrid (Jan. 14, 1526) Francis surrendered his claims in Italy. On May 22, 1526, Clement entered the League of Cognac with Francis I, the Sforza of Milan, Florence, and Venice to check the growing power of Charles. This led to the humiliation of the sack of Rome by mutinous imperial mercenary forces (1527) and the virtual imprisonment of Clement in the
castel sant' angelo for more than seven months. Upon his release he fled to Orvieto, and then to Viterbo, and reentered Rome on Oct. 6, 1528. In a period of peace Charles received the imperial crown from Clement in Bologna on Feb. 24, 1530. In February 1532 Clement again met the emperor at Bologna to discuss the formation of a league of Italian states. In October 1533 Clement met with Francis I at Marseilles, where he officiated at the marriage of his niece, Catherine de Médicis, and the king's son (later Henry II, 1547 to 1559). In these interviews he failed to reconcile the two rulers.
The Marriage of Henry VIII. In 1527 Henry VIII requested an annulment of his 18-year-old marriage to catherine of aragon, alleging his scruples over its validity. Clement, mindful that Catherine was the aunt of Charles V, his captor, and hoping that the king's interest in Anne Boleyn would wane, adopted a policy of delay. He sent Lorenzo Campeggio to London to act as colegate with Cardinal Thomas wolsey in the inquiries, with instructions to keep the proceedings from solution. Not until March 23, 1534, did the papal tribunal declare the validity of Henry's marriage to Catherine. Meanwhile, the king had married Anne (1533), and his parliament had begun its series of acts that effected the schism and the loss of England from the Catholic fold. [see reformation, protestant (in the british isles).]
Church Reform. Clement was hindered from serious consideration of the pressing need for reform. The first five years of his reign were filled with the Hapsburg-Valois wars and the threatening developments of Lutheranism. The last six years were troubled by the increased seriousness of the Protestant revolt, the opposition of Francis I to a general council, and the rapid development of the events of Henry VIII's attempted annulment toward a complete break with Rome. Motions toward reform, however, were already under way in the activities of the Oratory of divine love in northern Italy and the appearance of future religious founders: Cajetan (Gaetano da Thiene) and Gian Pietro Carafa (Paul IV, 1555–59, Theatines), Jerome Emiliani (Somaschi), Anthony Zaccaria (Barnabites), Matteo di Bassi (Capuchins), Ignatius of Loyola (Jesuits), Angela Merici (Ursulines), and others. Clement's successor approved these groups and inaugurated the Council of Trent.
Like his predecessors Alexander VI, Julius II, and Leo X, Clement was a patron of the arts and encouraged such artists as Raphael and Sebastiano del Piombo. He was likewise enmeshed in Italian political affairs and immersed in Renaissance culture. He commissioned Michelangelo to prepare tombs for two members of his family. His tomb is in the church of S. Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. Baccio Bandinelli constructed his tomb; Giovanni di Baccio Bigio made his statue.
The verdict of history on the pontificate of Clement has not been favorable as he left an impoverished papacy and a Church burdened by schism. Clement's weakness and indecision, which contributed to the growth of the Protestant revolt, are accentuated by the position of his reign between those of two reform popes, Adrian VI and Paul III.
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[w. j. steiner]