Paul II, Pope

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Pontificate: Aug. 30, 1464 to July 26, 1471; b. Pietro Barbo in Venice, Feb. 23, 1417. Having spent his youth in Florence, he became archdeacon of Bologna and then bishop of Cervia and Vicenza before being created cardinal at the age of 23 by his uncle, Pope eugene iv. A man of considerable fortune, he had great influence in the Curia under Popes nicholas v and callistus iii and in 1456 became governor general of Campania and the maritime regions.

The capitulations drawn up by the cardinals on the eve of the election of the successor to Pope pius ii stated that the new pope, once elected, was to fix the number of cardinals at 24, reform the Curia, open a general council within the third year of his pontificate, and resume the war against the Turks. Paul was elected on the first ballot, but steadfastly refused to publish a bull confirming the provisions of the election pact. Supremely jealous of his authority, he ruled as an ostentatious monarch, imposing on the papal court a style in the mode of the first Italian Renaissance. Yet he himself was not a humanist in the full sense of the word; e.g., in 1468 he dissolved the Roman Academy founded by Pomponius Laetus, whose paganizing attitude struck the Pope as dangerous. (Paul's biography by Bartolomeo Platina, a member of the Academy, is understandably prejudiced.) On the other hand, Paul surrounded himself with scholars and encouraged the founding of Italy's first printing shop at subiaco (1465). His taste for pomp and luxury was expressed in the famous Palace of St. Mark, today the Palazzo Venezia, which he began in Rome as early as 1455 and made his principal residence from 1466 on.

Paul's pontificate was dominated by the intensification of the war against the ottoman turks. Immediately, in 1464, Paul collected the funds necessary to renew the struggle, and in 1466 he gave his support to the Albanian chieftain Scanderbeg. To the profit of the Holy See he strengthened its alum monopoly by prohibiting any trading in alum with the Turks, but he could not prevent the fortress of Negropont (Euboea) from falling (July 1470). He was distracted from the struggle only when he felt it his duty to intervene in Bohemia in opposition to King George Poděbrad and the hussite church. At the Pope's instigation, Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, declared war on Poděbrad (March 31, 1468), whom Paul had already declared deposed. Corvinus received the crown of Bohemia from the pope in March 1469. Poděbrad, meantime, had obtained the support of King Louis XI of France, and together they demanded the convocation of a general council of the Church and initiated a process against Paul's former favorite, Cardinal Jean Balue. To mollify Louis XI, who had earlier consented to the abolition of the pragmatic sanction of Bourges (1461) despite the Parlement, Paul officially gave him and his successors the title "Most Christian King." Paul also devoted himself to the extirpation of the heretical fraticelli, initiating a process against them in 1466 and prosecuting their adherents in Germany. By his bull of Aug. 19, 1470, Paul decreed that in the future holy years would be held every 25 years (beginning 1475). In the spring of 1471 he actually contemplated the convocation of a council in Ferrara. He tried for a reconciliation with the byzantine church and was negotiating an alliance with the Iranian Prince Uzom-Hassan against the Turks when he died suddenly. His famous Renaissance tomb in the Vatican is the work of Mino of Fiesole and Giovanni Dalmato.

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