Pius II, Pope

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Pontificate: Aug. 19, 1458, to Aug. 15, 1464; b. Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Corsignano, now Pienza, near Siena, Oct. 18, 1405; d. Ancona. The most distinguished representative of papal humanism, he began his studies at the University of Siena (1423). In 1431 he accompanied Domenico capranica to the Council of basel, and under the direction of Niccolò albergati and others he began a brilliant diplomatic career. Rising rapidly in the council's service, he became secretary to Amadeus VIII of Savoy, who later became the antipope felix v. To his early poetical writings he added prose treatises in defense of conciliarism. These, together with his unsurpassed oratorical ability, procured his coronation as poet laureate (July 27, 1442) by Emperor Frederick III. Sensing the growing futility of the council, he entered Frederick's service and left Basel in November 1442.

His sojourn in Germany, although unhappy, was fruitful in literary activity, at times serious, at others frivolous, e.g., the celebrated Historia de Eurialo et Lucretia. Personal suffering and his conviction of the need for concerted action against the Turks instilled moral seriousness. He was reconciled with eugene iv in 1445 and in 1446 received Holy Orders. With nicholas of cusa, he negotiated the reconciliation of Germany with the papacy (1447).

In 1447 nicholas v named him bishop of Trieste, where he completed his De viris claris and De Rebus Basileae gestis, his final word on that subject. In 1450 he was translated to Siena. On Dec. 18, 1456, callistus iii created him cardinal. His literary production continued. The important Historia Frederici imperatoris and other works date from this period.

Pontificate. Moved by the recent fall of constantinople (1453), Pius placed a crusading counterattack in the first place of the papal agenda. In October 1458, following his election as pope, he summoned a congress of Christendom to meet the following June at Mantua to formulate plans for the crusade. Indifference, evasion, and insult awaited him there. The French denounced his recognition of Ferrante of Naples and diverted men and money already collected for the crusade to René of Anjou's invasion of Naples. To the levy of a crusade tax, the Germans replied with a personal attack on the pope, reminding him of the sins of his youth. Pius replied courageously to this opposition, and, immediately before the dissolution of the congress, issued the bull Exsecrabilis (Jan. 18, 1460; H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer, 1375), which reaffirmed papal prerogatives by condemning appeals to "future councils."

Returning to Rome (October 1460), he brought order to the city and the states by courageous persistence and judicious nepotism. His love for Rome found expression in the bull (April 28, 1462) forbidding further destruction of ancient monuments. Pius never forgot his native soil. In 1461 he canonized catherine of siena and in 1462 made Corsignano an episcopal see. To the south, the struggle for Naples continued. Louis XI of France abrogated the pragmatic sanction of Bourges (March 16, 1462), hoping to win papal support for the Angevin cause. Pius refused to abandon Ferrante, and thus sacrificed all possibility of French support for the crusade. Further, Louis replaced the sanction with a series of Gallican ordinances (146364).

The Crusade. Although his realistic appraisal of European attitudes had led Pius to attempt to convert the Sultan to Christianity by argument and exhortation (the famous Epistola ad Mahumetem, 146061), his crusading zeal remained strong. Undoubtedly his desire to avoid further distraction led him to lay aside the many proposals for Church reform submitted at his request. The final impulse to action was stimulated by appeals from Christians in the Levant, the scurrilous attacks on the papacy and himself made in Germany (see his moving reply, In minoribus agentes, April 26, 1463), and the actions of the heretical George Poděbrad of Bohemia. Angered by Pius's refusal to accept the Compacts of Basel, Poděbrad openly challenged papal direction of the crusade and the pope's traditional position as spiritual arbiter of Christendom. Encouraged by Cardinal bessarion's success in persuading Venice and Hungary to join forces (Sept. 23, 1463), Pius declared his intention of leading the crusade in person and proclaimed the crusade on October 22. While there was some popular enthusiasm, his hopes for support from the princes proved illusory early in 1464. Nevertheless, having excommunicated Poděbrad (June 16), Pius assumed the cross and left Rome. He arrived at Ancona only to die there in the full knowledge that Christian Europe had proved indifferent to his appeals. His body was interred in the chapel of St. Andrew in Rome.

Appraisal. His heroic death did not receive appropriate recognition. Many humanists, feeling themselves neglected, vented their scorn on the dead pope. However, posterity has never ceased to value his writings. His Commentaries, a veritable autobiography and history of his reign, reflect his refreshingly ingenuous mind, his curiosity, delight in nature, and, above all, his firm grasp on abiding values. It is true that his reign witnessed the papacy's loss of control of the crusade as well as the final collapse of the moral unity of Christendom. Yet historians increasingly pay tribute to Pius's courage, self-control, judgment, and patient endurance. A sympathetic study of his life will carry one far toward a true appreciation of the grandeur and misery of the 15th-century Church.

Bibliography: Works. Opera quae extant omnia, ed. m. hopperus (Basel 1551); Orationes politicae et ecclesiasticae, ed. j. d. mansi, 3 v. (Lucca 175559); Opera inedita, ed. j. cugnoni (Rome 1883); Der Briefwechsel, ed. r. wolkan, 4 v. (Fontes rerum Austriacarum 6162, 6768; Vienna 190918); Lettera a Maometto II (Epistola ad Mahumetem ), ed. g. toffanin (Naples 1953); Memoirs of a Renaissance Pope, tr. f. a. gragg, ed. l. c. gabel (New York 1959). Literature. l. pastor, The History of the Popes From the Close of the Middle Ages (LondonSt. Louis 193861) v.3. e. vansteenberghe, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 12.2:161332. j. g. rowe, "The Tragedy of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II)," Church History 30: 288313. r. j. mitchell, The Laurels and the Tiara: Pope Pius II, 14581464 (Garden City, N.Y. 1963). g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 8:528529.

[j. g. rowe]