Sixtus IV, Pope

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Pontificate: Aug. 9, 1471, to Aug. 12, 1484; b. Francesco della rovere, in Celle near Savona, Italy, July 21, 1414; d. Rome. Belonging to an impoverished Ligurian family, he was educated by the Franciscans, and joined the Conventual franciscans. He taught at several Italian universities, acquiring a wide reputation through his works on theology and philosophy and through his excellence as a preacher. In 1464 he became minister-general of his order; three years later he was made cardinal. After a short conclave he was elected pope to succeed paul ii. The reign of Sixtus IV opened one of the saddest periods in papal history. During that era the concern of the popes with family affairs and political ambitions far overshadowed their interest in their duties as spiritual leaders of the Church. In fact, the contributions to the life of the Church made by Sixtus IV were few. He celebrated a holy year in 1475, which drew numerous pilgrims to Rome, and he greatly increased the privileges of the Conventual Franciscans. He shared his order's devotion to the Blessed Virgin and supported the teaching of her Immaculate Conception. Although he tried to summon a crusade against the Turks, other European states failed to support him, and with Venetian and Hungarian aid he succeeded only in recapturing the Italian town of Otranto from the ottoman turks. The chief interest of Sixtus remained the aggrandizement of his family. His numerous relatives were given benefices in profusion as well as high church offices. Two nephews, Giuliano Della Rovere (later Pope julius ii) and Pietro Riario, were made cardinals. Another nephew, Girolamo riario, planned to carve a principality for himself out of Italy and involved the Pope in almost continuous disputes and wars with the other Italian states. The most infamous affair into which he drew Sixtus was the pazzi conspiracy of 1478 against Lorenzo and Giuliano de' medici. As a result of the pope's nepotism and political activity, finances fell into increasing disorder. Despite his efforts to create new sources of revenue, such as the doubling of venal curial offices, Sixtus left a large deficit to his successor. In 1482 Abp. Andrea zamometiČ attempted unsuccessfully to convoke at Basel a council before which the pope would have to justify himself.

As ruler of Rome and as patron of humanists and artists, Sixtus must be judged more favorably. He began the rebuilding of Rome on a large scale, having streets opened, widened, and paved. He erected the churches of S. Maria della Pace and S. Maria del Popolo, and, above all, the sistine chapel, decorated by the outstanding artists of the time, including Botticelli and perugino. He drew to Rome Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio, and many other painters and sculptors. The rearranged and enlarged vati can library was opened to scholars during his reign. The tomb of Sixtus, done by Pollaiuolo and situated in the grottoes of saint peter's Basilica in Rome, is one of the finest monuments of Italian Renaissance art. The theological works of Sixtus include De sanguine Christi, De potentia Dei, and De futuris contingentibus (Rome 147072).

Bibliography: l. pastor, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages (London-St. Louis 193861) v.4. a. teetaert, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 14.2:21992217. a. mataniĆ, "Xystus Pp. IV scripsitne librum De conceptione beate virginis Marie? " Antonianum 29 (1954) 573578. f. x. seppelt, Geschichte der Päpste von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des 20. Jh. (Munich 195459) v.4. g. schwaiger, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 9:810811. l. egmont, Sixtus IV and Men of Letters (Rome 1978). l. pusci, "Profilo di Francesco Della Rovere, poi Sixto IV," Storia e cultura al Santo, ed. a. poppi (Vincenza 1976) 27988.

[e. g. gleason]