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Pope Leo X

Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X

Leo X, né Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici (December 11, 1475 - December 1, 1521), was the only pope who has bestowed his own name upon his age, and one of the few whose original extraction has corresponded in some measure with the splendour of the pontifical dignity. He was the second son of Lorenzo de' Medici and was born in Florence.

Like his contemporary Henry VIII, he was from the first destined for the ecclesiastical condition; he received the tonsure at seven, held benefices at eight, and before he was thirteen negotiations were in active progress for his elevation to the cardinalate. Innocent VIII, the reigning pope, was bound to Lorenzo by domestic ties and a common policy and interest; in October 1488 Giovanni was created a cardinal under the condition that he should not be publicly recognised as such for three years. The interval was devoted to the study of theology and canon law, pursuits less congenial to the young prince of the church than the elegant literature for which he inherited his father's taste, and in which he had already made great progress under the tuition of Politian and Bibbiena.

In March 1492 he became a Cardinal and took up his residence in Rome, receiving a letter of advice[1] from his parent which ranks among the wisest and weightiest compositions of its class. Within a few months his prospects were clouded by the nearly simultaneous decease of his father and the pope, a double bereavement closing the era of peace which Lorenzo's prudent policy had given to Italy, and inaugurating a period of foreign invasion and domestic strife.

One of the first consequences of the French irruption into Italy, which shortly ensued, was the expulsion of the Medici family from Florence (November 1494). After having resisted to the best of his ability, the Cardinal de' Medici found a refuge at Bologna, and. seeing himself deprived for the time of political importance, and obnoxious to Innocent's successor, Alexander VI, undertook a journey in foreign countries with a party of friends. Upon his return he settled at Rome, withdrawing himself from notice as much as possible, and disarming the jealousy of Alexander by his unaffected devotion to literary pursuits.

When he became pope on March 11, 1513, Leo rejoiced; he is reported to have said to his brother Giuliano "Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it." And he did, traveling around Rome at the head of a lavish parade featuring panthers, jesters, and Hanno, a white elephant. He served dinners with sixty-five courses at which little boys jumped out of puddings.

His extravagance offended even some cardinals, who plotted an assassination attempt (which was foiled); the plan was to inject poison into his formidable hemorrhoids. Short on funds, Leo colluded with a German archbishop to sell indulgences, using the showy services of the monk Johann Tetzel, who entered German towns bearing the Bull of Indulgence aloft on a velvet cushion. Soon afterward, Martin Luther nailed his Disputation...on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences on the church door at Wittenberg.

On January 3, 1521 Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther.

Preceded by
Julius II
Succeeded by
Adrian VI

Last updated: 02-04-2005 11:04:32