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Pope Julius III

Julius III, né Gian Maria del Monte or Giovan Maria Giocci (September 10, 1487 - March 23, 1555), was pope from February 7, 1550 to 1555.

The last of the High Renaissance popes, he was born at Rome, the son of a famous jurist. He succeeded his uncle as archbishop of Siponto (Manfredonia) in Apulia in 1512, and added the diocese of Pavia in 1520. At the Sack of Rome in 1527, he was one of the hostages given by Clement VII to the Emperor's forces, and might have been killed in the Campo di Fiori as others were, had he not been secretly liberated by Cardinal Pompeo Colonna.

In 1536 he was created cardinal-bishop of Palestrina by Paul III, by whom he was employed on several important legations; he was the first president of the Council of Trent, opening its first session at Trent, December 13, 1545, with a brief oration. At the council, he was the leader of the papal party against Emperor Charles V, with whom he came in conflict on various occasions, especially when, on March 26, 1547, he transferred the Council to Bologna.

In the conclave after the death of Paul III (10 November 10, 1549) the forty-eight cardinals were divided into three factions: the Imperials, the French, and the adherents of the Farnese. The French cardinals were able to prevent the election of the other two factions, and Cardinal del Monte was duly elected on February 7, 1550, as a compromise, after a conclave of ten weeks, although the Emperor had expressly excluded him from the list of acceptable candidates. Ottavio Farnese, Paul III's grandson, was immediately confirmed as Duke of Parma. As pope, Julius III is better remembered by architectural historians and lovers of art than by theologians. Julius had a musical ear too: he immediately brought the great Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina to Rome and made him maestro di cappella.

He consented, at the request of the Emperor Charles V, to the reopening of the council of Trent (in 1551), and he also entered into a league with him against the duke of Parma and Henry II of France; but soon afterwards he deemed it advisable to make terms with his enemies, and in 1553 he again suspended the meetings of the council. (For the history of papal conflicts with councils, see conciliar movement.)

As pope Julius lost interest both in political and in ecclesiastical affairs; formerly he had acquired a reputation for impetuous energy in pressing the papal position, but he now could fully express his love of luxurious ease, in the entertainments given by him especially at the Villa Giulia, which Vignola created for him, in a manner fitted to shock later ideas of ecclesiastical propriety. He also aroused much scandal by creating as his first cardinal Innocenzo del Monte, a youth of seventeen whom he had picked up on the streets of Parma some years previously, and who had been adopted by the pope's brother, Balduino and thus, as the pope's adopted nephew, was one of his pages, on account of the courage he had displayed when bitten by a monkey, said more conservative critics. Julius stood by his choice, and in the Villa Giulia the ceiling fresco of a portico depicts a vine-covered trellis, where putti play with one another's genitals. Joachim du Bellay the French poet in the retinue of Cardinal du Bellay, expressed his scandalized opinion in two sonnets in his series Les regrets (published after the pope's demise, in 1558).

Julius was a friend of the Jesuits, to whom he granted a fresh confirmation in 1550, and he appointed Ippolito d'Este as governor of Tivoli, where Ippolito immediately set about creating the Villa d'Este.


  • Dizionario biografico degli italiani: "Del Monte, Innocenzo"
  • (Original text from the 9th edition (1880) of the Encyclopædia Britannica has been superseded)

Last updated: 05-21-2005 19:17:48