Pope Leo X
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Pope Leo X, born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici (11 December 1475 – 1 December 1521) was Pope from 1513 to his death. He is known primarily for his papal bull against Martin Luther and subsequent failure to stem the Protestant Reformation, which began during his reign when Martin Luther (1483–1546) published the 95 Theses and nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.
When he became Pope, Leo X is reported to have said to his brother Giuliano: "Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it." The Venetian ambassador who related this of him was not unbiased, nor was he in Rome at the time, nevertheless the phrase illustrates fairly the Pope's pleasure-loving nature and the lack of seriousness that characterized him. And enjoy he did, traveling around Rome at the head of a lavish parade featuring panthers, jesters, and Hanno, a white elephant.
- "Under his pontificate, Christianity assumed a pagan character, which, passing from art into manners, gives to this epoch a strange complexion. Crimes for the moment disappeared, to give place to vices; but to charming vices, vices in good taste, such as those indulged in by Alcibiades and sung by Catullus. --Alexandre Dumas, père"
Leo X was also lavish in charity: retirement homes, hospitals, convents, discharged soldiers, pilgrims, poor students, exiles, cripples, the sick, and the unfortunate of every description were generously remembered, and more than 6,000 ducats were annually distributed in alms.
His extravagance offended not only people like Martin Luther, but also some cardinals, who, led by Alfonso Petrucci of Siena, plotted an assassination attempt. Eventually, Pope Leo found out who these people were, and had them followed. The conspirators died of "food poisoning." Some people argue that Leo X and his followers simply concocted the assassination charges in a moneymaking scheme to collect fines from the various wealthy cardinals Leo X detested.
As patron of learning Leo X deserves a prominent place among the popes. He raised the church to a high rank as the friend of whatever seemed to extend knowledge or to refine and embellish life. He made the capital of Christendom the center of culture. While yet a cardinal, he had restored the church of Santa Maria in Domnica after Raphael's designs; and as pope he had San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, on the Via Giulia, built, after designs by Jacopo Sansovino and pressed forward the work on St Peter's and the Vatican under Raphael and Agostino Chigi.