Early in the 16th century the use of arquebusiers with gunpowder developed with better discipline and strategy. More officers were killed and wounded by their shots. The French had been ruling Milan since the invasion by Louis XII in 1499. On December 10, 1508 the Papal States, France, the German empire, and Spain joined in the League of Cambrai against Venice. Then in April 1509 Louis led the French army into Venetian territory and occupied it as far east as Brescia. In July 1510 Venice formed an alliance with Pope Julius II who in June 1511 proclaimed the Holy League against France which had occupied most of the Romagna. A French army seized Milan again in 1513, but they were defeated on June 6 at Novara by a Swiss army. After François succeeded Louis XII in January 1515, the French army defeated Milan’s cavalry at Villafranca and then the Swiss at Marignano on September 13. Chancellor Duprat calculated that the French campaign to regain Milan cost 7.5 million livres tournois which is about 3.7 million ducats.
In March 1516 Pope Leo X helped exiles from Siena remove Borghese Petrucci and put in his cousin Raffaele Petrucci. Lorenzo II de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino, used Papal troops to conquer his duchy in June, and the former duke Francesco Maria della Rovere went into exile at Mantua. He gathered troops from Verona in January 1517, and the next month his force of 7,000 soldiers and 600 cavalry defeated Lorenzo and regained Urbino. Lorenzo went to Mantua and married Madeleine de la Tour who was related to France’s King François. She died on April 19, 1519 after giving birth to Catherine, and Lorenzo died on May 4; but Catherine de’ Medici would marry Henri II and become queen consort of France 1547-59.
Spain’s new Hapsburg King from Burgundy was elected Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1519 and was crowned on October 26, 1520. He promised to pay François 100,000 ducats for recognizing his claim to the kingdom of Naples. Pope Leo X (1513-21) could not get France, Venice, nor England to attack Charles. Leo allied with Charles because of his opposition to the heresy of Luther, and in May 1521 the Emperor promised Parma, Piacenza, Ferrara, and Naples to the Pope. Prospero Colonna and the Marquis of Pescara led the combined Papal and Imperial troops into Lombardy. They had an army of 20,000 men and defeated the 8,000 infantry from France and Venice on November 20 to take Milan and Pavia. The retreating French burned the suburbs of Milan. Pavia had a population of 16,000 in 1500, but in 1535 it was less than 5,000.
Federico Gonzaga had succeeded his father as Marquis of Mantua in 1519, and he commanded the Papal forces. Lodi, Piacenza, and Cremona opened their gates for them. On November 28, 1521 Pope Leo X, Charles V, and England’s Henry VIII signed an alliance opposing François. During the celebrations Leo died of pneumonia on December 1. That year Niccolo Machiavelli published a series of dialogs in his Art of War, arguing that they could avoid mistakes by studying the ancients. He noted the hazards of increasing winter campaigns which eroded discipline. The number of soldiers in the infantry increased greatly compared to the cavalry, and their officers were usually nobles. In 1521 Pope Leo X ended the rule of Gianpaolo Baglioni in Perugia calling him a “monster of iniquity.” He invited him to Rome with a safe conduct pass but then had him imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded as he took over Perugia.
Francesco Sforza was called Duke of Milan but could not protect his people from the Spanish and German soldiers. France’s Marshal Lautrec still held much of Lombardy and marched on Milan which was defended by 10,000 German troops. The French were reinforced by Giovanni de’ Medici whose troops were called “Black Bands” because of their garments mourning for Leo X. Lautrec seized Novara and besieged Pavia which was relieved by Colonna’s Imperial forces. About 16,000 unpaid Swiss mercenaries attacked Colonna’s army for Lautrec near Milan on April 29, 1522 and suffered such heavy casualties that the survivors went home to their cantons. When the Black Bands were not paid, they turned against the French who negotiated with Colonna and retained only Milan, Novara, and Cremona in exchange for evacuating the rest of Lombardy.
Before Genoa capitulated, Spaniards on May 30 attacked and pillaged the wealthy port. Lombardy could not support Colonna’s Imperial troops, and they withdrew to the Papal States. Naples’ Viceroy Charles de Lannoy while at Rome imposed taxes on the Italian states with quotas of 20,000 ducats a month for Milan, 15,000 for Florence, 8,000 for Genoa, 5,000 for Siena, and 4,000 for Lucca. Remaining French garrisons also capitulated, giving Charles V control over most of Italy. Francesco Sforza was reinstated in Milan.
In August 1523 Pope Adrian VI signed a treaty with Charles V, Henry VIII, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, Duke Sforza of Milan, and Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici to defend Florence, Genoa, Siena, and Lucca. Their commander Prospero Colonna became ill and withdrew to Milan in September, and the Senate of Venice appointed the Duke of Urbino to command their troops. After Pope Adrian VI died on September 14, Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, seized Reggio and threatened Modena. On November 19 Giulio de’ Medici became Pope Clement VII, and he sent a legate and two Medici descendants to govern Florence.
Prospero Colonna fortified Milan and seized Lodi, Monza, and Caravaggio before dying in December. Charles Bourbon, Constable of France, defected to Charles V and arrived at Milan in early 1524 with 6,000 soldiers and French nobles. Venice ordered their army led by the Duke of Urbino to join the Imperial forces who were unpaid and pillaged the peasants. After the money extorted from the Italian states was used to pay Imperial troops, 3,000 Spaniards attacked Bayard’s force at Robecco, killing most of their men and capturing their horses. Giovanni’s Black Bands blocked soldiers coming from France and Switzerland to reinforce Guillaume Gouffner and Seigneur de Bonnivet’s 30,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry fighting for the Papal States.
King François sent John Stuart, Duke of Albany, with 5,000 infantry and 500 lancers and light cavalry to march on Naples. François led a large French army across the Alps. Sforza evacuated Milan, and the French besieged Pavia in November 1524. The Duke of Ferrara paid France 70,000 florins, and 20,000 were spent on artillery. Siena and Lucca paid a ransom while the Black Bands joined the French. The Petrucci dynasty in Siena was ended. François now had 8,000 Swiss, 7,000 French, 6,000 Italians, and 5,000 Germans with superior artillery and cavalry, but on February 24, 1525 at Pavia they were attacked by an equally strong imperial army with 19,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry. Antonio de Leyva fought the French rear with his garrison from Pavia, and the Black Bands were nearly destroyed. François surrendered as his side had 15,000 men killed, wounded, or captured. The Imperial army suffered only 500 casualties. Charles V neglected to pay his soldiers, and the garrison of Pavia mutinied and pillaged the city for eight days. Imperial troops were quartered in Parma and Piacenza.
Pope Clement VII and Florence agreed to pay the Imperial army which also demanded 50,000 ducats from Ferrara, 15,000 from Montferrat as well as from Siena, and 10,000 from Lucca. After 200,000 ducats were sent to Spain and paid to soldiers, the generals demanded 25,000 more from Florence. Charles offered the kingdom of Naples to his commanding general Pescara. When Sforza was caught plotting against the Emperor, Pescara rode to Milan and took over the city. Sforza paid 100,000 ducats for Milan and later 500,000 more. Finally he fortified himself in the castle of Milan and held out for another year until they suffered famine after the death of Pescara. The famine led to a plague that killed about half the population of this large and industrial city.
On January 14, 1526 Charles V and his prisoner François signed the treaty of Madrid in which François renounced his claims to Milan, Naples, Flanders, Artois, and Burgundy. He agreed to send two of his sons as hostages in Spain and to marry Eleanor, sister of Charles. François was released on March 17 and returned to France. Soon he proclaimed that he would not comply with the treaty because it was signed under duress. Pope Clement VII supported this and sent envoys to François and Henry VIII to form an alliance against Spain.
On May 23, 1526 the Holy League of Cognac was formed by François, Pope Clement VII, Venice, Florence, and the Sforzas. They captured Lodi, but the Imperial army forced Sforza to leave Milan. Charles V sent Ugo de Moncada to get a truce from Clement. When this failed, the Pope promised the Colonna family a pardon on August 22 if they restored the land they had seized and withdrew into the kingdom of Naples and promised not to make war in lands they held from the Church. After they crossed the border, Clement reduced the garrison of Rome to 500 men. The Pope tried to raise money with unpopular taxes on wine and laundresses using the Tiber River. The Colonnas raided the Vatican palace on September 20. They outnumbered the Papal troops, and Gian Matteo Giberti persuaded Clement to take refuge in Castel Sant’Angelo. The next day the Pope pardoned the Colonna and agreed to a four-month truce while giving them two of his relatives as hostages.
Then Pope Clement VII increased his force to 10,000 men by getting mercenaries from Lombardy led by Renzo da Ceri to attack Colonna estates and others in early November. Destitute peasants took refuge in Rome. Charles V threatened to intervene, but Clement explained that he was only punishing his rebellious vassals. Ugo de Moncada took command of the Imperial armies in Lombardy. The Holy League was led by Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, with 24,000 troops including the Black Bands. On November 12 Georg Frundsberg, the Prince of Mindelheim, led 14,000 German landsknechts out of Trento, but they were devastated by treachery and the League’s Black Bands in the marshes around Mantua. Viceroy Lannoy arrived from Spain with 10,000 men in December.
In a treaty on January 31, 1527 Clement VII promised the imperial soldiers 400,000 ducats, but only 150,000 was paid. Lacking money, he dismissed many of his troops. Florence did not pay any of the 300,000 ducats they promised to the Empire. On February 19 Frundsberg’s Germans joined Bourbon’s Imperial army in northern Italy. On March 11 unpaid Spanish soldiers demanded money from the French renegade Duke Charles of Bourbon. Frundsberg tried to talk to them but had a stroke and collapsed. Bourbon got a loan of 6,000 ducats from d’Este of Ferrara and mollified the soldiers by promising more. Pope Clement offered him 60,000 ducats if they would leave Italy immediately and return his two hostages; but Bourbon said that was too little for 22,000 men and invaded the Papal States. Viceroy Lannoy made an eight-month truce with the Pope on March 15 and arrived in Rome ten days later to negotiate a treaty. Lannoy demanded 300,000 ducats from the Pope and then met with Bourbon on April 20 by the Appenine foothills. Cardinal Armellino organized a census in Rome which found that of the 1,411 prostitutes only 198 were Romans.
On May 6, 1527 the imperial army led by Duke Charles of Bourbon attacked Rome with 22,000 men and defeated the Papal army of 8,000, seizing the city. Renzo da Ceri refused to destroy the bridges which might have prevented the sacking of the city. Pope Clement VII and 3,000 others escaped from the fighting in Castel Sant’Angelo. On the first day about 3,000 defenders were killed but only about 65 of the attackers. The next day the pillaging began. Bourbon was killed by a shot from an arquebus. Various ransoms were set for the dignitaries. Cardinal Pompeo Colonna with his family’s army entered Rome on May 8, followed by 40,000 peasants who wanted revenge for the crimes of the Papal forces. They were worse than the Imperial soldiers and sacked the city, killing priests, raping women, and even torturing children to find out where treasures were hidden. About 12,000 people were killed. The wealth of the cardinals’ palaces and the convents were plundered first, though the palaces of the cardinals supporting the Empire were left alone for eight days. Then Rome had social disorder for the next ten months.
Pope Clement VII surrendered on June 6, ending a thousand years of temporal power by Popes. The soldiers who sacked Rome were owed 400,000 ducats in back pay. Many artists and scholars dispersed to other cities. For ten months soldiers controlled Rome, and factions such as Guelfs and Ghibellines and Orsini and Colonna fought each other. Venice used the opportunity to seize Cervia and Ravenna. Clement sold shares in the Monte della Fede to fund the debt of the Papal States.
Viceroy Lannoy died on September 23, and Charles V appointed Ugo de Moncada viceroy of Naples. In December the Emperor sent Philibert de Chalons, Prince of Orange, to be captain-general in Rome, and he managed to protect the Vatican Library. Pope Clement VII promised to summon a council and prosecute Lutheran heretics in two treaties signed on November 26. He agreed to pay a ransom of 66,000 ducats for his freedom and 300,000 ducats within three months and to cede Parma, Piacenza, Civitavecchia, and Modena to the Empire. Clement was secretly released and left Rome on December 6 disguised as a merchant. On February 17, 1528 the remaining 12,000 imperial soldiers withdrew from Rome. By then about 30,000 people had died of hunger and plague as well as violence, and almost as many had fled, leaving Rome with a third of its previous population. Pope Clement returned to Rome in October, and on the 14th he summoned the cardinals.
Meanwhile on April 30, 1527 England and France allied themselves against Charles V. Andrea Doria served the French and captured most of Genoa’s fleet, and Genoa surrendered on August 18. Marshal Lautrec’s French forces with help from Venetians led by Giano Campofregoso captured Pavia on October 5. In March 1528 Lautrec’s army was increased with Italian support. On April 28 Moncada’s six galleys fought Doria’s eight, which defeated them and killed Moncada. Lautrec led the siege of Naples and lost 21,000 men to pestilence, leaving only 4,000. Lautrec died on August 15. Doria went over to the Emperor’s side and went back to free Genoa in September 1529. The French garrison capitulated, and Charles offered Genoa to Doria; but he let the citizens choose an oligarchical republic that lasted three centuries. The noble families of Genoa grouped themselves into 28 associations (alberghi). The island of Corsica revolted from Genoese rule in 1564 led by Sampiero Corso who was supported by the French and the Ottoman empire. Spain’s Felipe II sent imperial troops who crushed the rebellion and killed Sampiero in 1569. In 1575 a civil war erupted, and in 1576 Felipe II arbitrated an agreement that added three hundred new families to the ruling oligarchy. By 1600 the Genoese patriciate had more than 2,000 nobles. Siena and Lucca also accepted imperial protection.
After the imperial army defeated the French at Landriano on June 21, 1529, they negotiated with Charles V and at Cambrai on August 3, 1529 signed the treaty that removed them from the war. Charles went to Bologna and met with Pope Clement VII who in the treaty of Barcelona absolved those who had sacked Rome. From 1522 to 1529 Spain sent about 2,250,000 ducats to Italy for military expenses. In 1501 the population of Verona was 47,000, but by 1529 it had been reduced to 26,000.
On December 23, 1529 Pope Clement VII made treaties with Venice and Francesco Sforza. Venice surrendered the cities they held in Naples, and Francesco Sforza promised to pay 900,000 ducats for his investiture at Milan. Venice and Charles V promised to defend Milan, and Venice agreed to send 15 galleys to aid Naples. By 1529 the worst of the fighting was over, though the wars would go on until 1559. Many farms had been ruined, towns burned, and cities sacked in addition to the uncounted loss of human lives. The ambitions of Emperor Charles V, King François, and others had cost the Italians dearly.
Florence had supported the French league of Cognac in 1527, and the Grand Council elected Niccolo Capponi on May 31. Florence suffered a devastating plague that by 1528 had killed 30,000 people or one third of the population in the area. Because of the threat of war in November they gave arms to the citizens. When people realized that the Imperial army of Charles V was going to attack Florence, Michelangelo Buonarroti returned and put aside his art work to work on defenses. In January 1529 he was elected a magistrate of the Florentine militia, and in April he was put in charge of the city’s fortifications. During the summer Michelangelo visited the fortifications at Bologna, and on September 21 he fled from Florence to Ferrara and then to Venice. Florence appealed to Venice, but in December the Venetians agreed to a treaty with Charles V. A guard of 300 young men was appointed to protect the Public Palace, and 4,000 Florentine citizens formed a militia. In the countryside around Florence 10,000 peasants prepared to defend the territory.
The Papal forces and the imperial army of 11,300 men led by Philibert of Chalon, Prince of Orange, besieged Florence on October 24, and by February 1530 they had 14,000 Italians, 8,000 Germans, and 6,000 Spaniards. Francesco Ferrucci commanded the provincial army of 500 cavalry and 3,000 infantry. The two armies fought on August 3 at Gavinana, and Ferrucci and about 2,000 Florentines were killed. Philibert was killed by arquebus shots while leading a cavalry charge. A week later the republicans surrendered to the Emperor rather than the Pope, and Florence was required to pay 80,000 scudi (about 74,000 ducats) to the imperial army. The siege of Florence had cost Charles V about 1.3 million ducats.
On August 20 the Parliament of Florence authorized a committee of partisans of the Medici, who were returned to power. Amnesty was proclaimed for all, but within a month 150 families had been banished. Alessandro de’ Medici became prince of Florence and returned on July 5, 1531. An aristocratic constitution was accepted in April 1532. They built a fortress that was completed in December 1535.
Pope Clement VII had crowned Charles V Holy Roman Emperor at Bologna on his 30th birthday, February 24, 1530, and they both stayed in Bologna for nearly five months. In February 1533 Pope Clement VII and Emperor Charles V at Bologna agreed that the army of their league would include their allies Milan, Mantua, Ferrara, Genoa, Siena, and Lucca.
When Francesco Sforza died on November 2, 1535 without heirs, Charles V took over Milan. The next year manufacturing in Milan began to supply the imperial army. Many people migrated to Milan. According to a census taken about 1590 Milan had 130,000 people. The city of Milan had 238 churches and 64 monasteries by 1559 when as the largest diocese in Italy there were more than 2,000 churches for 560,000 people. In 1564 Milan had 28 schools with 200 instructors for 2,000 students. During another plague in 1577 more than 50,000 people in Milan needed public assistance.
On January 6, 1537 Lorenzino de’ Medici assassinated his cousin Alessandro and then fled. King François supported Florentine exiles to prevent Charles V from taking Florence. Aristocrats were elected to the Council of 48, and 17-year-old Cosimo de’ Medici led the government. For the next two centuries the Medici would be the hereditary dukes of Florence. In 1564 Cosimo’s wife Maria died, and he was so debilitated that he delegated his duties to his son Francesco who succeeded him in April 1574. In 1569 Pope Pius V proclaimed that Florence and Siena were the Grand Duchy of Tuscany with Cosimo as Grand Duke. In 1583 Francesco founded the Accademia della Crusca to maintain the purity of the Tuscan language. He died in October 1587 and was succeeded by his 38-year-old brother Ferdinando who ruled Florence until 1609.
On June 18, 1538 Pope Paul III mediated a truce at Nice between Charles V and François that included Genoa and Florence but not exiles from Naples. In 1539 at Modena the Sicilian Franciscan Paulo Ricci, who had been accused of heresy for sympathizing with the Reformation, gathered a community that met in private homes. The next year Ricci was forced to recant some of his ideas, but he wrote his defense and was baptized and became known as Camillo Renato. In 1542 he was arrested again for heresy but was released and took refuge in Switzerland. That year Venice authorized the export of 7,800 arquebuses and muskets beyond the republic’s needs.
In 1546 Francesco Burlamacchi, gonfaloniere of Lucca, and the Strozzi of Florence tried to revive the Tuscan republics with 2,000 militia of Lucca who crossed the mountains to Pisa and tried to arouse that city to revolt while others were sent to Pescia, Pistoja, Florence, Siena, Bologna, and Perugia. However, the spies of Cosimo de’ Medici discovered the plot, and frightened Senators of Lucca turned Burlamacchi over to the Governor of Milan who had him tortured and beheaded. Lucca had maintained itself as a democracy and became an oligarchic republic like Venice with the Martiniana law in 1556 which lasted until the French Revolution reached Italy in 1797.
In April 1546 Charles V appointed Ferrante Gonzaga governor of Milan, and in 1548 he ordered the construction of a seven-mile circle of walls around the city which was completed in 1560. The Milanese rejected Spain’s effort to impose their Inquisition in 1547 and again in 1563, and the Senate held judicial supremacy. The Sienese revolted in 1546, and the imperial representative Juan de Luna and the garrison withdrew from Siena. Ordered by Charles, Gonzaga persuaded Siena to accept a garrison of 400 men in late September 1547. Pope Paul III had granted Parma and Piacenza to his son Pier Luigi Farnese in August 1545; but on September 10, 1547 conspirators in the citadel of Piacenza assassinated him, and the next day Gonzaga took over the city. That summer Viceroy Pedro Alvarez de Toledo (r. 1532-53) provoked a revolt in Naples.
On April 29, 1548 François de Lorraine II, who was Prince of Joinville and Duke of Guise and Aumale, married Anna d’Este, daughter of Ercole II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, and Renée of France. Before Pope Paul III died on November 10, 1549 Alessandro Farnese persuaded him to grant Parma to Ottavio Farnese. Cosimo de’ Medici got Pope Julius III elected, and he confirmed this in February 1550. On May 1 Ferrante Gonzaga seized Brescello from Cardinal d’Este so that it would not be used to defend Parma. France’s King Henri II made a treaty with Ottavio in late May, granting him an annual subsidy of 12,000 écus for 2,000 infantry and 200 cavalry to defend Parma and protect the Farnese family.
The Papal army was commanded by Camillo Orsini, and in early July they besieged Mirandola which was commanded by the French veteran Paul de Termes. On July 3 Gonzaga took over the fortress of Colorno, and in late August he used his 8,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry to devastate the territory of Parma over the objections of Pope Julius III. The French had attacked Piedmont, and Gonzaga went there in early September, leaving the Marchese di Marignano with 6,000 soldiers and 300 cavalry to campaign against Parma. On April 15, 1552 Julius announced his agreement with Henri II for a two-year truce that Gonzaga advised Charles V to accept, which he did on May 10. French troops were allowed to remain in Parma and Mirandola. Gonzaga in early May invaded Saluzzo, which the French had held since 1548, forcing Charles de Cossé, Sieur de Brissac, to evacuate Bra and retreat to Carmagnola. France would not accept a truce in Piedmont, and on July 15 Gonzaga raised the siege of Bene and returned to Asti.
On July 27, 1552 Spaniards were expelled from Siena because Governor Diego de Mendoza had been forcing the citizens to build a fortress. The Sienese were led by Filippo Strozzi who opposed the Medici, and they asked France to protect them. Cosimo de’ Medici appealed to Charles V, and France and the Spanish empire fought over Siena until 1559. Henri II even allied with Ottoman Turks who sent 100 galleys that helped three French galleys raid Calabria in southern Italy, capturing Reggio. On August 5, 1552 they fought Genoa’s fleet commanded by Andrea Doria and captured seven of his galleys filled with troops. In January 1553 Charles V sent an army of about 17,000 men from Naples to Tuscany. The Ottoman fleet sailed to Majorca, and in the next three years they attacked Sicily, Sardinia, and the coast of Naples. In August 1553 the French attacked Corsica with 4,000 infantry led by Termes, and the besieged fortress at San Fiorenzo finally capitulated on February 16, 1554.
The French led by the Duke of Guise had forced Emperor Charles V to abandon his siege of Metz in 1552. Both sides increased their forces in Sienese territory, and they faced each other at Marciano on August 2, 1554. The French had 4,000 men killed with an equal number wounded or captured. In a secondary battle at Renty on August 12 the French led by Guise defeated the Imperial army commanded by Charles, However, 30,000 Imperial troops surrounded Siena while France had only 5,000 infantry and a few hundred cavalry. Henri II had Siena send envoys to Rome, and they agreed to a treaty with Cosimo de’ Medici on April 17, 1555. Siena promised to accept troops sent by Charles V, and four days later the French with about 700 Sienese citizens departed for Montalcino where they set up their own republic. Spain’s new King Felipe (Philip) II gave Siena to Duke Cosimo de’ Medici of Tuscany while retaining its seaports, though for two centuries Siena maintained a separate administration. Felipe also gave Piacenza to the Farnese but not its citadel.
On July 24, 1554 Felipe II had married Mary Tudor in England, and his father Charles V transferred Milan and Naples to him. During the mid-1550s the French made military gains in Piedmont, Saluzzo, and Monferrato. On May 23, 1555 the Neapolitan Cardinal Gianpietro Carafa became Pope Paul IV. He hated the Spaniards and Charles V and made his nephew Carlo Carafa a cardinal. Carlo had quarreled with Spaniards over a prisoner’s ransom and defected to the French during the Siena war. Cardinal Santa Fiora led the Sforza family that supported imperial Spain. On July 6, 1555 he and his four brothers organized an Imperialist party with the Colonna, Cesarini, and other barons. On August 15 Carlo met with the Duke of Urbino and asked him to bring 5,000 infantry and as many cavalry when summoned to Rome; but Urbino resigned, and Giovanni Carafa replaced him as captain-general of the Church on December 29. On August 28 the Bolognese ambassador was ordered to raise 3,000 men. Paul IV also ordered the Colonna and Orsini to support him in the Campagna.
Carlo Carafa sent envoys in September to Ferrara and France. Paul insisted on Rome’s ecclesiastical supremacy and said they were forced to take up arms. On October 14 he and the French ambassador signed a secret alliance, and France’s King Henri II sent 8,000 infantry, 500 lances, and 1,200 cavalry with 350,000 écus to Italy. Charles de Guise, Cardinal of Lorraine, negotiated a treaty with the Duke of Ferrara in November that gave the duke Cremona in Milan worth 50,000 ducats a year. Henri II reluctantly ratified this in January 1556. The French were to be given Naples, and the Medici were to be expelled from Tuscany. However, in 1557 the cession of Siena to Cosimo de’ Medici was ratified, and in the war Siena’s population had been reduced from 14,000 to 6,000.
A war fund of 70,000 ducats was put in the Castle of St. Angelo on July 5. Garcilasso de la Vega and others were arrested. Pope Paul IV imposed sanctions on Charles V and Felipe II, and in August 1556 he excommunicated the Colonna family, confiscating their estates. The next month he granted Marcantonio Colonna’s lands to his nephew Giovanni Carafa, making him Duke of Paliano. Spain’s Duke of Alba sent the Pope an ultimatum on August 27 that he would defend the kingdom of Naples, and in early September his army of 10,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry left Naples and invaded the Papal States, capturing and plundering Anagni. Ostia capitulated on November 17, and the next day they agreed to a ten-day truce that was extended for forty days. Alba dismissed his army and returned to Naples, but in 1557 he came back with his army to the walls of Rome. On April 9 Pope Paul IV announced the recall of all his agents, nuncios, and legates from the dominions of Charles V and Felipe II. France sent 1,500 men as reinforcements to Civitavecchia to protect Rome, but Guise used them to strengthen his army. Paul realized the attempt to remove foreign domination had failed, and on May 18 he imposed a tax of 1.5% on all real estate in the Papal States. On July 19 about 2,000 Swiss soldiers arrived in Rome. On August 10 the Spaniards won a big victory over the French at St. Quentin.
Venice mediated a peace treaty, and Alba made concessions and signed a secret agreement with Cardinal Carafa on September 9. Pope Paul IV signed it five days later. On the 19th Carlo and Giovanni Carafa rode into Rome with the Duke of Alba and the Marquis of Montebello, and the prisoners were released from St. Angelo. The Pope’s war had lasted a year and devastated the Campagna. Felipe II ratified the treaty on February 28, 1558. He had granted Siena to Cosimo in June 1557 in exchange for cancellation of Spain’s debt to Cosimo. The dukes of Ferrara and Parma agreed to a truce on March 29, 1558. In May the French recalled their troops from Ferrara, and a marriage was arranged between Ercole’s son Alfonso and Cosimo’s daughter Lucrezia. Finally on April 3, 1559 Felipe II and Henri II agreed to the Peace of Cateau-Cambresis. The French withdrew from Italy with the exception of five cities in Piedmont.
Giovanni de Lorenzo de’ Medici was elected Pope Leo X (1513-21). In 1514 he proclaimed an indulgence for past sins in order to fund construction of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Dominican Giovanni Tetzel even promised release of the dead from purgatory for the payment of one florin. Leo X confirmed the title of King Charles (Carlos) of Spain as the “Catholic King” in 1517. After Martin Luther protested the indulgences in October, Leo summoned him to Rome. Luther declined to come and proclaimed his free conscience. Leo condemned the monk’s view of faith in his Exurge Domine bull in 1520, and the defiant Luther burned it in Wittenberg’s public square. Pope Leo more than doubled the number of venal offices. By 1521 the capital invested in them was 2.5 million gold ducats, and the annual rent for these offices was 300,000 ducats. Many who paid for these offices did not even bother to work, and since 1500 fees paid to officials of the Roman court who did work had also doubled. Emperor Charles V questioned Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521, and Leo X proclaimed Charles “Defender of the Catholic Faith” in November a few days before he died on December 1. Some suspected that the 46-year-old Leo had been poisoned, and his wine steward, Bernardo Malatesta, was arrested; but no autopsy was performed.
Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyans had tutored Charles V and was elected Pope Adrian VI (1522-23). His chief minister and European agent, Cardinal Francesco Soderini, plotted with King François to let France invade Sicily. When Adrian learned that French forces were gathered by the Italian border, he abandoned his neutrality and formed an alliance with Emperor Charles V. In August 1523 they formed the Holy League against France with Florence, Milan, Genoa, Venice, and others. After the extravagant years of Leo X, Adrian imposed austerity and reforms. Leo had one hundred household servants, but Adrian dismissed all but four of them. He canceled contracts Leo had made with 2,550 people and stopped paying their annuities. Adrian refrained from using Church resources to help his relatives. He urged German princes to obey the Empire’s ban against Luther, and he tried to get them to support a crusade against the invading Turks.
Florence’s Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici supported Charles V who sent much gold to Rome to help him be elected Pope Clement VII (1523-34). Yet he feared the powerful Charles and wanted to make peace with King François of France. After the French conquest of Milan in October 1524 Clement allied with King François and Venice in January 1525, and he let French troops pass through the Papal States on their way to Naples. On May 23, 1526 they formed the League of Cologne with Florence and Duke Sforza of Milan. The League took over Lodi; but Spain’s Imperial troops forced Sforza out of Milan, and their ally the Colonnas attacked Rome, defeating the Papal troops in March and sacking the Vatican quarter. As soon as they were paid, they left the city. Clement began borrowing money by the old Monte della Fede system at ten percent interest.
The sack of Rome by Imperial soldiers and others in May 1527 is described above in the section on Italian wars. Clement took refuge in Castel Sant’Angelo and then left Rome in a disguise and did not return until October 1528. The Imperial army of mostly Spaniards occupied Rome until February 1528, and some remained at the nearby cities of Ostia and Civitavecchia. The Spanish humanist Alfonso de Valdes wrote a dialog called Lactantius that declared Charles V was not to blame and that God had castigated Rome for the vices of the Roman Church. He also argued that the Pope should teach Christian doctrines and maintain peace, but Clement VII had broken his treaty with Charles V and took up arms against him. According to Valdes, because the Pope had not paid attention to the criticism of Erasmus or the insults by Luther, God found a way to convert Rome.
On July 3, 1528 Pope Clement VII issued a bull approving the Capuchin reformers of the Franciscan Observants led by Matteo da Bascio who had helped the sick during the plague at Camerino in 1523 and again in 1527. He was joined by other brothers who devoted themselves to charitable work. At the first general chapter at Albacina in 1529 Matteo was elected superior. Girolama Aemiliani led a group that worked during plagues in 1527, 1528, and 1529 at Verona, Brescia, and Bergamo, and they founded a congregation of priests at Somasca in 1532. Eventually the Somaschi order was approved by Pope Pius IV in 1568.
In June 1529 Clement VII sent a nuncio to Barcelona to sign a treaty with Charles V which created an alliance against the Turks and increased the indulgence revenue called the cruzada for a crusade against the Muslims. Charles was to receive one quarter of ecclesiastical income in his realms to finance the war. Imperial armies were allowed to pass through the Papal States, and all excommunications prior to the sacking of Rome were lifted. In exchange Charles agreed to support the Medici in Florence and help the Papal States regain Ravenna, Modena, Ferrara, and Reggio. Thus the Papal States had become part of the empire of Charles V. He also made a treaty with France and met for several months with Clement in Bologna where the Pope crowned him Emperor Charles V on February 24, 1530. During Clement’s papacy the Catholic Church lost England, Denmark, Sweden, half of Germany, and part of Switzerland to the Protestant reformers.
Alessandro Farnese was elected Pope Paul III (1534-49) and confirmed most of his predecessor’s concessions to Charles V, and he increased the subsidy from the Spanish clergy to the Emperor, giving him 400,000 ducats by 1536 to build 21 galleys for war. Charles visited Rome in April 1536 with 4,000 well disciplined troops to help erase the memories of the atrocities in 1527. In early 1538 Pope Paul III, Charles V, his brother Ferdinand I of Hungary and Bohemia, and the Republic of Venice formed the Holy League to fight the Ottoman Empire. The Imperial army of 60,000 included 30,000 Germans, 15,000 Spaniards, and 15,000 Italians. Charles commanded the Spaniards and half the Germans while Venice and the Pope were in charge of the Italians and the rest of the Germans. Paul III renewed the cruzada and other grants for five years that was worth about two million ducats. The Colonnas, one of Rome’s oldest families, were allied with Charles and had many lands in the Kingdom of Naples. In 1538 Charles V, Paul III, and François I met on board galleys by Nice, though Charles and François refused to see each other face to face. Paul III ordered eighty bishops living in Rome to return to their sees.
In 1539 the citizens of Perugia refused to pay Pope Paul III’s new salt tax because of a privilege granted them in 1431 by Pope Eugenius IV. After Paul III demanded payment and threatened severe penalties on February 7, 1540, the Perugians rebelled. In March the Pope pronounced an interdict. The Priors led a massive procession on April 8. A committee of 25 seized the government as “defenders of justice” and minted coins with the inscription “Perugia, the City of Christ.” Officials began robbing silver from the churches. Paul III sent an army commanded by Pier Luigi Farnese and others, and the war began on May 8. A delegation of 25 prominent Perugians went to Rome and met with the Pope on July 3. The next day the Baglioni and the Committee of 25 left Perugia, and on July 5 the Papal forces entered the city. On October 16 a papal bull ordered the use of confiscated property and official incomes of Perugia to finance the construction of a new fortress. A year later Paul III visited Perugia and refused to make any changes. Ascanio Colonna defied the salt tax, and he was also forced to submit in the spring of 1541, breaking the power of the Colonna family which went into exile in Naples. From 1541 to 1547 Michelangelo painted “The Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel.
In 1542 Paul III established the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition, and he presided over the six cardinals in the Holy Office. On November 19, 1544 he convoked a council in his bull Laetare Hierusalem to meet at Trent on March 15, 1545, but the Council did not open until December 13. They accepted the Nicene Creed and the “wide canon” of the Bible with traditions. In the summer of 1546 they established lectures on scripture and declared that bishops were obligated to preach.
In 1535 the Franciscan Angela Merici and 28 women dedicated their lives to helping the poor and founded the Ursulines in Brescia, and Paul III recognized their order in 1546. That year Rome and the Empire formed a Catholic league against the Schmaldkaldic League of Protestant princes, but Charles V resented being pulled into the costly war. In March 1547 the Council of Trent decreed that multiple benefits should be reformed. They transferred the Council to Bologna, but there they postponed sessions. Paul III gave favors to his illegitimate sons and brothers. His oldest son Pier Luigi became captain-general of the Papal States and Duke of Castro and then Duke of Parma and Piacenza, but a conspiracy murdered him in Piacenza on September 10, 1547. Paul III doubled the monti debt but lowered the interest rate to 7.5%. In the 1540s and 1550s the prices of basic foods rose sharply, making it hard for the lower classes and resulting in more beggars in Rome.
A Roman was elected Pope Julius III (1550-55), and his relatives were given well paid positions. He also allied with Charles V against France. On April 29, 1550 Julius III issued a bull that cancelled previous authorization which had protected Lutheran and other books suspected of heresy, and the burning of books in Rome began on June 3. In 1551 at Florence books were burned, and 22 people were forced to recant. On May 1 the Council of Trent resumed sessions. In autumn they decided that the doctrines of the eucharist, confession, and extreme unction would be dogma, and this alienated Protestants. The Council was suspended on April 28, 1552 and did not meet again until January 18, 1562.
In 1552 the rebels in Siena against the Empire were given papal protection, but the attempt by Julius III to guarantee Siena’s neutrality failed. On September 12, 1553 the Pope approved an edict of the Inquisition instructing all princes, bishops, and inquisitors to confiscate and burn the Talmudic books of the Jews. When they complained, on May 29, 1554 he ordered Jewish communities to turn in all books containing blasphemies against Christ.
Pope Marcellus II (April 1555) wanted to reform the papacy and donated to the poor the money usually used for the coronation. However, he died after a short illness three weeks after his election.
Gian Pietro Carafa was born on June 28, 1476 in a noble family in Naples. Gaetano of Thiene and he founded the ascetic Theatines in 1524, pledging themselves to poverty, caring for the sick, and a strict moral life. Carafa was a disciple of Thomas Aquinas and as Pope Paul IV (1555-59) ended humanist influence on the papacy. He put on a lavish banquet to celebrate his coronation on May 26, and three days later he announced his intention to bring reforms and to restore peace to Christendom. For reform he assigned cardinals Du Bellay to France, Pacheco to Spain, Truchsess to Germany, and Puteo and Cicada to Italy. Yet he wanted to free the papacy and Italy from Spanish imperialism and was willing to go to war. In 1555 Paul IV ordered able-bodied beggars to leave Rome, and during a famine three years later he expelled farm laborers who had taken refuge in Rome.
Charles V abdicated to his son Felipe II, and his brother Ferdinand was elected to succeed him as Emperor; but Pope Paul IV did not recognize either one. He gave ecclesiastical lands to his nephews and relied on the advice of his nephew Carlo Carafa whom he made a cardinal and his secretary of state. Carlo met with the Pope every day and had a staff of officials devoted to him. Carlo Carafa focused on politics and the war against Spain while leading an immoral life. Pope Paul IV lived like a lonely monk and tried to implement reforms.
Pope Paul IV made a secret treaty with France’s Henri II to drive out the Spaniards and gave the Kingdom of Naples to France. War in Naples broke out in the fall of 1556 and would have been more disastrous if the Duke of Alba had not refrained from sacking Rome again. The Pope agreed to release Spanish prisoners held in Rome, allowed those expelled to return, and restored confiscated land and offices. Felipe II sent his ambassador Don Juan de Figueroa to Rome and established the archive of writings of the precedents the pontiffs had conceded. The Dominican Melchor Cano advised Pope Paul IV that the papacy was now dependent on the Spanish monarchy. By the summer of 1557 the Papal States had collapsed and ended their resistance to Spanish military power. In a treaty on September 12 he promised never to offend King Felipe II nor his states nor help anyone who intended to do so. Paul IV’s war against Spain cost more than double the annual papal income for the years 1555-57.
Pope Paul IV tried to institute reforms by making the Inquisition more severe with its imprisonment, torture, and executions, and it became a supreme court of morals. On July 14, 1555 a papal bull confiscated the property of Jews, and in the Papal States they could not own land and had to wear yellow caps. The ghetto established in Bologna in August was called “Inferno.” Jews could not trade grain or other food, and their physicians were not allowed to treat Christians. Jews suspected of pretending to convert were called Marani and were punished as apostates. In September 1557 books on a long list were declared heretical and were to be burned by the Inquisition. In Rome and Cremona many copies of the Talmud were seized and burned. Also in 1557 Jews in Rome were required to live in a ghetto. The Inquisition even accused a painter of improperly designing a crucifix and tortured him.
Finally in January 1559 the moral corruption of Carafa nephews exposed papal nepotism, and in February the Pope ordered his three nephews to leave Rome and dismissed their offices. On April 3 the treaty of Cateau-Cambresis excluded the French from central and southern Italy. Virtually all of Italy was now under Spanish domination. Also in 1559 Pope Paul IV published the first Index of Prohibited Books. Works considered heretical included those by Machiavelli, Erasmus, and Boccaccio. A second category banned anything published anonymously. To some scholars banning the works of Erasmus marked the end of the Renaissance in Italy. The Pope also had the artist Daniele da Volterra paint loin cloths over many of Michelangelo’s nude figures in his “Last Judgment.” After Pope Paul IV died on August 18, 1559, Romans destroyed his statue, Carafa arms, and burned down the Palace of the Inquisition. Cardinal Morone, who for criticizing Carlo Carafa had been imprisoned in May 1557 for three years, was released by the Sacred College of Cardinals.
After much disagreement Giovanni Angelo Medici of Milan was elected Pope Pius IV (1559-65) as a compromise candidate, but it soon became clear that he favored Spain. He recognized Felipe II and Emperor Ferdinand. On January 11, 1560 he restricted the Inquisition to its former limits before Paul IV, and he announced that anyone previously censured, exiled, or condemned for heresy could submit his case for a new trial. On the 31st Pius IV appointed his nephew Carlo Borromeo and young Giovanni de’ Medici cardinals. Borromeo was made administrator of Milan and later archbishop, and his ascetic life was considered a moral example.
Carlo Carafa and three others were tried for various crimes including high treason and complicity with murder and were sentenced to death; they were strangled on March 6, 1561. Their property was confiscated, and others were sentenced to the galleys. Three other cardinals who had been arrested were pardoned. As a result of the punishment papal nepotism in the future was reduced to merely securing riches, honors, and great positions. Pius IV renewed the cruzada tax for six years and the subsidio tax on ecclesiastical rents to finance fighting the Barbary pirates. He replaced the Carafas, and he returned the jurisdiction of the Inquisition to what it had been before his predecessor and condemned severe sentences. Augustin di Cavallis began writing a history to show how Spain had always dominated Italy especially since the time of Fernando and Isabella by various “holy leagues.”
The Council of Trent, which held its first session on December 13, 1545, accomplished little and met only occasionally until 1552. Pius IV appointed the capable Cardinal Morone to be president of the Council of Trent which resumed on January 18, 1562. On February 16 they revised the Index by creating a category for books deemed “prohibited until corrected.” The Council of Trent had its last public session on December 3 and 4, 1563. This session was attended by 195 Italian prelates, 31 Spanish, 27 French, and 8 from Venetian colonies in Greece with only 3 Dutch, 3 Hungarian, 3 Polish, 3 Irish, 2 German, one Czech and one Croatian.
Some of the reforms finally decided by the Council of Trent included suppressing the plurality of benefices and not appointing them unless a university presented a case showing that one had the necessary knowledge to discharge the duty. The way of electing bishops was reformed, and they were required to live in their dioceses except for special exemptions, were to preach to their people, visit their parishes, hold annual synods in the diocese, attend provincial synods at least once every three years, and safeguard their ecclesiastical properties. They resolved to end abuses from ecclesiastical censures, indulgence, and dispensations, and all complaints were to be brought before the episcopal court before going to a higher tribunal. Secular clergy were not to indulge in businesses unworthy of their sacred office. Concubinage was condemned, and priests were commanded to supervise education of the young, preach to their flocks on Sundays and holidays, and attend to their spiritual needs. Priests were to be improved by careful training in seminaries with necessary discipline. Monastic abuses were to be ended by suppressing quests for alms, defining rules for receiving novices, giving bishops power to handle irregularities outside monasteries, and subjecting all priests to episcopal authority. Marriages to be valid must be contracted in the presence of a parish priest and two witnesses. The decisions of the Council were published by Pope Pius IV in his bull Benedictus Deus on January 26, 1564.
By the second half of the 16th century little revenue was coming in to Rome from Germany, England, or France, but by the end of the century the Papal coffers were getting annual revenues of about 50,000 scudi from vacancies in the churches of Castile and Aragon plus 15,000 from churches of Naples and 6,000 from churches of Portugal. In January 1561 Pope Pius IV granted an annual levy of 300,000 gold ducats to Felipe II for five years, but according to a Vatican record after the death of Pius IV, Felipe was receiving a Papal concession of 1,970,000 gold ducats a year. Two-thirds of the fines and confiscations of the Spanish Inquisition went to King Felipe II, and this alone paid him more than 200 gold ducats in 1566.
Cardinals elected the Dominican Michele Ghislieri to be Pope Pius V (1566-72), and he continued his life of fasting and prayer. Since 1557 he had been Grand Inquisitor at Rome, and he made the Holy Office more strict again. In 1566 he pledged 3,000 paid soldiers to the command of Pompeo Colonna to help defend Malta, and in 1568 he authorized a tax on the clergy of Naples to raise 30,000 scudi for fortifications on Malta. When the president of the Senate refused to approve King Felipe II’s demands, Pius V excommunicated him. He also accepted the King’s right to extract revenues by force. In 1567 the excusado tax began taking in about 300,000 ducats a year to pay for the war in Flanders. This and the cruzada and the subsidio taxes were called the three gracias and supported Spain’s military budget. In 1570 Pius renewed the cruzada for five years that brought in 334,000 ducats annually. In August he promised 400 ships, 10,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry, and grain for the fleet.
Carlo Borromeo, the Archbishop of Milan, hired a few armed police to arrest offenders and those sentenced by his court; but the Senate of Milan protested because they believed this infringed the king’s prerogative regarding the laity. Borromeo helped Pius V implement the reforms of the Council of Trent. In 1566 Borromeo sponsored a company of Ursulines in Milan to teach the catechism to girls. Both Pius V and Borromeo were later declared saints.
Pius V established the Congregation of the Index in March 1571 that authorized censored editions of previously condemned books. He expelled prostitutes and courtesans from Rome, and some were drowned in the Tiber or died of hunger. Large donations were made to those really poor, and no begging was allowed in Rome. Priests were severely punished for violating Sundays and feast-days, for swearing, and for concubinage. Swiss guards married their concubines. On May 23 Pius proclaimed the military league with King Felipe II and the Republic of Venice. The papacy’s alliance with Spain would last a half century. The Inquisition was used to root out Italian Protestants. Many autodafés were held in Rome; but most of those charged with heresy recanted, and very few were executed. In a bull on February 26, 1569 Pius V ordered all Jews to leave the Papal States within three months, but later he extended the deadline to August 15.
Ugo Boncompagni was elected Pope Gregory XIII (1572-85), and he commissioned paintings by Giorgio Vasari in the Vatican palace to commemorate the famous naval victory at Lepanto. Cardinal Tolomeo Galli had been secretary to Pius V, and Gregory XIII made him the first real Secretary of State. Gregory asked Felipe II to maintain a navy in Italy commanded by Johann of Austria. He renewed the gracias taxes and granted ten percent of ecclesiastical income to the Spanish monarch. He helped raise 10,000 soldiers in Italy for Felipe’s campaign in Flanders, and in 1578 the Roman noble Camillo Capitucco led 4,500 Italian troops. Gregory warned his subjects not to join Spanish forces in Portugal on pain of excommunication and loss of property. Yet Martio Colonna took 300 men claiming they were personal guards, and Pompeo Colonna commanded 5,000 men in the Portuguese war.
In 1570 Ugo Boncompagni had founded an English College, and he provided funds to build an Irish College. As Pope Gregory XIII he proclaimed 1575 a Jubilee Year, and he planned German and Greek colleges. Carlo Borromeo advised Gregory to avoid flagrant nepotism and to practice simple living and sincere piety. They worked to carry out the reforms Pius V instituted to implement the Council of Trent decrees. Gregory XIII also promoted the colleges of the Jesuits including a university in Rome. On September 24, 1573 he abolished the abused immunities of foreign ambassadors, cardinals, and great nobles in Rome. He issued edicts against the carrying of offensive weapons in Rome and the Papal States,
Gregory XIII was extremely tolerant and forgave many criminals. He also worked hard and contributed much to help the sick and the poor. In 1580 he sent aid to help people suffering from a plague in Avignon. The treasurer of the Apostolic Camera reported that as of 1581 Gregory had spent more than 1.5 million scudi on charity. On one of his coins he had inscribed the words “God is love.”
Felipe II gained control of Portugal in 1580, but no papal vassals were prosecuted for participating in the campaign. That year the league against the Turks was renewed, and in 1583 a Spanish fleet chased away Turkish pirates from the coasts of the Papal States. Gregory’s collecting of overdue feudal duties and confiscating land made the banditry problem worse. People were afraid to go outside the city gates, and in July 1583 about 700 men were sent out against bandits who had burned crops at Piperno. In previous centuries more than half of the papal budget was for military expenses, but from 1560 to 1620 the military budget was usually under twenty percent.
Pope Gregory XIII is famous for having corrected the Julian calendar (named after Julius Caesar) which had drifted ten days away from the solar year based on the equinoxes and solstices, delaying the celebration of Easter. They replaced it with the more accurate Gregorian calendar by skipping ten days from October 4 to October 15, 1582 and by reducing the number of leap years each four centuries by three. Years divisible by 100 were no longer to be leap years unless they were divisible by 400. The new calendar was immediately adopted by the Catholic nations of Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Poland. In 1587 France, Hungary, and Catholic states in Germany and Switzerland followed. Germany and Holland accepted the calendar in 1700. Great Britain changed its calendar in 1752, followed by Sweden in 1753. Russia and Eastern Orthodox nations finally made the change between 1917 and 1923.
Philip Neri (1515-95) was a popular priest who developed a following and founded the Congregation of the Oratory in 1556. In 1564 Florentines asked him to supervise their church in Rome, and in 1574 they built a large oratory for his society. When asked to summarize his Rule, Philip replied, “Nothing but charity.” The precept he most often taught was, “Live in God and die to self.” He was declared a saint in 1622.
Franciscan Felice Peretti di Montalto had been Inquisitor in Verona, and he was elected Pope Sixtus V (1585-90). He reversed the tolerant policy of Gregory XIII by going to the other extreme of strict punishments. His second goal was to make sure his subjects were provided with plentiful food, and he spent 800,000 scudi to keep the price of bread low. He began before his coronation by renewing and enforcing the ban against carrying murderous weapons in Rome by having four youths hanged. After having no effective police, Rome became a police state. On September 18, 1585 a report in Rome estimated that so many heads of bandits had been exposed on the Bridge of St. Angelo that they compared them to the melons brought to markets. The death penalty was applied for suspicion and crimes such as adultery. He had a priest and a boy burned for having committed sodomy. Fornication with a nun meant death for both persons.
Pope Sixtus V ended the previous Pope’s confiscations of nobles’ property. The prices of offices were increased, and more offices were sold. He ordered the nobles to dismiss their bravi and pledged to pardon any bandit who turned in another bandit. He appointed many of his relatives but strictly enforced reforms. His bull on January 5, 1586 banned the use of astrology and other forms of divination. The death penalty was inflicted for incest, abortion, and even verbal or written calumny. Prisons became crowded even though many more executions occurred.
In September 1585 Sixtus V excommunicated the Protestant Henri of Navarre while granting Henri III of France more than two million livres from Church taxes to fight the Huguenots. Sixtus asked Felipe II to export more grain from Sicily to Rome as the Papal States depended on grain imports from 1582 until 1631. He also asked for Spain’s assistance in catching bandits. To reduce begging the Pope established a poorhouse in Rome on May 11, 1587. To relieve the debts of municipalities in the Papal States he limited their expenditures and unnecessary sales.
Sixtus promoted the University of Rome and commissioned Domenico Fontana to build a larger Vatican Library to hold more books. Yet on June 20, 1587 Sixtus asked the professors at the great universities of Europe to review all books that had been printed for a new Index. After he died in August 1590, the publishing of the Index was suspended. Sixtus had pagan statues removed or altered, and he topped the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius with statues of Peter and Paul, showing that the Renaissance was over. He improved the supply of fresh water in Rome and had the Pontine marshes drained to reclaim 9,600 acres for farming and to reduce malaria. In the spring of 1589 Rome suffered from a famine. By that year Sixtus had introduced eighteen new taxes including a heavy tax on wine. He spent large amounts on public utilities and to beautify Rome. To help pay for his projects he increased the sales tax on food, and annual revenues increased from 1,746,814 scudi to 2,576,814.
Pope Sixtus V pledged a million scudi for Spain’s war against England; but after the destruction of the armada in 1588 he refused to pay because they never landed in England.
In 1515 the ruling Ten agreed to let Jewish Asher Meshullam (Anselmo del Banco) begin lending money in Venice for five years for a payment of 6,500 ducats. The next year Jews in Venice were given permission to sell used clothing and other used goods after they loaned 5,000 ducats to the treasury for the privilege. Jews were only allowed to practice their religion in the Ghetto, and they established the Ashkenazi synagogues Grande Tedesca in 1528 and Canton in 1532.
On July 1518 Venice signed a five-year truce with the Holy Roman Empire, but Emperor Maximilian died on January 12, 1519. The Republic of Venice included the cities of Verona, Vicenza, and Padua with its great university. Venice maintained its alliance with France after the Papal States abandoned theirs. In the summer 1521 Charles V asked permission for his Imperial army to traverse Venetian territory, and the 74th Doge Antonio Grimani refused because of their treaty with France. In 1522 Venice conscripted a peasant militia. Grimani had become Doge at the age of 87 on July 6, 1521 and died on May 7, 1523. He was succeeded by the election of 68-year-old Andrea Gritti who had traveled widely with his diplomatic father and knew English, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and even Turkish from his visits to Istanbul which the Venetians still called Constantinople. Three months later Venice made a treaty with Charles V and agreed to pay 200,000 ducats over eight years to keep its territories. Venice also promised to help defend Naples with 15 galleys against the Turks. Venice maintained its alliance with France. On December 21, 1522 the Knights of St. John on Rhodes had surrendered to the siege by Ottoman Turks, and they were allowed to leave the island. A few years later they established a new state on the island of Malta.
Although few Venetians became Lutherans, ideas reached them because of Venice’s being a center for printing. In 1527 Venetian crops were ruined by too much rain and the next year by a drought. The city suffered from a typhus epidemic while refugees were arriving from sacked Rome. When King François surrendered France’s claims in Italy to the Spanish empire in 1529, on December 23 Venice was forced to give up its possessions in Apulia to the Spanish Kingdom of Naples.
In 1533 Venice tried to maintain peace with the Ottoman Empire, but in November the young commander Girolamo da Canale attacked Turkish ships near Crete, sinking two and capturing five. Venice quickly sent diplomats, though Canale was acclaimed as a hero. After Francesco II Sforza died in October 1535, the French took over Milan in September 1536. Venice’s attempt to mediate had failed to prevent the war. France allied with Sultan Suleiman who invited the Venetians to join them. Doge Gritti responded by imposing a ten-percent tax on all goods sold in Syria, and Turkish ships began attacking the Venetian vessels. In August 1537 the Turkish fleet threatened the Venetian colony of Corfu, but Venetian appeals for help were ignored by the Spanish empire. On August 25 about 25,000 Turks landed with thirty cannons, but in three weeks they were devastated by dysentery and malaria and departed. However, the Turks took over the coastal towns of Nauplia and Malvasia and the islands of Skiros, Patmos, Aegina, Ios, Paros, and Astipalaia which were closer to Ottoman territory than to Venice. In the summer of 1538 Venice was supported by Pope Paul III, Charles V, and Ferdinand, but their attempt to capture Constantinople resulted in defeat off Preveza. The Venetians lost seven galleys and blamed Genoa’s Andrea Doria for not engaging.
Doge Gritti died on December 28, 1538, and 77-year-old Pietro Lando was elected. He sent Tommaso Contarini to negotiate with the Turks, and in October 1540 Venice agreed to pay 300,000 ducats for reparations and did not regain any of the lost colonies. Two years later the brothers Nicolo and Costantino Cavazza were caught for having spied for the King of France while serving as highly placed secretaries in Venice’s government. Venice had a large debt burden but failed in an attempt to confiscate property from tax offenders. After the death of Lando, Venice elected the doges Francesco Donato on November 24, 1545, the year they began sending convicted criminals to serve n the galleys. Venice established its own Inquisition in 1547. Marcantanio Trivisan became doge in 1553 and was quickly followed by Francesco Venier in 1554, by Lorenzo Priuli in 1556, and in 1559 by the 73-year-old Girolamo Priuli who managed to live eight years. In 1561 the Venetian Paolo Manuzio set up a pontifical press in Rome. Influenced by Greek and Roman architecture, Andrea Palladio (1509-80) designed many buildings in Venice in the 1540s and 1550s. He published his influential Four Books of Architecture in 1570.
This peaceful era ended when Sultan Suleiman sent a Turkish fleet to besiege the Knights Hospitaller on Malta in May 1565. They used 130,000 cannonballs but could not take the fortress. A Spanish force of about 8,000 men was sent to relieve the Knights, and they arrived at Malta on September 7. The Turks withdrew four days later as they were being massacred by the Spaniards. The Turks had about 10,000 casualties because of combat and disease.
Pietro Loredan became Doge in November 1567 at the age of 85. Cyprus had a population of 160,000 and had been governed by Venice for 81 years. In January 1570 Sultan Selim II decided that Cyprus should be in the Ottoman Empire, and their ships began arresting Venetian merchants and seizing their ships in the harbor. Venice sent appeals to Pope Pius V, Spain’s Felipe II, and other European princes, and Selim sent an envoy demanding that Venice give up Cyprus. Loredan died on May 3, and Venice elected Alvise Mocenigo, the former ambassador to Charles V and Pope Paul IV. The largest landowners on Cyprus were the Knights of St. John at Malta, but four of the five ships they offered were soon captured by the Turks. Felipe II sent a fleet of fifty ships commanded by Gian Andrea Doria, and Pope Pius V offered to fit out twelve Venetian vessels.
Venice had 146 war galleys, and the Turks had perhaps 150 and landed at Cyprus on July 1. Lala Mustafa Pasha began the siege with 100,000 men, and Nicosia fell after 45 days. The Turks took away the richest spoils since their conquest of Constantinople in 1453. More Turks increased their numbers to about 200,000, and they besieged Farmagusta on September 17. Sebastiano Venier replaced the elderly Girolamo Zane as captain-general on December 13. Costs of the war caused a run on two of the three private banks in Venice. Heavy bombardment began on May 15, 1571, and the Venetians surrendered Farmagusta on August 1. The Italians, Greeks, and Albanians were allowed to go to Crete. Marcantonio Bragadin and Astorre Baglioni decided to meet with Mustafa, and accusations that Christians had murdered Turkish prisoners led to a dispute that resulted in Mustafa ordering all 350 Christians killed.
Pope Pius V had issued a call for a new Christian league in July 1570, and representatives of Spain, Venice, and the Papal States signed a treaty of mutual defense on May 25, 1571 in Rome. Felipe II’s half-brother Johann of Austria was named captain-general of the combined fleet with Venier commanding Venetians and Marcantanio Colonna for the Papacy. On October 4 the Christians learned of the massacre at Farmagusta, and three days later the two large fleets met by Cape Scropha in the battle of Lepanto. The Holy League had 212 ships and 28,500 soldiers, and the Ottoman fleet had 251 ships and 31,490 soldiers plus about 50,000 sailors and oarsmen. The Christians had 7,500 killed and lost 17 ships, but the Turks had about 15,000 casualties and 8,000 taken prisoners with 50 ships sunk and 137 captured. About 15,000 Christian galley slaves were liberated. Guns (cannons) were decisive in this sea battle more than swords, marking a major change in naval tactics.
Felipe II ordered Johann to bring the fleet back, and they arrived at Messina in November 1571. Pope Pius V died on May 1, 1572. Venice launched another expedition, and Marcantonio Colonna brought his Papal squadron. Johann got permission to join them in June. They met at Corfu and searched for the enemy. The Turks had a new fleet of 150 galleys with eight galleasses and were found at Modone. The League’s navies followed them to Navarino and hoped to besiege them, but on October 6 Don Juan withdrew and went home to get supplies. Venice offered to supply them, but he had orders from Spain. France was plotting against Spain, and Venice, left without allies, signed a treaty on March 3, 1573 promising to pay Sultan Selim II 300,000 ducats in the next three years while renouncing its claim to Cyprus. Young Henri III of France was crowned king of Poland and learned his older brother Charles IX had died. He visited Venice in July 1574 and was shown a lavish display as sumptuary laws were suspended. The Venetians hoped the French would help restrain the aggressive Spaniards and that after the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre they would become more tolerant.
In the autumn of 1576 a plague struck Venice and by the following July had reduced the population from 175,000 to 124,000. Doge Alvise Mocenigo had died on June 4, and the 81-year-old Venier, the hero of Lepanto, was elected. On December 20 a fire destroyed the Collegio and the Senate in the Doges’ Palace, destroying more paintings that had not burned in the fire of 1574. Venier died on March 3, 1578, and the 87-year-old Nicolo da Ponte was elected to replace him and managed to live until July 30, 1585. Meanwhile the Council of Ten and the Great Council struggled for power. Pasquale Cicogna was elected Doge on the 53rd ballot.
Tiziano Vecelli (Titian) was the most famous of the Venetian painters in the 16th century and excelled at portraits as well as landscapes and religious and mythological works, the latter often commissioned for Felipe II. He died about the age of 86 in 1576. Jacopo Robusti, known as Tintoretto (1518-94), painted with such energy that he as also called “Il Furioso.” He was born in Venice. Most of his paintings were religious, and he depicted light in a mystical way especially in The Last Supper in 1594. Paolo Cagliari was called Veronese because his father was an artist in Verona. He also painted in Venice in the Mannerist style. His paintings were religious, and he depicted the Battle of Lepanto and The Feast in the House of Levi in 1573. On July 18, 1573 he was questioned by the Inquisition about his portraying nude figures at the Last Judgment, and they ordered him to correct his painting.
Starting in 1504 the Kingdom of Naples was ruled by Spain with viceroys for the next two centuries. The 1483 edict of Ferrante of Aragon guaranteeing Naples citizen rights was confirmed twice by Emperor Charles V. The southern Italians successfully maintained their freedom of conscience by not allowing the Inquisition there in 1510 and again in 1547.
Neapolitan soldiers participated in the sacking of Rome in 1527. France’s attempt to besiege Naples with Black bands in 1528 failed. They lost 17,000 men in a plague, and their commander Marshal Lautrec died on August 15. Some of the barons, especially in Calabria and Apulia, had joined the French and were punished by Viceroy Philibert of Chalon, Prince of Orange. Two were beheaded, and two more were exiled in France; several others had their lands confiscated. After this the barons of Naples rarely revolted. In 1529 Pope Clement VII pleased Charles V by appointing 24 new bishops in Naples, and Naples only had to pay 7,000 ducats and a white horse as annual feudal dues to the Pope. Several barons went to Bologna in 1530 for the crowning of Emperor Charles V who appointed Pompeo Colonna to govern their kingdom, but he died June 28, 1532. Charles visited Naples in 1535. Viceroy Pedro Alvarez de Toledo y Zuñiga (1532-52) was an effective ruler of Naples. Loyalty to the King of Spain became honorable for the barons. When the citizens of Naples revolted in 1547 and killed Spanish soldiers, they still supported Charles V while challenging Viceroy Toledo.
Naples also supported the Duke of Alba’s campaign in 1556 against Pope Paul IV and a siege of Civitella del Tronto led by Charles de Guise, Cardinal of Lorraine. Barons managed to reverse the policies of the cruel Viceroy Pedro Pacheco de Villena (1555-57) who later became Inquisitor in Rome for Pope Pius IV. Neapolitans helped defend Malta in 1565, Cyprus in 1570, and fought at Lepanto in 1571. In 1576 soldiers led by Cola Antonio Sanseverino, Prince of Bisignano, with 300 infantry and 60 horseman attacked Barbary pirates at Trebisacce, killing 50, capturing 40, and recovering the loot. In 1580 Neapolitans joined the Duke of Alba in Portugal. The parliamentary bodies of Naples usually met once every two years.
Spain ruled Sicily and appointed viceroys to govern, and Palermo was given a Consultor who was the Viceroy’s deputy. About once a generation Spain sent a Visitador from Madrid to investigate problems and confirm that the Viceroy was governing well. The barons held local power in Sicily, and they often sold offices. The Parliament of Sicily had a house of bishops and abbots who were often foreigners, a house of barons and other feudal lords, and a third house with representatives of towns. Most of the taxes were put on the peasants, and more than half went for military spending. Petitions against the Inquisition, foreign clergy, military service, and the use of Sicilian galleys were debated and sent to the King. Parliament usually met each year but for only a few days. The Viceroy could make laws without the Parliament. Sessions were held at the royal palace or churches in Palermo or at Messena or Catania. Many accused Sicilians of being the most vengeful people, and bribery and false testimony were common. Education was lacking, and the only university at Catania had low standards. The nobles and prelates who were often foreigners respected Spanish power and passed on the taxes they voted for in the Parliament to the poor workers. Clergy were exempt from civil and criminal charges in secular courts, and Palermo had three hundred churches in which criminals could take sanctuary. Palermo had five uprisings between 1512 and 1560. The aristocrats refused to support the poor in revolts. Jews were required to wear a badge and Moors a fez or turban.
Between 1516 and 1523 three revolts broke out in Sicily against the Viceroys Moncada (1509-17) and Monteleone (1517-34). In 1523 judges were caught purchasing their positions and selling their judgments to pay for their expenses. In the 1520s the de Luna and Perollo families had a feud over power in Sciacca, and Viceroy Monteleone sent a police officer to stop the violence; but a de Luna killed him in the street, and no one dared bury his body for days. During this vendetta the port of Sciacca lost half its population. In 1532 the Parliament agreed to provide 10,000 infantry and 1,600 cavalry the defend Sicily, but only the officers were paid. The rich with horses made up the cavalry, but they were not effective.
Emperor Charles V visited Sicily while returning from Africa in 1535. After that he let ecclesiastics appeal to the Pope before paying their reduced quotas, resulting in years of arrears. After a disastrous harvest in 1539 taxes were reduced. In 1538 unpaid Spanish soldiers mutinied for four months and plundered Mazara and Messina, and the garrison at Syracuse mutinied in 1541. Cereals were smuggled out of Sicily, and Viceroy Ferrante Gonzaga told Charles V that most people in the kingdom were dying of hunger. In the 1540s about ten percent of government revenues went to pay pensions and grants to those who had worked for the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Military commitments had to be reduced. By 1547 Charles V believed that prominent people in Sicily had been contaminated by Lutheranism, and in the next ten years the Inquisition accused 85 people of being Lutherans including 43 priests and monks; seven of them were burned to death. In 1551 the Turks raided the coasts of Sicily.
In 1555 two Sicilian nobles visited Madrid to complain that Viceroy Juan de Vega was favoring the lower class at their expense. Felipe II withdrew Vega by appointing him president of the Royal Council at Madrid in 1557. The next year Felipe II established the Council of Italy, and Naples, Sicily, Milan, Corsica, and Sardinia had seats. In 1560 the Turks defeated the Spanish and Sicilian galleys at Jerba. That year and again in 1585 the Inquisition helped the Spaniards quell riots and rebellion. In 1562 the Marques de Oriolo removed Viceroy Medinaceli and summoned the Sicilian Parliament. Some of the Viceroy’s friends were arrested and tortured in prison. The duty on exported silk was greatly increased. In 1569 King Felipe II decreed that judges should be paid by salary rather than by fees from civil actions. Then they avoided criminal cases, and prisons became overcrowded. In 1571 Sicilian warships contributed to the victory over the Turks at Lepanto, and they helped the Spaniards fight in Portugal in 1580. English crews selling Christian slaves on the Barbary Coast were caught and imprisoned by the Sicilian Inquisition in the 1580s.
In 1577 the Viceroy estimated that more than 20,000 Sicilian gentry had joined the Inquisition to avoid the secular courts. In 1546 the Viceroy could borrow money at 8% interest; but by 1574 one could not get a loan at less than 15%.
Francesco Guicciardini was born on March 6, 1483 in an aristocratic family and studied civil law at Florence, Ferrara, and Padua. He practiced law and worked on a history of Florence covering from 1378 to 1509. In October 1511 the republic of Florence sent him to King Fernando of Spain as their ambassador, and in January 1514 he returned to serve the Medici government. The Medici Pope Leo X appointed him to govern Modena in 1516 and Reggio in 1517 and then in 1521 Parma. Guicciardini served the papacy until 1534. In the early 1520s he wrote a dialog on the government of Florence, favoring an aristocratic regime based on the constitution of Venice. In 1524 Pope Clement VII made him president of the Romagna, the northern region of the Papal States. He was summoned to Rome in January 1526 and helped negotiate the alliance with France in the League of Cognac. In his last five years before his death in 1540 Guicciardini worked on his History of Italy about the period from 1494 to 1534, and it was published in 1561. His History of Florence was not published until 1859.
Guicciardini collected his maxims and reflections in Ricordi in 1528 (Series B) and 1530 (Series C). He had started with Notebooks in 1512 but revised and added to them over many years. The first printed edition of the Ricordi was published in Paris in 1576 and another appeared in Venice in 1582.
Series B begins
Citizens who seek honor and glory in their city
are praiseworthy and useful,
provided they seek it not by faction or usurpation
but by striving to be considered wise and good,
and by serving their country.
Would to God our republic were of such ambition!
But citizens whose only goal is power are dangerous.
For men who make power their idol cannot be restrained
by any considerations of honor or justice,
and they will step on anything and everything
to attain their goal.1
Guicciardini believed that people are naturally inclined to good, but they are easily deviated by self-interest. Thus legislators design rewards and punishments to make them good citizens. He noted that a man of good sense can make good use of a man with many talents more than the reverse. His three goals were to see Florence a well-ordered republic, Italy liberated from barbarians, and the world free of the tyranny of wicked priests. He found greater pleasure in controlling lewd desires than in gratifying them because the latter is brief and affects only the body, but a restrained appetite lasts longer and is of the mind and conscience. He observed that most Florentines are poor but wanted to be rich, and this made it hard to preserve freedom in the city.
Just as merchants go broke and sailors drown in the sea, those governing territories for the Church usually come to a bad end. Giving in to feelings of pleasure and anger can be comforting for a while, but they are harmful. The wise do not do so even though it is hard. Guicciardini wrote, “The more you think about things, the more you understand them and the better you do them.” (B 75) He found that too much hope lessens one’s efforts and makes one sadder when one’s hope is not realized. He wrote,
Considering its origin carefully,
all political power is rooted in violence.
There is no legitimate power, except that of republics
within their own territories but not beyond.
Not even the power of the emperor is an exception,
for it is founded on the authority of the Romans,
which was a greater usurpation than any other.
Nor do I except the priests from this rule—
indeed, their violence is double, for they use
both the temporal and the spiritual arms to subjugate us.2
Generally men have more respect for their own interests than for their duty. Guicciardini found that losing an opportunity often meant losing an introduction and access to great things. “Man’s greatest enemy is himself. For nearly all of the many evils, dangers, and worries he has to bear have their origin in his excessive cupidity.” (B 139) Guicciardini observed that in his corrupt society anyone who wanted a reputation had to seek wealth so that his virtues would shine and be esteemed because the poor are “scarcely regarded and hardly known.”
Series C also contains many interesting ideas, and here are some of the most concise ideas. Series C begins,
The pious say that faith can do great things,
and, as the gospel tells us, even move mountains.
The reason is that faith breeds obstinacy.
To have faith means simply to believe firmly—
to deem almost a certainty—things that are not reasonable;
or, if they are reasonable,
to believe them more firmly than reason warrants.3
Guicciardini advised telling one’s ambassador only what he wanted the other prince to believe. One must make distinctions and exceptions because of different circumstances, and this is taught by discretion. In conversation one must be careful never to say anything which, if repeated, might offend others. He believed that doing good without an ulterior motive is generous and almost divine. Similar proverbs are found in every nation because they come from observation and experience. One should not miss opportunities to make friends because they are most precious. Guicciardini admitted he pursued honor and profit like all men, but he never found the satisfaction he had anticipated.
Popular government must follow the path of justice and equality because from them come security for all and general satisfaction. Continuing tight control of the state does not work because it transforms popular government and destroys liberty. Ambition using honest means produces excellent works. Theory is different from practice, and theory alone is useless, like having treasure one never uses. Losing a good reputation replaces good will with contempt. Guicciardini found that bringing about peace and civil accord results from letting issues be debated thoroughly for a long time.
Whoever recognizes dangers but does not fear them more than necessary is brave and wise. The benefit of liberty does not come from government by everyone because only the able and deserving should govern. Yet observing just laws and order are more secure in a republic than under rule by one or a few. Whoever esteems honor highly will succeed because he does not take account of toil, danger, or money. Because nearly everything contains imperfection, we must take things as they are and find the good that has in it the least evil. Wise legislators invented reward and punishment by using hope and fear to keep people in their natural inclination towards the good. Those who do not waste time will have time to spare, and the efficient will get many things done. “Nothing requires a more boundless effusion of money than war.” (C 149) Guicciardini wrote,
I do not criticize fasting, prayers, and other pious works
that are ordained by the Church or recommended by monks.
But the greatest good,
compared to which all others are trifling,
is to harm no one and to help everyone as much as you can.4
Guicciardini found apt the ancient saying, Magistratus virum ostendit, which means “The office reveals the man,” and he wrote, “Nothing reveals the quality of a man more than to give him authority and responsibility.” (C 163) He noted that good fortune is often one’s worst enemy because it can make people wicked, light-hearted, and insolent.
Italian political philosophers in the 16th century tended to be idealists such as Donato Giannotti, Bartolomeo Cavalcanti, Antonio Brucioli, Gasparo Contarini, Filippo de’ Nerli, and Tommaso Diplovatazio who wrote about perfect republics or realists such as Francesco Vettori, Lodovico Alamanni, and the historian Guicciardini. In 1543 the government of Florence banned the drafting of new constitutions because they considered such new ideas subversive. Constitutions were altered by Genoa in 1528, 1547, and 1576, by Venice in 1528-29, by Lucca and Florence in 1532, by Milan in 1541, and by Naples in 1554. Andrea Alciato (1492-1550) was born and educated in Milan. He founded legal humanism with his Annotations to the Justinian Code in 1515, and he taught in France at Avignon and Bourges until 1533 and then in Italy at Pavia, Bologna, and Ferrara.
In 1524 Pietro Bembo presented his Prose della volgar lingua to Pope Clement VII. He argued that the greatest Latin prose was written by Cicero and that the best Latin verse was Virgil’s. He also valued the vernacular Italian and held up Petrarca and Boccaccio as the best examples to follow. However, the humanist Erasmus satirized the Ciceronians in his popular colloquies. Philologist and playwright Claudio Tolomei urged Italians to ignore archaic languages and learn Tuscan which was also called Florentine. In 1530 Bembo became the official historian of Venice and the librarian of the books at St. Mark’s even though construction of the library did not begin until 1537.
Giovanni della Casa (1503-56) was from a wealthy family and was educated in Bologna, Florence, and Padua. In 1534 he moved to Rome where he worked for the papal government. In 1544 he was elected an archbishop and was ordained a priest, and the same year he was sent to Venice as a papal nuncio. He indicted Bishop Pier Paolo Vergerio for heresy. Vergerio fled to Switzerland and reviled Della Casa for the list of about seventy prohibited books he devised in 1548. Della Casa wrote his influential book on polite behavior, Galatea, in the early 1550s and named it after a bishop he knew. He also wrote biographies of Pietro Bembo and the reformer Cardinal Gaspare Contarini. In 1555 Pope Paul IV made Della Casa his secretary of state, but he became ill and died in November 1556.
Della Casa’s Galatea was published at Venice in 1558, and it was translated into French in 1562, English in 1576, Latin in 1580, Spanish in 1586, and German in 1597. In Galatea he admitted that generosity, loyalty, and moral courage are more important than polite habits and correct manners, but he believed the latter are also beneficial. Della Casa wrote that one’s conduct should not be governed by one’s own fancy but in consideration of the feelings of those whose company one keeps. This requires discretion. The unpleasant things one should avoid are those which offend any of the senses or are disgusting or anything that reminds others of distasteful matters or is painful to think about. One should dress in a way that respects others. People should avoid hateful pride. Conversation can be monitored so as not to be offensive to anyone. Della Casa even objects to telling one’s dreams unless they are delightful and instructive. Lying, boasting, and false modesty can exasperate others. Compliments that are lies because of self-interest are deceitful, sinful, and dishonest. Gossiping about scandals, contradicting others, giving unwanted advice, and correcting faults can be annoying. Not even one’s enemies should be ridiculed which is worse than insulting people. Witty remarks should be controlled so that they do not bite. One should talk modestly, quietly, and without rough or vulgar language. Some people want to do all the talking, and one should avoid interrupting others. Things that are repulsive to the senses upset the mind. Those with good manners do everything with grace and decorum. All forms of vice such as lechery, avarice, cruelty, gluttony, drunkenness, and violence must be avoided.
In 1548 Bruno was born at Nola near Naples where he studied humanities and philosophy. In 1565 he joined a Dominican monastery in Naples and was given the name Giordano. In 1571 Pope Pius V asked Giordano Bruno to explain his system for improving memory. He was ordained a priest in 1572 and studied theology. Bruno read works by Plato, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, Averroes, Cicero, Virgil, Lucan, Seneca, Ovid, Ptolemy, and Ramon Llull. Bruno’s mnemonic methods were based on the systematic philosophy of Llull. In 1575 Bruno read forbidden books by Erasmus and was interested in the ideas of Arius who had opposed the trinity in the 4th century. Bruno was accused of heresy and fled to Rome in February 1576, but he left there two months later. By then he was teaching astronomy, had renounced the Dominican Order, and had begun his sixteen years of wandering.
He visited Venice and Padua, and in 1579 he reached Geneva where he became a Calvinist and criticized twenty errors in a lecture by Antoine de la Faye. Bruno and his printer were arrested. After his retraction he was allowed to leave and moved to Toulouse, where he earned his doctorate in theology, and students elected him to teach philosophy. He went to Paris in 1581 and lectured on the thirty divine attributes of Aquinas. King Henri III also became interested in his system of mnemonics which used 150 talismanic images. In 1582 Bruno published On the Shadows of Ideas (De umbris idearum) asserting that Platonic ideas are more real than material phenomena. He also used Nicholas of Cusa’s coincidence of opposites and Marsilio Ficino’s Platonic theology. Bruno conceived the intellect as the superior faculty of the world soul which produces the forms. He published his play The Torch-Bearer (Il Candelaio) by Bruno the Nolan, Graduate of No Academy, Called the Nuisance. The comedy satirized a laggard lover, a niggardly miser, and a foolish peasant.
Bruno went to London in 1583 with royal letters of introduction to the French ambassador Michel de Castelnau, the Marquis de Mauvissiere, and he lived in the French embassy for two years. Thousands of people had fled the religious wars on the continent and taken refuge in England. Bruno lectured on the heliocentric theory of Copernicus at Oxford, but finding a hostile audience he returned to London. He became friends with Philip Sidney and Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester.
Bruno wrote several works in Italian while in London. In 1584 Cena de le Ceneri (The Ash Wednesday Supper) has three dialogs on cosmology and three on morals in which he satirizes Oxford professors and other pedants. He preceded Galileo in arguing that the Bible could be valued for its ethical teachings while disregarding its astronomical errors. He wrote De la causa, principio e uno (Cause, Principle and Unity) and De l’infinito universe e mondi (The Infinite, the Universe, and Worlds) to explain his theory of the infinite but unified universe and its worlds. He rejected Aristotelian dogmatism to speculate with his imagination, describing the vices of university scholars and replacing them with his own virtues. The infinite unites the finite cause; as one corrupts, another is generated. All things come in the infinite to the order of unity, truth, and goodness. In De immense (On the Boundless) he suggested that justice is not separate from the good and that the divine is connected to its manifestations.
Next Bruno wrote the ethical dialogs, The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, satirizing superstition and vices and criticizing Catholic and Calvinist morals. His new philosophy heralded synteresis (conscience) and the supreme law of the Inner Light. The harmony of human needs with divine will lead to peaceful civilian co-existence. The philosopher holds that truth cannot be destroyed by violence nor can it be corrupted by time. Bruno suggested approaching theology, philosophy, and science without preconceived ideas. He noted that many philosophers accepted metempsychosis (reincarnation), and he argued that it exemplified the principle of eternal change. Each divine principle has its relative opposite. Bruno proposed that laws can be moral guides and may teach nations to be civilized. The state is obligated to mete out justice, which is not understood if there is no injustice. He agreed with Machiavelli that the Roman republic had justice, law, and order because its citizens practiced virtue. Apollo argues that good laws have experience as their end, and the best laws offer better experience. Truth is divine and is sincerity, goodness, and beauty. Bruno referred to the 48 constellations and wanted the vices of the beasts transformed into the divine as the soul purifies itself of error. In the second dialog Momus replies to Wealth,
Oh Wealth, you speak the truth no more than falsehood;
for you are also she because of whom Judgment limps,
Law maintains silence, Sophia is trampled upon,
Prudence is incarcerated, and Truth is humiliated,
when you become the companion of liars and ignoramuses,
when you, with the arm of chance, favor madness,
when you kindle and make minds captives to pleasures,
when you minister to violence, when you resist justice.5
In 1585 Bruno wrote The Cabala of Pegasus, in which he discussed the connection between the human soul and the universal soul while satirizing human ignorance as asinine. In his “Sonnet in Praise of the Ass” he described how ignorant people blindly accept religious dogma and a materialistic conception of nature.
Oh holy asininity, holy ignorance,
Holy foolishness, and pious devotion,
Which alone can make souls so good
That human genius and study cannot advance it;
One does not reach by wearisome vigilance
Of art (of whatever kind), or invention,
Nor by the contemplation of philosophers
To the heavens where you build your home.
What’s the point, oh curious ones, to study,
To wish to know what nature does,
If the stars are but earth, fire, and sea?
Holy asininity does not care for that,
But wants to remain, hands joined, and on bended knees,
Waiting for its reward from God.
Except the fruit of eternal rest,
Which God grants after the funeral.6
Bruno lists the ten orders of the Cabala as crown, wisdom, providence, mercy, fortitude, beauty, victory, glory, foundation, and kingdom, and these are identified with various angels and heroes.
In The Heroic Frenzies (De gli eroici furori) Bruno wrote Petrarchist love poems and interpreted them with Neoplatonic imagery while urging virtue and truth. He criticized Petrarchists for obsessive love of a woman. In the kingdom of God humans are transformed into the perfect peace of the divine through love and wisdom, cosmic forces that come from the same source of power. Bruno recognized that some humans fall into demonic deception while others can rise above the multitude to a higher scale of values. The second dialog discusses how virtue is a mean between two extreme opposites, and the third dialog describes how will manifested as love leads to the love of God which resolves conflicts. The fourth dialog analyzes the power of reason as intelligence guides the will. In the fifth dialog the supreme intelligence of God pervades the entire universe. The second five dialogs focus on the power of love which transcends and unites all things. Bruno describes the nine-fold blindness of humans as caused by the nature of our species, disturbances of affection, not perceiving metaphysical truths, errors shared by the mob, the need to understand symbols, emotions that block the apprehension of truth, being overwhelmed by an intelligible object, and lack of confidence and humility of spirit. Bruno refers to beauty, wisdom, and truth as the trinity of perfections.
In October 1585 Bruno went back to Paris; after he left England, he wrote in Latin rather than Italian. His criticism of Aristotle in May 1586 was so unpopular that he left Paris again. He lectured on Aristotle’s logic at Wittenberg and taught there for two years. In 1587 he wrote on the books of Llull. Bruno went to Prague in 1588. He advocated the peaceful coexistence of religions based on the freedom of ideas and mutual understanding, but he was excommunicated by the Lutheran Church at Helmstedt in 1589. He went to Frankfurt in 1590, but the Senate opposed his staying. He found sanctuary in a Carmelite monastery for six months and lectured Protestant doctors who considered him a “universal man.” In his Essay on Magic he held that every soul has continuity with the spirit of the universe. In 1591 he published his last book, On the Composition of Images, Signs and Ideas (De imaginum, signorum et idearum compositione). This book used twelve principles based on Jupiter and Juno; Saturn; Mars; Mercury; Minerva; Apollo; Aesculapius with Circe, Arion and Orpheus; Sol; Luna; Venus; Cupid; and Tellus with Ocean, Neptune and Pluto. Bruno wrote,
The procedure which the Church uses today
is not that which the Apostles used:
for they converted people with preaching
and the example of a good life,
but now whoever does not wish to be a Catholic
must endure punishment and pain,
for force is used and not love;
the world cannot go on like this,
for there is nothing but ignorance
and no religion which is good.7
In August 1591 the aristocratic Giovanni Mocenigo invited Bruno to Venice to teach him his art of memorizing. Bruno went to Padua and hoped to get the chair of mathematics; but he left before it was given to Galileo in 1592. He returned to Venice in March and stayed with Mocenigo, giving him private lessons. When Bruno decided to go back to Frankfurt to publish a book on the seven liberal arts, Mocenigo complained that he had not been initiated into Bruno’s secret memory system. So Mocenigo denounced him to the Inquisition, and the Holy Office put Bruno in jail on May 23. With his fantastic memory Bruno began telling his life story to the judges on May 26. Then he was questioned about his writings and opinions. On June 3 Bruno was asked if he renounced his errors, and he said he did. On September 28 the Patriarch of Venice explained to the cabinet of the Republic that Bruno was not just a heretic but a heresiarch, and the Supreme Inquisitor Cardinal Santaseverina ordered the Venice Inquisitor to send Bruno to Rome for trial. Bruno was also charged with trying to escape from prison, and on January 7, 1993 the Senate and Council voted 142-30 to extradited him. On February 27 Bruno was put in the dungeons of the Holy Office in Rome, and for the next seven years the Inquisition kept him in prison while they questioned and tried him. Bruno said he was not interested in theology but practiced philosophy and explained how his ideas were compatible with Christian doctrines. He considered power, wisdom, and goodness three attributes of God. The case of Patrizi gave him some hope.
However, in January 1599 Cardinal Bellarmine submitted eight propositions he considered heretical for Bruno to repudiate. Bruno offered to retract them but made certain distinctions that the tribunal required him to retract. Bruno insisted on defending his views, and in August they commanded him to retract two heretical propositions in writing. On December 21 Bruno declared he would not retract anything, and on January 20, 1600 Pope Clement VIII ordered him to be sentenced as an “impenitent, stubborn, and obstinate” heretic. He was condemned for denying transubstantiation, for accepting transmigration of souls (reincarnation) and the infinity and eternity of the universe, and for alleging that Moses and Jesus were magicians. Bruno was sentenced to death on February 8, and he replied, “Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it.”8 Bruno was taken naked to the stake and burned alive on February 17. According to the Avvisi e ricordi report at the time he proclaimed that he died a willing martyr and that his soul would rise to paradise. His innovative ideas and religious tolerance have inspired many humanists, though some people have criticized his occult concepts and magic as well as his combative personality.
Niccolo Machiavelli’s famous playMandragola was discussed in the previous volume. Machiavelli believed that human beings are autonomous and responsible for themselves and the laws of their own development. About 1520 he wrote Clizia based on Casina by Plautus, and Vasari wrote that it was performed in 1525. Clizia is an example of commedia erudita, and in the prologue the characters are introduced on the stage. Considered autobiographical, the old man Nicomaco is in love with young Clizia, and he is portrayed as a good husband before this infatuation; but his son Cleandro is his rival. Nicomaco’s wife Sofronia has taught Clizia to be a good girl and keeps her in the house most of the time, and at the end of the play Sofronia forgives her husband. Before each act and at the end are songs of romantic love. Cleandro is upset when his mother suggests drawing lots. Nicomaco gets a drug to make him feel younger. They learn that when Nicomaco’s servant put a ring on Clizia’s finger, she said she wanted to kill Nicomaco. In the last act Nicomaco tells how Clizia rejected him on their wedding night. He gives up, and Cleandro hopes to see her. Finally Clizia’s father Ramondo arrives from Florence and favors Cleandro, and a new wedding is planned.
Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) was the son of a poor shoemaker in Arezzo, and he adopted the name of his town. He wrote satirical letters, dialogs, poems, and plays. He moved to Perugia in 1510 and worked as a bookbinder’s assistant, studied painting, and began writing poetry. When Pope Leo X’s elephant Hanno died in 1516, Aretino wrote its “Last Will and Testament,” satirizing prominent people in Rome. In 1517 he moved to Rome where he worked for Raphael as one of his assistant painters. He attached his writings to the statue of Pasquino, and his lampoons called pasquinate made him famous and infamous. He backed Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici by criticizing other candidates to be Pope and left Rome when the prudish Adrian was elected. After Giulio was elected to be Pope Clement VII in 1523, Aretino returned to Rome. He wrote a poem praising the Pope and was given a pension as a Knight of Rhodes; but the next year his “Lewd Sonnets” (Sonetti lussuriosi) caused a scandal. Late at night on a street Aretino was stabbed twice in the chest; but he survived and went to Mantua to serve Duke Federico Gonzaga who gave him a hundred crowns and urged him to avoid the Papal States.
In March 1527 Aretino settled in Venice for the rest of his life and was given a pension by Doge Andrea Gritti. Aretino pretended he was the illegitimate son of a nobleman by a courtesan. Gritti sought his friendship and persuaded him to praise Clement VII instead of criticizing him. Aretino sold many of Titian’s paintings to King François. In 1528 Aretino wrote a long poem asking the French king to save Italy from Spanish domination, and two years later Aretino ended his friendship with Duke Federico Gonzaga to become more devoted to the French. His satires were quickly translated into French, and he became famous in Europe. King François, Emperor Charles V, and his son Felipe gave Aretino valuable gifts, and he persuaded them and doges to sit for portraits by Titian.
Aretino loved the noble Caterina Sandella but would not marry her even though she bore his daughters. In his 1532 edition of Orlando Furioso Ludovico Ariosto wrote, “Behold the Scourge of Princes, the divine Pietro Aretino.” Titian painted a portrait of Aretino about 1545. Aretino’s letters were published in six volumes from 1537 to 1557. He loved both women and men and admitted he was a “sodomite.” Aretino is considered a European pioneer of pornographic literature, and his Dialogues also published as The School of Whoredom about whores, housewives, and nuns and The Secret Life of Wives, have been recently translated into English. Aretino wrote, “I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.” Aretino also wrote religious works and historical fiction about the Virgin Mary and other saints.
Aretino wrote six plays. His comedy Master of the Horse (Il Marescalco) was written in the late 1520s. Marescalco is a homosexual and has a relationship with his boy-servant Giannicco who informs him that a marriage has been arranged for him with a noble woman who has a substantial dowry of 4,000 scudi. Marescalco is angry and upset because he loves boys, not women. The Count and the Knight are forcing him to marry her, and a Jew and jeweler try to sell him things. Finally Marescalco gets the last laugh when they all learn that his bride is actually Carlo the page-boy.
Aretino’s best known play is the comedy La Cortigiana which was published in 1534, performed in 1537, and portrayed the lower class in Rome. This story parodies The Courtier (Il Cortegiano) by Castiglione by showing how a wealthy fop from Siena goes to Rome and learns to flatter and deceive as a courtier so that he can win a mistress and become a cardinal; several characters end up looking like fools but laugh at themselves and forgive each other.
Aretino’s comedy Talanta is based on Terence’s Eunuchus and was influenced by The Praise of Folly by Erasmus. The Sempiterni, an academy of young nobles, commissioned the first performance during Carnival in 1542 with a perspective set designed by Giorgio Vasari. Talanta is a high-class prostitute, and Orfinio, Captain Tinca from Naples, the Venetian merchant Vergolo, and the Roman Armileo are competing for her favors. The stock characters of the improvisational Commedia dell-Arte were being developed at this time. Vergolo represents Pantalone and Tinca the military captain or miles gloriosus. Branca foreshadows the hypocrite portrayed by Aretino in his play The Hypocrite and in Moliere’s great Tartuffe (1664). Armileo’s servant Peno is similar to the main character in Aretino’s play The Philosopher. Orfino’s companion Pizio has a melancholic humor that leads him to demolish Talanta’s philosophy of her social function. The usual comedic ending of couples getting married reflects how Aretino has come to accept the orthodox Catholic tradition.
Aretino’s only tragedy Orazia in verse is about the conflict between the Horatii and the Curiatii in ancient Rome that was presented by Pierre Corneille in 1640.
Angelo Beolco (1502-42) was called “Il Ruzzante” (meaning “the Gossip” or “Frisky”) for the character he usually played. He was the illegitimate son of a physician in Padua and used a Paduan dialect. In Venice in 1520 his first play, La Pastoral, was a comedy that contrasted Arcadian shepherds with the peasants Ruzzante and Zilio. His plays used crude language and were sometimes cancelled. They performed at the court of Ferrara or in the palaces of sympathetic Venetians.
Beolco wrote The Woman of Ancona in 1522. The Sicilian youths Tancredi and Teodoro travel with the girl Isotta who is dressed as a man and is called Gismondo. Captured by pirates, a Moor ransoms them to a merchant of Venice where they seek employment to pay him back. They meet the courtesan Doralice, and a woman falls in love with Gismondo and persuades her wealthy husband Sier Tamao to pay off the ransom. He likes Doralice and gets his servant Ruzzante to help him win her over while Ruzzante desires her maid Bessa. The widow Ginevra from Ancona is also attracted to Gismondo and arrives with her maid Ghitta, both disguised as men. Ginevra discovers that Isotta (Gismondo) is her sister she had mourned for dead. Finally Isotta marries Tancred, and Ginevra weds Teodoro. They go home to Sicily, and Sier Tamao and Ruzzante plan to spend a night with Doralice and her maid.
Because Beolco’s plays were popular with rural nobles who opposed the wars of the urban nobles of Venice, after 1526 they were no longer presented in Venice. His popular play Ruzzante Come Back from the War was written at the end of the period of devastating wars about 1529. A haggard and starving Ruzzante has just returned from four months of war and is determined to stay away from battlefields and war. His neighbor Menato can hardly recognize him and asks what happened to him. Ruzzante describes the miserable conditions he endured with lice and scabs from scurvy. He might go back if they paid him regularly, but they don’t. He tells how he ran away from battles or threw away his sword and pretended to be one of the enemy in order to keep his skin in one piece. To avoid getting a bullet in his back he pretended to be dead. He asks about his wife, and Menato tells him that she is living with pimps and brutes. Ruzzante claims he will fight them. She appears and sees that he is filthy and scruffy and tells him not to mess up her life now. She asks what he has to offer and finds no value in his having been faithful. He had promised to return with plunder, but he came back with nothing. Her protector arrives and bullies Ruzzante by using his pike against him. Ruzzante claims a hundred attacked him and plays dead. Finally he laughs it off and says his skin is so thick now that the beating did not hurt him.
The Coquette or Posh Talk (La Moscheta) was also produced about 1529 and is considered Beolco’s masterpiece. Moscheta refers to a different dialect than the Paduan used by Ruzzante who tries to test the fidelity of his wife Betia with the soldier Tonin who desires her. She perceives his game, and Ruzzante manages to get money from Tonin, making him angry. In the end Betia persuades Ruzzante and his kinsman Menato to make peace with Tonin.
The comedy The Deceived was written and first performed in February 1532 by an academic society called the Intronati of Siena. After the sack of Rome disrupted their lives in 1527, Virginio intends to marry his 18-year-old daughter Lelia to an old man named Gherardo. She pretends to be the man Fabio and gets a job serving Flamminio whom she loves, deceiving most of the characters. Flamminio asks her to help him woo Gherardo’s daughter Isabella, who is then attracted to Fabio. Lelia’s lost brother Fabrizio returns and is mistaken for Fabio. He is locked in a bedroom with Isabella, and a servant catches them making love. Eventually Lelia drops her disguise and marries Flamminio as her brother Fabrizio weds Isabella. The confusion of sexual identity was later adapted in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
The anonymous Venetian Comedy is believed to have been first performed about 1535 or perhaps later, and this risqué comedy displays the open sexuality found in the city dedicated to Venus. The young widow Angela asks her servant Nena to procure young Giulio for her with the help of the elderly porter Bernardo. Then she seduces him into a night of lovemaking and gives him jewelry. The recently married noble Valiera also desires the foreign Giulio and has her servant Oria bring him to her bedchamber. He is willing to love her too and lies about the jewelry. Valiera gets jealous but offers him a ring to stay with her.
The stock characters of the improvisational Commedia dell-Arte which developed during the 16th century in Italy included the greedy Pantalone, the zany servants Brighella and his older brother Arlecchino, the crafty Pulcinella, and Arlecchino’s mistress Columbina. The interaction of these and other characters provided the basic material for various improvisations that could play upon local and current interests. Theater flourished in Venice, and Vittoria Piissimi became a famous actress as women replaced boys in female roles.
Giulia Bigolina was born into a noble family in Padua about 1518 and was well educated, associating with intellectuals in the Accademia degli Infiammati. Aretino wrote her letters. She married and had at least one child, but none of the books she wrote were published during her lifetime. Her novella, The Adventure of Panfilo, was lost; but her prose romance, Urania, survived and was finally published in 2002. Written during the 1550s the poet Urania dresses as a man and leaves Salerno after her beloved Fabio leaves her for the more beautiful Clorina. Urania travels using the name “Fabio,” and in the woods north of Naples she instructs five young women, emphasizing that women should be virtuous and faithful. The next day she instructs five young men, who are in love with the five women, that intelligence and virtue are more valuable in women than beauty. Urania goes to Tuscany and becomes exhausted but is nursed back to health by Emilia who falls in love with this “Fabio.” Urania decides to go back to find Fabio in Salerno, and Emilia goes with her. Meanwhile Clorina has fallen in love with a Sicilian. A young duchess, who is a widow, also falls in love with the disguised Urania who lectures her on virtue. Finally Urania reveals herself and is reunited with Fabio. The novel ends romantically with a triple marriage while the Duchess is rejected by a prince and dies of grief.
Matteo Bandello was influenced by Boccaccio and wrote 214 stories that he collected into three volumes at Lucca in 1554 and in a fourth volume at Lyons in 1573. His romance of Romeo Montecchio and Giuletta Capelletti was the basis for Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) was a painter and an architect who received commissions from Popes and Duke Cosimo de’ Medici of Florence. In 1550 he published his Lives of the Artists. In 1562 Cosimo helped Vasari establish the Florentine Academy of Design. His much larger second edition of the Lives was printed in 1568, and his comprehensive research on the Italian artists of the Renaissance founded the modern discipline of art history.
Benvenuto Cellini (1500-71) urged excellent men who are honest to describe their lives themselves, and his Autobiography remains one of the most interesting descriptions of life during the Renaissance in Italy. He was born in Florence and rejected his father’s attempt to make him a musician but excelled as an apprenticed goldsmith. Cellini wrote, “God keeps account of the good and bad, and gives to each one what he merits.”9 He began writing his autobiography in 1558 and described his life up to 1562. His manuscript was circulated, but it was not printed in Italy until 1728. He became skilled with the sword and was a bravo, killing some men in battles and quarrels. He admitted he had a choleric temper which often got him into trouble. While defending Rome from the imperial attack in May 1527 he claimed that with an arquebus he killed the Constable of Bourbon and wounded the Prince of Orange. He worked as a goldsmith for Pope Clement VII until his death in 1534 and for Pope Paul III for a while. He had love affairs but made an enemy of the Duchess of Florence. He spent time in prison but obtained pardons for the murders he committed. Cellini also served King François. His most famous sculpture is a bronze “Perseus.”
Torquato Tasso was born on March 11, 1544 in Sorrento near Naples. His father Bernardo Tasso was a poet and a courtier; but the family estates were confiscated in 1552 when Bernardo was banished with the Prince of Salerno. In 1554 Torquato joined his father in Rome. Two years later his mother died, and they moved to the court of Urbino where he was educated. In 1558 Turks attacked Sorrento, but his sister Cornelia survived the massacre. The next year in Venice the young Tasso began writing his epic poem about the First Crusade, and his first effort called Rinaldo was published in 1562. He had started studying law at Padua in 1560 and worked on his Discorsi dell’arte poetica.
In 1565 Tasso went to Ferrara to serve Cardinal Luigi d’Este, and in 1572 Duke Alfonso II d’Este became his patron. Tasso’s father died in 1569. Torquato’s pastoral drama Aminta was first performed at Alfonso’s summer palace on July 31, 1573. The young shepherd Aminta is in love with the nymph Silvia; but she is devoted to the chaste goddess Diana and rejects him. He is advised by the older shepherd Tirsi and by Dafne, a former follower of Diana. One day Silvia mentions that she is going to bathe in Diana’s spring, and Dafne and Tirsi inform Aminta that he could find her there alone. Dafne urges him to make love to her and even use force if necessary. Aminta and Tirsi go to the spring and see the naked Silvia tied to a tree by her hair about to be raped by a lusty satyr. They chase away the satyr and release her. She is angry, speaks severely to them, and then runs off in the woods. Dafne manages to persuade the despondent Aminta not to commit suicide by urging him to live in his wretchedness. Another nymph Nerida tells them that she and Silvia went on a wolf hunt and that Silvia was apparently eaten by the wolves. Aminta runs away to throw himself off a rocky cliff. However, Silvia is still alive, and Dafne tells her that Aminta went to kill himself. Silvia is moved and looks for him to save him. Ergasto tells Silvia that he tried to stop Aminta but that he went over the cliff. She goes to find his body and intends to hang herself with his silk band. In the last act the wise shepherd Elpino explains that Aminta fell into bushes and was not seriously hurt. Silvia found him, and they became one in love. Elpino is going to tell her father Montano. Aminta was Tasso’s first success, and it was published in 1581, then at Paris in French in 1584, and in London in English in 1591.
In 1575 Tasso completed the first draft of his Jerusalem Liberated (Gerusalemme Liberata) and sent copies to his friends. Though based on history, female characters were added for romances. Tasso suffered from feelings of persecution and depression. After a few years of wandering, he returned to Ferraro, and on February 24, 1579 at Alfonso’s wedding to the princess Margherita Gonzaga of Mantua he criticized the duke and his family. For this tirade Alfonso II had the manic-depressive Tasso incarcerated in a mental institution at St. Anna until 1586. Unauthorized editions of his Liberata were published in 1581 and were successful. Tasso was welcomed by Prince Vincenzo Gonzaga at Mantua, and at his court he completed his tragedy King Torrismondo. In 1587 he traveled to Rome and then visited Naples, Mantua, Florence, and Rome again. In 1592 he stayed with Cardinal Cinzio Aldobrandini, and his health began declining. The next year he published his revised Liberata as Jerusalem Conquered (Gerusalemme Conquistata). Tasso died on April 25, 1595. His Gerusalemme Liberata was translated and was more appreciated by Europeans in the Romantic era.
Gerusalemme Liberata is set in 1099, the year the European Crusaders conquered Jerusalem by overcoming Muslims, Jews, and an Egyptian army. God guides Godfrey de Bouillon to call a council, and they plan an attack on Jerusalem. The Crusaders converge on Jerusalem, and inside King Aladine prepares for the siege. He sends soldiers to steal a statue of the Virgin Mary; but it disappears, and Aladine orders Christians slaughtered. To prevent that, Sophronia confesses to stealing it and is to be burned. Olindo loves her and confesses also. The beautiful warrior Clorinda arrives and releases them. Tancred has fallen in love with Clorinda while Princess Erminia of Antioch loves him. Clorinda leads a force that defeats a foraging party. The King of Egypt sends Argantes to negotiate with Godfrey, who rejects their offers. Satan influences Hydraotes to send the enchantress Armida to the Christian camp, and many fall in love with her. Fifty knights go to her castle and are held as animals. She goes to kill the knight Rinaldo but falls in love with him. Gernando slanders Rinaldo who challenges and kills him. Godfrey orders Rinaldo arrested, but he flees.
Argantes issues a challenge, and Tancred and he are both wounded. Erminia puts on Clorinda’s armor to help Tancred but runs into sentries and finds refuge with shepherds. Tancred follows her but gets lost and is imprisoned at Armida’s castle. Troops led by Prince Sven of Denmark, who rules Palestine, are massacred. Godfrey retaliates, but his army cannot defeat Argantes and Clorinda. However, God forbids devilish magic, enabling Rinaldo to free the fifty knights and defeat the pagans. Crusaders celebrate a public mass and then attack the city. Clorinda and the pagans burn the Crusaders’ siege machines. She learns she was born a Christian but was raised as a pagan. Tancred slays Clorinda but baptizes her before she dies. Godfrey is inspired to recall Rinaldo who accepts his duty. Rinaldo returns and is instructed by Peter the Hermit. A few Saracens retreat into Solomon's temple. The Crusaders breach the walls of Jerusalem, and Tancred kills Argantes in single combat. The victorious Crusaders sack the city. Egyptian reinforcements arrive but are also defeated, and Godfrey slays their king. Armida surrenders to Rinaldo. Finally Godfrey hangs up his weapons, and they worship at the Holy Sepulchre.
In 1576 Tasso wrote explaining that the poem is an allegory with the Christian army signifying mature men, Jerusalem civic happiness, Godfrey the intellect, Rinaldo, Tancred and other princes the faculties of the soul, the armies of Asia and Africa enemies and contrary fortune, the love and anger of the knights the irascible faculties, and angels divine aid. The emotions of love and anger need to be directed by reason. The goal is to bring back natural justice and divine obedience.
Unfortunately this poem celebrates the aggressive conquest of Jerusalem which was based on religious fanaticism and caused many serious crimes, and justifying them to an unprejudiced mind is rather difficult.
Tasso’s only tragedy King Torrismondo was published in 1587 and within five months was reprinted in eleven editions in different Italian cities. The play takes place in at his palace on one day to fulfill the Aristotelian unities of time and place. For three weeks the Norwegian princess Alvida has been taken into the home of Torrismondo, king of the Goths, after he had promised to marry her in Norway. She confides in her nurse that their love had been consummated when they stopped on a desert island on their return to his royal palace. Torrismondo explains to his counselor that he became engaged to her because of his friendship for King Germondo of Sweden, who was in love with her but could not marry her because her father blamed him for the death of his only son. Torrismondo intended to give Alvida to Germondo but fell in love with her during the voyage.
The counselor suggests that Germondo could marry Torrismondo’s beautiful sister Rosmonda. She discusses this with her mother Arana, and Torrismondo approves the marriage so that he can marry Alvida. Torrismondo urges Alvida to welcome Germondo, and she accepts rich gifts from him. However, Rosmonda has a secret and also is in love with Torrismondo. Germondo wants to marry Alvida, but Rosmonda reveals that she is not Torrismondo’s sister and that his sister was taken away because of a prophecy that she would cause his death. The servant took the child to the court of Norway, and she was brought up as the King’s daughter Alvida. Torrismondo realizes he should not marry his sister and offers her to Germondo. Alvida has difficulty accepting this story, believes that Torrismondo does not love her, and commits suicide. As she is dying, Torrismondo persuades her he is her brother, bequeaths his kingdom to his mother and Germondo, and then kills himself. Queen Arana learns that both her children are dead. Germondo consoles her and says he would have pardoned them.
Tasso’s unrequited love for Leonora d’Este became the basis for the play Tasso’s Melancholy which was performed in London in August 1594 and was revised by Thomas Dekker in 1602. Goethe completed his play Torquato Tasso in 1789.
1. Maxims & Reflections of a Renaissance Statesman by Francesco Guicciardini tr. Mario Domandi, p. 99, B 1.
2. Ibid., p. 119, B 95.
3. Ibid., p. 39, C 1.
4. Ibid., p. 81, C 159.
5. The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast by Giordano Bruno tr. Arthur D. Imerti, p. 155.
6. The Cabala of Pegasus by Giordano Bruno tr. Sidney L. Sondergard and Madison U. Sowell, p. 14-15.
7. Quoted in Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition by Frances A. Yates, p. 340.
8. Doc. Rom. XXX quoted in Giordano Bruno: His Life and Thought by Dorothea Waley Singer, p. 179.
9. The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini tr. J. Addington Symonds, XXXIII, p. 63.