Pope Sixtus IV
Posthumous portrait of Pope Sixtus IV by Titian
|Papacy began||9 August 1471|
|Papacy ended||12 August 1484|
|Consecration||25 August 1471
by Guillaume d’Estouteville, O.S.B.
|Created Cardinal||18 September 1467|
|Birth name||Francesco della Rovere|
21 July 1414|
Celle Ligure, Republic of Genoa
|Died||12 August 1484
Rome, Papal States
|Other popes named Sixtus|
|Papal styles of
Pope Sixtus IV
|Reference style||His Holiness|
|Spoken style||Your Holiness|
|Religious style||Holy Father|
Pope Sixtus IV (Latin: Xystus IV; 21 July 1414 – 12 August 1484), born Francesco della Rovere, was Pope from 9 August 1471 to his death in 1484. His accomplishments as pope included the establishment of the Sistine Chapel; the group of artists that he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpiece of the city's new artistic age, the Vatican Archives. Sixtus also furthered the agenda of the Spanish Inquisition and annulled the decrees of the Council of Constance. He was famed for his nepotism and was personally involved in the infamous Pazzi Conspiracy.1
As a young man Della Rovere joined the Franciscan Order, an unlikely choice for a political career, and his intellectual qualities were revealed while he was studying philosophy and theology at the University of Pavia. He went on to lecture at many eminent Italian universities.
In 1464, Della Rovere was elected Minister General of the Franciscan order at the age of 50. In 1467, he was appointed Cardinal by Pope Paul II with her titular church being the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli. Before his papal election, Cardinal della Rovere was renowned for his unworldliness and had even written learned treatises entitled On the Blood of Christ and On the Power of God.2 His pious reputation was one of the deciding factors that prompted the College of Cardinals to elect him pope upon the unexpected death of Paul II at the age of fifty-four.3
Upon being elected pope Della Rovere adopted the name Sixtus – a name that had not been used since the 5th century. One of his first acts was to declare a renewed crusade against the Ottoman Turks in Smyrna. Fund-raising for the crusade was more successful than the half-hearted attempts to storm Smyrna, with little to show in return. Some fruitless attempts were made towards unification with the Greek Church. For the remainder of his pontificate, Sixtus turned to temporal issues and dynastic considerations. Sixtus continued a dispute with King Louis XI of France, who upheld the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438), according to which papal decrees needed royal assent before they could be promulgated in France. This was a cornerstone of the privileges claimed for the Gallican Church, and could never be shifted as long as Louis XI maneuvered to replace King Ferdinand I of Naples with a French prince. Louis was thus in conflict with the papacy and Sixtus (as a princely strategist himself) could not permit it.
Like a number of other popes, Sixtus adhered to the system of nepotism. In the fresco by Melozzo da Forlì he is accompanied by his Della Rovere and Riario nephews, not all of whom were made cardinals: the protonotary apostolic Pietro Riario (on his right), the future Pope Julius II standing before him, and Girolamo Riario and Giovanni della Rovere behind the kneeling Platina, author of the first humanist history of the Popes. His nephew Pietro Riario also benefited from his nepotism. Pietro became one of the richest men in Rome and was entrusted with Pope Sixtus' foreign policy. However, Pietro died prematurely in 1474, and his role passed to Giuliano della Rovere.
The secular fortunes of the Della Rovere family began when Sixtus invested his nephew Giovanni with the lordship of Senigallia and arranged his marriage to the daughter of Federico III da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino; from this union came a line of Della Rovere dukes of Urbino that lasted until the line expired in 1631.4 Six of the thirty-four cardinals that he created were his nephews.5
In his territorial aggrandizement of the Papal States, Sixtus' niece's son Cardinal Raffaele Riario, for whom the Palazzo della Cancelleria was constructed, was a leader in the failed "Pazzi conspiracy" of 1478 to assassinate both Lorenzo de' Medici and his brother Giuliano and replace them in Florence with Sixtus IV's other nephew, Girolamo Riario. Francesco Salviati, Archbishop of Pisa and a main organizer of the plot, was hanged on the walls of the Florentine Palazzo della Signoria. To this, Sixtus IV replied with an interdict and two years' of war with Florence. He also encouraged the Venetians to attack Ferrara, which he wished to obtain for another nephew. The angered Italian princes allied to force Sixtus IV to make peace, to his great annoyance.
As a temporal prince who constructed stout fortresses in the Papal States, Sixtus committed himself to Venice's aggression against Ercole I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, inciting the Venetians to attack in 1482 in the so-called War of Ferrara. Their combined assault was opposed by an alliance of the Sforzas of Milan, the Medicis of Florence along with the King of Naples, normally a hereditary ally and champion of the papacy. For refusing to desist from the very hostilities that he himself had instigated (and for being a dangerous rival to Della Rovere dynastic ambitions in the Marche), Sixtus placed Venice under interdict in 1483.
On 1 November 1478, Sixtus published the papal bull Exigit Sinceras Devotionis Affectus, through which the Spanish Inquisition was established in the Kingdom of Castile. Sixtus consented under political pressure from Ferdinand of Aragon, who threatened to withhold military support from his kingdom of Sicily.citation needed Nevertheless, Sixtus IV quarrelled over protocol and prerogatives of jurisdiction, was unhappy with the excesses of the Inquisition and condemned the most flagrant abuses in 1482.6
The two papal bulls issued by Pope Nicholas V, Dum Diversas of 1452 and Romanus Pontifex of 1455, had effectively given the Portuguese the rights to acquire slaves along the African coast by force or trade. These concessions were confirmed by Sixtus in his own bull, Aeterni regi of 21 June 1481.7 Arguably the "ideology of conquest" expounded in these texts became the means by which commerce and conversion were facilitated.8 Sixtus' earlier threats to excommunicate all captains or pirates who enslaved Christians in the bull Regimini Gregis of 1476 could have been intended to emphasise the need to convert the natives of the Canary Islands and Guinea and establish a clear difference in status between those who had converted and those who resisted.9 The ecclesiastical penalties were directed towards those who were enslaving the recent converts.10
Sixtus has been accused of having had male lovers,1112 as mentioned in the diary records of 1484 of the historian Stefano Infessura.13 Infessura called him a "lover of boys and sodomites", and suggested he awarded benefices and bishoprics in return for sexual favours and nominated a number of young men as cardinals, some of whom were celebrated for their looks (including his own nephews).
While it is indisputable that Sixtus favoured his relatives in the hope of having faithful executors of policy, as was often the practice at that time, there is less evidence of direct corruption or favouritism. The exception may perhaps be Giovanni Sclafenato, who was appointed as cardinal according to the papal epitaph on his tomb for "ingenuousness, loyalty and his other gifts of soul and body"14 Scurrilous pasquinades were also said to have appeared on the statues of Rome.
The English theologian John Bale attributed to Sixtus "the authorisation to practice sodomy during periods of warm weather" to the "Cardinal of Santa Lucia".15 Likewise an anonymous work, True history of the lives of the Popes of Rome, circulated in London during 1679, accused Sixtus of setting up a brothel for both sexes. However, such accusations by Protestant polemicists are easily dismissed as anti-Catholic propaganda,11 but nevertheless prompted the noted historian of the Catholic Church, Ludwig von Pastor, to issue a firm rebuttal.16
As a civic patron in Rome, even the anti-papal chronicler Stefano Infessura agreed that Sixtus should be admired. The dedicatory inscription in the fresco by Melozzo da Forlì in the Vatican Palace records: "You gave your city temples, streets, squares, fortifications, bridges and restored the Acqua Vergine as far as the Trevi..." In addition to restoring the aqueduct that provided Rome an alternative to the river water that had made the city famously unhealthy, he restored or rebuilt over 30 of Rome's dilapidated churches, among them San Vitale (1475) and Santa Maria del Popolo, and added seven new ones. The Sistine Chapel was sponsored by Sixtus IV, as was the Ponte Sisto, the Sistine Bridge – the first new bridge across the Tiber since antiquity – and the building of Via Sistina (later named Borgo Sant'Angelo), a road leading from Castel Sant'Angelo to Saint Peter. All this was done to facilitate the integration of the Vatican Hill and Borgo with the heart of old Rome. This was part of a broader scheme of urbanization carried out under Sixtus IV, who swept the long-established markets from the Campidoglio in 1477 and decreed in a bull of 1480 the widening of streets and the first post-Roman paving, the removal of porticoes and other post-classical impediments to free public passage.
At the beginning of his papacy in 1471, Sixtus donated several historically important Roman sculptures that founded a papal collection of art that would eventually develop into the collections of the Capitoline Museums. He also re-founded, enriched and enlarged the Vatican Library. He had Regiomontanus attempt the first sanctioned reorganization of the Julian calendar and increased the size and prestige of the papal chapel choir, bringing singers and some prominent composers (Gaspar van Weerbeke, Marbrianus de Orto, and Bertrandus Vaqueras) to Rome from the North.
In addition to being a patron of the arts, Sixtus was a patron of the sciences. Before becoming pope, he spent time at the then very liberal and cosmopolitan University of Padua, which maintained considerable independence from the Church and had a very international character. As Pope, he issued a papal bull allowing local bishops to give the bodies of executed criminals and unidentified corpses to physicians and artists for dissection. It was this access to corpses which allowed the anatomist Vesalius, along with Titian's pupil Jan Stephen van Calcar, to complete the revolutionary medical/anatomical text De humani corporis fabrica.
Pope Sixtus' tomb was destroyed in the Sack of Rome in 1527. Today, his remains, along with the remains of his nephew Pope Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere), are interred in St. Peter's Basilica in the floor in front of the monument to Pope Clement X. A simple marble tombstone marks the site.
His bronze funerary monument, now in the basement Treasury of St. Peter's Basilica, like a giant casket of goldsmith's work, is by Antonio Pollaiuolo. The top of the casket is a lifelike depiction of the Pope lying in state. Around the sides are bas relief panels, depicting with allegorical female figures the arts and sciences (Grammar, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, Painting, Astronomy, Philosophy, and Theology). Each figure incorporates the oak tree ("rovere" in Italian) symbol of Sixtus IV. The overall program of these panels, their beauty, complex symbolism, classical references, and arrangement relative to each other is one of the most compelling and comprehensive illustrations of the Renaissance worldview.
Sixtus created an unusually large number of cardinals during his pontificate (twenty-three), drawn from the roster of the princely houses of Italy, France and Spain; thus ensuring that many of his policies continued after his death:
- Lauro Martines, April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 150–196.
- Martines, April Blood, p. 159
- Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, New York: HarpersSanFrancisco, 1997, p.264-5.
- On his premature death (1501), Giovanni entrusted his son Francesco Maria to Federico's successor Guidobaldo (Duke of Urbino 1482–1508) who, without an heir, devised the duchy on the boy.
- McBrien, Lives of the Popes, p. 265.
- "Sixtus IV." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2008 Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2008.
- Raiswell, p. 469 see also "Black Africans in Renaissance Europe", P. 281
- Traboulay 1994, P. 78-79.
- Sued-Badillo (2007, see also O'Callaghan, p. 287-310
- "Slavery and the Catholic Church", John Francis Maxwell, p. 52, Barry Rose Publishers, 1975
- Studies in the psychology of sex — Havelock Ellis — Google Boeken. Books.google.com. 2007-07-30. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
- Nigel Cawthorne (1996). "Sex Lives of the Popes". Prion. p. 160.
- Stefano Infessura, Diario della città di Roma (1303-1494), Ist. St. italiano, Tip. Forzani, Roma 1890, pp. 155-156
- Mario Masini and Giuseppe Portigliotti, 'Attraverso il Rinascimento. Pier Luigi Farnese', "Archivio di antropologia criminale", vol. XXXVIII 1917, p. 473
- Giovanni Lydus, Analecta in librum Nicolai de Clemangiis, De corrupto Ecclesiae statu. In calce a: Nicolas de Clemanges, Opera omnia, Elzevirius & Laurentius, Lugduni Batavorum 1593, p. 9)
- Ludwig Pastor, History of the Popes , vol. II, Desclée, Roma 1911, pp. 608-611
- "The Historical Encyclopedia of World slavery", Editor Junius P. Rodriguez, ABC-CLIO, 1997, ISBN 0-87436-885-5
- "Black Africans in Renaissance Europe", Thomas Foster Earle, K. J. P. Lowe, Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-521-81582-7
- "Christopher Columbus and the enslavement of the Amerindians in the Caribbean. (Columbus and the New World Order 1492–1992).", Sued-Badillo, Jalil, Monthly Review. Monthly Review Foundation, Inc. 1992. HighBeam Research. 10 Aug. 2009
- "Castile, Portugal, and the Canary Islands: Claims and Counterclaims, 1344–1479", Joseph F. O'Callaghan, 1993, p. 287–310, Viator, Volume 24
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sixtus IV.|
- Texts on Wikisource:
- Short Biography
- Marek, Miroslav. "Genealogy of Leonardo della Rovere". Genealogy.EU.self-published sourcebetter source needed, father of Francesco della Rovere, Pope Sixtus IV
- Roberto Weiss The medals of Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484) (1961)
|Catholic Church titles|
9 August 1471 – 12 August 1484