Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Pope Leo X - open for business

Leo X was pope from 1513 to 1521. He was pope while syphilis, introduced to Europe by the companions of Columbus, was spreading across the continent with wonderful rapidity. He may have contracted the disease himself. 

But syphilis or not, he never let it interfere with his money making activities. He spent his own income and squandered the savings of his predecessors. He created hundreds of new offices and put them up for auction. In all this he was following the habits of his predecessors. As Bishop Alvaro Pelayo 200 years previously had said: “Whenever I entered the apartments of the Roman court clergy, I found them occupied in counting up gold-coin, which lay about the rooms in heaps”.

Seated behind the pope on his right in Raphael's portrait of 1518/19 is his cousin Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici, the future Pope Clement VII, who advocated an aggressive approach to the spreading the Word of God. And hovering on his left is Cardinal Luigi de’ Rossi, on whom he had bestowed (or sold) his cardinal's hat.

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