1902 Encyclopedia > Pope Paul II

Pope Paul II

PAUL II., Pietro Barbo, pope from 1464 to 1471, was born at Venice, 28th February 1418. He was on the mother's side the great-nephew of Gregory XII. and the nephew of Eugenius IV., to whose favour he owed his ele-vation to the cardinalate at the early age of twenty-two. He seems, however, to have made no especial figure at the papal court until the death of Calixtus III. in 1458, when we hear of his interfering actively to protect the late pope's nephew, Pietro Luigi Borgia, from the vengeance of the Boman nobility, and escorting him safely to Civita Vecchia. Upon the death of Pius II. he was unanimously and unexpectedly elected his successor, 31st August 1464. Vain of his personal appearance, he wished to take the name of Formosus, and afterwards that of Mark in honour of the patron saint of his native city, but, being dissuaded from both, called himself Paul. He abandoned his prede-cessor's projects for a crusade, which he saw to be impractic-able, and made it his leading objects to preserve peace in Italy and to enhance the dignity of the papal see by a dis-play of outward magnificence. He embellished the costume of the cardinals, collected jewels for his own adornment, entertained the Roman people with shows and banquets, and introduced the sports from which the Corso takes its name to this day. If the spirit of his pontificate was secular, its administration was in general prosperous, and no serious reproach would rest upon his memory but for his violent persecution of the humanists and scholars who adorned his court, the truth respecting which it is exceed-ingly difficult to discover. Whether actuated by a perception of the incompatibility between Renaissance culture and traditional Christianity, or by a panic fear of imaginary conspiracies against his own person, he appears to have acted with much arbitrary severity, and to have exhibited himself in the unamiable light of a comparatively illiterate man persecuting letters and. learning. At the same time, his severities have been without doubt considerably ex-aggerated by the sufferers, from whom our knowledge of them is almost entirely derived, and his own official acts and documents give a much more favourable view of his character, confirmed by the tranquillity of Italy in his day. He was undoubtedly not a man of quick parts or enlarged views, but he must have possessed considerable administra-tive ability, and his lavish ostentation, not in itself wholly impolitic, was frequently accompanied by displays of charity and munificence. He died very suddenly, probably of apoplexy, on 28th July 1471. The inventory of his per-sonal effects, recently published by M. Eugene Miintz, is a valuable document for the history of art. He was succeeded by Sixtus IV.

The above article was written by: Richard Garnett.

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